Tag: video game

Black Skylands Review

Developer: Hungry Couch Games
Publisher: tinyBuild
Music: Hungry Couch Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Released: Early Access – 9 July 2021, Estimated Release July – 2022
Genre: Top Down Shooter, Sandbox, Pixel Graphics

Your name is Eva, and you have woken up with all the excitement of a child with a day full of possibilities, joy, and adventure. Appropriate adventure of course. Your father has returned from a lengthy journey, bringing back treasures and wonders from far-away floating islands. And as you run around the Fathership, you are met with this rich, bustling town in the sky, airships travelling from town to city. Above you, sky-squids dart by, and far below you, the giant shapes of flying turtles, drifting by.

You are given your first weapon, a pistol that is barely more than a toy, you ‘borrow’ your father’s airship to retrieve your brother who has managed to get stuck in a box. Along the way you encounter a variety of characters from various backgrounds, all who lend you advice and a smile.

And finally, your family is together, ready to witness whatever it is your father brought back. Something wondrous, something never-seen-before, something…

Terrible.

One swipe from this beast, a panicked reaction. A death.

And everything changes.

Black Skylands is a top down pixel shooter, with bullet hell elements, an absolutely gorgeous world filled with layers of details that are changing and evolving. It has been years since that fateful day, and monsters are ravaging the skylands, and land and resources were already scarce to begin with. To make things worse, Kain, your basically-your-uncle Kain, is now leading bandits and controlling whatever islands they can get their hands on. And your father is gearing up for a desperate attempt to fix his mistake.

It’s up to you, your brother, and the allies you make along the way, to save not only the Fathership, but also Aspya. Your entire world.

There is a lot of detail to this game, a lot to do, and a lot to manage. It’s a top-down shooter, and obviously you have some weapons. An array of guns of course, but also a grappling hook (which is an essential when you live on floating islands in the sky), and with a handy knife, you’ll be equipped to go toe-to-toe with the roughest of bandits. Well, kinda. You’ll need to be strategic about your approach, and not be afraid to retreat. Some of the enemies you run into are pretty tough, and if you get overwhelmed by an ambush it won’t take you long to get crushed.

Gradually, you’ll find upgrades for your weapons, and be able to construct better armour and gear, making you better equipped for the challenges ahead. You can make similar upgrades to your airship, giving you the edge you need in those dogfights. More efficient cannons, a stronger hull, a larger hold, all helpful and essential as you make your way through the skies.

But these upgrades are difficult to work for. You’ll need resources, some of which you can find out in the world, such as wood or ore. Some need a bit more work than that, such as building a farm to grow food, flax, or cotton. Eventually you’ll need a way to process ore into useful metals. It can be a struggle, and often you’ll need to slowly fight your way through an occupied island to find more resources.

It’s a bit exhausting, but when you do clear these islands of enemies, you rescue people and get rewards.

And then you have to continue to defend that island, getting alerts when the rescued people need your help.

And when you’re trying to progress through the story, find and make resources, and fight for upgrades, it’s a lot of work! I sometimes feel like I’m trying to keep a classroom clean and tidy, but my 3rd year students have got their hands on glitter glue and have formed factions.

But you get stronger, you get smarter, you get new weapons and useful abilities, and there is so much to explore and see and interact with in this game that I can take detours from the main story to help out people you find along the way. I can find my grandfather and rescue the moths. Blast asteroids for coal, carefully chip away at the more formidable islands. Discover little pockets of beauty and history and story about the world of Aspya.

Perfect your shots, time your dodges right, and you’ll be able to face down some of the nastier monsters and baddies without too much trouble.

And if you do have trouble, you have your moth friend with you to whisk you away to safety, allowing you to plan and consider a different approach.

There’s a lot of sounds to this game, with immersive music that changes as you roam around floating towns and cities, run into danger, get a little bit too close to those occupied islands. It’s whimsical, beautiful, adding to the sense of wonder and adventure. It has some kinks to work out, with some jarring transitions, but it’s easy to look over. Especially when I discovered how many things I could break. There are few things more satisfying than smashing a crate and getting the jingle of currency in return.

You get the putter putter of your ship’s engine propelling you through the sky. The clank as you repair your airship, build new farms and facilities. It’s pretty satisfying!

If it wasn’t obvious, I love Black Skylands. I have not finished the game, I know I’m a while away from finishing the game, but it has sucked me in. I log off for the night and lay in bed considering how I’m going to approach that boss fight. I weigh up my upgrade options, trying to make the best decisions for my point in the game. The dialogue options are worth considering too, and I’m curious how the outcomes could change. There is so much in this game, so much to do and see and keep on top of, and then there is the fact that at the time of this review, it’s still in early access, with nearly a year of development ahead. This is a labour of love, passion, and care and it shows. Sure there are a couple of buggy quirks here and there but it doesn’t distract from the overall experience, which is that Black Skylands is a beautiful, hectic, busy game that requires patience and a cool head. And it’s probably the first bullet hell game I actually enjoyed.

Freeplay, WitcherCon, Farewell Dogmeat

Freeplay 2021 Awards

Freeplay is Australia’s largest celebration of Australian independent games, and each year displays a diverse array of games, made by developers from all walks of life. This year, the Freeplay Award was granted to Umurangi Generation by Origame Digital, a first person photography game set in the future.

Some other finalists includes:

  • Webbed by Sbug Games for Excellence in Design
  • A Long Goodbye by Dana McKay for Excellence in Narrative
  • Neon Cyborg Cat Club by Edwin Montgomer for Experimental Game Award
  • Completely Stretchy and Uncomfortably Sticky by Daniel Ferguson for Excellence in Visual Art
  • The Lighthouse At The Edge Of The Universe by Ella Lim for Non-Digital Game Award
  • The Snowgardens by Anthony Cristiano for Student Game Award
  • Mealmates by magicdweedoo for Excellence in Audio
  • UNDER A STAR CALLED SUN by Cecile Richard for Micro-Game Award
  • Before We Leave by Balancing Monkey Games for Across The Ditch Award

For more information about Freeplay, and to check out these finalists, as well as semi-finalists, you can click here.

WitcherCon is Almost Here!

Fans of the books, games, and show will be able to come together for all things Witcher at WitcherCon, a digital convention taking place on July 9 on Netflix, YouTube, and Twitch.

Fans are being warned that there will be no new game announcement, however there is plenty to look forward to, such as a deep dive into the making of the games, the Netflix series, merchandise, and behind-the-scenes footage. In addition, there will be interactive panels with people involved in the creation of The Witcher, with never-before-seen reveals, and explorations into the lore and the world of The Witcher.

There is a lot more to look forward to, so if you’re a fan, definitely check out the full schedule here.

Real Life Dogmeat Passes Away

Fallout fans are probably well aware of Dogmeat, the canine companion who helps and backs up the player through thick and thin. A brave and capable German Shepard, its no secret that Dogmeat is held fondly in many hearts.

The real life inspiration for the Fallout companion, River, has sadly passed away. Fallout 4 senior designer, Joel Burgess, tweets:

“Dogmeat is a tether.  He grounds you in the world, will always stand by you, lead you to your family, and anticipate your needs.  He wants you to be safe and happy.

In other words, he loves you.  

And if love is River’s legacy, I am contented.

Rest in peace, big girl.”

River had won an award for her role in Fallout 4, and true to Dogmeat’s companion role in the game, she had a major role as a companion to developers.

And now for some upcoming game releases!

July 1

July 6 

July 7

Monster Hunter Rise Review

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Music: Satoshi Hori
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
Released: 26 March 2021, 2022
Genre: Action role-playing

You are a new hunter in the beautiful, but small, village of Kamura. Your task as a hunter? To hunt the biggest, baddest monsters that roam this world. But that’s not all, you are also tasked with protecting this village from a devastating event called the rampage. Where a dozen monsters, bigger and badder than the one before it, descend upon Kamura in a furious siege. And you have to not only repel it, but also discover the cause of the rampage in an effort to put an end to this ferocious stampede.

Monster Hunter Rise is the newest game in the Monster Hunter series, with a semi-realistic 3D artstyle, detailed gameplay and mechanics, and a lineup of monsters who will challenge you, while managing to be distinctive from other games in the series.

Monster Hunter Rise at its base is just like every other Monster Hunter game. That is you are a hunter, and you hunt monsters, each unique and with its own set of behaviours and abilities. You can choose from 14 weapon types, such as a hunting horn, great sword, hammer, dual blades, bowgun, or sword and shield, just to name a few. Once you complete the hunt, you get rewards such as money and points, and resources from the monster you just carved. And you can use these rewards to make extremely cool and helpful armour and weapons, and upgrade your gear.

Monsters do not have a health bar in this game, and instead you will have to rely on visual cues to tell you when it’s exhausted, close to death, or if it’s about to do a particularly brutal attack. So you have to be observant, learn about the monster, and adjust your gear and approach to achieve a successful hunt.

Monster Hunter Rise also has some mechanics unique to this game, such as the addition of wirebugs, which creates wires that can help you pull off devastating abilities, hold onto monsters, and even allow you to ride the monster, controlling it for a limited time. Another unique feature is the rampage, where a stampede of monsters attacks the village, and it’s up to you and some brave NPCs to push them back before they can get through the giant gate. You have access to special, heavy-duty weapons, such as cannons and ballistas, to help, and when the gong is hit it gives everyone a surge of power, allowing you to go toe-to-toe with some of the more brutal monsters in the rampage.

And outside of the rampage, there is the mystery behind the cause of the rampage. And solving that mystery will mean having to face, you got it, more monsters.

The music in these games have always been rather epic, and quite beautiful. And Rise is no different, including some beautiful singing from characters in the game. When the language is set to Japanese, you are introduced to poetic singing with the introduction of the monsters, like the game is telling you a story. And the audio experience can be extremely helpful during your hunt. Your characters will shout call outs, warning you when the monster is targeting you, but also telling your teammates when you’re in trouble, reloading your bowgun, or taking a health potion. It’s not essential, but it is helpful, especially if you and your friends aren’t using microphones.

I have been playing Monster Hunter for about 9 years now, and I’ve always enjoyed how over-the-top, challenging, and kinda goofy the games are. And I really got to enjoy the multiplayer aspect with the release of Monster Hunter World, and that hasn’t changed with Rise. Rise has streamlined a lot of the mechanics from previous games, making it less daunting. There are still a lot of areas that have me looking up guides to understand, but you can enjoy the game without it. The hunt itself still has a lot of details to think about and consider, and to hopefully turn to your advantage. I’ve had my friends find a stinkmink to lure another monster to our target, so that the resulting turf war would soften them up a bit.

I would advise making your way through the singleplayer village quests first, as that introduces most of the monsters, mechanics, and features of Rise, and they’re not too challenging. It’ll also introduce you to the ‘big bad’ monster. But once you are ready, jump into the hub quests for the multiplayer experience, and prepare for a wild ride. Whenever we felt things were getting a bit easy, boom. We’ve been mauled by a tigrex and someone just rage quit.

So what do we do? Have a break. And then try again. Craft a special hunting horn that looks like a cello but gives us earplugs, bring out some flash bombs and poisoned food, and get a bit smarter about our hunts.

And then once we succeed, cheer and pat ourselves on the back and go check out what cool armour we can make now, so you can get back to the hunt.

Hey, we’re monster hunters. What else are we going to do?

Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star Review

Developer: Lorenzo Redaelli/ Eye Guys
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Music: Lorenzo Redaelli
Platforms: PC/ Mac
Released: 14th August 2020
Genre: Visual novel, horror

A fairy tale come to life. A fallen prince from the stars. An instant connection. Romance. Love. Passion. Pain. Guilt. Fear. Anger.

Mutual orbit, spinning out of control.

Milky Way Prince is a unique visual novel game about abuse in relationships, mental illness, and intimacy. With a combination of 3D environments and 2D characters, with a simplified colour palette, it is beautiful, haunting, horrifying, resulting in an experience that has left me thinking and feeling, mind turbulent.

I won’t go into detail in this review, but the game does delve into emotional abuse, self harm, suicide ideation, and the difficult ugly sides of mental illness. It’s rough. I had to take breaks between chapters to go hug my cat. But it is a beautiful game, it explores these themes in a way that was unique, thought-provoking, and jarring.

In Milky Way Prince, you play as Nuki, a young man with stars in his eyes, obsessed with the stars that litter the night sky. You learn of a fairy tale, where a prince from the stars falls to Earth. A beautiful romantic tale.

Nuki spots a falling star in real life, and follows it to find a man who is crying. He is Sune, and this is your first meeting.

What follows should play out like the fairy tale. And in a way, it does. But the brightest stars are the most unstable, and as beautiful as they are, to get too close is to invite disaster. But like a moth to a flame, Nuki is drawn.

He has stars in his eyes, and Sune is his prince.

Game Play

Most of the game functions like your standard visual novel game. The characters have some conversations, and you are able to select dialogue options to respond to the situation. There aren’t any wrong responses, but they change how the game plays out. Whether that prevents catastrophe, destroys you, or otherwise, it can be hard to tell with option will lead to which conclusion. And that’s kinda the point of the game. Sometimes, in life, and especially in abusive situations, there aren’t any safe responses, there aren’t clear ways out, and there aren’t tidy resolutions. Sometimes, all you can do is react.

There is a beautiful mechanic involving intimacy, where you swear an oath before engaging. With elements of BDSM, interesting symbology, and the ability to decide on which of your senses you will use in this situation, it gives you insight into this relationship between Nuki and Sune. It is intense, displaying both vulnerability and guarded nature of Sune. He is someone who gives so much, but withdraws in an instant. Who bombs Nuki with affection and love, only to immediately put up walls and become reclusive. Hot and cold. Light and dark. Opposites in a single person.

In a binary system, orbit is mutual.

At times, the game throws you into high-stress situations, where you experience an impending explosion, and you have to defuse it before it happens, a dozen times over. There are moments where the game will make you jump with how quickly things can change.

You are kept on edge, uncertain, afraid, but wanting to push forwards, to push through. To help Sune.

It’s kinda the point.

Music

The music is of the electropop variety, and it can be quiet at times. But even the music will lash out at you, throwing sound at you, lending an auditory punch to the visual hit. When things are calm and good, the music is nice, pleasant, kind almost. But when things are bad, when the situation is spiraling, when you watch Sune fall apart, it becomes painful, attacking your senses, overwhelming you. I became very stressed and anxious when I heard those discordant chords.

At times though, the audio is overdone, and it does become almost comedic. Sometimes it’s just not necessary, and just becomes annoying. Not in a good, adding-to-the-experience way. But in a ‘I am now clicking as quickly as possible to make that sound stop because it sounds like a rubber balloon’ way.

Overall Experience

Overall however, the game is jarring, it is beautiful, it is horrifying, it is frustrating, it is a lot.

Many people are aware of mental illness, and what it can do to the person. It can be exhausting, difficult to understand and explain, hard to live with. It can be managed, with the hope of being able to thrive one day.

But a lot of the time, it can be ugly, destructive, not just for the sufferer, but also for those around them. Those people can remove themselves from it at least. But what happens if you don’t? If you don’t understand? If you’re poorly equipped, unprepared, and if the person with the illness doesn’t want your help?

What happens when two stars are locked in orbit? When those stars spiral out of control, closer to each other?

One of the features of the game I really appreciated, after feeling like I just wanted to grab Sune by the shoulders and shake him, was that you can experience the game from his point of view, for a little while. You see through his eyes, see his thoughts, his reasoning, his logic.

You begin to understand.

I appreciated that.

Metamorphosis Review

Developer: Ovid Works
Publisher: All in! Games
Music: Ovid Works
Platforms: PC, PS4, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch
Released: 12 August 2020
Genre: Adventure puzzle

Ugh, you wake up with a hell of a hangover, you, Gregor, and your best friend Joseph had way too many drinks. But you’ve got work, and you need to go find your friend. It sure was nice of him to let you crash at his place. Now to go wake up your friend.

Except… the rooms are getting bigger… no, you’re getting smaller. Your body shifting, changing, suddenly you have more limbs, books tower over you, and your day becomes very surreal.

You’re… a bug.

And as you enter a letter, that is the least of your problems.

You must get to Tower for any hope of regaining your humanity. You must find and help Joseph, caught up in a trial for a crime no one will explain. Two very big problems, for one very small bug.

Your journey isn’t an easy one, with multiple pathways, colourful and bizarre characters, and a surreal, whimsical world, you need to find out why you were turned into a bug, what is going on, why is Joseph on trial, and what is Tower?

Metaphorphosis is a world inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, and it is a beautiful, detailed adventure puzzle game, with a hand painted aesthetic. You are Gregor, now a bug, and you need to figure out what is going on.

You’re a bug. So you get bug powers! If your feet are sticky you can climb up vertical surfaces. You have to get creative with how you can navigate the world, in some ways you’re very capable as a bug! You’re rather speedy, you can jump quite far, and walls aren’t much of an issue. But you are small, and it’s very easy to drown, miscalculate and fall to your death, or get crushed by a book. It’s very easy to get lost or overwhelmed by the sheer scale of things, but there is a helpful feature that allows you to get a fly-eye’s view of the world, allowing you to see your destination and goal, and to make your decisions.

You’ll have multiple paths, not just physically, but also with your decisions. Some are obvious, some are easier than others.

And the game has a lot of fun with the fact that you’re a bug and you’re bug-sized. Interesting pathways, unique obstacles, fun and creative ways to get around. There is a sense of wonder and joy as you navigate this world. I am reminded of when I was a child and I’d imagine being a mouse, sailing down the gutter on a ship made of leaves. And the world built at the bug level is delightfully detailed, populated with a variety of insects, speakeasies, and even its own form of government. Many of us are familiar with the frustration that comes with bureaucracy, don’t worry! It is well-recreated here. But even with all that, with everything that’s happening, you find yourself in a forest of mushrooms, or on a tiny ship sailing through the air, or surfing on a supply request form.

It’s beautiful, with a touch of magic and whimsy.

The sound is extremely immersive, you hear your own skittering, changing depending on the surface, the human giants around you chatting through walls, their voices garbled but deep, resonating through the walls. Machines whirring, drawers opening and closing, and a lawyer droning on and on, doing a great job at explaining absolutely nothing. It makes the world feel very big, and you very, very small.

The music is well composed, and a lot of fun, highlighting exciting moments, displaying the scale of the world. I would find myself feeling very nervous at times, as I felt exposed and vulnerable at times. The music contributed to that, but it also lent to the whimsical nature of this bug society you find yourself falling into. The wacky characters you’d run into, the things you’d see and experience.

I am not the biggest fan of bugs, but I found myself charmed and intrigued by the world Ovid Works had created. There was the human world that I was aware of, my best friend was on trial for something, and I watched the roadblocks and issues he went through. Gregor is invested in that world. But the bug world is just as intriguing, interesting, filled with vibrancy and character and wonder. And you have your own problems to deal with. So I found myself stressing about my tasks and trials, but also I just had to stop and look around. I wanted to observe and interact with this world. There were towns and groups and even a little cult to check out. Hidden areas, little secrets, a dozen paths to a single goal.

The world is so big, and so detailed, and it made me want to explore. The gameplay was creative, fun, and made me think and plot my path. And the ending… well, I’m not sure where you’ll end up, but it is one I want to revisit later. There are multiple paths, and I feel guilty about the one I took.

It’s kinda weird that as a bug you’d have so much control over what happens, it’s an awfully big responsibility. But the game makes you capable of it.

Fight Crab Review

Developer: Calappa Games
Publisher: Calappa Games
Music: DEKU
Platforms: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, itch.io/Booth (PC)
Released: 30-July 2020 (PC), 15-September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 3D fighting game

You are a crab.

A simple crab, you find yourself thrown into the ocean with a single purpose, a single goal, and a single thought:
You must fight.

A 3D fighting game, Fight Crab takes you through battle after battle, flipping your opponents onto their back.

However, like crabs, your task isn’t all that simple. As a decapod crustacean, you must master control over your armoured body and 10 limbs. You not only battle in the ocean, facing other crabs, but you also take to the streets, castles, cities, determinedly focused on flipping every single opponent you encounter, whether they be crab, lobster, or otherwise.

But… does your tough shell hide a soft interior? Technically, yes! But emotionally, it’s all crab all the way through.

This is a fun, chaotic, broken-but-it-feels-right sort of game.

The game mechanics are cluttered to say the least, deliberately so. The controls make sense, and they’re easy to learn (it’s easiest if you use a controller!), but they’re difficult to master, and that’s part of the fun of it.

You’ll find yourself flailing your claws around, scuttling over obstacles, wielding anything your pincers can grab a hold of. Your body is a weapon, and so is your environment, and your enemy is also a weapon. The weapon your enemy is holding could be your weapon as well.

Punch your enemy, block your enemy, grab onto them, forcing them to yield to your crustaceous superiority. Who cares if you’re facing a lobster with a knife and gun, it could be your knife and gun if you’re crab enough.

You can level up your crab, perfect it’s form to your style. You unlock new crustaceans and weapons, and you also earn abilities and power ups. Are you ready to surge with righteous crab power, pummel your opponent, and then blast them away with pure, crabby energy? Well, you better be!

If at first, you feel you’re mashing buttons, that’s ok. Crabs also need to learn the ways of tactics, finesse, and controls. You and your crab will grow together. Soon you will be in sync with each other.

Outside, you may be human. But inside, emotionally, it’s crab.

Sound effects are standard for a fighting game, your claws sound satisfying, you can hear the energy of the blast as you’re blown away. There’s an announcer telling you your next opponent is arriving.

Now the music is good. It’s powerful, it’s futuristic, energising, and enjoyable to listen to. And it pushes the whole game experience to the limits. This is an absurd game, it’s silly, it’s like a joke that’s played seriously. And there were genuine moments when I thought ‘oh actually, that’s pretty cool’.

The music ties it all together.

I was a little nervous about playing this game, I have a history with our crustacean friends, and I worried I wouldn’t enjoy this game. I thought it would be too goofy, with minimal effort for a laugh. And the UI and menus reinforced that, they look very ‘serious’ but I couldn’t understand a lot of it initially. Parts of the game could’ve done with a lot more polish. So, I was a little apprehensive.

I am happy to say I was proven wrong.

I don’t know if it’s a great game, but it definitely was a fun game. And I am astounded by how well this was executed. The controls were easy to learn, the game actually automatically locks onto your target and manages parts of your controls so you’re not overwhelmed. You’re given so many weapons, power ups, and abilities that I just could not wait to use whatever it was I grabbed. It’s a tree? Ok! A coconut crab has appeared with a hammer? I’m not going to back down, onwards I go! A lobster with rockets attached to its claws? Who thinks of these things, this is brilliant! I’m having an absolute whale of a time. I can’t wait to crack open this sweet game at a party with friends.

Maybe the UI leaves me crabby, I felt like I was going crabwise with the layout and navigation of the menus, and maybe I felt like I was being thrown into boiling water with the battles as chaos reigned.

But that doesn’t matter much.

Because I am a crab, and I must fight.