Category Archives: Indie Wonderland

Indie Wonderland: Freaky Awesome

Much as the Steam store front page is slowly devolving into a Newgrounds-esque burning trash heap, it’s still occasionally possible to find cool games just by browsing. For instance, two weeks ago I found Mandragora Games‘s Freaky Awesome, a game that impressed itself on me (via trailers and screenshots) as ‘what if The Binding Of Isaac, but about weird ooze mutations instead of dead babies and poop’. Which… I dunno, that seems like a kind of game I could see myself enjoying, if I gave it a shot.

And here we are!

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

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Freaky Awesome, or ‘what if the develops of classic Duke Nukem applied their talents to refining other game formulas’?

Indie Wonderland: Slime Rancher

Monomi Park‘s Slime Rancher has been in the periphery of my awareness for a while now. I remember it being announced. I remember several of my friends jumping on the first Early Access opportunity, talking about wrangling slimes there was to do back in those times. I remember thinking it looked cute, and possibly fun, and as such I would probably want to wait with actually playing it until post-Early Access. And, me being me, I remember buying it only a few weeks back, way after the full release had gone out, and then immediately forgetting to actually launch it for way too long — the one thing I didn’t remember.

Do you think I might miss thinking ‘you know, I should get around to Slime Rancher one of these days‘? I worry I might miss those thoughts.

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

(Game source: Bought it myself.)

After the break: Slime Rancher. So soon after playing Dragon Quest: Builders, I worry what might happen if I play an ostensibly peaceful game full of slimes.

Indie Early Access Land: Fort Triumph

Now, I know what you’re thinking, so let me get ahead of some dashed expectations real quick: No, this isn’t actually an Archer-branded video game. That’d be Fort Kickass, not Fort Triumph.

I know, I know. Let’s all take a moment to mourn what could have been: Oh, Fort Kickass the video game, you were too kickass for this world. But then let’s also take a moment to imagine what an inevitable trash-fire any licensed Archer game will inevitably end up being, particularly in the Year of our Luigi 2018. So maybe it’s for the best.

And then let’s finally look at the actual game for this week, Fort Triumph — ostensibly by ‘Fort Triumph Team’, who are definitely not putting all their eggs in one basket. That it took me three paragraphs of rambling to even get to naming their game in this review should probably fill them with a lot of confidence.

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

(Game source: Distributor Steam key.)

(Time of writing: 2018-04-16)

After the break: My triumphant look at Fort Triumph, a game about kicking. And… tactics, I guess?

Indie Wonderland: Minit

You know how the equation of playing video games changes as you get older? I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea that there’s always a gap in the trinity of time, skill, and money: When you’re young, you’ve got time and you’ve got skill, but money limits your access to games. Get a little older, and money stops being an issue while skill still remains decent, but now all your time goes into — jobs, taxes, home ownership, whatever it is adults do. And get older still, into that mythical ‘retirement age’ that my generation will see, and you’re supposed to have time and money for days — but with your body’s upper skill limit slowly declining. I can’t really comment on the accuracy of all it, but as a man in his thirties, I can tell you that the number of hours in a day, and days in a week, and weeks in a month, no longer feels as daunting or as plentiful as it once did. I just don’t have the time into every new 40-hour release, alright! Sometimes I just want some games I can play between work, dinner, and whatever other plans I might have. Sometimes… all I have is a minute.

Now, I’m not saying that ‘JW, Kitty, Jukio, and Dom‘ had these exact constraints in mind when they made Minit, a game where progress is ostensibly measured in minute-long intervals. All I’m saying is that, for me? This might work out just fine.

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

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Have I made it so that it will only take you a minute to read this review? Haha, nope! Buckle up.

Indie Shortieland: Roguemance

It didn’t have to be like this, you know. I could have played Lucas Molina‘s Roguemance, a game about procedurally-generated dangerous dating and love in a dangerous space-time, in the week after Valentine’s Day this year, when it came out. Or I could have played it three weeks ago, when I scuttled all my other social responsibilities to go on six consecutive dates — that would have been fitting. Instead, I play it now, for no other reason than… I just sort of felt like it, I guess. Which now that I write it out isn’t a terrible metaphor for love and dating either — if not necessarily one that says great things about me.

Anyway, this review will be of the shortie variety, for two reasons: a) Roguemance is a fairly compact game, mechanically and aesthetically both, and b) I didn’t discover that my usual screenshotting methods weren’t working until like two hours in. The former more than the latter, obviously: I would never let my personal failures and hangups determine how seriously I’m willing and able to engage in any commitment.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, nah. Mechanical, lil’ bit.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: Good, now that we’ve got that sorted out, it’s Roguemance time.

Indie Early Access Land: Prismata

A fun upside about regularly writing games columns is that I’ve become ‘eligible’ (in a ‘have a backlog to show for it’ sense) to request review keys from developers, as well as being tuned into the sorts of middleman operations that match needy developers and needy reviewers. Makes it a lot easier to get tapped into games you might otherwise overlook, let me tell you. A fun downside about being me is that I’m terrible absent-minded, which I genuinely can’t tell if I’ve made this joke on here before. This combination of factors can lead to some unexpectedly awkward situations, sometimes, where (say) a key distributor might email me after several weeks asking about a link to my coverage, and all I have to reply is “oh yeah, that key… that’s probably somewhere in my three dozen unread ‘I should check these later’ emails.”

In news that as far as you know may or may not be unrelated, I’m doing a review of Lunarch Studios‘s Prismata, which is currently in Steam Early Access. Being that it is, expect a shorter and more to-the-point review, like some other Early Access reviews I’ve done. I generally try to steer away from Early Access reviews, as it’s always tricky to determine what game aspect are and aren’t fair criticism game, but… let’s just say in that in the case of Prismata, I felled compelled to write something. For reasons you may or may not understand.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Essentially none. Mechanical, high-ish, but not really impacting the experience.)

(Game source: Distributor Steam key.)

(Time of writing: 2018-03-26)

After the break: Prismata, or ‘I Tap My Six Drones For One Gold Each…’

Indie Wonderland: Deep Sixed

If you’d asked me in a pre-Internet world what ‘deep sixed’ means, I’d probably have guessed that it was some sort of slang I’m already too old to understand. Like, maybe it’s what you call it when law enforcement arrests you for a case you figured had long gone cold. “Man, Ted just got deep sixed for what he did last summer!” Or maybe it means that foreign intelligence agencies pushed through your fake identities and have a read on your real location. Or maybe it means that you just flushed an unruly employee out an airlock.

But since we live in a post-pre-Internet world instead, I can just look it up and see that ‘deep sixed’ means two things. One, it’s a term for destroying incriminating evidence irreparably, taken from ships tossing things overboard in places where the water was at least six fathoms deep. And two, Deep Sixed is a recent ‘roguelike space sim’ by Little Red Dog Games.

I wonder if the two meanings are connected? Nah, that seems unlikely.

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

(Game source: Review key.)

After the break: Yes, I do consider myself old enough to be ‘too old to get slang’. Yes, I am 31 years old. Times moves different when your age gets measured in decades, okay.

Indie Wonderland: Into The Breach

Here’s what I know about Into The Breach: It’s made by the same people who made FTL (i.e. Subset Games). You can hardly blame me for knowing that and only that, though: ‘From the makers of FTL’ is such a part of Into The Breach‘s marketing push that it’s literally a byline on the game’s main Steam header.

Beyond that, what I can divine from looking at other promotional materials is that Into The Breach is going to feature… let’s see, giant mechs? And ruined buildings? Hopefully the building don’t get ruined by the giant mechs, but then again, maybe they do. A mech-focused reboot of Rampage World Tour could be interesting.

Assuming it’s not that, though… what did I just sign myself up for.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, high-ish. Mechanical, relatively low, only in the general sense.)

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the breach: Giant robots, and giant bugs, and presumably giant insurance liabilities.

Indie Wonderland: Iconoclasts

You know how culture and history are fun? When I first read the name of Bifrost Entertainment‘s latest work, Iconoclasts, it put into my mind the very specific image of a period of Dutch history called the beeldenstorm, or ‘statue storm’. This was part of the larger Protestant Reformation uprising against Catholic excesses, but in the Netherlands specifically took on the shape of a wave of vandalistic attacks against church buildings and relics, targeted at destroying Catholic art and iconography — like statues. In Dutch, ‘iconoclast’ still literally translate to ‘statue stormer’: Not someone who attacks religious institutions in general, but very specifically someone who busts up statues.

Anyway, I’m not saying I expect Iconoclasts to have ‘breaking religious statues’ as a major gameplay mechanic. But a man can daydream, can’t he?

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

(Game source: Patreon funds.)

After the break: No statues, that’s for sure. Because… because of the whole with ‘break’, and… Listen, it’s the Iconoclasts review.

Indie Shortieland: The Novelist

Take a moment to imagine: What’s the most self-indulgent thing I could possibly do on this website? Apart from letting it all burn down, or using the site’s database as my personal torrented game storage. The best answer I came up with is: Write about a video game about writing. It’s the perfect overlap of the real and the imagined! No, wait, I actually have an even better one: Imagine if I wrote about a video that was about a middle-aged white man struggling to write! His most important work!. Oh god, can you imagine, it’s like I’d be staring into a mirror. I can’t say for sure that the whole piece would be introspective navel-gazing, but one can only imagine.

Anyway, in unrelated news, I played Orthogonal GamesThe Novelist this week. ‘A game about life, family, and the choices we make’. And also pointedly about a struggling middle-aged white dude writer. You’ll understand why I figured I should keep this review short. Unless you want to hear all about my own troubled upbringing, possibly in tortured metaphor form.

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

(Game source: Gift from a friend.)

After the break: It all started when I was declared to be a ‘gifted child’…