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Knytt Stories [REVIEW]

December 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Knytt Stories: released August 30th, 2007
Developer: Nifflas
Platforms: Windows

These past few weeks I have been scouring the indie gaming scene on a journey to try and discover some new MetroidVania style games. Thus far I have found some pretty high quality titles, but nothing that quite nails that Metroid or Castlevania experience. Saira came pretty damn close due to it’s great ambiance and sense of exploration, but there were still certain key components that were missing to make it really feel like a MetroidVania game. This week’s game is brought to us by the very same soul who created Saira actually, Mr. Nicklas Nygren, otherwise known as Nifflas. As with the other titles I’ve tried thus far, Knytt Stories definitely possesses some key features that you’d expect to find when playing a MetroidVania game, but also like the other titles I’ve tried thus far, it’s also missing a few of those key components that you’d look for in a MetroidVania title as well. Still, I wouldn’t be writing a review for Knytt Stories if I wasn’t impressed by it!

If by chance you happened to play Saira, you can definitely tell that Knytt Stories was made by the same person, as is evident from the visual style. As with Saira, the visuals may look crude or simple when you first see them, but it really takes no time at all for them to grow on you, and as you continue to explore the world of Knytt Stories you’ll see a good variety of locations, with each region of the world possessing its own look and feel. Not to mention there are additional stories you can download (essentially small expansion packs) that give you entirely new stories to play through and experience, and each one of these brings with it a totally new environment as well. The art style just has a certain flair that makes everything really pop. Something I’ve learned from playing both Saira and Knytt Stories is that screenshots really don’t do Nifflas’ style justice. Yes, the game isn’t terribly detailed or complex, but it’s vibrant, and varied, and it feels alive. It just feels like I was exploring a real environment, and the overall style of Knytt Stories is charming to the max. Read more…

Saira [REVIEW]

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Saira: released December 12th, 2009
Developer: Nifflas
Platforms: Windows

Recently I’ve been on a mission to try and find some new MetroidVania style games. It happens fairly regularly, at least once a year, where I’ll go in to Metroid mode and I’ll just have to fire up Super Metroid or Metroid Fusion and get it out of my system. This year is different though, because this year I don’t simply want to revisit the old classics. I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort in to the indie gaming scene for a while now, and I know there are some potentially top shelf MetroidVanias out there. The last one I played was a fantastic retro style game titled Hero Core that blended the freedom and exploration aspects of a MetroidVania with the combat mechanics of a shmup. Hero Core was an awesome game, but this week I believe I’ve latched on to an even more impressive game, and it goes by the name Saira.

I will say right off the bat, Saira doesn’t exactly fit the bill for a MetroidVania title. It eschews the combat and confrontational enemy encounters of games like Metroid and Hero Core in favor of pure exploration and puzzle solving. In addition to not possessing any kind of combat, you also don’t really power-up or gain new abilities as you explore the game world. Still, despite all that Saira feels like a MetroidVania game. Instead of one great big, interconnected map to traverse and explore, your character uses a spaceship to visit various solar systems. If you ever played Mass Effect, you should actually be quite familiar with how this works. You essentially have one big star-map that shows the various solar systems that are available for you to visit. Then, provided your ships battery has enough charge, you can then fly to that solar system and visit the (usually two) destinations that reside there. Read more…

Hero Core [REVIEW]

December 10, 2011 2 comments

Hero Core: released May 3rd, 2010
Developer: Daniel Remar
Platforms: Windows

Metroid and Castlevania are two of the most beloved and highly regarded franchises to ever have graced the industry. In fact, they are such staples of the industry that they even had an entire “genre” of games named after them, referred to as MetroidVania games. Technically these games are 2D side-scrolling Action Platformers, but their semi-open world design helps to differentiate them from similar titles such as Contra or Rush ‘N Attack. You don’t simply move from left to right, knocking out baddies and completing missions by reaching the end of the level. In a MetroidVania game, your character has multiple paths he or she can choose from, typically all interconnected in some kind of hub world, such as Dracula’s Castle from Castlevania or Planet Zebes from Metroid. Along the way you’ll find hidden power-ups, bosses that grant new abilities, and who knows what else. The point is that it all takes place in one, big location, and it’s your job to explore that place, gain new powers, and generally raise hell all throughout.

Sadly, as amazing as these games tend to be, there aren’t as many of them as you’d think, though perhaps that’s a good thing. The vast majority of MetroidVania style games I’ve played have been top notch ventures that I will rave about until the day I either die or develop alzheimer’s, but I’m sure if the market for MetroidVania games had gotten more saturated the over-all quality wouldn’t be nearly as high among the titles. Still, whether it’s quality control or not, the fact of the matter is that it’s been years since I completed Shadow Complex and the various DS entries in to the Castlevania series, so I recently decided I’d try to hunt down a few indie entries in to the MetroidVania genre of games, which leads me to Hero Core, a unique blend of MetroidVania and another favorite genre of mine, the Shmup. Read more…

Cosmic Caverns [REVIEW]

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Cosmic Caverns: released April 29th, 2011
Developer: Maximinus
Platforms: Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

When I was a kid, there was a game on the NES that I absolutely had a blast playing. I usually had to play using the assistance of a Game Genie of course, being as I was pretty young, but damn if I didn’t still love every second of my time with Solar Jetman. You piloted a space ship around various alien locales, navigating caverns and obstacles, retrieving items that then needed to be brought back to your base ship, and generally just tried your damnedest to survive the trip. And that’s all well and good, but what made it unique was the control scheme. Instead of using the usual left goes left, up goes up, etc. style control setup, Solar Jetman used one button as your ships thrust, and then left and right on the D-Pad were used to tilt the ship one way or another. Need to move right? Tilt the ship right and hit thrust. Going up? Make sure you’re totally vertical and hit your thrusters. But what’s this!? You’re about to crash in to the ceiling! Quick, rotate the ship 180 degrees and hit the thrusters full blast! It was a totally unique experience to me, and despite all my years of gaming since then, despite the literally hundreds of titles I’ve played since my golden years with the NES, I have still never really encountered any other games that played like Solar Jetman. That being said, I’m sure most of you have connected the dots and guessed that, “Hey! I’ll bet the game he’s reviewing right now is actually quite similar to this Solar Jetman thing he keeps mentioning!” And ya know what dear reader? You are quite right.

Cosmic Caverns is a game where you control a space ship and you must navigate various caverns, most of which I’m assuming are of the cosmic variety. The game handles just like the previously mentioned Solar Jetman. You must rotate your ship and then hit the thrusters to move in whatever direction the ship is facing. It adds a whole other layer of complexity to navigating these levels and it’s tons of fun to do so. Traveling through narrow tunnels becomes something of an ordeal in Cosmic Caverns since, if you hit the thrust too hard, you ram in to the ceiling, and if you start moving too fast you’ll need to rotate and thrust the ship in the opposite direction to slow your momentum. The unique control style present in this game is what makes it so exceptional and interesting to play. Read more…

Cute Things Dying Violently [REVIEW]

December 4, 2011 2 comments

Cute Things Dying Violently: released August 24th, 2011
Developer: ApathyWorks
Platforms: Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

Upon seeing a title such as “Cute Things Dying Violently,” my mind immediately thought two things:

1) Pretty blunt title. Seems like a game based on cute things that die violently could be pretty gimmicky and get old fast. There are lots of gimmicky titles littering the XBLIG Marketplace that have the extent of their appeal laid out just in the title.

2) Fuck it. I love cute things, especially when they die violently. Gimmicky or not, this is at least worth checking out.

Now, three hours and 80msp later, I can tell that this game is not just a one trick pony. Of course the whole cute things and violent deaths bit is a gimmick, but it’s an enjoyable one, and it’s also apparently pretty effective, as it’s the entire reason I even looked at the game in the first place. Cute Things Dying Violently drew me in with its promise of glorious adorable creatures being sacrificed to the god of buzzsaws, but it kept me hooked with its simple, yet effective puzzle mechanics and enjoyable map layouts. Read more…