April 12, 2017

Planetary Annihilation

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Want to smash planets together? Fire mega-lasers? Generally bring destruction to your enemies? Planetary Annihilation has all this and more, lots more, maybe too much more.

This is an ambitious attempt at breathing life into the RTS genre from a few years ago. However, the result is a bit of a mess despite being quite interesting. The tactical gameplay seems to be standard – build up a powerful military force and send it against your opponent before they can do the same. The faster you can manage this the better. The game innovates in the battlefield layout. It is played on on spherical planets (quite beautifully rendered) that you can rotate the camera around. Sometimes there are even multiple planets. To facilitate battles there are a myriad of options and units. Vehicles, bots, aircraft, sea ships, orbital ships, space ships plus factories and installations. It is even possible to build a giant Deathstar-like laser. The complexity overwhelms and there is little guide on how it is used. Many times I found myself pausing the game to look up online how to use the special feature of a unit. Games run from 10 minutes to over 2 hours! This game is just too much, and not well explained.

Planetary Annihilation is out on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux at US$29.99. It has been bundled many times.

March 19, 2017


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Hand drawn puzzler Machinarium is definitely pretty, but the challenges fail to engage.

A poor robot dumped in the trash has to return and save the big robot city. This is achieved by solving a series of puzzles using point & click gameplay. Machinarium is a gentle game, that can be played at any pace and provides both hints to the solution or, after a mini-game, a complete walkthrough. All the problems fit thematically with the story and robot city world. The art is notably different and interesting. However, after a couple of hours I got stuck, and upon utilising the walkthrough discovered the the rules of puzzle solving had changed. This is greatly annoying. I prefer to solve the brain teasers myself, but this seemed to require a jump in logic or to cheat. Perhaps this is standard for the genre (I am not particularly experienced with them), but it stopped me moving any further.

Machinarium is out on the Steam store for PC and Mac at US$9.99. It has been bundled.

March 16, 2017

Sir, You Are Being Hunted

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Discard that cup of tea my good man. Devilish robots abound. You must patiently sneak around and survive. Persevere, because Sir, You Are Being Hunted

In Sir, You Are Being Hunted the player is a Victorian gentlemen somehow transported to an island full of murderous robots. Your only hope is to construct an escape machine out of components found around the island – although the robots tend to congregate around these items. The game plays like an early survival game with a first-person view. Players need to replenish their vitality by finding food (usually in abandoned buildings). Trying to fight the robots results in a quick death (for me at least). The only viable plan seems to be: hide and distract.

The artstyle is tweedpunk – Victorian gentlemen mixed with procedurally generated English countryside horror. It works well and has many nice touches. Unfortunately (for me) the game is super hard and slow. Perhaps it can be mastered with more time and patience. I want to like this game, it does so much right, but instead after several hours and barely making a scratch I have to admit defeat and move onto something else.

Sir, You Are Being Hunted is out on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux at US$19.99. It has been bundled.

March 14, 2017


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A new turn-based indie monster battler is in development. Does Beastmancer show promise? It is still very early days (alpha demo!) and can only get better, but is already looking great.

An important part of developing a game is gathering feedback on how it plays. Sometimes this can be hard as an indiedev, and so the solo developer of Beastmancer released an alpha demo free on IndieDB. In the game the player collects fantastical beasts and then uses them in turn-based battles against other beasts. Sort of like Pokemon, but more JRPG’ish. The game is surprisingly playable considering its early stage. And looks quite good with cell-shaded graphics and many animations (although a few more in the fights are needed). There are a few issues to be ironed out. Saving/loading does not work and there are long load times (at least on my old’ish PC). The battles lack a certain oomph, there are few special attacks and mostly it is just charge and bash. Lastly, the story is too dominant and the maps too big, meaning that there is little fighting and lots of listening/running around. I look forward to seeing how it progresses.

Beastmancer is available for free as a PC-only alpha demo on IndieDB.

March 7, 2017


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A mobile turn-based rogue-like that plays well on PC? Wonders will never end with Sproggiwood!

Sproggiwood plays like a traditional rogue-like. Your avatar explores grid-based dungeons in a fantasy world, fighting the denizens, collecting treasure and levelling upto more powerful skills. What innovation there is seems to be the result of its mobile origins. For instance, after completing each dungeon the player resets – all experience and collected items are lost. Each dungeon is started again with a basic character… unless items or buffs are purchased through the in-game store.

Luckily in the PC version, there are no microtransactions. So the worst of mobile gaming is avoided. There is also a simple story and replayability through unlocking extra character types (farmer, archer, vampire, etc). Although there does seem to be some grinding required to purchase enough buffs to get through the later levels. Overall this is a well-made, polished and cutesy rogue-like, but it doesn’t offer anything new to the experienced player of such games.

Sproggiwood is out on the Steam store for PC, Mac and Linux at US$14.99. It has been bundled many times.