Where Paradox Lost was my favourite game in the bundle so far, Wub-Wub Wescue is easily my least favourite. It is a puzzle platformer with a slow moving, unresponsive character that is completely unforgiving of mistakes. It may involve a cute little pug that had to sing, run and jump to save its master but that concept alone does not save it from these problems.
As you can see I found it incredibly frustrating, even given that each level was pretty short when done correctly, I spent too much lot of time dying and being annoyed at the fiddly controls or dying from fall damage because I jumped off of a platform I had to walk off.
I am definitely never going to bother coming back to this game.
It might be telling that my immediate assumption when looking at the sprites is “Probably some kind of platformer” but to be fair, the era of gaming evoked by the art used in these games was dominated by platformers.
I am very comfortable with describing Paradox Lost as a metroidvania title. It has all the hallmarks, multiple weapons to swap between, upgrades that let you get through obstacles that were previously impassable, a map so you can work out where you have been and where you are going. Of course the map is made somewhat less useful due to the constant time-travelling between eras, effectively these are transitions between map layers, but it is pretty difficult to keep a layout in your head when you have multiple paths on top of each other.
This is easily my favourite game from the collection, the controls are responsive, it gives me hit points and a fairly straightforward mechanism for increasing my health and a kind of vague mystery story, who set up these time crystals? Why is the first boss so amazingly incompetent?
I was pretty surprised that there wasn’t really a need to rescue your ancestors before finishing the game, there isn’t even a mention of it in the victory screen, my victory probably stranded most of them in the present or future, but I guess that is a problem for another time.
The core idea of GAIA-ttack seems pretty familiar; a running fight as you climb to the top of a structure, in this case a giant pit. Then you fight a boss and move on to the next level. Rinse and repeat. It is a pretty old concept in games and while not common nowadays you do see the occasional call back, for example the final level of Trine.
GAIA-ttack executes this concept competently, the controls are pretty responsive, the enemies are colour coded for the players convenience, red gives health, yellow gives magic and purple are just there to beat up, but ultimately I don’t find it very satisfying. It is very clearly hand crafted, but as the game ramps up it feels like enemies are placed specifically to frustrate me. Combine that with a clearly set formula for the end of each level, a fight with a pirate captain on an airship, and my enthusiasm flags. Sure the pirate captain learns a new trick each time but you will need more than that to get me to push past the difficulty wall and GAIA-ttack just doesn’t deliver on that.
On the other hand it is designed as a 4-player local co-op game, I could see that experience being fun and not especially long. Unfortunately I do not have 4 friends handy and the keyboard controls suggested by the launcher seems to require that you have 3 talented contortionists as friends.
Hey, look at this neat surprise I didn’t at all see coming! Human Resource Machine is the latest production by Tomorrow Corporation, the company best known for Little Inferno — a game that Human Resource Machine bears an immediate visual resemblance to — and World of Goo. So that’s one game about innocent, round-headed creatures being ruthlessly exploited by a giant corporation, and one game about innocent, round-headed creatures being… ruthless exploited… And now this new game is called Human Resource Machine. To paraphrase internet nerdfather Shamus Young, it’s hard not to wonder what dark hidden anger lies in Tomorrow Corporation’s past.
Nobody tell them they’re a corporation themselves now, though. Let them have their dissonance.
Next up in the Retro Game Crunch list is End of Line, which in retrospect would make a lot more sense as the seventh game in the list, but maybe that was considered a little too on the nose for the people make the collection. When I first saw the title card for End of Line I just assumed it would be some kind of Megaman-esque platformer. The robot and factory aesthetic, the glowing dash to me which implied a charged attack all lead to that assumption. This is what I get for not researching anything and just going in blind.
End of Line is instead a puzzle game where the goal is for your robot to die, like the other games in this bundle there isn’t much of a story developed, we have no idea of the motivation of this robot, but we do know that there are a number of other robots in each area that keep all the other robots functioning so before you can complete the level you have to commit some kind of robot murder first.
The little interludes with the factory controls are interesting, especially the suggestion that the robot is being controlled, and there are way more levels than I am likely to get through. So far it is my favourite of this collection.
I have to admit while in general I think that games have gotten better over time, less frustrating, better looking, in general just better designed, occasionally I do like to play games that use that Retro design. It turns out I have a collection of seven in my library I suspect from one of the humble game making bundles. I think it will be fun to dip into them and give them a try. My understanding is that these are all from a single Ludum dare.
Super Clew Land is what I think of when someone mentions a metroidvania game. It is a 2D platformer where you gain powers over the course of the game that unlock new areas and allow you to return to older areas to gather secrets. The way you gain power is by eating grubs, fish and butterflies and then somehow digesting the bits in the right ways. It was an interesting collection method, though not one I really enjoyed too much. It basically meant I had to stop and focus on the bottom right hand corner whenever I collected something and when I forgot or otherwise had to focus on the whole staying alive thing I would generally end up wasting most or all of the pick up. Of course if you die you are reset to the last save point and lose the pick up anyway, extra frustrating.
I can’t say I was sorry when I got the last power and then the whole map opened up, but then I realised that in that latter part you need to collect gems, and a number of those gems are in areas that reminded me very heavily of some of the really challenging/frustrating VVVVV, not something I was really in the mood for even if I ended up giving it a go.
Hey, look at this cool game that I don’t know where it came from! Reassembly, by one Anisoptera Games, bills itself as a spaceship construction and fleet action engine. Crafting complex ships from simple parts and then conquering the universe, yeah! Sounds like a pretty interesting way to burn a lazy week, if nothing else. And it’s not like I’m a stranger to universal domination.
Strange thing, though… I own Reassembly. I’ve owned Reassembly for a while, in fact: its icon has had a set place on my desktop for at least a few weeks now. And… I don’t know why I own it? Or how? As far as I can tell it’s not free-to-play, so I must’ve actively gotten it at some point. But searches through my email inbox for either ‘Reassembly’ or ‘Anisoptera’ come up more or less blank. No Steam or Paypal receipts, no ‘a friend gifted you this game’, no developer emails or press mailing lists, no bundles of any kind. As far as I can tell, it came from… beyond? Either I scored a Reassembly key in the deep darkness of the unlogged web somewhere, or this game has always existed.
Of course, not knowing where my Reassembly came from just makes me more interested. It’s not just a ship builder and a space adventure, now: it’s a mystery! And what good is a fancy mystery without a good cracking?
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, none, as far as I can tell. Mechanical, medium.)
It took me a while to figure out what game to record for today, but I am really glad I picked Spoiler Alert it really hit the spot. It has leans very heavily on a single gimmick, it has barely acceptable controls and it doesn’t hang around long enough for these pretty glaring flaws to be a problem.
Instead I got to spend a pretty fun half hour making my way through all the levels and see how they played with the idea of playing a platformer backwards. You could probably do significantly more with this if you wanted to, especially if you were trying to make an actual platformer rather than an autorunner. During the video I wonder if that would work. Especially as a kind of competitive game, player 1 finishes a level then player 2 has to undo it by playing in reverse. It could lead to some interesting strategies especially regarding when and where collectibles are picked up.
I think it would be interesting, but I am not sure if it would be fun.
Because I am a doofus who forgot a crucial USB drive with text and images on it at work, today’s Indie Wonderland will be be posted tomorrow instead. Sorry about that; I know how much you all rely on Indie Wonderland as your shining Monday light.
The third and final part of the Torment: Tides of Numenera Alpha Systems Test is out, this time the test focuses on the combat or Crisis subsystem. Because dealing with violent conflict is a key part of pretty much any RPG. The developers opted to go for a turn-based combat system rather than follow the real-time with pause system used in Planescape Torment. I am pretty happy with the idea, it makes for a slower, more thoughtful combat experience without having to manually pause/unpause all the time. It also allows the developers to stick more closely to the pen and paper system that this game is based on. Frankly I have been really surprised and impressed with how much they have used from the cypher system. The game even sticks with the rule that players roll all the dice, even though all the engine obviously handles it all in the background.
The downside of all of these details is accessibility, I do not think that these tests have spent enough time explaining the fundamentals of the stat pool and effort system and could have some pretty significant knock-on effects. For example, I don’t remember this test explaining why my enemies have hitpoints, but the none of the party do, instead damage is taken from our stat pools. The same stat pools we use to activate combat abilities. The same stat pools that were used in previous tests to perform tasks and solve puzzles outside of the crisis. The tests have been kind enough to start us off fresh each test, but in the actual game there is the very real possibility of accidentally exhausting your character and running into your first combat in a very vulnerable state.
I also ran into very basic problems understanding the combat, why did my target numbers change so frequently? I honestly have no idea why sometimes it was really easy to hit my opponent and other times I needed 12+ or even 18+ on a d20 to hit. I don’t even know how to get surface that information, so I can’t fix it in the future. They really need to work on that if I can’t understand the basics then I will find it very difficult to stick with the game.
The big promise of the crisis system is that each encounter and each opponent will be hand crafted. Enemies will react when combat isn’t going well, you can talk to some of them mid-fight, you can manipulate sections of the environment and events during the fight could add an entirely new menace to deal with while fending off foes. You can definitely see that here, you have a number of strange and unusual features you can manipulate and take a risk on during the crisis, sometimes you will be wasting your time but sometimes you get to do a neat thing during the fight. You also get to see enemies make their escape or surrender which is always nice to see. I hope that the game also anticipates NPCs reacting to the fight going their way, I would like to see a game that will let you actually surrender yourself if things aren’t going your way rather than every enemy intent upon your utter destruction regardless of circumstance.
Ultimately the hope I have for the Crisis system in Torment: Tides of Numenera is a smaller number of more interesting fights, both in terms of narrative and mechanics. I really would be disappointed to see the Last Castoff having to fight random mutant bears in the woods or rats in the sewers.