Valentine’s Day is already over for less than a week, but Indie Royale is still keeping the flame for indie love burning. If the Valentine’s Bundle 2.0 offers enough content to rekindle the passion for indie gaming, will be seen in this short round-up.
Platformer fans will be pleased to read that with Oozi: Earth Adventure, Lunnye Devitsy and Wake there are three titles which satisfy the need to jump and stay alive. A bit more cerebral is the tower-defense game Shad’O. Turning off the thinking apparatus and in exchange spreading some old-school FPS love is done with Serious Sam: BFE, while Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time is a love letter to the classic point-and-click adventure genre, only with physics-based puzzles.
Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
(New Zealand 2010, developer/publisher: Stickmen Studios, platforms: PC, PS3, Wii)
A physics-based puzzle game which plays very much like a point-and-click adventure, as objects can be picked up and combined. It is a bit reminiscent of the excellent MDK 2 puzzle section, only without the shooting. It also shares some light-hearted humor which usually comes from the conversations between the doctor and his robot backpack sidekick.
It’s nice to see something different than the typical platformer the indie community seems so fond of producing. Both the cheery soundtrack and the well-drawn Scribblenauts-like backgrounds make it a joy to play too. Of course as with most physics-based puzzlers, the controls are at times a bit clunky and the objects behave erratic. Still with a mix of a fun story, characters and an emphasis on lateral thinking rather than fast reflexes, the game provides enough incentives to create that just-one-more-level feeling.
(UK 2013, developer/publisher: Boss Baddie, platform: PC)
At first it looks like a cross between Super Meat Boy and Limbo, only it’s much more open-world, which poses some problems. It’s definitely a unique atmosphere which is created by the beautiful and melancholy piano music, while the change of scenery is done by the use of different color effects. But exploration can get quite tiresome after a short while with no real direction. It’s of course commendable that there’s no way to die, and the emphasis on finding one’s way through the maze hails back to the games of very yesteryear, but is it enough to keep up the player’s interest for very long?
The game might be a perfect example for mainstream gamers to accuse the indie scene of relying too much on old-school game mechanics, experimenting with them just for the sake of it and implementing a weird sound and graphics presentation to make it feel different. In that regard it succeeds, but as an engaging game like Limbo or Super Meat Boy it fails to bring the same sense of accomplishment.
(UK 2013, developer/publisher: Boss Baddie, platform: PC)
The simple premise of a ship slowly sinking and the protagonist jumping and puzzling his way through the different rooms to reach the top makes for quite some suspenseful gameplay. As there are no checkpoints or an autosave function, the goal has to be reached in one sitting, making it even more nerve-racking.
There’s quite some room of freedom which paths to take, and as the water can also turn off the dangerous electricity in some parts and help climb before-out-of-reach platforms, it can also be useful to wait a bit. The only real problem is that there’s no wall-jumping possible, as only at some points can the player get a foothold to go up. This feature might have been deliberately removed to play with expectations, but it makes the game unnecessarily cumbersome to play at some points.
Despite a map which shows how the rooms are connected, it’s often the trial-and-error method to find out if there’s really a way to reach the upper levels, as it happens quite frequently that because of the missing wall-jumping ability, one has to wait for the water to rise or decide to take another route.
The blips-and-beeps-and-clash-and-clank soundtrack and the blurry graphics might enhance the feeling of desperation, but they can also get quite annoying after some time when it’s already frustrating to progress in the game. It’s not a bad game by any means, as the concept offers something fresh, but the execution, like in Lunnye Devitsy, feels a bit too pretentious again to compete with other platformers which are simply much more fun to play.
(France 2012, developer/publisher: Okugi Studio, platform: PC)
An interesting take on the tower-defense genre which unlocks memories with each completed level, giving the whole thing a more storytelling-like approach than Plants vs. Zombies. The typical upgrading is complemented with a spell system and makes the simple game mechanics a bit more complex than other genre competitors show.
The graphics might not be the best, but together with some well-drawn cutscenes and good voice acting, following the story becomes that much more engaging than simply going from one level to the next. Innovation might not be that predominant here, but then again it’s a nice entry into the genre for those curious to know what all the fuss is about, and for those who think the visuals of the garden in Plants vs. Zombies are a bit too cutesy and silly.
Oozi: Earth Adventure
(Poland 2012, developer/publisher: Awesome Game Studio, platforms: PC, Xbox 360)
The most striking thing before making the first jump is how beautiful the game looks. Very much like the classic 2D Rayman or the recent Rayman: Origins, both characters and locations are wonderfully hand-drawn, and the happy-go-jumping soundtrack will bring a smile to everyone loving old-school platformers with a cutesy look.
The game mechanics are simple but work just fine (even if the high and rather slow jumping needs some getting used to), and the only new feature is that by collecting stars and getting rid of enemies, a specific score replenishes health, as items are not there for being picked up. So the difficulty curve is not as unfair as the games of old. There are also unlimited lives and a fair checkpoint system, making the game much more accessible to people who simply want to try out the genre and be captivated by its comic-look visuals. Quite simply a well-executed gem of a platformer not to be missed.
In an age with sophisticated shooters which tell complex stories with memorable characters, the Serious Sam series seems out of place and time, but then again maybe that’s what still make them fun. The newest entry is no different, although it suffers a bit from its attempt to be more cinematic.
Just like the newest Duke Nukem Forever failed to live up to its expectations, the main character’s delivery of masochistic and seldom funny one-liners is congruent with the simplistic gameplay of shooting everything on sight. If it weren’t so forced and the cutscenes weren’t so bad at some points, it might actually work.
Graphics are quite pretty, and the way Sam rips through enemy lines by performing brutal melee attacks like tearing eyes out has something quite unique in the FPS genre, as the comic and bloody violence is a refreshing detour from so many serious games of late. The metal soundtrack is fun as well, so maybe there’s still a place for the man with big guns and small brains these days.
Love me gaming tender
As with Indie Royale’s previous output, the bundle comes with some additional content, and again it’s soundtrack time for each available game except for Serious Sam 3. There’s also an experimental collection of arcade games with Pop Methodology Episode One and its soundtrack.
With a nice mix of old-school and experimental gaming, there’s certainly enough fun for everyone who likes to have some variety in his gaming tastes. Together with the ambient, atmospheric or simply joyful soundtracks, it’s again another must-buy with great value for money. So head over to Indie Royale’s Website and pay what you want or like. But make it quick, because the offer expires in less than a day!
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