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Browsing category: Reviews

Far from Monolith’s first foray into the grungy underbelly of urban exploration with a violent twist, Condemned: Criminal Origins served up a sampler platter of game mechanics notorious for being utterly disastrous and loathed by players across the globe. First person melee, weapon durability, and exceptionally dark environments seems like a recipe for failure- yet wound up becoming one of the most coveted unique horror experiences of the early 00s.

When I played it for the first time, I encountered the game through a vastly different lens from my fellow fans- I was unable to figure out how the taser worked. In any other game, this would be a relatively minor oversight that would hardly alter the experience beyond inconvenience, but nothing could prepare me for how much this would alter the experience, turning it into a claustrophobic ballet of internalized cruelty.

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We’re at a point of complete global saturation. Pull up #gamedev on Twitter and look: endless, infinite talent, as far as the eye can see. How many of these people have you never heard of? How many of them still have relatively large fan followings? A body of work full of fresh ideas and plentiful things worth talking about? It’s far too common for many a creator to be overlooked in the sea of digital detritus. Other than providing platforms for their work, places of discussion and promotion, these multifaceted crowds can become a mass of the unknown.

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Fighting games are one-in-a-million. Let me save both our time and, instead of listing a bunch of them, just say there’s a lot. There’s a million flavours, ranging from your stock-standard 2D one-on-one fare, those featuring depth with which to circle your opponent, brawlers, party-friendly group fighters, and so on. But, how many of them allow you to pilot massive crustaceans in a brutal fight to the death?

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Genre fusion is something of a mainstay in the indie scene as of late, after all, what better way to revitalize a now-defunct style of game than injecting it with some vigor from another genre? Most prominent is the trend of rogue-ifying something; platformers, FPS, RPGs, and so on. But before this was ever cool, there was the 1990 now-cult-classic ActRaiser. Featuring a blend between action platforming stages a la Castlevania as well as god-game style simulation like that of Populous, players were treated to a unique SNES title that threaded a line between frenetic, fast-paced gameplay and much slower, thoughtful creation and town planning.

Enter SolSeraph, ACE Team’s (@theACETeam) 2019 ActRaiser inspired action-platforming tower defense god-game. It’s important to note the addition of “tower defense” to that concoction; while SolSeraph follows in the footsteps of its sister game, offering a balance between 2.5D side scrolling segments and isometric/top-down city creation, it also lavishes the player with waves of enemies attacking your city. This new mechanic drastically changes the game as a whole and makes it stand out from its predecessor, offering more than a simple retreading of the ground ActRaiser has already well covered.

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“Now where did I leave those damn keys…”

You hear something out of the ordinary from the hallway, or rather, you hear nothing – definitely not ordinary. Thank God you were in the kitchen when you didn’t hear it; with a blade fast at hand and a veritable lifetime of experience chopping vegetables, you head out into the mansion to see what’s making all that silence

These are the first few tentative steps into the beautiful nightmare that is Phantom Rose, a procedural turn-based adventure card game by developer makaroll. If my flawless riffle shuffle and love of Lisa: The Painful are any indication, there are two easy ways to win my heart: card games and complicated but rewarding status effect systems, both of which Phantom Rose provides in droves.

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Harken back, to the era of floppy disks and shareware, when a gallon of gas only cost you a $1! Hear me, and yearn again for the days of billboard sprites, the fidelity of 16-bit graphics! Be whisked to the golden year of 1996, and imagine (if you can) a game built on id Tech 1; the original Doom engine, hacked and slashed to serve the needs of a FPS/RPG hybrid. In this fantasy, picture it being… I don’t know, perhaps, high fantasy meets low tech? And behold! You are picturing Strife!

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Over the last few years, we’ve been seeing a surge of interest in the rendering styles of late-90’s consoles: the PlayStation, Saturn, Nintendo 64. It provides a framework that allows for lo-fi titles to come across as more polished rather than seeming lazy, doing wonders for plenty of solo developers out there. Low poly counts, tiny textures meant to stretch and blur to accomodate CRTs, leading to smaller, self-contained games that allow for a greater breadth of artistic expression to reach fruition. From this, dozens of microindies have emerged making a name for themselves as trailblazers of this new frontier of visual nostalgia.

Enter James Wragg (@LovelyHellplace) and their latest release, Penitent Dead, made for the Haunted PSX Gamejam. Unlike a lot of the other entries, this title is not so much an out-right horror game or thriller, but more so an exploration of space and time.

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Amongst the loping slopes of the valley resides a message. Scrolling over it reveals microprose, a small story wrapped up in atmosphere and emotion lasting maybe 120 characters. It’s the kind of fragmented storytelling native to Twitter, jumping into an interaction or story far removed from most of its context. Things are quiet, a lull between songs. You ruminate a bit and begin scrolling on to another place, another mood.

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