Skylar & Plux - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: 3D Platformer / Action / Adventure
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, under 33%+ discount, since the game is pretty short

Skylar & Plux: Adventure on Clover Island is a homage to early 3d platformers. You control your feline hero and help her gather three relic parts to restore something that brings her memory back.

The Good

  • Game World and Graphics are top-notch: seriously, the character models / animations / level design is something you would expect from the AAA game.
  • Controls are very responsive (maybe except for jetpack jump) and controlling your character feels great. The jumping, which has often been an issue in the old 3d platformers is done surprisingly smoothly here. It presents a challenge, but you are fighting with the obstacles, and not controls.
  • Beautiful Sounds and Music: the Music fits the colorful game mood and enhances it.
  • More than anything, the game is fun to play. It gives a good mix of puzzles, jumping and destroying enemies, which makes the gameplay exciting, since you never get bored while playing.

The Bad

  • It often feels that together with early 3d platformer feeling the developers decided to bring in the clumsy camera controls which was often an issue back then. If you want to look up – the camera often shifts right to your characters butt. Turning during jumping can also be a bit painful experience (although it’s somewhat mitigated because the gamepad has the button that centers the camera behind your character).
  • The plot is somewhat cheesy (which honestly is understandable), but the initial premise was that the cat character had memory removed and was trying to restore it. By the end of the game, this completely shifts and it seems like nobody cares about restoring the memory anymore. After completing the game, you still don’t know what happened to the character and how she ended up being where she is.
  • Not much Content / Low Difficulty: there are about 5 different enemies and one boss. The game itself can take about 3 hours to complete if you just want to run through it (to counter that: there are multiple optional health unlocks that can greatly prolong the experience; 100% completion will take much more time; the lack of enemies is also compensated by puzzles and good level design that requires lots of non-repetitive jumping with different approaches to getting past the obstacles).

Summary

Despite the flaws, the game is still fun, but not for typical hardcore gamers who are nostalgic about 3d platformers. The length of the game might be questionable, but the experience quality justifies it. It’s the game that I’d buy for my kid, because it is very colorful, well-polished and reasonably challenging. For veteran gamers with 3d nostalgia though – I hesitate recommend it and I leave this up to your discretion.

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Battle Riders - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Racing / Action
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Battle Riders is a racing game. Plot twist: there are also weapons involved. You race around in your car while trying to destroy other racers. There are multiple game modes and three bonus types (ammo, boost, health) spread across the tracks. While the premise sounds simple, the execution is surprisingly fun.

The Good

  • Old-School racing feel and great car handling. The car really feels good to control. And the game is just fun.
  • Decent AI opponents: the AI is not unbeatable, but you’ll definitely need to practice and you will get surprised a few times when it takes you down right before the finish line.
  • The car models are great: those feel like a battle cars on the track. The feeling of car weight is also there, which really makes you feel like you’re driving a heavy, albeit fast, vehicle.
  • The cars are also upgradable, which gives a sense of progression for the game.
  • The music and sounds are alright. It puts you in the racing mood + engine roar/tire screech is really well done which is detrimental for immersion in the racing game.

The Bad

  • No joystick/keyboard control in menu: you’ll have to put your controller down and navigate with mouse
  • Can Get Repetitive: there are 9 tracks for ~100 campaign levels. Might not seem that bad, but campaign split into 3 parts. First part only features 3 tracks. That means those 3 tracks repeat over 32 missions. Yes, I enjoyed riding on those tracks for the first ~5 times. After that: that’s the first time I seriously wished that the game I like was shorter rather than longer. And to get all tracks / cars in solo racing mode – you’ll need to grind through all these 100 levels.
  • The backgrounds are somewhat bland. There are track surroundings, but behind them it looks like an infinite empty space, especially noticeable in the city tracks.
  • Extra mention goes to the strongest weapon, railgun: the shot does good damage, but it not feel powerful at all. It’s just a small red dot that appears/disappears when you actually expect something like a railgun from quake 2, leaving a good trail of particles for a few seconds.

Summary

What surprised me about the Battle Riders is the car handling. It just feels really great to drive and succeed on turning. It reminded me of driving in Need For Speed 2 and Need for Speed 3 – when you get so excited that your body literally follows the cars turn direction (I’m sure you know that feeling if you played racing games when you were a kid). The only serious drawbacks is the lack of multiplayer (would be tons of fun) and a small variety of tracks: there are 9 tracks, multiplied by two (the reverse directions are also possible). It might sound a lot, but first 32 races happen on 3 of them and it really starts to feel somewhat grindy to go through the same road over and over again, even if it includes reversed tracks. Other than that – the description of the game mentions “adrenaline pumping, high octane action and a lot of fun” and I agree to it. Despite the flaws – I can strongly recommend the game. If you love racing games and aren’t afraid of practicing the same track over and over again – that’s the game for you. If you are simply looking for a good game but maybe lack patience – that’s also a solid choice, but wait for 50% discount.

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Feature Image taken from the Battle Riders store page, here

Lil Tanks - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Shoot-em-up / Action
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, but wait for 50% discount

Disclaimer: I got the key for free

Lil Tanks is a retro-styled shoot-em-up. You control a tank and his smaller assistant and try to singlehandedly repel an alien invasion. One of the innovative things about the game is the small assistant that also shoots and follows you. Its movement is comparable to movement in a snake game: the head moves, the tail follows in its track.

Pros:

  • Nicely drawn enemies / backgrounds, the game has its own visual style
  • Intense gameplay, a lot of things are going on at the same time
  • Difficult, challenging
  • Good music / solid sounds
  • Four different tanks that can be levelled up, eventually increasing in power. Each has special ability that can be used to your advantage
  • Different enemies with different movement patterns

Cons:

  • Only 3 different bonus weapons, not much variety bonus-wise
  • Level 6 deserves an extra mention: drive for >1 minute almost without enemies
  • Enemies do not spawn randomly, but bonuses do: especially on level 5, your fate is decided by random: if you get flamethrower bonus in the beginning on the round, you’ll probably do much better than if you get it at the end

Summary

I’ve played for ~4 hours and got to level 6 (I did not complete it, but as I understand, this is the last one). I’ve beat 4 levels on hardcore mode before that, but the 5th was just too overwhelming and it felt more frustrating than rewarding. I still say the game is good, but with 6 levels I honestly did not feel like it has enough content to justify $9.99 price. I’d suggest waiting for 50% discount.

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Feature Image taken from the Lil Tanks store page, here

Rain World - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Survival/Platformer/Adventure
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: No

Disclaimer: I got the key for free

In Rain World, you play as a small animal, slugcat, which got separated from his family (pack?). Wander through post-apocalyptic world, where you are both a hunter and a prey. Avoid larger animals that try to hurt you and try to gather fruit / smaller animals for you to sustain yourself. I really had high hopes for the game and tried to like it. Admittedly, it gave a lot of reasons to do that.

Pros

  • Great post-apocalyptic styled graphics, amazing backgrounds
  • Amazingly, responsive controls
  • Immersive ambient sounds that create a unique atmosphere
  • Cool innovative style, which tries to mimic a real eco-system. To add to that, it is somewhat supplemented with a physics mode, where bodies behave according to the in-game laws of physics
  • Vast world to explore

Cons

But after 3 hours of playing, I had to throw in the towel. What went wrong? Obviously a game like this must be a no-brainer to pick? For me, what spoiled the fun is terrible punishment for death with no way to cancel it. Here’s how the game “levelling” system works: the level is not written explicitly, but every time you rest, there’s a symbol that “bumps” upward. To enter some areas, they require that symbol to be at the certain height (that’s why I call it level). You gain levels by catching lesser animals (sometimes spread through different rooms). To gain one level, you need to get 4 types of food and then find the resting place. Sounds reasonable and fair so far. The catch is: whenever you die, you lose one level.

Difficulty

Bear in mind, I don’t mind the unforgiving combat / hunting difficulty, because it fits the harsh world perfectly. The hunt and hide mechanics are nothing short of excellent and they throw you in a world where the tides can change in a second: at first you hunt, then you become the prey. There’s just this anti-pattern of game design that grinded my gears: heavily punishing the player for death in a game that requires player to explore, meet lots of dangers and actually die quite a lot (from developer’s press release: “Rain World is truly a brutal place, and it is important to accept that death is an inevitable part of life.”). Well, I could accept it if it did not have this way of punishing me with repetitive grind for food in order to get to where I was (and probably lose it again). That’s where frustrations began and fun ended.

It could be easily fixed: add an “easy” mode option that does not take the level upon death and I’m sure I’d enjoy the game more. But since there’s no such thing – the game really became a repetitive experience with focus on mostly hunting the same stuff instead of exploring the world (due to the risk of losing everything). If you like incredibly punishing games – get it, you won’t be disappointed, because the gameplay execution is actually great. If you hate the feeling of losing your hard-earning level progress once you die (and then repetitively grinding to get it back) – this game is not for you.

Summary

Again, I loved the rest of the game, but I have no idea how this change came through and what was intended with it (if there’s a comment from developer: I’ll gladly publish it beneath the review; I don’t mind being wrong – I actually want to be wrong this time, because I want to like this game). For now though – I can not recommend it to anyone due to frustrating death mechanics.

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Feature Image taken from the Rain World store page, here

Hollow Knight - Steam Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Metroidvania
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, go grab it right away unless you get frustrated easily (read below)

I’m going to describe my gaming process of Hollow Knight with Kubler-Ross model.

Denial

“The game seemed really great at first, surely there can be some directions somewhere where I can understand what the plot is about and why am I going where I’m going?”

Anger

“I bought all the items from map vendor, I even have ink, why do I have to find a bloody npc to buy a map for this specific location? This is terrible, my character can’t even create a map and I need to equip a special item for my location to be shown. Why do I have to move a huge distance to get to the boss after dying? If only I could find a bench nearby. That’s right, I can’t, because there’s no clear map.”

Bargaining

“Maybe if I look the map online – it won’t be that bad? It might get better, right? What if I try looking it up no more than once in an hour, the process won’t be spoiled, right?”

Depression

“What? I’ve missed the mantis boss at the beginning of the game and still progressed further? It’s all meaningless, I can’t operate with so much data missing and obscure directions. Screw it, let me just write something on the review and then go on to the next game.”

Acceptance

“Alright, the community is really helpful and the game is actually enjoyable once you know what you need to do. There’s lots of content, so I’m not bored. As I play more, the game starts to be fun. The content is great and the art style is really immersive.”

Review

Seriously though,

I’ve played the game for about 16 hours and that’s a brief description of my experience so far. The community is split into two parts: those, who like the lack of direction and those who don’t. I can understand both sides: there are not many metroidvanias with such obscure sense of purpose but also heightened sense of exploration. The lack of directions when you traverse the game map (with lots of mazes) can build an excitement but it can also take it away when you are going through the dungeon for the twentieth time (I wish I was exaggerating – maybe I suck at this game, but I’ve honestly tried to play without googling stuff for the first 10 hours) because you don’t know where you should be.

Rock Paper Shotgun (https://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2017/03/02/hollow-knight-review/) calls this a worse version of “Ori and the Blind forest.” I cannot agree to that: while Ori offered a great steamlined experience (let’s be honest, you always knew where you had to go) with mostly ups and some downs (water flooding level, anyone?), Hollow Knight offers a mix of emotions, from deep frustrations to overwhelming joy. The difficulty level of hollow knight is also considerably higher, but the game is totally skill-based. There’s no random factor: if you win – it’s because you did great. If you lost – that’s your fault entirely.

Pros

  • Challenging, skill-based gameplay
  • Lots of content: levels, enemies, items
  • Amazing art style, really immersive surroundings: the feeling of the abandoned world that changes as you change.
  • Responsive controls (except for the “ground slam” move, it’s really hard to pull that one off because the timeframe when you have to press jump button is so small).
  • Awesome sounds and music
  • Boss fights are amazing – really hard, but really rewarding once you complete them

Cons

  • The map system is horrible: even if you buy the items necessary to update your map, you still need to find the npc that sells you the map of the current location. A lot of times, you cannot do this easily.
  • ^ Because you have no map, it’s hard to find resting places. Since you cannot find resting place, you have to restart at your last resting place (which is usually very far). If you die the second time when you move towards your death – you lose your coins. Sure, you can put coins in the bank, but then you’d have to return to the bank every time you want to put something else there.
  • Lack of direction: if you like tightly knitted plots and someone telling you what needs to be done – this game is not for you. You really have to explore that underground city, return to the locations you’ve previously been to in case you missed something. You won’t even understand that you missed something until there’s nowhere else to go and you’re out of options.

Summary

The game does not lead you by the hand (which is great), but it sometime feels that it gives too much freedom, which might be a disappointment if you are looking for something with a straightforward plot and at least some vague directions where you need to be.

Overall, the Hollow Knight to me was a bittersweet experience. I could not play it for more than 1-2 hours a day, because it can easily get frustrating. Still, don’t let that discourage you: that’s the game that actually gives you a bouquet of different emotions. Because you feel frustrations, the emotional reward of completing something here also feels greater than great. And because you experience so much, the game begins to feel great. Due to that, the game captivates you. This magical feeling of wanting to overcome the difficulties will drive you forward once you pass the initial resistance.

The lack of decent mapping might hurt, but overall it adds the sense of unknown when you are trying to explore new location. If you lose patience easily – this game is not for you. 100%. Otherwise – highly recommended, a great _experience_ that will take you from frustration to the joy of solving problems and overcoming challenging foes. Definitely grab this one right away if you are a fan of metroidvanias. Go grab it right away. Seriously.

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Feature Image taken from the Hollow Knight store page, here

Western 1849 Steam Game Screenshot Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Gallery Shooter/Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Disclaimer: I got the game key for free

Western 1849: Reloaded is a blessing in disguise: the screenshots do not impress you much, but the gameplay makes the game really shine. In my opinion, there’s a simple reason why gallery shooters lost their popularity. They started at the time of limitations, when no 3d was available, limiting the movement and shooting capabilities. Making a pathway to the other shooters as a genre, eventually fell into obscurity. 1849 though takes on the challenge, implementing the gallery shooting gameplay with roguelike mechanics. It works out really great: apart from action, you get to strategize and pick perks / upgrades / equipment (the latter two stay with you between the sessions).

As you clear the waves of the bad guys, you get to pick new perks which affect how the game is played. It can be extra damage, healing on hitting targets, poisoned bullets, more gold, etc. As the game progresses, you gain gold which you can spend on upgrading your existing weapons or buying items that give you benefits on every round. This makes for an engaging gameplay that will entertain you for a few hours.

Pros:

  • Engaging Gameplay, the game really is fun to play
  • Plenty of content: perks, upgrades, special items
  • Roguelike progression is well done: there are multiple unlock dimensions, you continue unlocking stuff as you get more score, finish special tasks or levels

Cons:

  • The graphics are not great and are somewhat edgy
  • If you have controller connected when you first launch the game, the hints/tips show controller controls (assuming you play with controller), even if you continue pressing the keyboard keys
  • Not much level/background variety

 

Overall, I’d say for that price, the game is really worth it. Despite not much variety in levels, the game has good entertainment value for all of every shooter fan.

GIVEAWAY: developers gave me 3 extra keys, so I think it’s fair if I share them with you. If you want to participate – go to the video linked below and leave a comment (Subscribtions are appreciated too, but it’s up to you). I’m going to pick a winner by February 23.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from the Western 1849 store page, here

Bleed 2 Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Action/Platformer/Bullet Hell
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Absolutely Yes.

Disclaimer: I got the key for free. But I’m going to buy a copy and send it to a friend, just because I think the game is amazing.

Welcome back to Short Indie Game Reviews 2017, and today I’m going to review the game called “Bleed 2.” Bleed 2 is an action game by Ian Campbell. The game features air-dodging, bullet-reflecting and tons of bosses. What makes the game so amazing is how dynamic it is. The feeling of unstoppable movement forward will capture you at the start of the game and won’t be releasing you until you finish it. If any game can be described as “action packed”, this is the one.

Pros:

  • Constant movement, amazingly dynamic gameplay: crazy tripple jumps that make up for a fast playstyle
  • LOTS of Interesting Bosses: be it a truck that keeps jumping on the road, the rotating particle emitter that affects the physics of all enemy objects of the screen or the cowboy on the flying board.
  • Cool pixel-art style that has a great old-school feel to it.
  • From easy to incredibly hard: there’s a difficulty for everyone. Changing them remarkably affects the feel from the gameplay. When I picked normal, it felt like walk in a park / play through just to see what happens next. When I picked “hard” – the game became a real challenge, it was really hard to survive without using slow-motion.
  • Good replayability (new characters / loadouts / mutators)

Cons:

  • Controls on gamepad take some time to get used to, were not really convenient for me
  • Dying does not feel punishing at all: I died mostly during the boss fights, and then I would respawn with full hp, making it much easier. (Counter argument: there are different difficulty levels which make the game more challenging, but respawning still remains the same)
  • One playthrough is extremely short (might be an advantage for some)
  • If Joystick is connected, it will be shaking (even if you are playing from keyboard)

 

I personally suggest playing the game with mouse + keyboard, but apart from the gamepad controls and dying, there’s not much else. Other than that – the game is awesome. I absolutely love the game and really recommend grabbing it right away. I’m serious. Never have I been as positive about suggesting a game as this time. Hell, my girlfriend liked the game and she normally avoids arcades with lots of shooting like plague.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from the Bleed 2 store page, here

Rise & Shine Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Action-Arcade/Platformer/Puzzle
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Definitely Yes

Disclaimer: I got the game key for free (spoiler alert: it’s hard to overestimate the game, it’s great).

Rise & Shine is an action-adventure platformer with a mix of puzzles, where you control the hero, Rise, and his gun, Shine, both of them trying to save the Gamearth. The name is not accidental: the game world of rise & shine is filled with game references. You’ll have to dash through the cities, dungeons, board the flying ship and participate in various fights against the army of evil grunts. Most of the game will be spent shooting enemies, but there’s also place for puzzles: you have to use different bullet types and mods to get through the obstacles and uncover the path forward.

Pros

  • Action-Packed, engaging gameplay
  • Challenging
  • Lots of Game references
  • Absolutely Stunning Graphics (especially backgrounds – probably the best backgrounds I’ve ever seen)
  • Smooth controls
  • Just good amount of small puzzles: enough to keep the gameplay diverse, not enough to bore you.

Cons

  • Short (took me about 3h to complete)
  • Not much of a weapon variety (2 bullet types x 3 mods) – but maybe it’s not necessary, those are enough to get you through the game

Summary

Overall, I’d highly recommend the game. The only reason you’d want to stay away from this one is if you really dislike shorter games. Otherwise, it’s an engaging experience that takes you through multiple different levels, filled with game references and puzzles. You can see that the developers put their soul into the game, sparing no effort to make it amazing.

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from the Rise & Shine store page, here

Bearslayer Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Platformer/Puzzle
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Disclaimer #1: I got the key for free.
Disclaimer #2: The game is work in progress, so some things ought to change.

So Bearslayer is a one-button platformer/puzzle game based on a Latvian epic poem. You control your hero and lead him through the obstacles, described in the epic itself. Don’t let seemingly easy controls (one button?) fool you, the game gives a good challenge due to interesting level design. It’s not a simple runner where you have to jump over obstacles: while running forward, the hero encounters various enemies, closed doors, spikes, deadly pits, all of which requires unique level-based approach to overcome. Sometimes you’d have to jump on a moving platform (timing is very important!), sometimes you’d have to jump on the enemies and skip that one last tile (that seems necessary to jump on at first) and very occasionally the decision will be to stay calm and do nothing.

Pros

  • Levels do not get repetitive
  • Good game design, you’ll be surprised what obstacles you can pass and puzzles solve with only one button available
  • Actually smooth controls, the jumps are very responsive
  • Challenging difficulty
  • Skill-Based gameplay
  • Distinct style and cool effects
  • Amazing Music

Cons

  • Somewhat Short (at least during at the time of writing) – took me about 3h to complete, without special levels (which are insanely hard)
  • Not much of a plot
  • At the point of writing this review, some bounding boxes (spikes?) seem to be a bit too big, you can’t always properly predict when you slide into them when going down the walls.

Summary

Overall, I’d say that it’s a good blend between puzzle and platformer. If you like platformers/runners or fast puzzles – you definitely won’t be disappointed. If you want something EXTRA challenging – there are also secret amber pieces that you need to collect in order to uncover super-challenging secret levels. So yeah, If you don’t mind getting early access games and intend on giving feedback – I think it’s a good purchase right away, otherwise I’d add it to your wishlist and get it when it’s done to maximize the pleasure from playing. Give it a try when you can!

Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from the Bearslayer store page, here

Jets'n'Guns Gold Game Review Screenshot

Genre: Action/Arcade/Shoot-Em-Up
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: 100% yes if you enjoy old-school games

Jets’n’Guns is a shoot-em-up/bullet hell game where you control your ship and try to get to the end of the level while completing various objectives. As the game progresses, you unlock new upgrades and ships. There are truly lots of upgrades and lots of ways to modify your ship, so you definitely won’t be bored.

Pros

  • Action-Packed gameplay
  • Plenty of upgrades, enemies won’t leave you bored
  • Lots of different levels, each requiring its own approach to complete (can’t blindly press fire key and hope that everything will work out)
  • Great Soundtrack
  • Adjustable difficulty, the game will be as hard as you want it to be
  • If you’ve played it in 2004 – it’s as good as it was in 2004

Cons

  • No way to know where the enemy appears
  • Controls/collissions can be a bit more responsive, sometimes it’s easy to ram into a non-square obstacle because you miscalculated the bounding box

In conclusion, I highly recommend the game. If you have not checked it out – do it! It barely looks aged, the 2d graphics are still appealing and that type of gameplay never gets old!
Have something to add? Make sure to join our Steam group, http://steamcommunity.com/groups/coldwild

Feature Image taken from Jets’n’Guns store page, here