Indie Game Super Review, brought to you by Overgamerisation

Because I’m a terrible lackadaisical human being (This is Reuben writing, not James. James has a work ethic) I’ve written barely anything for this blog in the past year. That changes now however, so prepare to have your regularly scheduled itinerary of reviews and well thought out opinions supplanted by my hilarious comic stylings*.

A big part of the reason that I didn’t review anything is that I haven’t bought any new games in about a year. I put together a great gaming PC just after Christmas then realised I’d spent all my money on components so couldn’t get anything to play on it. As a result, I’ve spent the past few months going back and trying older games that I’ve managed to snag in steam sales or, the holy grail of PC gaming, indie titles. Because what better way to celebrate owning a PC with lots of RAM and a high end video card than using it to render 2d sprites? I mean maybe something with 3d graphics and actual effects, but shut up.

*The Reviewing Floor takes no responsibility for any comic stylings that do not reach the appropriate level of hilarity.

To make up for my lack of review writing, I have written three reviews! They might be games that you’ve never heard of, or last heard of ages ago, but they’re really good I promise. Three vastly different games with different genres, mechanics and art styles, all alike in being a lot of fun to play. So we shall begin at the beginning, with…

 

Steam World: Dig

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Despite hailing from the overly optimistic school of game naming (see also: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning) SteamWorld: Dig has its feet very firmly planted in the ground. Or rather underneath them. You play the part of a steam powered robot named Rusty, who receives a letter from his uncle leaving him ownership of a mining claim in rustic little hamlet called Tumbleton, populated by the usual cast of colourful piston powered locals. He ventures into the mine, promptly finding his uncle’s corpse and setting off on a journey to investigate the secrets of the underground world he discovered. Simple, yet effective opening, and a story that more or less gets out of your way in order to let you get to work.

Dig, as well will henceforth be calling it, bares some initial similarities to other popular underground mineral retrieval simulators Minecraft and Terraria. It seems more visually similar to the latter, but in fact has bugger all in common with either. In fact it’s closer to Metroidvania than a crafting sim. You use your trusty pickaxe to adventure deeper and excavate valuable minerals. Later upgrades like a drill and explosives can be used to break harder rocks quicker and reveal more valuable elements. While there are upgrades available for Rusty throughout, the materials found in the mine are simply converted into gold which can then be spent to buy them. There is also a secondary currency of Orbs, which are harder to find but vital for the higher level upgrades.

Visually, Dig has an aesthetic all its own. Bright cartoony character and enemy models move smoothly and fit into the animated world perfectly. It won’t win any prizes for graphical fidelity, but it looks damn charming and in a game like this that counts for more than lighting effects. Although those are present and look good too. All the models have simple designs and personalities communicated by the odd snippet of dialogue.

Steam World: Dig is  a short game, but one that makes every second of it’s time enjoyable. The three worlds and the selection of puzzle caves that make up it’s 5 hour story are short and sweet and left me wanting more. Which was not something I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by Dig, and I hope we get to see more use of the Steam World Colon franchise.

 

Gunpoint

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So next we move onto Gunpoint, a game as different to Dig as a Saturday morning cartoon is to Blade Runner. Set in side a noir world made of grey buildings and shady dealings, Gunpoint follows the exploits of freelance spy and general grey hat Richard Conway, who’s acquisition of some high-tech new trousers leads to him being framed for the murder of a arms manufacturing executive. And his day only gets worse from there. Attempting to rectify his precarious situation leads him into a bitter war between rival companies and the murky underbelly of a town so full of corrupt and incompetent cops it’s a wonder that anyone ever gets convicted of anything. But for all its noir infused sensibilities, Gunpoint has a rather wonderful sense of humour. Every conversation has a wealth of dialogue options and they can take wildly different turns depending on what you say, and to whom. Conway can be a sarcastic asshat or an indifferent gun for hire, sometimes in the space of a single interaction.

Mechanically, Gunpoint falls somewhere between stealth ‘em up and puzzle ‘em sideways. Each mission focuses on one of Conway’s assignments, usual an object to steal or a computer terminal to hack. The aim is to reach your goal, bypass the security systems and guards between you and your loot. But because you’re a spy, a wealth of gadgets and fancy hacking tools are available to you. The aforementioned fancy pants allow you to leap massive distances, stick to walls and break through glass walls. A phone app called Crosslink allows you to wire any two electronic devices together, as long as they have both an input and output. So for example, light switches can be used to activate doors, motion scanners and cameras can trigger electronic booby traps and so on. These devices are controlled via an overlay activated using the mouse scroll wheel and work in real time so getting everything to line up can require quick thinking and quicker fingers. Although initially tricky to get your head around, especially since Gunpoint refuses to hold you hand or mollycoddle you after the initial tutorial level, the hands off approach really pays off when you eventually figure out the solution, as you can be sure that you reached it on your own, without any kind of hint or prompt from the game itself. All the information is there, you just have to know how to read it.

Gunpoint is another pleasant surprise (seeing a theme yet?), a game in a genre that I am both terrible at and has also grown a little stale of late. It’s unapologetically a stealth puzzle game, with none of AAA games concessions to alternative play styles. Rather it rewards creative puzzle solving and lateral thinking. It says a lot about the game that the gun is actually one of the less useful items in it. Or possibly it just says that the game was poorly named. Either way, it’s really good, so go play it.

 

Luftrausers

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I have tried on several occasions to write about Luftrausers, and on every single occasion, except this one of course, I have failed. Not because I have nothing to say about it, and certainly not because anything I’d have to say would be bad, but rather  because every time I think about it I remember the theme music and then I have an uncontrollable urge to play it again. However I’ve managed to restrain myself long enough to write the following paragraphs about the 8-bit arcade shooter. On the off chance I succumb before I finish though, it’s really really great.

A simple description might come across a little underwhelming. Or intriguing I suppose depending on your opinions on the following words: 8-bit arcade style bullet hell shooter. Using the arrow keys and the X key you guide your custom made (more on that in a moment) jet fighter through the skies above some duo-chromatic ocean, dodging the other planes, boats, battleships and blimps sent by the opposition to stop you from rausing the luft. Where that gets interesting is in the way you move. The up arrow fires your engines, propelling you in whatever direction you’ve pointed the nose of your craft. Unusually for a game games if this type however, the planes in Luftrausers have momentum. Kill your engines at any point and you’ll start falling, still moving in whatever direction you were travelling. If you were flying straight up, then you have a couple seconds grace before you start falling with style. This might not sound like a much of a gameplay addition but it’s one of those wonderful mechanics that is simple to get the hang of, but makes you feel like a badass once you’ve mastered it.

The other little tweak is giving you a endless battlefield to play in. Most shooters of this type have a limited area you can manoeuvre in, usually equally to the width of the screen. Whereas Luftrausers will scroll either left or right indefinitely, meaning you can feel or chase your foes for as long as it takes to get them right where you want them. Usually on the business end of your machine guns/homing rockets/laser cannon.

The other thing that Luftrausers does to set itself apart from the majority of other games in its genre is the addition of customisable plans. Every plane is split into three sections, weapon, fuselage and engine. Each one of these comes with different properties, usually one pro and one con each. Each individual component comes with an optional objective, usually revolving around killing a certain number of things in a certain way. Completing objectives with the different parts will unlock new parts and so on. Every part is compatible with every other part and each possible combination comes with its own title and its own remix of the game’s music. This is itself a thing of beauty, as the soaring electronic drive of the theme not only compliments the fast paced dog fighting perfectly but serves as a neat little relfection of the other gameplay elements. Also, I defy anyone to not feel like the greatest pilot in the history of space and time when the drop happens.

Luftrausers is a game that take all the best elements of its various genres and discards all the stuff that either weren’t fun or didn’t look cool enough. The result is a game that looks like  throwback, plays like a dream and sounds like the best thing in air-to-air combat since Kenny Loggin’s Danger Zone.

 

 

 

And there you have it, three different games, all if which are worth the pittance their respective creators are asking for them. So next time you’re bored and trying to wade through the video game slurry drowning the Steam front page, why not look up one of those. Then send me some chocolate to thank me for being so right.

As I said, regularly scheduled Reuben will be coming at you as of now, so stay tuned next week for some stuff that I’ll write about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Or possibly Assassin’s Creed 4. Because I can finally afford AAA games, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

 

Oh and so the title of this post isn’t totally in error, why not click the link and watch some youtube videos on Overgamerisation, the official (I know there’s no way there’d be an unofficial one but still shut up) youtube channel of the The Reviewing Floor. Here’s some thing to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0PUOaiihEk

Rayman Legends Review

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Why hello there dear readers. It’s that time again, when I try and make up for letting James do the bulk of the work on this here blog, by submitting a paltry review of my own. I’m going to do this more often I swear. Which I’m pretty sure is what I said last time. But I will, really. I promise. Honestly.

So then, Rayman Legends. The 12th game in the Rayman franchise, this title is a more specifically a sequel to 2011’s Rayman Origins. As such, it’s a 2D platformer which blends colourful 2D environments with fantastical worlds and generous helping of co-op goodness thrown in for good measure. The story is basic, functional and largely unimportant: Rayman and his buddies have been taking a well-deserved snooze after all the excitement of Origins. However said sleep over has accidentally taken 100 years. In that century, the Nightmares, evil creatures from the Land of the Livid Dead, (see what they did there?)  under the guidance of the Dark Teensies  who are different from their peaceable Teensie cousins by dint of their top hats and sneaky expressions,  have run amok, capturing peaceful Teensies, harvesting the benevolent Lums and generally being dicks. As such the Bubble Dreamer, who may or may not be God, and who is definitely a frog with a beard and a pipe, has awoken our heroes to kick ass, recuse the Teensies and generally be all heroic and stuff.

The plot is simple but effective, which seems to be a methodology applied to Rayman Legends liberally. The art style feels like a natural evolution from Origins beautiful simple cartoon backgrounds and characters. Each of the 5 main worlds has a distinct theme, from the fantastical Teensies in Trouble, 60’s James Bond parody of 20,000 Lums Under the Sea; to my personal favourite, the sugar coated Mexican anarchy of Fiesta De Los Muertos. However it seems the increased budget has allowed Ubisoft Montpellier to add more elaborate environments as well as some 3D animated models to some enemies and backgrounds. The most common use of these models is on the boss enemies you’ll fight in each world, and it says something about the quality of the animation that there’s no noticeable disconnect from the 2d playable characters and the much larger 3D enemies. Much like Origins before it, Legends proves (as if any of us really needed convincing) that simple, colourful designs are a viable and preferable alternative to the ‘brown, brown, bullets and brown’ aesthetics present in so many other titles.

Level design is impeccable throughout, the beautiful backgrounds zooming by as you jump, punch and glide through searching for hidden teensies and collecting every last lum. Legends is an innocent looking game, but make no mistake, it’s far from child’s play. The difficulty curve is pretty smooth, but it’s pretty large with it. Legends does a good job of marking the levels and worlds with a 1 to 5 skulls difficulty rating, and it’s only when you attempt your first 5 skull level that you realise that it really means it. That said, it almost never feels unfair. If you die, it’s a case of starting again from one of the generous checkpoints and giving it another go. There are odd instances of unavoidable frustration however, more on those below.  Each world has about 6 vanilla platform levels, and then 1 Boss level as the penultimate challenge. As mentioned above, the boss fights are challenging battles against beautifully drawn enemies that wonderfully sum up the style of the world you’re fighting in. but my personal favourite comes at the end of each world, the final level is a fast paced run through a challenging obstacle course, set to music. Again, my favourite is at the end of Fiesta De Los Muertos, Mariachi Madness; where the backing track is Eye of the Tiger. These levels are hard as nails, reminiscent of the chase levels from Origins, but whole level, jumps, enemies and all follows the tune. These are easily the most fun and unique levels in Rayman Legends. And if you manage to unlock the final bonus world Livid Dead Party, you can race through 8-bit version of each level, which somehow manage to up the challenge level to a whole new level.

Legends other real strength is the sheer mass of content included. There are 5 main worlds, with the aforementioned Livid Dead as the final challenge for anyone who collects 400 teensies. Which is a lot. But not quite as much as you might think when you consider that the total teensies available in the game is 700. Collecting the aforementioned pixie people unlocks new levels and worlds, and, as you progress through the game, will unlock Invaded levels. These are time trials based on previously completed levels that give you a set amount of time to reach the end to save the maximum of three teensies. If you want to fully complete these levels, you’re going to need to complete each stage in 40 seconds or less. So have fun with that. Lums, meanwhile have their own uses specific uses. As well as gold, silver or bronze trophies awarded for how many you collect, which can vary from 150 to 600 depending on the level, collecting a specific amount in each levels will unlock a ‘Lucky Ticket’. These care then access from the menu, and ‘scratched off’, in what I suspect was a minigame designed for the WiiU version of the game, to reveal a prize. This can be either a free teensie, a bulk deposit of Lums, a Creature which goes into the gallery and generates lums daily, or an Origins level. That’s right, you read correctly. In addition to all the new stages, the Ubisoft people have thrown in a selection of the best levels from each world in Rayman Origins. On the disc. For free. Because why the hell not I suppose. Add to this the new daily and weekly challenges, where players compete to post highscores and time trials in exchange for yet more lums and the fact that the final unlockable can only be accessed by reach 1,000,000 Lums, and it’s clear that this is a game with some serious longevity.

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops in Legends land however; like any game it’s not perfect and the superb quality of the rest of the game makes the niggling flaws all the more noticeable. The first and most major of my gripes is the presence of Murfy the fairy. He’s supposed to function as a sidekick to Rayman and co, appearing in certain levels to move platforms, tilt levels and do other fun little functions. The problem however, is that he’s a massive pain in the neck. Legends started life as a WiiU exclusive before worries about potential market limitations shifted it to the other consoles. However this means that many of the features designed for the touch screen pad, like the Lucky Ticket minigame, and Murfy’s controls are clumsy and clunky with a regular game pad. It’s by no means a game breaker, but it’s annoying never the less. My other issue is the co-op mode. Much like Origins, Legends allows up to 4 player local co-op. which is nice. It also allows you to slap you friendly players about with almost no consequence. Almost. Because you can hit, collide, bounce off and in some cases, outrun your fellow players, the more delicate platforming sections can become a bit of a chore. That said, that might have something to do with the quality of players I played with. Or more likely, with me.

But overall these are minor quibbles with an otherwise stellar product. Rayman Legends is the sequel Origins deserves and one of the best platformers to be released in a long time. In a world where Mario is considered the be all and end all of 2D platformers, it’s nice to know that there are other characters ready and willing to throw their hat into the ring. Or crown, if you play as King Teensie. Although Rayman doesn’t wear a hat. Neither does Globox. But the point stands dammit! Whatever the hell it was…

Rayman Legends: tons of fun, tons to do, buy it, love it, get some friends round and slap them silly. And then play Rayman Legends with them to make up for it.

Reuben Williams-Smith

@rwilliamssmith