Tag Archives: retro

A Dev Blog for Iridescent Crown

New Trailers

Iridescent Crown 1.2 is now out, and here are some trailers for it. 🙂 You can play the game for free in your browser, and you can buy the Windows version.

This is the new official trailer, which runs through World 1.

 

Some gameplay footage with a projectile weapon.

 

Showcasing a few different weapons.

 

Finding a rare weapon, and the implications thereof.

 

Dev Blog for Iridescent Crown

I didn’t chronologue this like I normally do, so this is in no particular order. Most of this final work was done between March 11th and 14th.

 

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Firstly, I made a new logo for my games (and websites in general). It’s inspired by the SEGA logo, as well as the Inuyasha logo. The color purple is a nice mix of royal and feminine. Seeing my first name in katakana is pretty awesome too. Creating a new logo was a small detail, but also a big deal in its own way. I love the sound I picked to go with it – reminds me of starting up the PSX or PS2.

 

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Adding the controls before you begin the game got the most positive feedback from my friends. It’s good to know it’s not too confusing to the eyes.

If you get a strong weapon early enough in the game, nothing beyond that is a challenge. So I made them much more rare in the early levels. The difficulty curve is much smoother now. You’ll have to fight many more enemies to find a weapon worth keeping now, which makes them more valuable.

The large enemies were invincible to close-range attacks, and required projectiles to kill. I realized this was annoying and removed their invulnerability.

 

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I also added a separate room for the shopkeeper. A door allows you to “leave” the room if you don’t like the random weapon you buy, which quickly resets the room. I added several NPCs in this room that give you additional tips to playing the game. I added more lines to the tutorial as well (about the map and radar).

 

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I added a legend to the map on the pause screen, which tells you what the marks mean. Makes it a lot easier to read!

 

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One other big change came at the very end, when I added damage points that visibly appear when you hit or get hit. This really helps with the “feel” of the fighting system.

There was also a glitch you could get by pausing on the game over screen, which I fixed after a friend reminded me about it. 🙂

I experimented with changing the graphics a bit, but when that didn’t work I decided to leave things as they are. I also intended to add a bit more “story” to the game, but in the end this didn’t seem necessary.

 

New Trajectories

I’m still pretty disappointed GMS2 isn’t bringing more tools to the table that I don’t already have. It kills some of the plans I had for extending my current projects – namely adding more features to the music generators.

I was really hoping they would add support for MIDI files (or any music files, really), so I could export the music my games generate. One huge problem is GM is terrible with tempo – even delta_timing isn’t always reliable. I removed the drums from Seraphim Automata to avoid lag issues with running the sequel in HTML5. It sucks because I really like the drum generation system. It may be worth recycling into another desktop game.

One of Iridescent Crown‘s biggest limitations was the 640×480 resolution, which was necessary for HTML5 but awful for the Windows version. It fits the pixel art style, but it’s difficult to appreciate the random level design when the window is so small.

It’s not like I ever had to shrink the window though. The window was small from the start, because 640×480 games were more common when I started this (in 2010). So the game is a bit of a relic in its own way, and begs for a sequel.

I think I’m done with the music generation, sadly. Unless I integrate it into one of the platformers. And I don’t know when I’ll have another platformer underway. If Iridescent Crown gets more feedback, I might feel more confident about the sequel. Either way, I think I’m done with HTML5 versions of my games. It was a nice experiment.

I will probably keep watching how this year unfolds for video games, while I go back to working on music and short stories.

 

Why I Don’t Play New Games

So the new Zelda game is out, as well as Nier: Automata and a ton of other great games. It looks like 2017 is already shaping up to be the best year for gaming since 2004.

I’m not really riding the hype train so much as watching through other’s eyes though, thanks to platforms like twitch and youtube. I have next to no interest in playing these new games, or getting or whatever, when I can just watch other people play the games for me. I don’t really care about the new Switch either (unless I can get my own game on it, of course).

New games aren’t innovative enough to be worth spending my money on. They just seem like higher quality versions of stuff I was playing in the 2000s.

I don’t care about perfect graphics. I care about deep mechanics that allow for more experimentation, and therefore more replayability. The AAA industry, because of its massive time and budget constraints, simply isn’t built for experimentation.

Nowadays you get your standard “open world” game with 30+ hours of side quests. NPC interactions are still very shallow. Too many games are content to crib Minecraft’s crafting system, rather than implement their own unique ideas. Too few have tried to innovate the “gameplay-cutscene-gameplay” problem.

Fandoms allow companies to cash in on the same IP over and over. So they aren’t likely to take a risk to appeal to an “experimental” niche like mine. Why do that, when they can just throw Link into another sandbox game and sell that?

Nier: Automata looks great, but I could also just pop in Kingdom Hearts from 2002. We haven’t progressed that far. The same could be said about the new Zelda vs Wind Waker from 2004. Nintendo and Square Enix don’t need to innovate when they can cash in on their established formulas.

I’ve also noticed a lot of my friends complaining more and more about their massive “backlogs” of games they’ve bought but haven’t played. It makes me wonder if this is how the indiepocalypse will actually unfold. You can finally make your dream game with the right tools – but it doesn’t matter because nobody has time for it.


Algorithm for Angel Wings

Algorithm for Angel Wings

Play it in your browser here (or download it for Windows).

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I decided to make a more user-friendly version of Seraphim Automata, after I finally got it to stop running at 1 frame per second in HTML5. I started this on January 30th, and most of the work was done by the next day.

I went back on February 3rd and added an autoplay feature for the start menu – something I haven’t done since Cosmic Zephyr in 2013. The next day I fixed glitches in the menu, and added a save function for high scores and combos. I also made some new touchscreen buttons in Photoshop. Then I released the game for feedback.

I went back the next day and fixed a few bugs that were pointed out to me. Specifically, you could break the GUI by racking up a massive combo. (I’m still surprised someone got a 44 hit combo on the first day of its release. My own record is 19.)

The very last thing I added was the glove sprite for the mouse, which gives it one little human element.

The touchscreen controls allow this to be played on a mobile device, as well as in a desktop browser. Which is nice. The only reason I haven’t uploaded an Android version is because the export module is currently broken in GMS. I’m hoping this will be fixed in GMS2.

You can select from 12 scales, 12 keys, 10 time signatures, and 13 different instruments. The time signatures are the real key to getting different patterns – it’s automatically set to 12/8 while the scale, key and instrument are randomly chosen. 10/8, 7/8 and 4/4 produce my favorite patterns. 4/4 in particular can create very jovial rhythmic patterns.

 

Flashbacks, From 2010 to Now

When designing a game (or any project, really), you have to decide early on who you are making this for. Are you making it for yourself or for other people? That decision between “passion project” vs “product” will lead you down two very different roads.

I would say my games were passion projects until about 2010. That includes my two oldest surviving games, A Starspangled Zephyr and Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. I felt no pressure making my early games since I was mostly doing it for myself.

When my cocaine addict of a father was finally removed from the picture in November 2010, mom and I shifted pretty quickly to survival mode. I found myself selling most of my belongings to keep us from going broke. One major reason I abandoned songwriting is because I had to sell almost all my musical instruments. That miserable era lasted for about 19 months.

By the time we lost our home in March 2012, I had shifted to a more workaholic attitude about game design. I wanted to make a polished product I could sell and hopefully get out of poverty. That never really worked, but it definitely affected how I approached the games I made in that era, Cosmic Zephyr and Eden’s Prison.

One major event was being raided by the police in December 2013. Which happened to be four weeks into development on Eden’s Prison. The fall out from that led to a period of inactivity through 2014 and 2015. Another factor was injuring my right arm in August 2014 – it’s still recovering and I’ve only recently begun feeling “normal” again.

I finally returned to game development after leaving a toxic group of old programmers in early 2016. There is no coincidence that I had the best year of my life after leaving them (2016, that is). The new games – Seraphim Automata, Zephyr 3, Iridescent Crown – still suffer a bit from the “product” mentality, but I’m slowly moving back to making strictly passion projects for myself.

My ongoing experiments with music generation are one indication of this. Now that Algorithm for Angel Wings fleshes out the Seraphim engine into something very easily accessible, I feel comfortable moving on from those experiments.

Zephyr 3 also tries to atone for its previous games by offering the source code for free.

It feels bittersweet to release Iridescent Crown over 6 years after I started it (just look at the 640×480 resolution if you need proof of how old it is). The mainstream roguelike genre (or ‘roguelite’ if you prefer) completely blew up and died in that timeframe. Now similar games like Terraria and Spelunky are gathering dust, and there aren’t as many fans around looking for another roguelike or exploration based platformer.

The resulting game is both old and young at the same time – with the former compromising the latter. I’m thinking about revisiting it and releasing a “deluxe” version with a bigger window and other features that the HTML5 version couldn’t handle.

 

Beginning of the End

I’ve boiled my new ideas down to two main projects, plus an extra passion project.

  1. The first idea is of course a horror game. I haven’t made once since 2010, back when I was a very different person. This one will be a 2d platformer, but beyond that I haven’t decided on much. There are multiple concepts and stories I keep bouncing around for this one. I surround myself with horror influences so this idea never really leaves me, it’s just a matter of execution.
  2. The second idea is a sequel to Iridescent Crown, with better graphics and more RPG elements, and hopefully a better name. I would actually argue that in 2017, procedural generation is going out of style for now. Especially after the debacle over No Man’s Sky. So while I want to release a more polished sequel, I’m not sure if it’s really the best time to be working on something like that.
    I could of course scrap the procedural generation and go with … level design. The argument for procedural generation increasing replayability goes out the window when you use it so much that nothing sticks. That’s one problem with Iridescent Crown in its current form. Since all 16 levels are using the same “room”, none of them can be saved and revisited later.
    The other problem is that there is no reason to revisit levels right now. So it needs more collectibles, an EXP system, and perhaps other things.
  3. The last idea is a Sonic fangame, which would be a complete passion project. But it would be a lot more fun to make than my original games, simply because it’s something I always wanted to do. I am looking forward to seeing how Sonic Mania turns out before diving too deep into this one, as I wouldn’t want it to be too similar.

My Favorite Game Postmortems

Myst

This game was confusing as hell to me as a child, but I loved its atmosphere.

 

I think the main takeaways for Myst are:

  • Rand and Robin Miller made a lot of simpler point-and-click games for children before tackling Myst.
  • Dungeons and Dragons was a large inspiration because of the emergent storytelling aspects. Rand actually designed a dungeon which was later used in creating one of Myst’s worlds.
  • The game took its mythic structure from Star Wars, its world-traveling from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and the island setting was inspired by novels by Jules Verne.
  • Myst was created for non-gamers, so they tried to avoid arbitrary puzzles that most adventure games suffered from in the day. They mostly succeeded, though Robin admits there are still a few bad puzzles in the game.
  • The two brothers approached Myst as a passion project strictly for themselves.
  • How long it took to render each image back in the day. Shots took 2-14 hours to render using a StrataVision 3D.
  • They subverted the one-way communication of the story with one-way devices like TVs and books rather than personal encounters.
  • They initially used diegetic music in their games (music that only occurs naturally in the world). When they finally added traditional soundtrack music to Myst, they were surprised how well it fit.
  • Extensive beta testing helped make the game playable to non-gamers.
  • Myst and their previous games were all made on HyperCard.
  • Myst took two years to complete.

 

Also, Phil Fish makes a surprising appearance 51 minutes in. Apparently he started out on HyperCard as well.

 

Diablo

The original ARPG, and one of my favorite games of all time.

 

I think the main takeaways for Diablo are:

  • The interesting meeting between Condor Games (Diablo’s developers) and Silicon & Synapse (Warcraft’s developers). The latter became Blizzard Entertainment. The former became Blizzard North.
  • The tiles in Diablo were borrowed directly from X-COM.
  • How they handled drawing the game with only 256 colors.
  • David Brevik had never coded in C before Diablo.
  • All the interesting bug fixes and work-arounds they had to implement because of the technology at the time.
  • There was a small bidding war between 3DO and Blizzard for Condor Games. Condor went with Blizzard despite 3DO offering twice as much money.
  • Most of the HUD (graphical interface) work was done in the last 3 months, with the help of input from beta testers.
  • They crunched really hard on this game for the better half of a year. Brevik says crunch deserves its bad reputation, but is also a “necessary evil” and not entirely a bad thing. From my own personal experience, I can definitely relate.
  • There’s a spell called “Blood Exchange” they removed from the game. It let you swap your HP with a monster’s HP, making the game really easy to beat.
  • Rogue, NetHack, Moria, Angband, Ultima, Wizardry, Doom, Dark Forces, and X-COM were just some of the influences for Diablo.
  • battle.net ran on one computer! It handled the entire multiplayer side of the game.

 

I also love the Ms. Pac Man and Marble Madness postmortems, but they’re literally so old (arcade era) that the advice isn’t really applicable to modern game design. They’re more like historic documents now. Which may be the biggest takeaway of all…


Trailers for My New Games!

Trailers

I made a few trailers for my newest projects! First, here’s some gameplay footage of Iridescent Crown. I’m waiting until the next update before I record another trailer (though I don’t have much left to change/add).

 

Here’s some footage of Seraphim Automata generating ambient piano music. My computer unfortunately slows down too much when the drums kick in. But the game is generally more pleasant to the ear without drums (as much as I like the random drum code), which is something I’m keeping in mind for the sequel.

Since this game covers jazz music, the sequel will cover a different genre – ambient or perhaps post-rock.

 

This video is shorter, but is also less chaotic and contains a repeating melody.

 

Here’s a video of Celody Life generating some melodies. Again, my computer lags if too much is playing while recording, so the clips are pretty short. I did catch two gliders in this video though.  🙂 It’s cool to see how they can play complex melodies on their own.

 

I also created a trailer for my old horror game, Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. OBS didn’t completely cooperate with me on this one but I managed to fix it in Videopad.  😛

 

Updates

Planning to update Iridescent Crown sometime next month. I’ve also been working on music, which I hope to share soon.  🙂


Iridescent Crown and Zephyr 3 are officially complete!

Iridescent Crown

Play it here!

I uploaded a new HTML5 version of Iridescent Crown with a few important bug fixes. The soundtrack has been added, and the Windows version is now available to purchase.  🙂

The release has been somewhat marred by ISP problems, but at least I had the game up in time for Christmas (and Diablo’s 20th anniversary!). One of the bugs screwed up the ending sequence, which, along with missing the soundtrack, made me feel less than comfortable sharing the game around. But now everything’s cool.

I’m really glad to have this game out of my way. I started it way back in 2010, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to turn out until recently. A lot of things just happened to come together at the end – like the final boss and ending sequence, which I’d been turning ideas over for years, but ultimately only needed a few hours to throw something together.

Finding the right graphics+sfx resources to fill in certain roles was also essential in speeding up the creation process. I don’t feel too bad about using cc0 enemy sprites in my game, because the alternative would be a game that’s still unfinished.  😛

I’ll follow up with a more complete dev blog when I have some time. Right now I’m working on trailers for the game. Stay tuned.  🙂

 

Zephyr 3 bug

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As I suspected, there was only one line glitching up this game and keeping it from running in HTML5. As soon as I dropped “direction_to_object” and changed it to “point_direction” – essentially the same function with a different approach – the damn thing loaded up fine in HTML5. It even lags less than I expected. You can play it in your browser here.

Game Maker Studio is weird sometimes. Only 173 lines of code in this game, and it took just one to break everything. To contrast, Iridescent Crown’s engine is +6 years old, bloated as fuck yet somehow works fine in HTML5.

The source code is available for anyone who wants to learn how to make this type of game.

Zephyr 3 basically marks the end of the Zephyr series. But not the engine itself – I plan to use it again in the future.  🙂

 

Planning for Steam Greenlight

I should be getting better internet in mid-February. So for now, I’m going to focus on recording gameplay footage of my projects. Then I will upload the videos and see where to go from there. I’ve recently managed to get OBS working with my computer – though not with the best quality.

Every article about “indie game marketing” stresses the importance of Twitter, but I don’t think Twitter is as helpful as it seems when it comes to getting your game out there. I get a good amount of likes and retweets whenever I post screenshots or links, but honestly they don’t translate to people clicking on my game often. So “marketing my game” usually feels like wasted time that could be better spent on development. It does help to chronologue my development, but that’s about it.

Gamers make ~93% of their purchases on Steam. So… I probably need to get a game on Steam. People don’t buy games often enough on itch.io.

I’m most proud of Seraphim Automata, but it may be too weird / experimental for Steam. I’m also not sure what audience it appeals to in its current state. What “genre” is it, for instance? It lacks a certain long-term replayability that could be solved with more musical variations (read: a sequel). I may revisit it some time later and add more traditional gameplay features.

I’m also proud of Iridescent Crown, but wary because I haven’t gotten much feedback. And it’s definitely not as unique as SA. It’s really hard to strike a balance between innovative and traditional in game design. Any ideas people give me for IC will probably be saved for a sequel as well, since I’m happy with it in its current state.

While I do have more “work” ahead as far as marketing and making trailers, for once I can finally say that I have nothing left to work on in the field of game design. My existing projects are 100% complete. Which means I can let myself take a break.

… I hope.

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Iridescent Crown is out! Looking for Pixel Artists

Iridescent Crown

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You can play it in your browser here. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m still working on adding updates – namely touchscreen controls. The random generation for levels and weapons is inspired by Diablo.

My internet’s been broken the past few weeks, which is why I haven’t uploaded a version with music. Hopefully that will change soon.  🙂

 

New Stories

I added two new horror stories! AMETHYST 2.0 “Safe Version” was a strange idea I’ve had for a while. The premise itself read interestingly, but I could never figure out how to approach it from any of the main character’s perspectives. So I ultimately just took the original premise, edited it a bit and presented it as classified information from some secret agency.

I repeated this formula to some extent with AMETHYST 3.0 “Leon’s Story”. It’s a concept that’s been bothering me for a while, regarding how to express it. The connecting theme in the AMETHYST series so far seems to be ouija boards and alternate identities. I know this version doesn’t make a lot of sense and probably reads like a David Lynch script. But I may revisit the idea later.

“Ouroboros” is my shortest story so far, at only 667 words. It was originally the premise for a video game – the text would have been given in bits as you progressed.

I also added a new angel story called “The Rebirth of Raphael”, which I wrote back in May. I was planning to write more stories in this world and it just hasn’t happened yet.

I’m currently working on AMETHYST 1.0 “Corrupt Version” and a few secret stories, so look forward to those!

 

Year End Summary

2016 has been a pretty good year for me. I released three games this year. I released my first game that runs in a browser. I released my first game with “infinite replayability”. I finally finished a platformer I started +6 years ago.

I tackled procedural music generation for the first time in Seraphim Automata. I made a small music tool that lets you generate music with Conway’s Game of Life. I released a music tool that lets you explore microtonality in your browser.

I also translated one of my games into 7 languages.

yuzhou_hefeng

I discovered this earlier this year, on a Chinese website that pirates my game. The fact that my game has been pirated at all still intrigues and amuses me a bit. I always wanted to see that game in kanji, so it’s ironic but fitting.

I’ve done everything I’ve wanted with game design so far, so I feel comfortable taking a long break. I’m looking forward to GMS 2 coming out. I have no concrete plans for any new projects unless I collaborate with a visual artist.

I’m hoping when I return to game development, I’ll be working with a radically different artistic style than these games. It doesn’t have to be an “art game”, but I would like to make something more avant-garde. Or at least more modern.

On the other hand, I’ve fallen pretty far behind with music. I’ve barely written anything since last year. So that will be my main focus for 2017.  🙂

 

Looking for Pixel Artists

If you want to collaborate on a future project, feel free to contact me. If you’re a pixel artist or a game developer that uses Game Maker Studio, I would love to work with you!

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Source Codes, Short Stories, and Steam Reviews #4

Source Codes

I’ve made the source code for my two music tools available for purchase, as well as three of my games: A Starspangled Zephyr, Cosmic Zephyr, and Eden’s Prison. They all run in Game Maker Studio.

Celody Life includes the keyboard code that I use in my newest game Seraphim Automata. The source code for NanoTone Synth may be interesting for those who want to see the mathematics behind the music. If you’d like to support me, buy them!  🙂

The source code for Deadman has unfortunately been lost for years. I’m holding onto the source code for Seraphim Automata until I polish it up more.

 

Short Stories

I wrote my first sci-fi story a few weeks ago, called Eyes That See Across Time. It’s pretty easy and fun to write sci-fi, if you just look at the world’s current problems and then completely blow them out of proportion.

I’ve also been working on a few horror stories like Bury My Body. I’ve noticed I tend to write out several versions of my horror stories until I get the version that I like.

There’s also a series of fantasy stories I’ve been writing, inspired by Christian gnosticism, apocryphal scripture, the Devil, and related subjects. My favorite entry so far is The Birth of Lucifer.  🙂

You can read more stories in my Writing section!

 

Steam Reviews

This will probably be my last blog about Steam games unless I write one final summary later. I’ve discovered I don’t really care for some of the most well-known indie games like Super Meat Boy, Hotline Miami, Don’t Starve, Spelunky, Terraria, VVVVVV, etc. Even popular games I’ve reviewed like LIMBO only hold my attention span for a limited amount of time. It’s mostly been strange, innovative new games like To the Moon and Her Story that have impressed me.

Only a few traditional style video games like Nidhogg have truly stood out. And maybe a few others…

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Risk of Rain is a simple looking game with surprisingly deep mechanics. You basically start out in a random place in each level and begin fighting off enemies, which get stronger as time progresses. Getting money to buy upgrades becomes a key factor to survival. It can be a bit disorienting deciding what to spend your money on while fighting off enemies. I occasionally wish the shops were separated into enemy-free sections like most games. But of course that wouldn’t really fit the gameplay, which wants you to make quick decisions.

I love the soaring guitar solos that drive the soundtrack. This game has some of the best music I’ve encountered in an indie title, and reminds me of the early Sonic soundtracks.

With the overly simplistic art style, it’s taken me a while to get into the game. But I’ve discovered it can be a lot of fun. Sometimes I feel the game could use a function to zoom the camera in. The player character appears way too small on screen, as well as the enemies. Sometimes I feel like I need to squint to see the details. It feels like the exact opposite problem that early mobile games had. Mechanically, the game has very broad appeal. I just wish it had better graphics! But I recommend the game nonetheless.

aquaria2

Aquaria is a relaxing side-scroller that takes place underwater. The most interesting feature is the ability to play notes and melodies that affect the surrounding environment. The game has a well-produced story with a voice actor that guides you through the game, speaking for the main protagonist’s perspective. The camera zooms in and out depending on the situation. There’s a neat recipe system that lets you cook with items you find. The game rarely becomes challenging enough to frustrate you.

The gameplay and atmosphere occasionally reminds me of The Little Mermaid areas in Kingdom Hearts, but with better music. My only real criticism is the game doesn’t have much variety. The game also really needs an auto-save feature, as well as a brightness feature. In the end, it’s a nice change of pace from the trend of very difficult side-scroller games.

valdis

Valdis Story: Abyssal City probably has the best graphics of any 2d game I’ve seen on Steam. The characters and enemies are all beautifully animated. The levels all have lush and vibrant colors. None of the areas suffer from mismatched color palettes like many indie games. The sword attacks feel very satisfying to use. Boss battles are challenging but not impossible. The magic system gives you a lot of interesting powers, which thankfully aren’t difficult to incorporate into fighting.

The game also has beautiful music. I personally find the story to be tedious and distracting, but you can skip through it. As a whole, the game is truly impressive. I would say this is one of the most polished 2d platformer games available on Steam.

bleed

Bleed turned out to be way more difficult than I expected. Gameplay can be very mentally and physically demanding, since you’re having to move, aim and shoot all at once. The checkpoints are the biggest saving grace for the gameplay, since it’s easy to die from a random mistake. The difficulty of the level design is fairly uneven, with some places feeling too easy and others feeling way too hard. The game desperately needs an auto-aim feature.

You can select the difficulty on each level, which is a nice option that keeps you from getting stuck in a particular place. You can also have a second player join in, which is nice and retro. The pixel art graphics are accompanied with pretty standard chiptune music. The levels are nicely drawn but the characters and enemies could be a lot more polished.

Bleed also has one of the cutest main menu screens I’ve ever seen, with the lead character at her desk writing, drinking a smoothie, and other idle animations. This is another game I can only recommend to those who are exceptional at 2D platformers. This game is either a daydream or a nightmare, never in between.

crypt-of-the-necrodancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer‘s most defining feature is undoubtedly the ability to choose your own soundtrack and watch the game synchronize itself to your music. The game is good at syncing up to anything in 4/4 and usually 3/4. Unfortunately odd meters make it go haywire, which rules out a lot of my favorite songs. The custom music system really needs a shuffle feature, since the songs you choose for early levels and the main menu quickly get old.

The upgrade system is a lot like Rogue Legacy, where you have to play the game many times in order to become strong enough to reach the deeper levels. The now-standard structure of 4 worlds, 16 levels is obviously a nod to Diablo and Spelunky. The dungeons are randomly generated (of course they are). Playing in sync with your favorite music is a novel feature but gets old rather quickly. Sometimes it feels unnatural, and I simply want to play to my own rhythm.

Maybe this game is only for people with dance pads. Or is it made for mobile phones? It’s hard to tell. The graphics are pretty bland and unspectacular. I’ve spent over 7 hours playing the game on Steam and I still can’t recommend it unless it’s on sale.

jotun

The graphics in Jotun are phenomenal. The camera zooms out when you encounter a monument or boss, which helps give you a sense of the world’s tremendous scale. Boss encounters can be pretty intimidating when you’re just a tiny dot on the screen. This can sometimes be annoying however, as it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

The voice acting is in Icelandic, which lends a rare, authentic feel to the game’s world. The soundtrack is also very good. It often takes the subtle approach, blending ambient noises with soft splashes of violin and droning echoes. Jovial and mysterious harp melodies are common. The ominous horn sections often remind me of Diablo’s darker moments. The music becomes more exciting and percussive during boss battles, while retaining a very orchestral sound.

The loading times in between areas can be pretty long (about 10 seconds), which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. I’ve also had to deal with some seriously frustrating bugs, like dying after beating a particularly difficult boss. The combat is way too slow for my tastes. Your “quick” attack takes about 1 second to execute, while your strong attack takes about 3. I often feel more like I’m fighting against my character’s slow timing, rather than the enemies or bosses.

And as nice as the voice acting is, I sometimes wish there was an option for English vocals. Since I can’t look away and receive the information audibly in my own language, I have to watch the screen before the subtitles fade. It’s a bit awkward when I’m just playing casually. The feeling is not unlike watching a foreign film.

Overall though, the game is pretty neat. If you like RPG games I recommend Jotun, it will definitely leave a strong impression on you.

 

More Reviews

Steam Reviews #3: Outland, Dust: An Elysian Tail, VVVVVV, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, Waveform, Her Story
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