Author Archives: Jarenth

Indie Shortieland: SiNKR

Heya readers. Shorter Indie Wonderland this week, for reasons not of poor planning but of content. I was emailed by game designer Robert Wahler, who expressed an interest in seeing me review their latest work, the abstract puzzle game SiNKR. And, you know me, hilariously vulnerable to peer pressure and all that. Plus, SiNKR seemed like it’d appeal to me. I like puzzle games for two reasons: One, I’m good them, which makes me feel clever and competent. Yes, that’s totally a valid reason. And two, puzzle games tend to have a clearly defined end point, making it easy to judge how far off the end I am and how much of the game I’ve seen so far. I wouldn’t recommend that for every game, but as far as planning goes, ‘I can see I have X puzzles left until the end’ is much easier to deal with than ‘I think I might be at the final boss, maybe, unless this is a fake-out ending’.

I beat all of SiNKR‘s (current) 60 puzzles in about an hour and a half. That could either mean it’s too short and easy, which would be bad, or that it’s engaging enough to push through a challenging level of difficulty, which would be good. But which option is the correct one? Well…

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, none. Mechanical, high-ish.)

(Game source: Developer Steam key.)

After the break: I know some of you are hoping I’ll say I fell in love with the game. You’ve got your obvious jokes at the ready. I can just feel it.

Should have called this game 'Explosive Decompression Adventures'.

Indie Wonderland: Heat Signature

Suspicious DevelopmentsHeat Signature serves as an incredible example case study into the weird relationship I have with traditional game news. I was entirely on-board when Tom Francis first announced he was working on a new space game, pretty much solely on the strength of Gunpoint, and I followed the associated Twitter account immediately. And then I… never looked into it? In any way? I knew it was in progress, and I had a vague idea of the graphical layout and the problems involved with mapping an enormous procedural (outer) space. But beyond that, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about Heat Signature right now. I’ve heard from smatterings of other reviews that it involves space ships? And boarding? And plans, and backup plans, and backup-backup plans, and plans marked ‘under no circumstances enact this’? Which you will enact anyway?

I have the amazing ability to be feature-blind to hyped indie games even if I’ve taken explicit steps to stay up-to-date with it. I know, I know, it’s like a superpower. Let’s hope it pays off in this case.

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

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Heat Signature. Will managing heat levels of space ships be a critical gameplay factor? I’m genuinely asking because I have no idea.

Indie Wonderland: A Robot Named Fight

Ah! My readers, my children. Come around, come around, it’s been a long time, I know, I know. But as the hour grows late and the fire grows dim, I find I have it in me to tell you on more story. A story about a robot… named fight.

What’s that you say? “Jarenth, ‘A Robot Named Fight is a silly name for a story or a video game, it doesn’t make any sense”? Well, first of all, I can tell nobody ever taught you any manners. It’s terrible rude to interrupt a storyteller, is what it is. Second, you’ll have to take that up with Matt Bitner, from Matt Bitner Games. They named the robot Fight, not I. And third… Did you want to hear my story, or not?

That’s what I thought. Now, where was I? Ah, yes: A Robot Named Fight. I remember it well, readers, children. It’s like I played it only last week…

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, high-ish. Mechanical, medium or high, depending on your reading pattern.)

(Game source: Developer Steam key.)

After the break: I’ll admit I didn’t really know what to make of the title either. Let’s hope it makes more sense before the review runs out, or else…

Indie Wake Me Up When September Ends Land

Hey readers.

You might have noticed that Ninja Blues is still fairly borked, what with the missing images and matte background and terrible load times. We’re still looking into it, but with limited success: Our best guesses at the moment oscillate between ‘WordPress is doing a thing’, ‘Cloudflare is doing a thing’, or ‘rampant computer gremlins’.

Between this and some personal stuff (figurin’ out my future), I’ve decided to take the rest of September off from Indie Wonderland. This should give me the time to figure out the site’s maladies, get my personal work done, and build something of a review backlog for later months (which may also get more hectic than I’d prefer).

I'll have none of this completely true slander

“And this’ll let you get ready for the upcoming Guild Wars 2 expansion” Now listen here

Let’s say that we meet back here… October 2nd. Have a good September, everyone!
– Jarenth

Indie Wonderland: Necrosphere

If you had me guess from the title alone what sort of game Necrosphere, my first shot would be — and I admit there’s some degree of wishful thinking in this — a ball sports-type game played exclusively by the undead. I know I can already get something like that in Bloodbowl, but listen: I just want to see teams of shuffling try to do fancy football tricks. ‘Necrosphere‘ sounds much more dignified than ‘Deadball‘.

My second guess would be ‘probably some sort of 2D indie platformer’, because that’s just a safe bet in this day and age and gaming environment. Which means I’m up for the silver medal in ‘reading Cat Nigiri‘s mind, so. That’s still pretty good.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, almost none. Mechanical, fairly high.)

(Game source: Developer review key)

Necrosphere, or: It’s More Evocative A Title Than ‘Ghostjump’, But Technically Less Accurate.

Indie Delay Land

Heya, readers and friends and friends who read. Stress and high workload over the weekend have culminated in a painfully overloaded writing arm today, so I’m delaying typing Indie Wonderland until tomorrow. Thanks for understanding.

– Jarenth

EDIT: In light of the website’s recent troubles, I’m postponing this week’s column to next week entirely. No sense rushing out work if the site won’t let anyone read it.

Indie Wonderland: Pixel Shopkeeper

Has there been any game about RPG shopkeeping since 2007 that landed quite as well as Recettear? I’m wondering. I know more games do exist in that particular hyper-specific niche: I remember playing Holy Potatoes! A Weapon Shop?! (review here), and I’m waiting for Moonlighter with pretty baited breath. But has anything so far made a similar splash?

I find myself thinking these things as I watch the Steam download bar for Pixel Prototype‘s Pixel Shopkeeper, the genre of which I think you can probably intuit now. I want another RPG shopkeeping game to make the same splash as Recettear, because Recettear ruled. Maybe Pixel Shopkeeper will be the one?

Only one way to find out.

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

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Pixel Shopkeeper. Not a game about running a pixel shop, but… Actually, that’s pretty valid too. Take it however you want, I guess.

Indie Shortieland: Tacoma

The gaming buzz on my social media timelines the past week or so has been pretty much all Tacoma. And with obvious reason: It’s the latest opus of Fullbright, they of the superlative Gone Home. As part of my general non-disclosure agreement with any and all games news I haven’t read much about Tacoma, but I have learned a few things: That it features gameplay much in the vein of Gone Home, that it has a character either called or named after Odin, that it’s set in space, and that people say it takes about three hours to complete, start-to-finish. Obviously, the latter seems like silly exaggeration, and after playing it for myself this weekend, I can confirm that that number is nowhere near accurate.

I completed it in two and a half hours.

It should be obvious that I can’t really use my regular review pattern with a game like Tacoma. Not only is it primarily narrative-driven, which is always a dicey prospect, but if I did my usual ‘I’m playing through the first half hour or so and what is this’ shtick, that’d essentially spoil outright almost a sixth of the game. I do want to talk about what made Tacoma work for me as it did, though. So you all get a Shortieland. I know you were probably clamoring for another 7000-word epic after last week, but I hope we can all agree that it’s for the best I leave some of this game intact.

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

(Game source: Bought it myself

After the break: Tacoma, or What In The Name Of Space Happened Here.

Indie Wonderland: Pyre

I’m guessing approximately zero of you are surprised I’ve been looking forward to Pyre. In case you are, let me give you some crucial backstory: Pyre is made by Supergiant Games.

That’s it. That’s the backstory. Supergiant Games has made two games before Pyre, and both Bastion and Transistor (which I reviewed here) were great fun, and masterclass studies of the use of innovative design techniques. I loved both games and still rate them very highly; that I was going to try and dive into Pyre as soon as possible was basically a foregone conclusion. In fact, I’ve gone even further than my usual ‘try to go in as blind as possible’ approach: I’ve pursued an active campaign of non-information against Pyre. All I know so far is that it’s… an RPG? Or a sports game? Or both?

Or maybe neither? I’ve been really thorough about not knowing anything.

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

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Pyre, I game I’ve been avoiding news of so studiously I might almost have missed that it exists.

Indie Wonderland: Golem Creation Kit

We interrupt this regularly scheduled treatise on the games on my to-play list to bring you a sudden and unexpected look at Illuminated GamesGolem Creation Kit, a game that I just sort of spotted on the Steam front page one day. The preview materials show all the aesthetic and graphical appeal of a Flash-based hidden object game, and I’m 90% sure the title is primarily a play on Fallout‘s GECK. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what made me look at this game and immediately decide ‘yes, this is what I want to review next week’.

But all the same, that’s totally what happened.

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

(Game source: Impulse-bought it myself.)

After the break: Golem Creation Kit. Could it just be that I’m really into the idea of shaping inert materials into rad magical beings? Because if that’s the case, I have to wonder why I didn’t go into robotics instead of human-technology interaction.