Sky Battles – Preview

What would happen if you combined and mixed prominent gameplay elements from both Crimson Skies and Shadow of the Colossus?   You’d get Sky Battles that’s what!  Developed by Magnetic Studios, Sky Battles attempts to take fast paced arcade style air combat to bold new places.  Does it succeed?   Well, the game is still in development, but it’s shaping up to be quite the experience and after playing a working build of the game, I think it’s safe to say that Sky Battles has a lot of potential.  Keep reading.

After diving in and playing around with the game mechanics and enjoying the sheer spectacle of battling larger than life enemies, I’m certainly looking forward to the full game.  The controls are fairly simplistic so far, and that’s a good thing considering the action / arcade style gameplay involved.  This isn’t an air combat simulator, and it does have more of a Crimson Skies feel to it, even though you’ll be taking on Godzilla and King Kong like enemies.

In the build that I played there was only one plane and two maps available.  There’s also a multiplayer mode but it wasn’t available yet.  Speaking of multiplayer mode, I can’t wait to see how that plays out as I’m a huge Crimson Skies fan and there hasn’t been much in the way of a good Crimson Skies multiplayer experience since it was originally released.  The plane(s) are controlled using either a keyboard or a simple mouse setup for movement and shooting, but I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t an option for gamepad or controller support.  The mouse control is smooth, though a little unwieldy at first, and the keyboard control is function but lacks the analog precision of a controller.  I do think the controls would feel even better using an Xbox 360 controller or a generic twin stick gamepad.  Hopefully, this is something that will be implemented in the not-so-distant future though (fingers crossed).

Sky Battles development is well underway and you can expect to see the game made available on platforms such as PC, Mac, iOS, and Android devices.  No word of a Linux build yet, but hopefully that’s something we’ll see in a future update.  If you like what you see an would like to learn more, head on over to the Magnetic Studios website.  If you’re excited about a new arcade style air combat game with a full single player story and online multiplayer, then be sure to head over to the Steam Greenlight page where you can up-vote Sky Battles and hopefully fast track this title to the Steam storefront.

Forward to the Sky – The indie Zelda-like that requires your support

The passionate people behind Indie development studio Magichnology, who are industry veterans based out of Taiwan, are well on their way developing an extremely slick looking Zelda-like titled Forward to the Sky or FttS.  The game won’t just be a simple Zelda clone, but will involve numerous elements of sword swiping action, adventure, puzzle solving, and platforming.  The team behind the game are looking for a little bit of funding through the Forward to the Sky indiegogo campaign.  Unlike some of the overinflated (and in many cases unreasonable) funding goals found in recent Kickstarter campaigns, the devs of FttS are only looking for a modest $3000 in order acquire additional art assets in order to finish their project.  With just over two weeks left in the funding campaign they are almost 1/3rd of the way to their funding goal.  I’m personally hoping that this campaign succeeds because the PC, Mac, and Linux platforms have been missing good Zelda-like games as of late.

The gameplay reminds me quite of a bit of some of my favorite N64 and Playstation 2 games such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, Super Mario 64, and Dark Cloud 1 & 2.  The game also has some Anime inspiration surrounding it, which reminds me quite a bit of the games released during Playstation 2 era (which was also the most popular console era to date).  Forward to the Sky also boasts some impressive animation.  Obviously the game is incomplete, but judging by the trailer and screenshots below, it’s shaping up to be quite the colorful adventure.










If you’re impressed by what you see then be sure to head over to the Forward to the Sky indiegogo funding campaign page where you can help bring this sharp looking action / adventure to life.  For the modest contribution of $7 US, you’ll receive a full DRM-free digital copy of the game once it’s released.  You may even increase your contribution in order to obtain bonus perks such as the game soundtrack and collectors booklet (in pdf format) which includes original artwork and some background on the game development.

Indie Game Announcement – “Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs!” coming late 2014

Here’s a little title that was recently brought to my attention and which had piqued my interest.  Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! is a 3D action / adventure / beat’em up of sorts that will involve some light puzzle elements which will be thrown in for good measure.  The announcement trailer doesn’t reveal too much in the way of gameplay with the exception of a brief snippet near the end of the trailer, but what’s there does look good so far, particularly for a small indie development team consisting of only 3 people.  Helium Games plans to make the game available across multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux with a projected release date sometime in late 2014.

“Once upon a time, on a planet far far away, lived some cute and peaceful creatures called Gloupsies. Happy and innocent, living a dream life. The only small problem they had was about their demon infestation. Every 28 days (on Fridays), their village would be attacked by powerful demons who destroys everything. One morning, an old stranger arrived out of nowhere, carrying a strange package. This stranger, called Folm, explained that he also suffered from the demons attacks: First of all he said, we have to relocate your village Yeah… Gloupsies were actually rebuilding their village at the same place over and over again. So much wisdom quickly convinced the Gloupsies who welcomed Folm as their savior. However, this is just a temporary solution, he continued, I’ve brought someone who can in time help us defeat those evil demons forever. We have to fight evil with evil! Here is Bazalth, one of their own.”

Some of the features you’ll find in Bazalth:

  • Action packed
  • Challenging puzzles
  • No 8bit pixels! Tremendous 3D models
  • Weapons!
  • Power ups!

Obviously this is just a glimpse of what’s to come.  I’m hoping that Bazalth turns out to be the great 3D action / beat’em up that it could possibly become.  For now we’ll just have to wait and see.  Head on over to the Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! website for more info and participate in the forum discussions regarding it’s gameplay and imminent release.

New Release: The Last Federation

If you’re a fan of turn-based or grand strategy games then you’re in luck.  Arcen Games has just released their latest sci-fi strategy game titled The Last Federation.  Those of you familiar with Arcen Games know that you should expect nothing less than a fantastic hybrid of gameplay mechanics and genres.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Arcen Games as a developer and I love the fact that each of their games have been unique and challenging, but ultimately fun.  The fine folk at Arcen Games have achieved something that very few other indie developers have and that is release multiple games that span numerous genres.  Games like their popular 4X sci-fi Strategy game AI War: Fleet Command, to their brain-teasing block puzzler Tidalis, or side-scrolling action / rpg and procedurally generated platformers A Valley Without Wind 1 & 2, right up to one of my favorite and most addictive Roguelikes of all-time, Bionic Dues.  Arcen Games has something for everyone within their diverse library of both fun and challenging games.

I’ve put about 4 hours into The Last Federation and it’s easily one of my favorite Arcen Games titles AND ranks among one of the best grand strategies I’ve played to date!  I love the amount of complexity and depth within each choice you make.  The turn-based combat doesn’t take a back seat either.  It starts off relatively easy but the difficulty ramps up steadily adding a lot of complexity and depth to the intuitive and relatively friendly game mechanics, making The Last Federation an engaging experience for veteran strategists and casual newcomers alike!  I can’t recommend this game enough.  I do highly recommend you buy the game if you’re at all a fan of strategy games, particularly if you like the sound of a grand strategy set in a sci-fi universe, that involves compelling tactical turn-based and strategic gameplay.

For a limited time you can pick up The Last Federation for 25% off it’s standard price until April 25th.  It’s currently selling for $14.99 US through numbers sites such as Steam, GOG, The Humble Store, GamersGate, and the Arcen Games website!  After this limited time offer The Last Federation will be going back up to $19.99, which is still well worth it considering the sheer amount of gameplay and replay value it has to offer.  I suggest you hurry if you’d like to take care of the excellent discount though!

Spud’s Quest – Review

developed by Chris Davis

I remember the days when games were less about distractions, smoke and mirrors, and slick next gen graphics, and were much more about engaging players through thoughtful gameplay and modest but charming low-res graphics… even if the game happened to be a somewhat challenging adventure / platformer experience.  I think the developer of Spud’s Adventure, Chris Davis, also remembers that era when games were fun simply because of the imagination that was involved in creating a game that many-a-gamer would now call a classic style of game, or simply retro.  The term retro comes up often nowadays, but I think it best describes that feeling that most of us gamers get when a sense of nostalgia engulfs us while playing through a game that shares that similar entertaining and fun feeling that we had while playing the games that were so enjoyable back when we were young.

Spud’s Quest does bring a lot of fond memories back and will be especially memorable to gamers who are old enough to remember such classics as The Fantastic Dizzy series of games, and even games like Metroid for the old NES.  In fact, Spud’s Quest shares a number of similarities with the Dizzy games but does more than enough to feel like it’s own unique world while paying tribute to such classics.  The gameplay and level design would feel right at home on an old computer or the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and SMS (Sega Master System).  It all feels as if it was crafted by a gamer for gamers, and that’s something that I truly appreciate in a game, no matter what type of game it is or the genre that it belongs to.

Spud’s Quest Starts off like many “save the helpless princess” stories do.  Thankfully, the story also has a sense of humour about it.  One day, Spud is woken up from a strange dream involving a desperate plea for help.  His wake-up call, a frog that has crashed through the roof of his house.  The frog turns out to be none other than Prince Charming, and he requests that Spud help change him back into his original charming, witty, and overly obnoxious old self.  Apparently, the prince was turned into a frog by an evil old wizard, and it’s up to Spud and his new found friend to set out and discover what his strange dream was all about, while also searching for the evil wizard and a means to break the curse that was placed on the young prince.  Perhaps these strange events are connected in some way.Gameplay:
The Dizzy series of games go back much further than some people might know.  I remember playing it originally on the old ZX Spectrum.  It was a charming and challenging game even back then, but more so for it’s awful controls which were due to the old Spectrum keypad more than anything else.  The NES version was far more enjoyable because of its great gamepad, more precise controls, and refined gameplay.  But, it was still a very challenging game that happened to be so charming that many gamers couldn’t help but keep playing, even if they found it too difficult and weren’t very good at it.

Spud’s Quest shares that charming, challenging, and responsive gameplay found in the old NES version of Dizzy.  It’s easy to lump Spud’s Quest into the Metroidvania category of games as well because you’ll be doing quite a bit of backtracking.  Gamers who haven’t played the classic Dizzy series of games should also be made aware that Spud’s Quest is equal parts Adventure and Platformer.  You’ll need to solve a number clever puzzles and problems on top of doing a bit of platforming if you plan on going far in this quest.What’s unique about Spud’s Quest is that you control two characters throughout the adventure: Spud, and the frog, Prince Charming.  Both handle pretty much the same but each have a couple of unique abilities.  Spud is the main problem solver and has a limited inventory that he can hold and use items with while also interacting with the crazy cast of characters found throughout the world.  The frog prince on the other hand, is the much smaller of the two and he has the ability to reach places and objects that Spud can’t quite get to.  The dynamic duo does share a few similarities with another classic game called The Lost Vikings in the way that you solve problems utilizing the two characters.  The tricky part of it all is that with Spud’s limited inventory space he can only carry 4 items which means that players will have to be careful when managing items or face the consequences of extra backtracking.

The controls in Spud’s Quest are very responsive whether you’re using a keyboard or a gamepad, but if you have the option then I definitely suggest you use a gamepad because it does feel as though this is the way the game was meant to be played.  You’ll be picking up items, chatting with characters, and switching between the two heroes easily due to the simple but intuitive control scheme.Graphics and Sound:
If you remember Fantastic Dizzy or any of the games in the series then you’ll immediately spot the influences in Spud’s Quest.  It’s bright, colorful, cartoony, and pixelated adventure, with charming sprite based characters and graphics that feel as though they were ripped right out of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  If you like retro games and retro graphics then you’ll love and appreciate the art style of Spud’s Quest.  What’s interesting is how well some of the graphical effects are implemented into this classically styled adventure.  Things like the background changing from night to day, changes in weather, and even the underwater effects, all stand out and give the game a very polished shine that couldn’t have been accomplished during the golden era of gaming.

The audio is great as well.  Upon starting the game up for the first time you’ll immediately notice that the music shares an 8-bit feel as well.  The tunes are quite catchy and they definitely capture the spirit of classic adventure and retro games.Conclusion:
If you were a fan of the Dizzy series games, you enjoy adventure and puzzle games, or you simply like metroidvania style gameplay, then you should definitely pick up Spud’s Quest immediately.  Completionists will be happy to know that there are plenty of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered and competitive gamers will appreciate the worldwide online leaderboard, which is great for comparing scores while also adding extra replay value to the game.

If you get lost or frustrated easily then Spud’s Quest might not be for you as it is a more demanding experience, but it should be noted that it is also one of the more thoughtful retro inspired games available as well.  However, if you’re still on the fence about buying the game then I highly recommend you try out the playable demo which is available at the Spud’s Quest website.  It’s a charming game that is a lot of fun, and although it can be quite challenging at times, it does offer great gameplay, great control, and has a great sense of humour that should keep you coming back for more and until you reach the very end.

If you like what you see then be sure to also vote for Spud’s Quest on Steam Greenlight.

[   8   /   10   ]

Volgarr The Viking – Review

Volgarr The Viking

developed by Crazy Viking Studios

The year was 1987.  I was 11 years old and I remember walking into a local convenience store and seeing a brand new arcade cabinet baring the image of a Conan-like figure on it’s side and the title “Rastan Saga”.  I had a couple of quarters on me so I decided to give the game a try.  By this time I knew that I was a pretty decent gamer because friends would ask me to finish certain sections of games for them whenever we were at the arcade or when we were playing some of the arcade games in the neighborhood shops.  As I stepped up to cabinet and peered over it’s title screen and scoreboard, I remember thinking that this game looked amazing.  It was badass, for lack of a better word.  I had to play it.   I reached into my pocket and proceeded to insert my quarter.  As my quarter dropped to the bottom of the slot, I could swear that I heard the faint sound of laughter coming from somewhere inside the machine.

Fast-forward to 2013 and I once again face the formless, shapeless jester, as he laughs at me when I start up Volgarr The Viking for the very first time.  Maybe Loki is real, and maybe he is the god that oversees the difficulty level of all action arcade games.  I do not know for certain.  What I do know is that Volgarr The Viking will gladly take your money, beat you over the head with a spiked club, feed you to Jörmungandr, shit you out, grab you by the short and curlies, throw you off a cliff, and then proceed to curb-stomp your ass wherever it has landed.  Yes, it’s that awesome!

Saying Volgarr is a little hard would be like saying Antarctica is a little cold.  This is a game that never holds your hand, nor does it apologize for being the badass that it is.  It’s a game made for persistent gamers, gamers who love a good challenge, face death with a smile, swear like a trucker, burp and fart loudly, drink lots of beer, barf then laugh, and also wear women’s underwear… er, maybe not that last one.  Still, it’s the type of game that could make a woman grow a penis and make musclebound men go flaccid.  This isn’t a game for quitters or crybabies, this is a game for masochists who derive pleasure from challenging gameplay.  You will try, and you will die, over, and over, and over.

Volgarr is as difficult as some of the great classic arcade games that swallowed millions of quarters during the mid-80’s to mid-90’s, and it looks as good as the best of them!  It’s every bit as challenging as the old Rastan Saga arcade game and perhaps more-so.  And, if you were around at the time, it’s easy to see where Volgarr gets it’s inspiration from.  Even the very first level and the initial enemies you face pay homage to Rastan Saga.  Volgarr made me feel like that 11 year old boy, who one time, spent 5 dollars worth of quarters just so I could beat the damn game and show off the ending and highscore to my friends.

It’s an action arcade game!  Is this even necessary?   Alright, one day a downed viking is resurrected by Odin.  “Rise Warrior!”  And off Volgarr goes, on a quest to… something or other.  Really, you don’t need a great story when you’ve got great gameplay.

Volgarr does a lot of things that other games already do, only it does them extremely well.  Our viking hero can move left or right, crouch, jump, double jump, and roll.  He swings a mighty sword that spills blood and guts on impact.  He can chuck spears to damage distant enemies, or he can use those spears as a means to reach higher ground by throwing them into walls and using them as a platform for which to stand or jump on.  Volgarr also has a shield that he can use to block enemy attacks and incoming projectiles.

On your journey you’ll come across chests which contain useful upgrades and power-ups.  The first of these upgrades is a new shield.  Your initial shield can only take so much damage before breaking.  When you find the shield upgrade it will be able to take much more damage and you’ll be granted the ability to charge your spear before throwing it.  This power throw allows you to take out multiple weak enemies while pushing away stronger ones.  You’ll also find a viking helmet which acts as extra armor, allowing you to take an additional hit of damage.  Last of the great upgrades is the flame sword.  With it you’ll be able to carve your way through enemies in almost half the amount of time.

You’ll obtain these power-ups in the same order every time: shield, helmet, fire sword.  Each time you get hit by an enemy you lose one of your power-ups and if you’re hit once you’ve lost your shield then it’s game over and back to the last checkpoint.  There’s no vitality bar or hitpoints, just you, the enemies, and the environment.  Speaking of which, the environments in Volgarr, are just as dangerous as any of it’s enemies.  You will need to contend with spike pits, wall spikes, spear traps, gaping chasms, water, and fire hazards.  Then, just when you thought you’ve defeated enough enemies and passed through enough environmental hazards, you come across a boss battle.

Avoiding the enemy is just as important as attacking the enemy.  Even though Volgarr is a BAMF, he isn’t invincible.  Luckily, you have a few tricks that can get you out of a tight situation.  Crouching allows you to avoid some enemy attacks completely, as long as you keep the enemy at arms length while using your own sword to attack.  Rolling is great for getting away from enemies and is also necessary for getting through some of the tighter areas on a level.  Double jumping allows Volgarr to reach higher platforms, but during a double jump he also does a spinning sword attack in the air that is great for hitting airborne enemies.  While landing from a jump, Volgarr can also point his sword downward, destroying weaker enemies and breakable objects beneath his feet.

I highly recommend playing Volgarr with a gamepad or 360 controller.  The keyboard works fine, but this is a game that was meant to be played with a joystick of some sort, just as god had intended all arcade style games to be played.  The controls are very tight and responsive.  The tricky part is getting used to how Volgarr jumps.  Unlike other recent platformers, Volgarr uses the classic control scheme where you can’t move in mid-air.  Double jumping does allow you to change the direction Volgarr is moving, but once you’ve hit the jump button that’s it, you continue in the same direction.  Obviously, it becomes very important to gauge your jumps carefully, but you’ll probably get lots of practice anyway considering you’re going to be dying a lot.

You can play Volgarr the entire way through in one sitting, though I doubt you’ll be doing that for quite some time.  There are checkpoints scattered far and wide within each level, so when you do die you don’t have to start all the way from the beginning.  There are also a few secrets, which I’ll leave for you to discover or look-up at your own leisure, because I don’t want to spoil the experience for those who enjoy such a challenge.  There’s even an option in the menu that allows you to turn on a game HUD (heads up display) showing the amount of time it’s taking you to play through the game.  This is perfect for people who want to make an attempt at a speedrun (good luck though).

Graphics & Sound:
Volgarr looks great.  Yes, it’s another 2D sprite-based, pixelated, indie game, but it looks fantastic.  The artwork and animations are very good and they deliver a very classic arcade style feel and aesthetic.  Volgarr’s character is highly detailed and he looks the hero part.  There are a variety of enemies, some that look cooler than others, but the epic bosses look truly amazing.  The backgrounds look great as well with each new level having a different style and atmosphere from the last. You won’t have much time to enjoy the scenery though, because you’ll be too busy performing viking-style-footloose-choreography in order to engage or avoid the oncoming enemies and the many traps and pitfalls you’ll encounter.

When talking about graphics, I’m almost certain that Crazy Viking Studios got their inspiration from the classic arcade games I played when I was younger.  Obviously Rastan Saga would be one of the major influences, but it’s easy to see that games such as Black Tiger, Ghost’s n Goblins, Ghouls and Ghosts, were also of some influence.

The music and sound fx are very good as well.  I cranked up the volume while playing and I recommend you do the same.  The sound of Volgarr’s sword slicing through enemies and the clang of weapons against shield give that extra added “oomph” to the gameplay.

You might have gathered by now that Volgarr The Viking is a challenging game.  It’s a fantastic arcade-style action game that doesn’t treat gamers like fools and idiots.  It’s not the type of game that will appeal to everyone, but it is the type of game that makes the player feel like a badass.  If you are persistent, tenacious, and patient, then you’ll love Volgarr precisely for it’s challenging gameplay.  Even though some people will give up within the first 10 minutes of gameplay, others will come back for repeated playthrus, trying to beat their previous time and highscores.  The replay value is based on how much you enjoy arcade games and this type of action game with it’s steep difficulty level.

Personally I love it. I’m glad to see that the spirit of the classic arcade game lives on in Volgarr the Viking.  The best part now is that I don’t have to spend all of those quarters!  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys challenging gameplay and particularly those gamers who actually remember what this type of arcade-style gameplay was all about.

You can purchase Volgarr The Viking through the Humble Store and you’ll also find it available on Steam and even GOG, where for a limited time you’ll get it for 17% off.  Go now, chop some heads off!

[   8   /   10   ]