Roguelike Platformers, To the Moon

Updates

I added some important final touches to Eden’s Prison, namely sound effects and smoother controls. Now I’m satisfied enough to call it “complete”. Download it for free here.

I’ve added brightness and gamma to Cosmic Zephyr, more resolutions, and 7 new languages. I’m currently bug testing it with some friends. Expect more news soon!

 

Steam Reviews

I’m still pretty new to Steam. A friend got me Terraria back in 2014, which I played for 16 hours and then quickly forgot about. I only recently rediscovered Steam through the winter sale. I got a lot of platformers and roguelikes to give me ideas for my own games.

ink2

INK is really good about stretching its core mechanic into a full game. The ink splattering effect is fun to play around with. It adds a layer of replayability despite the small, simple level design. My only major gripe is there could be more hidden objects, and other goals to keep you playing once you finished the game.

The three bosses are fun to fight once you learn their attack patterns. But they are traditional 2d bosses – it only consists of dodging attacks and jumping on their head. I feel like invisible bosses that exploit the ink splatter effect would have been a lot more interesting to fight.

Downwell is very simple and fun. Very few modern games feel genuinely retro like this. Switching guns adds a certain strategic element to the game, as well as the power-ups you gain between each level. I’m not very good at it, I’ve only reached World 3 a few times. But that’s beside the point.

You Have to Win the Game was a pleasant experience, with an interesting meta-narrative about winning and what it really means. It’s very short and can be beaten in an hour or two. It’s also the only free game listed here.

rogue_legacy

I have mixed feelings whenever I play Rogue Legacy. The game puts heavy emphasis on replaying in order to level up your character and progress further. So it takes several hours of gameplay to become strong enough to venture deep into the game. Contrast this to Spelunky or Downwell, where stats never increase so you have to rely more on skill.

Rogue Legacy’s graphics need work, especially outside the castle area. Specifically, they need more contrast. It’s often hard to distinguish the background from enemies in the foreground, which can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths.

I do not recommend Tallowmere. I got it on sale. It’s yet another roguelike platformer. The controls are really stiff and sometimes unintuitive. The graphics are bad. It could improve over time though.

I’ve been enjoying EDGE, it’s the first isometric game I’ve played in a while. I got it right before Two Tribes announced bankruptcy, which was sad news. I’m glad to see them pulling together for one last game, RIVE.

ttm2

Lastly, I just finished playing To the Moon. It took me 5 hours, which was longer than I expected. I warmed up to the dialogue once the character dynamics were established and the story got rolling. Without spoiling too much, I like the story and the themes it explores, such as traveling backwards through time, exploring reconstructed memories, and alternate futures. Where do our desires really come from?

The romanticism of space travel (and time travel) reminds me of Makoto Shinkai’s first film, Voices of a Distant Star. In To the Moon, the protagonists must travel back in time so the character Johnny can travel to outer space. The concept is a lofty one for a game to tackle, and ultimately the clever writing pulls it all together. The stellar music helps it feel more like a Japanese visual novel than an RPG.

My only gripe is that sometimes finding memory links can be annoying, but that’s a minor issue. Overall, the experience was very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

 

Marathon

Finishing a game is a lot of hard work. That’s why many indie developers only have a few finished games to their names. And these are often people with teams, not solo artists.

Jonathan Blow’s new game The Witness comes eight long years after Braid. Notch wasn’t exactly prolific outside Minecraft and Scrolls. Phil Fish’s small output led people to believe FEZ was his first game. Derek Yu only has a few games besides Spelunky, etc.

Vlambeer and Klei Entertainment probably have the fastest output of high quality games, and even they average about 18 months between releases. Which is by no means a short period of time. In the music industry, it only takes 18 months before music is considered “old” in the commercial sense.

I like to think game design is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a craft that takes years to develop, and you learn something new with every success or failure.

 

Prince

Some of the most important advice I’ve ever gotten was simply “be more like Prince”.

“Who else could have made Purple Rain? NO ONE. Who else could have made the thing you’re working on? Eight other writers? Fix that.” – Matt Debenham, What Writers Can Learn From “Purple Rain”

RIP Prince. You will be missed.

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About Dylan Franks

My name is Dylan Franks, and I'm a game designer and musician. I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. View all posts by Dylan Franks

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