Vostok Inc. - Steam Screenshot

Genre: SHMUP / Incremental Game
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, if you have a gamepad

About The Game

Vostok Inc. is a peculiar mix between an incremental game (think realm grinder) and shoot-em-up. In this game, you fly your ship and try to establish an intergalactic corporation. You go from planet to planet, build buildings and fight enemies while in space.

The freshness of the idea contributes to an engaging gameplay: you can spend your money on making your ship stronger or build your colonies. You get money by killing enemies, but the planetary bases give much more resources, and you can’t both at the beginning. This creates an interesting balancing/optimization choices for the player. Go for the first, and have a strong ship, but not enough passive income. Go for the second, and be richer, but have harder time surviving enemy encounters.

Battles

Speaking of enemy encounters: they are pretty straightforward. If you go through the space, you meet various enemies (depending on the galaxy you are in). They will chase you and shoot at you, and if you die: you must get to your base in an escape pod or you end up losing money / middle managers that improve your production output by a percentage. The battle controls are similar to other twin-stick shooter games: one stick to move, another to shoot. The player can have up to four weapons that can be switched between each other. The weapon system is different from the other games of shoot-em-up genre: your ships has three weapon slots. There are three possible weapons: beam, bullet, rocket. By combining those weapons, you get a new weapon type.

The shooting actually feels great: the bullet collisions are clearly visible and understandable, the enemies explode in a spectacular way and your bullets make nice sounds. On the down side, most weapons feel redundant or unnecessary: I’ve progressed in the game by mostly using bullet weapons. Other ones just did not feel powerful or did not help to solve any specific problems with the enemies: you don’t need homing rockets if you can turn around at any point and shoot shotgun/minigun at upcoming enemies with much faster rate and damage per second. The most basic beam weapon also felt like the best one to fight the slowest bosses: one projectile hits the large bosses’ bounding box multiple times, accumulating your combo meter VERY quickly and allowing you to do huge damage, ensuring quick boss kills. Actually, it feels like a problem with most large projectiles / large enemies: your hits get counted multiple times, and so it’s really easy to get max combo on slower bosses or enemies, dealing tremendous amounts of damage.

Business

The incremental part is well balanced and allows for the smooth progression: you won’t be a billionaire straight away, instead you’ll have to gradually work for it, meticulously building your bases and purchasing upgrades. This base building part provides a good relaxation from the space fighting. There are also minigames like racing and collecting managers in space. Managers enhance your production percentage and offer some more minigames that imitate retro-gaming systems. Overall, this salad of features is what keeps Vostok Incorporated interesting.

Cons

However, when you get 20+ planets, a problem appears which I love to call “Fallout 4” problem. If you remember Fallout 4 base building, you got your homebase first, then you could go and help bases all through the commonwealth and get more villages under your protection. However, once you got too many of them, it quickly started to become a chore going from one place to another, fixing and improving things. The same thing can be observed here: going between 4+ system and visiting multiple planets becomes a chore. It would help to have an ability to build bases on planets remotly, but alas, there’s no such thing.

Speaking about the cons, I must mention that the settings are very weak: no mouse support in the menus. No resolution / display selection. The game was clearly designed with consoles in mind. The gamepad controls are very convenient, but even keyboard key rebindings can’t save the UI from the lack of mouse support and awkward menu switching.

Summary

While it’s not perfect – it is an engaging attempt to make a fusion of two game genres that succeeded. Vostok Inc. brings the new mechanics to the table, combining it with nice aesthetics and polish. Get it if you have a gamepad.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

XenoRaptor Steam Game Screenshot

Genre: Action / Bullet Hell
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, but wait for 50%+ discount

Disclaimer: the game is in early access so some things might change (although it has been in EA since 2014)

About The Game

XenoRaptor is a bullet hell game where you actually control a mechanical dragon and fight flying chainsaws in space. The game offers a pretty straightforward bullet-hell / shmup gameplay. If you play the campaign mode, it throws you into different levels. The levels differ not only in background pictures, but in actual amounts and types of obstacles. This really adds a good variety to the gameplay. The first levels don’t offer much resistance from environment, but it gets tougher as the game progresses. There are meteors and explosive barrels to make your life much harder. Ouch.

The Gameplay

Your ship has 3 weapons. Two of them are main weapons that produce “heat.” If you gain too much of it – the ship overheats and can’t fire. It feels like a good solution. On one hand, the player is forced to decide when to press the fire button. On the other hand, it opens up space for different strategies: if some users like heavy weapons that shoot once in a while, they can go for it. The others can go for the ones that can fire rapidly, aren’t as deadly, but generate less heat and can be used much more often. The third weapon requires special pickups, ammo, as it generally tends to be a bit stronger than the other two. I have to admit that I’ve rarely used the third weapon, as you can generally fulfill all your destructive needs with the other two.

One of the features of the game is the ability to customize your ship and your weapons: adding special effects, firing patters, reducing the heat generated or increasing the ship durability. There are lots of options for customization. Most of them are locked from the start, so you get to unlock them by defeating bosses and minibosses during campaign.

The gameplay itself feels very fair: although there’s plenty of random in enemy / obstacle placement and health drops, you always have the feeling that you’re in control. After enemies kill you, you can backtrace to the exact moment where you messed up or maneuvered poorly. Pretty straightforward. You get rewarded for skill, and punished for mistakes. The difficulty itself is pleasantly challenging: enemies swarm around you, leaving you no time to rest. One downside is that the waves take lots of time to clear before you meet the miniboss. If you fight for more than 5 minutes and then die, you’ll have to restart everything from scratch without any actual gains.

The game is well polished: explosions look pretty, the guns feel heavy. The enemy models look a bit bland and due to fast pace of the game it often gets hard to distinguish the roles of enemies.

The biggest issue for me was the weak camera controls: your ships stays in the middle of the screen all the time, which feels very lackluster compared to other action games. Usually, in action games like these, the camera leans forward, towards your aim reticle or ship flight direction. This serves two purposes: it adds ‘action’ feeling to the game, making player feel in the middle constant movement and maneuvering, but also improves the gameplay quality: when you are going forward with your ship, it’s much more important to know what’s going on in your movement direction than what stays behind your ship.

XenoRaptor

Overall, the game is well done, but personally I would wait for 50%+ discount due to other games on the market and not-so-great camera controls. So yes, I suggest grabbing it, but on discount

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

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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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

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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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

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

Rocking Pilot - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Bullet Hell / SHMUP
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes, if you have a good twin-stick gamepad

About the Game

Rocking Pilot is a bullet hell game where you fight the enemy waves on your helicopter. It is inspired by the classic arcade games, but tries to introduce new features to the genre. Without spoiling the ending, the setting of the game itself takes place in “reality show” that shows wars and armed conflicts across the world. During every mission, your helicopter stays on screen and tries to perform the task given.

The Good:

  • Each game zone brings its own interaction: hostages to be rescued, gas that blocks enemy and your bullets, mutant growth that can be killed only by rotors, etc. It feels like developers really spent a lot of time developing the enemies.
  • The graphics are bright and very polished: player’s action receive a good visual feedback. Picking up hostages, dealing damage and picking power-ups – all of this is clear and pretty.
  • Challenging and difficult. You can turn invulnerability/bullet deflection for some time, but not for long. It’s up to you when to turn this one, which direction to face, where to go and what enemies to shoot. Overall, the gameplay feels very skill-based.
  • The game by itself is not that long (probably the base storyline can be completed within 2 hours), but there’s a lot more stuff to do if you want to perfect it. There are also bonus levels with much higher difficulties. As it often is with shmup games, each stage offers extra milestones that can be completed for additional rewards / pickable bonus unlocks.

The Bad:

  • Collisions: bounding boxes are utterly confusing. You often have to kill the enemies using your helicopters rotors, that means you have to approach them, and it is not always clear how far you can go into the enemies without exploding. To sum it up, the death from collisions in this particular game felt like it was hurting the gameplay instead of helping it.
  • The mouse controls are awkward at the very least. When playing using controller, the helicopter turns towards the direction of the second stick. When playing with mouse, however, your helicopter seems to be turning right/left depending on where you move your mouse, and since there’s no cursor being shown – it’s just hard to navigate using the mouse. It just gives an impression that there was no effort to make the game use devices that PC can offer. This type of game on PC often uses cursor for targeting and easier rotation, but not in this case, and that makes mouse controls so much worse without a particular reason.
  • The UI is obviously meant for consoles: you can’t navigate the menus with the mouse, you have to pick language every time you launch the game. The game keeps launching on your display #1 no matter which one you set as a main one. No way to tune that in the settings. My monitors have different resolution and so I could not set it to run on the one I wanted to. You can turn on the windowed mode, but you don’t seem to be able to resize the window.

Summary

Overall, it’s a really decent bullet-hell game when it comes to the gameplay itself, but poor mouse controls make it an unsuitable pick for those of you who prefer gaming with keyboard and mouse. If you have a twin-stick controller and enjoy bullet hell games though – the game will be a good addition to your library.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Ruin of the Reckless - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Think of Ruin of the Reckless like Nuclear Throne with melee feel. Traverse the tower levels, kill the monsters, get the key to go to the next floor and then escape via elevator. All that until you are free! As you progress through the tower, gain levels and collect “power orbs” – the orbs that amplify your abilities / enhance your character. Think of those as of mostly passive skills: vampirism, pet follower, “more money drops. You can also gather new spells that are more like active abilities (but you can have one at a time).

The Good

  • Good item / spell variety. You can also unlock different cards that affect the gameplay: be it a new starting item / spell loadout, more enemies on levels (for harder difficulty) or more money drops to make the game easier.
  • Characters / Monster are very well-detailed for a pixel art. You can see that a lot of effort went into this.
  • The music/sound effects are decent.
  • Interesting approach to difficulty: no traditional difficulty settings per se, but a special “cards” that you can equip in the game lobby. Those cards affect the gameplay modifiers, making the game easier or more difficult: your character can have more hp, more monsters can spawn on the level, levels become easier, etc.
  • The tower that you are climbing feels like a part of its own world: the characters you meet have their own personality and it adds to immersion.

The Bad

  • The melee mechanics just do not seem to work. Technically, everything is there, but the process becomes pretty straightforward and repetitive: go to the monster and kill him. If he rushes – stay a bit back, wait until he attacks, find an opening and perform your own strikes. The weapons do not feel different: they have different hit patterns, but mostly the attacking process feels the same over and over again. Spells save the situation a bit, but this is not enough (charges are limited and you are holding 1 spell at a time, right?).
  • Backgrounds / Tiles are rather bland. They do the trick and they fit into the style color-wise, but overall they are not detailed well-enough compared to other characters.
  • The Game is made in Game Maker, which might not be the best choice to show so many details / monsters on the levels. My setup is I5-4670 @ 3.4GHz / 8 GB Ram / GTX 760 – the game’s fps would drop significantly when a lot of monsters appear.

Summary

I really wanted to like the game: you can see how much effort went into making it. However, the core idea of melee combat just did not seem to work well. It is done with a lot of attention, but that does not make it interesting or exciting. If we compare it to the Nuclear Throne: there, you have different weapon shooting patterns, but so do enemies. You need to get creative when dodging the attacks and shooting on the run, trying to avoid the enemy touches / bullets like a plague. On the contrary, the process here feels repetitive and not captivating: there’s some dodging involved, but most of the time (when you are not using spells) the end of the combat is the same. You need to approach the monsters and hit them in melee. You don’t care much about the environment / hiding like you did in Nuclear Throne. The challenge of masterfully evading and keeping the distance is gone here, and while it seems like a minor thing, it changes everything. Because eventually the ending of every melee combat is the same: you need to approach the enemy and hit him. Because of that, I can not recommend the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Spaceship Looter - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: the game is in early access, some things will probably change

Spaceship Looter is an action-roguelite. The premise is simple: your character visits abandoned spaceships to pick the abandoned goods there. The game is a mix between “Enter the Gungeon” and “Nuclear Throne”: lots of shooting, using the environment to dodge / kill monsters, some unlocks and money for upgrade purchases.

Pros

  • Great style, the game’s colorful pixel-art is pleasant to look at
  • Dynamic gameplay: small movement space and interactions with environmental destructibles make sure that you keep moving all the time
  • Challenging Difficulty: the game is not easy; good for hardcore players, but probably better avoided by casual players
  • Responsive movement / shooting controls

Cons

  • Performance is linked directly to your screen refresh rate: on my G-Sync 120hz monitor the game ran at double speed, making it essentially unplayable
  • The interactive obstacles sometimes fail to respond in time when you press E button (you just really need to be close to them, but it’s easy to miss this interval)
  • As with lots of these games, you can get screwed by random: some rooms get too much enemies and not enough obstacles or are too small; that makes it impossible to leave them undamaged

Summary

The game solves the problem that Enter The Gungeon had: Spaceship Looter has small rooms and that ensures that you get more action-packed fights and less movement. Right now, the game focuses on core game loop: the plot is close to nonexistent, just run, gun and use your surroundings wisely. There’s really not much else behind the gameplay process, but it’s well polished and addictive. If you don’t mind the lack of plot and consider yourself a seasoned gamer looking for an extra challenge – go for it, you won’t be disappointed

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Feature Image taken from the Spaceship Looter store page, here