Monthly Archives: October 2016

Indie *Very Technically Early Access* Land: Shenzhen I/O

I have a story to tell about Shenzhen I/O, latest in Zachtronics‘s stable of iterative puzzle games based on modern engineering work. I was vaguely aware of the game’s development thanks to a timely mailing list, but the volume of email I get on a daily basis — not even specifically Ninja Blues-related email, just in general — means I don’t always read everything equally accurately. I was aware of Shenzhen I/O ‘being in development’, but for the longest time, that was about it.

That changed about six weeks ago, when I (on a whim) decided to read one of those emails more closely. In it, Zachtronics talked about a second and final ‘print run’ of the Shenzhen I/O ‘limited edition’. One of Shenzhen I/O‘s selling gimmicks is its reliance on a printed ‘reference manual’: the game is about circuit board design (I think), and part of the experience is supposed to be having a manual nearby where you can look up game commands and the like. In this age of Steam, obviously that manual is primarily delivered online, to print out (and bind in a folder or something) if you want. But the Shenzhen I/O limited edition had what I considered a strong selling point: a pre-printed, pre-bound physical manual, everything needed to play the game and some extra goodies to boot, to be delivered to your house around when the game would go live on Steam. A pricey €52 investment to be sure, but it looked cool and fancy, so I clicked over to the limited edition order page to see what the stocks were like.

I got the last one. I swear I’m not kidding on this. The website made it very clear that of this second-and-final limited edition run, only one version was left. Just as I landed there. So those were an intense ten minutes of agonized thinking and cash-counting, lemme tell you.

The manual binder hit my local delivery station about three weeks ago, just as the game keys were Humble’d out. Which makes this not exactly a day-one review, but there are two reasons for that. First, Shenzhen I/O is technically still in Steam Early Access, at time of writing. If they’re feeling comfortable enough about it to print manuals and ship goodies around, I feel comfortable reviewing it as a proper product, but it’s a factor nonetheless. And second… well, you’ll probably figure out the second part by reading this review.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, somewhat high if you look at the screenshot.)

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Shenzhen I/O, the game that’s making me reconsider a career in academia. Who knew circuit board design could be *fun*? And *incredibly frustrating*?

Indie Wonderland: Soul Axiom

Video games and their naming schemas, I swear. What in the devil is a ‘Soul Axiom’? I know what an axiom is — in science and logic, at least, an axiom is a rule taken to be self-evident. And I get the concept of a soul. But ‘soul axiom’? Those are just two nouns! You can’t words that way! What does it even mean? Are we talking about an axiom that is soul-related? A soul that proves itself by virtue of definition? A clever play on ‘sole axiom’? And why am I rambling about this so much?

The reason for rambling, of course, is that last week I bought Wales Interactive‘s Soul Axiom on a Steam Sale-induced whim. I don’t even remember if I ever heard of it before. It was bundled with one Master Reboot, the studio’s previous work, which I think I’m continually confusing for Hard Reset. But impulse purchase is as impulse purchase does. I figured, worst case scenario, I’m out ten bucks. And best case scenario, I get something interesting to write about! The fact that this review exists should probably give you a clue as to what the outcome of that particular gamble was. But in order to respect the purported timeline of the Indie Wonderland format — at this point in narrative time I ‘haven’t played the game yet’, remember — demands that I say here:

Let’s find out which one Soul Axiom is together.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium-ish. Mechanical, light-ish.)

(Game source: Bought it myself; I prefer to save Patreon funds for games I’m sure I’ll review, instead of blind guesses like this. I’m Dutch, we’re frugal like that.)

After the break: I hope I didn’t shatter too much of the Fourth Indie Wonderland Wall for you there. Anyway, how about that Soul Axiom? It’s certainly a confusing game!

Rannekos of the Lost Quark

YouTube Link

I may have picked this game based purely on the name. How can you pass up a game with the ridiculously long title Schrodinger’s Cat and the Raiders of the Lost Quark. It has everything, Indiana Jones references, physics, cats, how did this game not set the gaming world on figurative fire? I don’t even know what kind of game this actually is. Let’s dive in and find out.

Continue reading

Indie Wonderland: Shu

You know me, readers: I often like to tell stories at the beginning of a review. I think it helps characterize and colour the review if you can see the thought and connections I had going into a game. Is it something I’ve been wanting to play? Was I looking forward, was I dreading? Did I back it, did I wishlist it, did I buy it on someone else’s say-so? Important context elements all.

But I’ve got nothing like that this time, I’m afraid. Coatsink‘s Shu was pretty much the definition of an impulse buy: I’d had a rough week, and I figured that an artsy platformer about bird people outrunning an evil storm sounded like perfect relaxation material.

Wanna see if I was right?

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium.)

(Game source: Patreon funds. And can I just say how grateful I am that you guys make it possible for me to do this? Just take a chance on an unknown game review? It’s really incredibly generous, and I love it.)

After the break: Shu. I pronounce it like ‘shoe’, but I have no idea of that’s correct. ‘Shuuh’, maybe? Or ‘Shuh’? The linguistic sky is the limit here. Also, I talk about the game proper past this link.

Indie Wonderland: Heart’s Medicine – Time To Heal

I’ve written before how one of my favourite things about playing/reviewing indie games is that they allow for rapid variety. I play one for the week, gather my thoughts over the weekend, write, and then it’s on to the next one. In theory, there’s an endless breadth of game types to experience. But in practice, though, some interest-driven pigeonholing is unavoidable. How often have I written about deck-building games on this site? About pixel art? About primarily narrative-driven adventures? And in contrast, how much time have I spent total writing about (say) racing games, or sport games, or hardcore simulations? Or visual novels that aren’t poorly-disguised softcore porn? It makes sense, I get it: I have to want to review a game to actually do it, and my weekly play time isn’t what it once was. Still, I think it’s important — and maybe illustrative — to go outside my comfort zone every now and again.

Which is why this week we’re looking at Gamehouse‘s Heart’s Medicine – Time To Heal, a game that — for all intents and purposes — seems to be about playing an up-and-coming doctor in an E.R.-style drama-first hospital setting. Will there be romance? Will there be betrayal? Will there be mysteriously ill patients, only to be saved when the grizzled old doctor has an epiphany just in the nick of time?

God, I hope so.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, medium. Mechanical, medium-ish.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: I don’t even have a good title riff for Heart’s Medicine: Time To Heal. It’s so perfect. I can practically see the prime-time TV ads.

Indie Wonderland: Concrete Jungle

My continuing love of deckbuilding games has been well-documented on this site. There’s just something I really enjoy about shaping random starting conditions and unpredictable inputs into something that vaguely looks like you know what you’re doing. Like that cartoon thing where people fly through the air on a fire hose.

And given that I’ve never played a city-building-themed deck builder before — I’ve done kingdom building, space battles, fighting legendary monsters, and even restoring splendor to a curse-ravaged forest glade, but never urban development — ColePowered Games‘s Concrete Jungle seems, in more ways than one, like just the thing for me. Could I make a city so poorly developed that even I wouldn’t want to live in it? Only one way to find out!

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, low. Mechanical, medium-high.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: joke’s on you, I have to live in cities or my agoraphobia kicks my ass on a daily basis. This opens up room for some terrible city development! Luckily, Concrete Jungle is more than happy to deliver on that front…