3..2..1..Grenades! - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Action / FPS
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: No

About The Game

3..2..1.. Grenades! Is the game where you get to throw grenades like snowballs. Run around, pick the right trajectory and fight 3 other people in tons of different maps and gamemodes.

First, the good sides:

Lots of contents, maps, gamemodes – the creator of the game was very creative when he planned those things. Tiny mode, where characters are much smaller, paint the walls, throw the pug into basked, throwing the grenades to hit the targets faster than your opponents, etc. This really shows the dedication to creating new stuff.

The quest mode is done pretty well. How can deathmatch game implement it? The developer put the doors, locked by special “golden grenades.” Each door hides the passage to a room with new deathmatch mode. You get golden grenades by beating deathmatch challenges and gain golden grenades from that. That way you gradually get introduced to game modes while playing against bots.

The explosions are done well. In the game which is focused on throwing grenades, this is important. The slight screenshake, the explosion particle that turns into smoke – all of this really gives a good feel after blowing stuff up.

The Bad

Since there is no online multiplayer, you’ll be forced to play against bots most of the game. The bots are not terrible, but most of the time you can just corner them and spam left click and this will work. Because of that, the game gets boring fast, despite the abundance of game modes.

Also, one of the big problems with the game is the Menu UI: Why can I pick the blank profile (and then not start anything with it)? Then, when you pick a good one, you can’t actually start the game by clicking on buttons. You have to press enter after clicking on it. Video proof: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6t_kKjLZvA&feature=youtu.be . Also, if you are playing on keyboard and using WASD + Mouse, you’ll have to press Enter a lot for cutscene / intro skipping. This is not very convenient (your hands are on WASD and Mouse, right? So you have to take one off to press the Return key. It would be much better to allow pressing space / lmb to skip the cutscenes).

The graphics are meh. I understand that the game aims towards the retro feel, but the art style did not cut it for me. The weapons are OK, but I did not like the character models / textures.

Summary

Overall, I think the developer of the game just lacked experience. It’s his first game on Steam, it has some good points and was clearly done with care, but the lack of experience just brings it down. The clumsy UI brings down the enjoyment and the lack of online multiplayer quickly makes the games against bots pretty boring. I’m definitely looking forward to more games from Banyango, but I can’t recommend this one. It might be fun with local co-op, but for those of you who don’t get with friends often – I can’t recommend the game.

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Drifting Lands - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Shoot’Em’Up / Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you enjoy Shoot’em’ups and don’t mind the grind

About The Game

 

Drifting Lands is an interesting take on a SHMUP genre that involves adding random item generation and levelling, think of a mix between Diablo and Raptor: Call of the Shadows.

The game starts by revealing that the world as you know it has been destroyed due to some disaster. The pieces of earth float together, so most of the life happens to take place on those shards. (Hence the name, Drifting Lands).

The process is pretty straightforward: you have to fly through the levels, destroy enemies, pick randomly generated loot most of the time. There are some alternatives like smuggling, you need to drop some cargo on a specific area of the level, which brings some variety to a traditional gameplay.

After the level ends – you can upgrade your ship, sell the items you won’t be using or purchase a new ones.

The Good

 

Shoot-Em-Ups are very reliant on the core gameplay loop: destroying enemies and dodging bullets, and I’m happy to say that Drifting Lands delivers on that. A good addition to the gameplay are usable player skills: you can select and take 4 out of 30+ skills into battle. Skills like flame burst that damages everything before you, special shield that absorbs bullets for 2 seconds, all sorts of dashes, various weapon boosts, mines, passive abilities that affect the loot and money earned. Needless to say, this introduces a great variety and makes player adapt to the style. The loot system also helps with that: there are lots of stats and weapons / items can contribute greatly to boosting the ones you want.

I remember that I thought that it’s impossible to make a beautiful 3d SHMUP, and I’m glad that I was wrong. Drifting Land introduces amazing graphics and colorful effects, the game feels very alive because of that. Shining bullets, colorful explosions, great player ship animations – all this adds to the immersion of the game.

The Bad

Having said that, the game has negative sides. First, it’s the backgrounds. Don’t get me wrong, they are drawn very well, but they still remain somewhat unremarkable and unnoticed. One thing that is often seen in good shoot-em-ups is a varying landscape on every level. After you play the level a few times, you remember how it was, what obstacles and enemies can be encountered. Background plays a big role in that: if the level has enemies after mountains, those mountains help you understand and improve on next playthrough, because you know where to anticipate such enemies. No such thing here: I understand that the game relies on random generation a lot, but most of the levels I’ve played were simply floating rocks in the background. Sometimes there were tornadoes. The colors and gamma change occasionally, but there are rarely any remarkable landmarks that can be seen. Because of that, there is the repetitive feeling, like when you are moving in the same place.

Second, the levels often offer randomly-generated enemy sequence, but there are too many levels and too few enemies. In the end, it starts to feel like a grind. I’ve played the game for about 5 hours and I still enjoy it, but I think this is one of the few times when I wanted a good game to be a bit shorter and more focused on its objective / plot instead of asking to do similar missions with similar enemies multiple times.

Summary

Overall, while having a few noticeable flaws, Drifting Lands does a lot of things right. The gameplay is action packed and challenging. The management layer that comes from items, ship upgrades and abilities makes the gameplay much more engaging. If you enjoy shoot-em-ups and are not afraid of replaying similar levels multiple times – I can recommend the game to you.

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Caveblazers - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Roguelite / Action / Platformer
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: If you enjoy difficult games

About The Game

In caveblazers, you venture down the cavern to explore it. It’s a roguelite platformer, where you’ll have to jump from wall to wall, fight different enemies and descend deep down into the cave. The game is aimed at hardcore roguelite/action/platformer audiences due to high difficulty.

The Good

The combat system is pretty simple, but really well done. You have a melee weapon, a bow with unlimited ammo and a slot for special item. You just need to attack the enemy either from a distance or swing at him after he swings at you (and hopefully misses). If you swing at enemy at the same time he does – the swing is parried. Enemies do not have bounding boxes, so you can often go through them, thus flanking them and making them miss an attack against you.

As you progress, you find new weapons and magic items that can give you one special ability like super speed, high jump or some passive perks. The variety is good and it leaves a lot of space to decision making: do I want to equip a boots that will allow me to run faster once in a while or do I want a demon that duplicates ranged attacks?

You’ll spend lots of game time jumping, and this aspect is done really well too. Your character can jump from the walls, meaning that you can climb up this way. The jump controls are really well done, they are intuitive; you can change your direction mid-air, ensuring that you can easily navigate wherever you want to.

AI deserves extra mention: monsters know how to jump from walls to walls and can find how to get to you. You also encounter friendly adventurers on your travel, and friendly ai really gives a great impression: it can maneuver carefully and traverse complicated levels while following you.

The graphics are also nicely done and well-polished. The pixel art is done with love and fits the style of the game.

The Bad

  • The game often feels like it is relying on random too much. Some runs will be successful simply because your rooms spawned perfectly.
  • I’ve also noticed that sometimes enemy-containing rooms are generated without open passages to them. You’d need to blow up the ground if you want to get to the enemies. There were no problems with the exit.
  • At the rate the new perks are unlocked – the game gets a bit monotonous. Unless you unlock relevant perks – you always start with the same weapons. I’ve played for about 3 hours and I still only have one perk that gives me different ranged weapon.

Summary

Caveblazers is the game that leaves a somewhat bad impression at first. During the first hour of playing, I seriously disliked how things went. The gameplay was really repetitive: spawn, die, repeat. After that time, I’ve unlocked a few perks that altered the gameplay process and the game began to feel different and more varying. I’m glad I’ve persevered past the first 1.5 hours, because after that the game really became fun. To sum it up, Caveblazers is very focused on its mechanics, so I’m pretty sure that you are new to the genre – it won’t motivate you to carry on. For those hardcore fans that enjoy this type of games and have some sort of idea about what they are getting into – I recommend the game.

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Vagrant - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: Game is in Early access, lots of things are ought to change. Developers mentioned that there will be a lot of improvement and they encourage people to post their thoughts, comments and ask them anything in Steam community hub.

The Vagrant is a 2D Action / RPG game, where you take a role of a travelling sellsword on her own mission. Combat lots of different creatures and explore the world on a journey through medieval fantasy world.

The Good

Overall, the gameplay itself is great. Attack Sequences: Animations are well done and you can chain the combos quite easily. The attack combos are introduced gradually (through your talent tree, where you can look up what they do and the keys to use them), which gives you enough time to practice them. The controls are responsive and make it easy to perform attacks.

And the whole game actually follows this practice: the difficulty gradually increases, throwing easy monsters at the start and then becoming more challenging towards the end. The seasoned players won’t be bored at the beginning either: at every world, there are optional rooms with higher rewards and more challenging monsters.

There’s also a vast ability tree, or rather a circle. You can level up everything, as long as you have mana and find relevant items. For people who like to grind – this can be a perfect opportunity to max out all possible stats.

And finally, the graphics are nice. The backgrounds seem to be hand-drawn and overall very clean. The game has a very distinct medieval-fantasy feel. I can’t say anything bad about the music, it’s there and it’s not annoying nor repetitive, so I can say that it’s a plus.

The Bad

  • Can’t Skip the Cutscenes, there are not many of them, but sometimes when you die and have to redo it – it’s a pain.
  • Game Balance leaves some questions: potions are useless: they restore health, but have cooldown. Instead, you can open the equipment menu and use consumable food, that does the same and has no cooldown. There are even talents that reduce healing potion cooldowns. Why? You can essentially avoid that by just eating food (which is also encountered more often in game).
  • Translation shows errors now and then and then there are weird plot hole that I especially noticed: “everyone in the village got killed” – then you kill the boss – then everyone in the village (except for one house) is suddenly there again. The characters also seem to open up randomly: would you tell a random dude you’ve met a day ago that your father abandoned you? It’s up to you to judge.
  • Alright, I have to mention the breasts. Alright, I know there are fans of this style out there and I’m not here to complain about the size, but I can’t help but look at the heroine and ask “where’s the damn neck?” Breasts seems to be drawn too high, leaving no place for the clearly distinguishable upper chest and neck.

Summary

At its current state, the game is not perfect. The plot might not be that great and the character introductions are somewhat rushed, but the combat system and the gradual change of surroundings make it well worth it. The ability to chain combos flawlessly, customize your abilities / equipment, as well as difficulty being just right – that makes the game good and because of this I can confidently recommend it.

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Rush Rover - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: game is still in early access, some things are ought to change.

Rush Rover is a top-down 2d action/roguelite game. In the game, you control a robot that fights the other, “converted” AI bots. Each playthrough consists of multiple randomly generated rooms, and you must defeat 5 bosses to win the game. As you kill enemies, you level up and get to upgrade various abilities.

The Good

  • Content: enemies are very different, their movement paths and attacks require different type of maneuvering and dodging from you. Some rush towards you and you have to dodge, others shoot in circular patterns so you have to keep moving in-between bullets. In any case: standing in one place means certain death. The guns are also really interesting: some charge up before firing, the homing missiles lock on targets before flying towards them, the “wave” gun tries to fry the enemies in a cone pattern.
  • Skill-Based Gameplay: the drops are random, but damage is not. You have to dodge lots of bullets and fire accurately, otherwise you get obliterated. If you die – it totally feels like your fault, which is a great game design.
  • The game handles roguelite randomness really well: your initial weapon does not suck. It’s not terribly powerful, but you can upgrade it as you level up, so even if you don’t find a new one, you can still complete the game. In fact, I’ve completed my first run without actually changing the weapon.

The Bad

  • One playthrough is extremely short: it took me about 40 minutes to finish one game. It’s not easy so you won’t be able to do it on the first playthrough (probably), but it took me a bit more than 2 hours to finish the game for the first time.
  • The graphics are not that great: the animations are well-detailed, but the backgrounds do get repetitive after some time. The UI is also a bit clumsy, i.e. you can’t pause the game by pressing ESC, you have to open inventory and click “menu” there before the actual game menu opens.

Summary

Rush Rover seriously made me think about what makes the top-down shooter games good. Frankly, I have not felt this excited about top-down games since Enter The Gungeon. However, the game does some things much better than the former: namely, the room balancing. First, you can teleport from every room after you kill all enemies. Second, the room is always equally full of enemies. They won’t rush towards you. You need to start approach them, and then they attack you. This contributes to a feeling that every room is literally filled with enemies, but still leaves you space to maneuver.

At the time of this review, the game costs 5.99 EUR (or your regional equivalent) and I definitely recommended it, as it’s a great price for the entertainment that you are getting.

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Rezrog - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

About The Game

Rezrog is a dungeon crawler where you take your party of explorers (one at a time) to go through the world. The game is styled like a table-top, each level is a dungeon that literally takes place on the table. Every character is a tabletop figure.

The Good

  • The style fits dungeon crawling perfectly: the board is revealed room by room, each room appears like lots of tabletop pieces dropping onto the table. When monster get killed – he is moved outside the room (placed nearby). The 2d-character figures also change the looks depending on gear equipped, which is pretty cool and unusual for dungeon crawling games.
  • Interesting approach to character death: when character is defeated, he gets “imprisoned.” That means that you cannot use the character before you rescue him.
  • Good graphics: 3D lightning is very well done, making dungeons more immersive than ever.
  • Challenging difficulty, especially in the beginning. You need to utilize every feature of the game to be successful: use the abilities, make sure to be well-equipped, purchase consumables and use them timely. Having said that, the game is not hard to get into: the UI is very clear and you won’t need to go through walls of text to understand how things work.
  • Skills can be freely swapped between characters. This is a double edged sword (later on that), but the good side is that you can customize any character. Also, it enhances prison system: you cannot equip the skill if the character that got imprisoned uses it already.

The Bad

  • Weapon Shop items do not have stats revealed until you buy them. You can’t even see level requirements on them. Essentially shop is a slightly improved slot machine: you know the type of the item that you are getting, but you have no idea what will it be. This seriously hinders strategizing and progression to some extent.
  • The content at the beginning can get a bit grindy: if your character gets imprisioned, you have to level up other characters to match the level, and the beginning of the game does not have that much monster variety.
  • The class differences are very vague. Since skills can be transferred between classes, the only thing that makes a difference is the natural growth of attributes.
  • Occasional bugs: sometimes your character jumps back to where he stood (all this happens while walking). Item description did not disappear when I closed inventory one or two times during my playtime. Nothing game breaking, but you notice those things.

Summary

Ultimately, what I like about the game is how well mechanics and style work together. Dungeon Crawler games are fascinating by themselves, but they often lacks good representation and is considered niche because of poor graphics / walls of text / hard to get into. Rezrog deals with these problems, and this makes it a game that can appeal to both gamers that are looking to get into the genre and more seasoned dungeon crawling veterans.

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Super Stone Legacy - Indie Game Reviews 2017

Genre: Action / RPG
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50%+ discount

EDIT: 30-second victory screen has been made significantly shorter, removed that point by request of developer since it was fixed.

Super Stone Legacy is an action game. You go through randomly-generated dungeon rooms and kill all enemies that you encounter. One thing that makes it distinguishable is amount of boss fights: you encounter the boss after clearing two or three rooms. That means one boss fight approximately every 5 minutes. I must say right away that I’m on the fence about this game. Here are the reasons why, starting from the good ones:

The Good

  • The gameplay loop is really well done. The room battles are very dynamic and it is where the game shines.
  • Six characters with different attack patterns (that can be switched during game time) add enough variety to make fights exciting.
  • Skill-Based gameplay. Not much of a random factor: rooms are randomly generated, but nothing else. It’s up to you to dodge enemy attacks / move properly.

The Bad

  • Shooting/attacking mechanics: you have to click every time to perform normal attack. Why not make it possible to hold the left button for continuous attacks? There are two more attack types, but it would be much nicer to see them bound to right clicking / holding right mouse.
  • No difficulty settings. Once you level up your character to 7+ level, get plenty of hp and study enemy attack patterns, the game becomes a grind, you just go through enemies and simply click lots of times to defeat them without fear of being killed.
  • One walkthrough takes about 1.5 hours. You don’t have much incentives to start another one. There are no unlocks or anything like that.
  • There is no save feature, meaning you have to complete the game in one run. 1.5 hours might not be too crazy, but the feature would help.
  • UI: You can not alt-tab and minimize the window. It stays on top of the display all the time. For those of you with two+ displays: you can not choose the display in Unity launcher, which seems weird, because other games made in Unity normally allow that.

 

Summary

The game battles are fun and you can’t take that away. On the other hand, there are terrible UI / UX issues and not that much replayability. You completed the game – now what? You can try again with the different characters, but chances are you’ve seen most of the bosses and the enemies will be the same, even if they will be appearing in the same sequence. Taking the bad sides into account, I suggest waiting for 66% discount or more before grabbing the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

MidBoss - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon Crawler / RPG / Roguelike
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 66% discount

MidBoss is a dungeon crawler where you get to possess the bodies of your defeated enemies. By defeating more enemies and playing those characters, you unlock new skills and are able to use their skillsets even when you repossess some other monster. That opens a room for many different skill and build combinations.

The Good

  • The main idea: there are lots of monsters with unlockable abilities (you have to unlock them on every new run) that you combine into your own character builds. Each monster can have up to 3 active abilities chosen at the time. Some of the monsters don’t have 3, others have much more, which makes you choose. Those 3 abilities can be transferred to the next monster upon death, which opens space for LOTS of combinations.
  • The way how new runs are handled: the beginning gets repetitive, but “grave goods” system that allows you to transfer one item from your previous characters really helps the random factor and introduces the missing “roguelike” element: no matter what decisions you take, you will be stronger on the next walkthroughs if you are using the grave goods system properly.
  • Challenging difficulty done just right: the game is easy to get into, but hard to master. You’ll have to experiment a lot in order to find valid builds.
  • The art is not bad and is done in a consistent style. It’s a bit generic for a dungeon crawler, but not low quality.

The Bad

  • Random generation: the rooms often feel empty and not decorated enough. Additionally, the random generation also strongly affects the loot, so there will be games that you lose simply due to randomly generated items not being strong enough.
  • Not many stats compared to other roguelikes. When you level up, you can choose one of four stats only. Those affect your other attributes like dmg / block chance. So in that regard – levelling up your main character is pretty limited.
  • The UI: Menus are a bit clumsy. You cannot bind items on hotkeys (yes, even activated items). You cannot equip items at once when you pick them (even if you right click on them), you always have to open inventory and choose them.
  • The fonts are blurry and hard to read. The whole game graphics are blurred out (probably by intention), but I’m assuming that the blur shader is applied for the whole scene on rendering. This should not be done this way: the good idea is to render UI / Text after the relevant gameplay scene has been rendered. My eyes were not getting tired, but that overall impacts the UX and decreases the perceived quality of the game.

Summary

Compared to other roguelikes, this game is remarkably easy to get into, but that does not make it easy to play. The main possession mechanic is deep and well thought-out, but other aspects don’t feel very developed compared to other dungeon crawlers. I can recommend the game to those who are looking for a way to get into the genre or just don’t enjoy crawlers where you have to read tons of text. However, MidBoss seems quite overpriced right now and I’d personally wait for 66% discount and grab it close to $5 (or your regional equivalent), simply because there are other alternatives on the market.

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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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Gridd - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Action / SHMUP
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Wait for 50% discount

GRIDD is a neon-cyberpunk game, where you control your craft and try to “hack the system,” while avoiding and destroying enemies. Behind simple concept there’s a good execution with well-detailed and thought out neon 80’s-like style. Think of Tron, a 1982 movie. The style of the game world vaguely reminds of a famous lightbike scene that the movie portrayed to us.

The Good

  • Simple, but action packed gameplay. You can move in 4 directions (up/down/left/right) and shoot. There are different obstacles and enemies that makes it interesting and engaging.
  • Difficult, skill-based gameplay with two modes: the arcade mode offers one same gameplay sequence again and again so you have a chance to study / adapt to it. Endless mode offers randomly-generated levels, so you’ll have to rapidly react to what’s happening on the screen since you can’t actually prepare for it.
  • Neon-Cyberpunk Style: glowing neon futuristic levels, with amazing particle effects, stylized enemy models and well-thought out obstacles. This gives a great vibe of “system hacking” like you would imagine it in 1980’s movies.
  • Music is repetitive, but not annoying: the music loop fits the game fine.

The Bad

  • There’s not much in the game content-wise. Sure, different enemies and obstacles are there, but your ship remains the same and there are only 3 bonuses: health / shield / weapon upgrades. It gets repetitive after a while: Arcade mode throws the same level at you again and again. Endless mode adds variety, but somewhat diminishes the skills: since obstacles and enemies are random, you can’t learn the positioning and predict them in a timely manner.
  • Dying sequence deserves an extra mention: after you die, you are shown the final screen with score (acceptable). Then, after you have to press the button to close the screen, you get thrown to the main screen of the game (press start to continue), where you have to navigate to the game mode you want and pick it (more button presses). For a skill-based game that requires lots of retry attempts – that quickly gets annoying. Simple restart/retry button would make it so much better.

Summary

The game offers an engaging gameplay with exceptional style, but does get repetitive after a while since there’s not that much content present. I say grab it during 50% discount.

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