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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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

MegaSphere - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

Disclaimer: the game is in early access, so a lot of things are probably going to change/improve. The review is actual for the 4th of May 2017.

In MegaSphere, your character is investigating why are the stars of Solar System are going dark. It is an action-platformer, where you explore massive randomly-generated levels with well-defined objectives and progression.

The Good:

  • Challenging difficulty. The game feels really skill based. When you die from the enemy attack – you know exactly how you messed up.
  • Plenty of weapons with different shooting patterns and tactical uses. Weapons can also be upgraded by putting special modules in the slots. I.e. reflection that makes bullets bounce from walls. Shooting also feels nice: the weapons you get at the start are by no means powerful, but it’s a great feeling when you hit something successfully and then finally destroy it.
  • Great lightning and particle effects: the backgrounds are dark, and they make a great contrast with explosions / other game effects, which are masterfully made. These are hands down some of the best effects I’ve seen in a 2d game.
  • The music and sounds are OK. Not exceptional, but not bad: music does not feel repetitive and gives a good background for playthrough.
  • Environment with destructive elements: some parts of the levels can be destroyed, there are also explosive crates which you can use strategically to damage enemies.

The Bad:

  • The beginning is a bit slow and somewhat boring. There’s a good idea about gradually introducing game features by continuously unlocking them to the player (dash -> gun -> upgrade menu -> codex -> map, etc), but right at the start you need to traverse large spaces without much stuff going on. It gets much better when you enter the second location though.
  • No pausing the game when you open codex / equipment window. It’s probably by intention, but it often prevented me from reading codex / equipping stuff when I felt like it.
  • Maybe a bit more explanation about how saving works? I.e. codex record about this: right now even if I reached the checkpoint before boss, died, then respawned at the same checkpoint a few times, then exited the game – I still get thrown one level back to the checkpoint there.
  • Navigation tab could really use a legend somewhere, because icons of the map are not really obvious (i.e. at least in codex, where weapons are described; the game could do the same with navigation icons: icon – description).
  • AI is sometimes easily fooled (especially with destructive environment) – but in all honesty it does not make the game any less challenging

Summary

I think the game got my attention by its difficulty. The no hand-holding approach definitely works here, making fights and exploration entertaining and victories rewarding. Due to this, I can strongly recommend the game.

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Feature Image taken from the game store page, here

Riptale - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

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

About The Game

In Riptale you take the role of the swordsman, a dragon hunter of sorts. You go through randomly generated levels and hack/slash through the enemies. Literally. There’s lots of blood and when you strike an enemy, you really go through him. Non-boss enemies die from one hit, but you must plan your attacks carefully, because it’s pretty easy for them to hit you too.

The Good

  • Hitting enemies feels great. The blood, the slow-down of time at the moment of impact that allows you to start another combo.
  • Challenging Difficulty: the game is really hard
  • Good selection of music and sounds. The music can get repetitive after a while, but it never felt annoying. The hit sounds are very satisfying: it’s exactly as you would imagine when you think about something alive that got hit by a sword.
  • Customizable attack combos: you don’t have a traditional attack cooldown. Instead, you have three attacks (gems). Each attack costs one gem, so you can do three rapid attacks at once. Gems replenish over time though, so you can’t combo immediately. The interesting thing is you encounter shops as you progress in the game, and those sell special gems that can alter your attack pattern and make you stronger. This is the main way to change your strategy and playstyle. For example, as you play, you discover that placing some gems in first position makes charging harder, so you put them in second attack position (i.e. your first attack remains normal, but second attack becomes homing, allowing to kill the enemy quickly if he dodged).

 

The Bad

  • Collisions could be better. Occasionally you go through flying enemies without damaging them.
  • Gems are not recharged when you enter new room. If the game expects to have a fast gameplay, it’s a bit counter-intuitive to have player stand in one place and wait till the gems are refilled.
  • Aiming controls felt subpar quite a while: the 45-degree directions are fine, but enemies that are located at a different angle from you are frustrating to hit.
  • Slow-mo during falls could be useful. From time to time you get into situation when you jump down a platform and collide with a monster below (but there was no way to see it).
  • The levels are randomly generated. Traversing some rooms is not very pleasant due to a huge number of obstacles or maybe randomly placed stuff. The level compositions seems to be a bit broken and the gameplay speed gets hindered because of that.

 

Summary

What game excels at is the feel when you kill something: once your character cuts an enemy, you know this was for real. The time slows down for a split second and you just know that you’ve delivered a crushing blow of unstoppable force to something. That feeling of speed, action and being in the center of the events is something. Due to the other flaws and pretty simple graphics – I suggest waiting for 50% discount before grabbing the game; It gave me ~2 hours of good gameplay, but I doubt I’d return to it later.

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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

Crawl - Indie Game Reviews 2017 Steam Screenshot

Genre: Dungeon-Crawler / Local Multiplayer
Game Page: Game On Steam
Should You Buy It: Yes

Crawl is a peculiar game. It recently left early access, entering the fully released stage. The game’s idea is really original: four players (either bots or humans) are playing at the same time. One of them gets the role of dungeon explorer, going through the dungeon. Other take the roles of ghosts, who can spawn monsters or possess the traps across the rooms. If someone manages to kill the dungeon explorer, he takes his role, while recently deceased player becomes a ghost. The player who manages to get level 10 and kill the dungeon boss wins.

The Good

  • Really innovative and fun gameplay: there’s also no downtime for anyone, because all players influence the game in a way. It’s like telling a story from two different points of view
  • Lots of content and variety: different bosses, monsters, weapons and items. As you play more games, you get more unlocks, diversifying the randomized gameplay even further
  • AI is really good
  • The game has its own style: the pixel art is well aligned and fits the theme well

The Bad

  • A bit of a snowballing tend to happen. If one player levels up while playing explorer, other players (ghosts) are getting stronger monsters. Technically, that tends to even out the disadvantages (weaker players have stronger monsters -> statistically they tend to kill explorer more and take its role) as the game progresses. But if weaker player gets the role of explorer – he still has to fight the strong monsters of at least two other ghosts which often won’t be in his favor. During the midgame this gap is felt the most, but then it evens out if the game drags on a bit. That’s really the only drawback I can name.
  • No online multiplayer: the game could really benefit from it.
  • Also, minor thing, but I could not switch active display on my machine (could not move the game to second screen). The option to do this is there, but it did not work if I changed it.

Summary

The game is good in singleplayer, because AI can use the surroundings well and both control and combat the monsters skillfully. However, Crawl shines brightest when played with friends: the hot-cold relationship that turns upside down when someone takes control of the explorer (and the old foe, in turn, becomes somewhat your friend) makes up for a lot of funny and exciting moments. The content unlocks also makes it really replayable. Overall, it’s a solid game with original premise and I highly recommend it.

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Feature Image taken from the Crawl 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

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