The Collage Atlas Offers Beautiful Scenery At Your Own Pace – Preview

I went to EGX Rezzed 2019 and played The Collage Atlas. Here’s my preview for The Indie Game Website!

Rezzed 2017 – Mattis Folkestad: Milkmaid of the Milky Way

I got the chance to talk to Mattis Folkestad and play his game, Milkmaid of the Milky Way, at EGX Rezzed 2017. Here he is to talk about the game!

Indie Haven Go to EGX Rezzed 2017

I went to EGX Rezzed 2017, and filmed things to make videos for Indie Haven. Here’s that first video, which is an overview of some of the developers that I spoke to, with snippets of their games!

Neopolis – Concept Art Released for New Cyberpunk RTS

Yesterday, Omni Systems released some really funky concept art for Neopolis, an upcoming Cyberpunk RTS scheduled for release on Playstation 4 and PC in 2017.

The concept art looks colourful, gaudy, and exciting, with cited inspirations from old hip-hop crews, Ghost in the ShellAkiraBlade Runner, and the gangs from The Warriors. This aesthetic will aid in the telling of a story in which gangs and crews wage battle in a globally-televised game of e-combat.

Omni Systems claim “a non-traditional approach to strategy gameplay,” taking elements like tech tree exploration, base-building, unit construction and resource gathering, stating that they will pre-integrate the features into the neon city in which the game is set.

Rudolf Kremers, the director of Omni Systems, has had quite a prolific background, working on Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDeadlight, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, as well as receiving a BAFTA nomination for Eufloria, his first release as an independent developer.

Prior to seeing this unveiled concept art, I hadn’t actually heard of Neopolis, but I’m definitely keeping a close eye on the game now, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything else with such a distinct and funky aesthetic.

Space Jammers Preview – Needs a LOT of Work

Space Jammers is a top-down, twin-stick, bullet-hell shoot-em-up, with cited influence from games like Binding of Isaac and clear inspiration, or at least shared themes, with Nuclear Throne. It puts you in control of one of four space kitten pirate rock stars, tasked with looting and shooting across the galaxy in order to fund your musical tour. The concept is exciting enough, and it’s difficult to mess up a twin-stick shooter at it’s core. But a number of mechanics, graphics settings, and optimization issues leave this a game that I both wanted desperately to enjoy, and can see myself enjoying once a lot of work goes into it.

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So, to begin with, let’s preface this with a couple of important things: Space Jammers is soon releasing in Early Access, and it’s still riding out the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign. It’s not a finished product, which is why this isn’t a review. It’s also not a final, scathing slander of the game that I won’t potentially update if I review it. This is constructive feedback, more than anything else. I really like the concept of Space Jammers, and I want to see it do well. The build that I’ve been given is dedicated to early previews; it’s less stable than the demo build, but it has more frequent updates to I can see it’s progress. With all that said, let’s begin.

The first thing I attempted to do in Space Jammers was configure my controller. I enjoy using one with twin-stick games more than I do a mouse and keyboard, as the name of the genre suggests. This didn’t work out too well. Buttons were incorrectly-mapped, with frequent attempts to pick up items and use special abilities resulting in quitting the game, and they often appeared too sensitive with single presses zipping me through multiple menus at once, and it made the game far more challenging than it should be.

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As such, I had to resort to using a mouse and keyboard, which was less than ideal, but functional nonetheless. A big issue that this presented was the currently local-only multiplayer. I wanted to see how the game felt when playing with friends, but I couldn’t, as the lack of online functionality paired with the controller support issues unfortunately rendered this impossible.

Based on the recommended system requirements of the game, I opted to bump up my graphics quality to ‘high.’ This provided minor improvements to the clarity of pixels, but a disproportionate drop in performance. The whole game entered a state of slow motion, which I initially thought to be the intended game speed, and would have been one of my criticisms. This suggests poor optimization, and it’s something that will need to be looked at. But, playing on ‘normal’ graphics quality didn’t hinder my experience with the game, aside from occasional dips in speed when in highly-populated areas, and sometimes even tiny nooks that you wouldn’t expect. Something else in the graphics options did, however; the ‘bloom’ effect.

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This, along with options for scan lines, vignette, and film grain, are all attempts to add that arcade cabinet aesthetic to the game, and these other three work quite nicely. The ‘bloom’ effect, however, adds a red fade from the top to the bottom of the screen. As it’s a default setting, I wasn’t aware that these two things were linked, and it left me constantly wondering whether my character was low on health or not. The colour palette as well, while vibrant and varied, seems incredibly saturated, making the game a strain on the eyes

There’s variety in the stages of Space Jammers, with the standard walk-and-shoot areas occasionally partitioned by scrolling space ship sections that play like a fusion of Galaga and Geometry Wars, with asteroids to blast and dodge in order to avoid damage. This keeps the game feeling fresh, though these stages have a lot more potential for what they currently offer.

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The game feels quite fluid and fast-paced, with sharp movement and a precise aiming system. What holds these qualities back are a few mechanical choices that feel artificial in their difficulty. Ammo capacity is scarce, and whilst this wouldn’t usually be an issue, it lessens the impact of some of the weapons that the game gives you to use.

These weapons are also somewhat challenging to get to grips with, as their behaviours are unpredictable, even from shot to shot. I had one gun that fired exploding rockets, but it often alternated, seemingly at random, between firing one rocket in the direction of the cursor, and then also firing two rockets perpendicular to the gun in either direction, which led to some slip-ups and unintended character deaths. The spawn rates of enemies in the game also seem that little bit too high, leaving me feeling that some areas were impossible to tackle without sprinting through to the exit.

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I really wanted to like Space Jammers, and I can see it’s potential, with a compelling concept, refreshingly-varied gameplay style, and hard-to-spoil twin-stick action. But in its current state, it’s not as enjoyable an experience for me as I was expecting. Here’s hoping that with some more time, and perhaps some more funding, Spread Shot Studios can polish out the flaws and come out with something pretty great.

It’s still definitely worth giving a go to see how you feel about it, and so you can observe it’s development too. You can download the demo for Space Jammers here, and add the game to your Wishlist on Steam here, for an Early Access release on 13th of December.

Frozen Synapse 2 Unveils New Units, Game Mode, and 2017 Delay

Mode 7 Games have released a trailer for their upcoming tactical turn-based strategy game, Frozen Synapse 2, that unveils a handful of additional units and a new game mode called ‘One Turn.’

The reveal comes along with an announcement that the game will be delayed until 2017 in order to make improvements.

‘One Turn,’ the newly-announced game mode, allows two players pitted against each other one turn in their combat. These single turns can then be taken and tried against the turns of every other player that has also engaged in ‘One Turn’ mode. This, along with every multiplayer mode in the first Frozen Synapse will be in the sequel, with more to come.

The sequel is quite a significant evolution, taking place in a procedurally-generated mega-city, Tactical encounters, that which comprised the bulk of the first Frozen Synapse, can occur in any building and any location in the game.

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Another newly added mechanic is the ability to customize your squads with different units, of which those unveiled are but a few, each with unique abilities and characteristics.

I was quite a fan of the first Frozen Synapse, and have spoken with Managing Director of Mode 7, Paul Kilduff-Taylor, in an interview that briefly discussed his and co-Director Ian Hardingham’s hopes for the sequel, so I’ll definitely be sharing my thoughts upon the official release.

Review – Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt

The Steam Store is full of glistening gems. But those gems are often dusted with soot and unnoticed in a deep and swirling mine shaft, filled to the brim with slightly shiny rocks, discarded chunks of excrement, and the occasional glistening bright diamond. Which is a damn shame, because there are a lot of good gems there that are woefully under-appreciated. One of those gems is Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt.

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is a charming one-stick shooter with JRPG elements, and a loving dose of bullet hell injected directly into it’s veins. Made for the ‘Games Against Ebola’ game jam by Ludosity, you assume the role of Princess Remedy, who, after only just graduating from healing college, must venture forth into the world of Hurtland; a continent plagued with mild illness and negative thoughts,  the ultimate goal to successfully heal Prince Hingst, who suffers from every ailment known. Hurtland contains within it a number of villages, cave systems, towers, and portals to strange dimensions. Within these locations, Princess Remedy finds various quirky and whimsical characters, each with their own unique dilemmas. They are sad, and it’s up to you to make sure they get better. To do this, you engage in brutal combat with the physical manifestations of their negativity, mercilessly destroying them with your projectiles of good health.

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And we’ll start off by addressing this brutal combat… excuse my French, but holy fuck, Princess Remedy is a mercilessly tough game, in a very good way. At times it feels a tad artificial in it’s difficulty with the titanic quantity of foes you’ll encounter in some fights, many firing their own projectiles that all converge in on you like a sweeping mist of suffering. But a vast majority of the time, there’s near-enough always a way to dodge and weave and decimate with quick succession. It’s painful and it’s unforgiving, but Gods is it fun as all hell.

Something else this game nails is the cuteness factor (a big reason behind my love of Undertale, which came out to critical acclaim a year after Princess Remedy’s release, surprising as both titles share a few big themes) The characters are adorable, the solutions to their problems subverting the player’s expectations, a few of which are quite chuckle-worthy, most of which left me with the same sort of dorky smile I get when I hear a child talking nonsense about something. This left me curious to discover more of the little guys, eager to hear what comical lines of text they’d throw at me.

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Based on a glimpse of the Steam reviews, I was expecting to finish the game in little over an hour, which at first concerned me, as the content was thoroughly enjoyable and I didn’t want to feel starved upon completion. But by the time I powered through the final boss battle, I very much appreciated the quick and concise packaged nature of the title. It was just as long as it needed to be, and I’m quite thankful that the developers didn’t feel any need to extend the longevity of it, as this could have run the risk of the game dragging on and feeling bloated, both factors that would have hindered my overall opinion of it.

Aside from the occasional artificial difficulty bump as mentioned, one of my biggest complaints about the game will seem confusing; it’s free. Why is this a complaint? Looking at it sitting in my library, I almost feel this sense of guilt. I valued my time with Princess Remedy to the extent that it feels like I should have paid for it. I wish I could have paid for it, even a small sum like £1-2, any contribution that I could have made to the developers of this world of hurt that I cured and enjoyed all the way. And for that to be my biggest complaint speaks numbers for the quality of the product, a product that I’d wholeheartedly recommend giving a go. If everything I’ve described here sounds like your sort of thing, then I assure you, you’ll have a blast.

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It’s probably also worth mentioning that you’ll feel like Daniel Freaking Bryan when you take out that final boss. Gods damn, it’s a great and fulfilling feeling.