Here we go again. More Goddamned video games. You must be getting pretty damned sick of these things by now. Well that's too ding-dong bad for you, because I'm gonna be doing video game reviews until Torrential Equilibrium goes belly up!
That little foreplay all said and done, there's a small twist to today's video game review. This review is actually six reviews. Six reviews of six different independently-developed PC games. These aren't your regular PC games like Doom or The Sims. No, these were made by students, tiny companies, and dudes with nothing better to do. All have garnered at least a little internet fame, so you know they're gonna be good. Maybe. A couple are really out there, and I can't guarantee you'll like them all, but make sure to give 'em all a try, at least. Because I like them all. After all, how many articles are written about things I don't like. The answer is: More than I care to count, but I'm pretty sure it's less than ten.
Oh yeah, and I'm not entirely sure if "indie" is the proper word to be using here, but there isn't really any better word to use, so imma run with it.
Our first game comes courtesy of Studio Pixel. To be completely honest, I actually found out about this company on Last.FM. Odd, no?
Anyhow, this game is called "Glasses" and is about as complex as a Game & Watch title (on the surface...). As the little man, your job is to catch the falling glasses with your face. The better aligned the glasses are with your giant head, the more points you score. You even get a bonus point if you get a jump catch. It works in three "heats," so to speak. Each time, the pair of glasses falls a little quicker, and at the end, your points are totaled and you get a comment based on how well you do.
And that's pretty much the extent of the game. It literally takes about a minute to play. So why do I choose it to review? Maybe because I don't have to exert any effort to get it done? Nope! I choose it because as simple as it is, I found it damn addictive. Seriously. If you're anything like me, you'll play it over and over again until you have a perfect score, and then keep playing it over and over again because it's rather fun for a game that doesn't really amount to anything more than a minor distraction. And I do recommend that you keep playing until you get a perfect score (or at least 30 of a possible 33), not only because some of the comments are slightly funny, but also because there's a little something for those talented enough to do really well... I won't spoil it, but it is pretty wicked sweet.
High recommendation for this one, not only because it's a fun little distraction, but also because the music is just as kickass as the gameplay. Possibly even moreso. You can find the English version on this page (god knows there isn't much to translate) or since it's so damned small, download it directly from me.
The second game on my list is another less-than-complicated title called Seiklus. I'd made by some dude who goes by the name of clysm. I found this one thanks to the "101 free games" article that 1up.com ran some time ago.
Seiklus is a very simple game. You play as a little white guy, and you pretty much jump and climb around the world. There aren't any real enemies to deal with, and obstacles don't hurt you or anything, so you don't really have to worry about anything. The game is really just based around exploring and adventure.
So what purpose does the adventuring serve? Well, there's a small cutscene at the beginning, in which your little guy gets knocked off his star(?) and separated from his supposed girlfriend. He then lands in a grassy field, and so begins the quest. So I'm assuming that your objective is to return to the star. But there's a snag. You've gotta collect these multi-coloured bubbles to open a door, which I assume leads home. I haven't been able to find all the bubbles yet, so I'm not entirely sure. There's a second door as well, but I have no idea what that one's for. There are also a handful of little "artifacts" scattered all over the place, which seem to have special effects of some sort.
Overall, the game has a very peaceful way about it, just letting you explore where you want when you want. It doesn't really force you to do anything, and the map is pretty huge, with many different paths to take. The places you wind up are pretty varied, and the few events that take place are kinda neat. Plus, since I haven't finished it yet, you can tell that it's not as easy as it is laid-back. Sure, I've only logged in about three hours max, but people have flown through Metroid Prime in two hours. There's some kind of logic in there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to try to explain it.
the graphics are rather plain, but I doubt the game would be as charming with any more detail. Besides, there are some neat little effects here and there. The music also fits it to a tee, working very well with each area. I think the best way to describe it is "Earthbound meets Relentless." But then again, I doubt many of you have ever played the awesome game that is Relentless. I'd review it, but I don't have a computer old enough to run it...
Like Glasses, I totally recommend this one. You'll need a little more free time to fully enjoy this one, but there's a handy save feature, so you don't have to get it all done in one run. Though you likely will if you've got the time to spare. This one can really suck you in. Download it here.
I learned about the next game from one of my new favourite blogs. While he was more talking about the game that will be included with Half-Life Episode 2, Portal, he linked to a similar game called Narbacular Drop, which was apparently the base idea for Portal. Obviously, I downloaded.
Simply put, I very much liked what I got. While Narbacular Drop is a DigiPen student project, meaning it's rather short, it's an incredible game. Hell, it's an incredible experience.
So what's the game all about? You play as a princess who's been captured by a demon. With the help of some Mountain God or something, you can create doors in the walls of a room that link to each other. It's a little hard to explain, but I'll try. Assume you put one door on the north wall of a room, and one on the south. If you were to walk into one, you would come out the other. Well, maybe that wasn't so hard after all. It's pretty simple, but it's enough to keep you entertained for a long time. Just the idea of being able to bend space is pretty enticing, I think. The ways that the level designers used the ability in the various rooms is pretty good, and there are a good handful of traps to avoid and puzzles to solve before you escape the dungeon.
The graphics are clearly the best of any game in this feature, not quite current-gen quality, but definitely a few steps above the N64/PS1 era. Textures are nicely done and put Super Mario Sunshine to shame, but the lava is unconvincing to say the least. There's only like two music tracks in the whole game, and I can't say that I can recall whether they were any good or not. But that's not the point! Defying the laws of the universe is more than enough to satisfy me!
so yeah. Narbacular Drop pretty much rocks, and you can bet that I'll be getting me some Half-Life Episode 2 just for Portal. You can check out the ND website and download the game here. High recommendation in this corner.
I was aiming to get games from five different sources, but that seems impossible now. Game number four is another Studio Pixel effort, and easily their most popular offering. Play it and you'll see just why.
Cave Story is very much the same as Glasses in some ways, and very different in other ways. The main similarities would be the graphics and music. The game is drawn in a style that resembles maybe a GameBoy Colour at best, but exudes enough personality and charm that it really doesn't need to look any better. The music is also pretty aged, but entirely awesome. There's even a little jingle when you pick up power-ups that will bring back memories of Metroid.
And speaking of Metroid, Cave Story is not quite, but very close to being Metroidvania. (For the uninformed, "Metroidvania" refers to a game with open-ended exploration, where gaining power-ups gives you access to new areas. Like the Metroid series or any of the more recent Castlevania games, hence Metroidvania.) This is where it differs ever so greatly from Glasses. You've got a whole world to explore, treasures to find, secrets to uncover, and a plot to follow. And the best part of all, you play as an adorable little robot!
So basically what we've got here is run, jump and shoot. But as far as I'm concerned, that's the best kind of game. As I mentioned, you're a little robot, and you wind up having to stop some demented Doctor. HOLD TEH FONE IS MEGAMANS! Well, not quite. I won't spoil the story or anything though. Along the way, you'll acquire a sizeable collection of weapons and power-ups, navigate many, many tunnels, and go up against some monstrous bosses.
I don't have much else to say. I could start rambling and go into heavy detail about everything, but I think we'd all prefer if I didn't. the final word though, is that Cave Story is a very sweet game, and God damn you're missing out if you're wasting your time reading this instead of playing it. Go download it right now. Or maybe later, when you've got some free time. Either way is fine with me, really.
Ooh! And one last little tip for if you do actually go play it. Once you find the machine gun, get it to level 3, then jump and shoot downwards. You'll never have to worry about anything again!
Another game that was brought to my attention by 1up's "101 Free games" article, Akuji the Demon is another great little title that you'll find looming around on the internet. I have no idea who this comes from, as I have no understanding of crazy-speak (Japanese), but that matters very little in the long run.
I talked about Cave Story fitting more or less into the Metroidvania sub-genre, and Akuji the Demon is a definite Metroidvania title. It's all about exploring the game world, searching for your next power-up/ability. The only real difference is that you collect a number of crystal skulls to increase your life, rather than simple energy tanks or the like. Now I love Metroidvania titles more than pretty much anything, so I'm very happy with this title. The graphics are pixely, colourful and cute, and are rather entertaining. Just look at little Akuji! Whee! The music sounds like they just stole some midis from RPG Maker '95, which is sad, but it's something I got over pretty quickly.
I have little to no idea what the game is about, since it's all in symbol-babble and I didn't bother to find the translation patch (though it does exist out there somewhere). This was kind of a good thing, because I had to experiment every time I got a new item because I couldn't read the help signs which would tell me what to do.
While the gameplay is pretty spectacular, there are some huge issues with the game. And when I say huge, I mean "you'll get frustrated a little by them." Firstly, you can't change direction while jumping. This is a pain in the ass, especially if you've got a tendency to overshoot smaller platforms like I do. Secondly, the game is real short. To be fair, all of the games in this article are rather short, but you kind of expect more than an hour of gameplay from a game like Akuji. At least Cave Story takes between two and three.
In the end, though, Akuji the Demon is a darn fine game, and I recommend giving it a go. It's not quite as awesome as Cave Story or as novel as Narbacular Drop, but it should do the trick. Go here and hit the second download link to, well, download it. You might also want to do a search for the translation patch, as I'm damn well not going to go find it for you.
I feel like kind of a sellout adding a Flash game onto this list, but we'll consider it a special consideration, for reasons I don't feel like explaining. In any case, I'm very, very hooked on Motherload. It's no surprise either, because it comes from the same team that made Defend Your Castle (My all-time favourite Flash game), XGen Studios.
Simply put, the game is about mining for treasure. You're a little digging... thing... on the surface of (what they call) Mars, and your task is to dig into the planet and unearth its precious minerals. Like so many games in this article, it's simple. It's damned addictive too. You know why? Because they put in little "cut-scenes" when you get so far down, and if you're like me, you just have to know what happens at the next target depth.
But getting down there isn't as easy as holding the down key. Nope, you've got fuel, armour, and a treasure hold to deal with, as well as about a half-dozen different hazards. When you bring minerals back to the surface, you get cash rewards depending on how valuable the goods are. With this cash, you refuel, fix up your hull, and... wait for it... BUY UPGRADES! Yes, that's right. You get to buy upgrades for your little digger. Now you know exactly why I've been playing this game obsessively for the last week. If there are upgrades to be bought, I will buy them. That's precisely why I don't play MMORPGs.
Anyway, assuming you manage to play long enough to save up for all the best upgrades (which takes for-friggin'-ever) and reach the max depth (there's got to be one, right?) you'll probably quit playing. I can't imagine you'd want to put yourself through that a second time. The first time isn't overly fun, really, it's just the burning desire to collect the best everything that'll keep you going after about ten minutes. I hate speaking against it, but the truth must be told. It just doesn't have anywhere near as much raw fun power as Defend Your Castle.
Besides that little hiccup, I still suggest you try it out. If you've got the lust for power-ups, you'll love it. If not, well, ten minutes. Max. Maybe twenty if you're bored. Luckily, it does have a save feature if you do end up going back, so as long as you don't destroy your cookies or that junk, you won't lose your hard work. Also, since it's a Flash game, there's no need to download it! Lucky!
And that pretty much sums it all up. I know there are tons more games out there on the net, and maybe some are more deserving of being seen here (I can list a couple), but I've made my choices. I'm sticking with 'em, too. If you didn't know, I had the first five reviews up on the blog, so sticking them in article form is a little redundant since I keep all my blog archives. Of course, there's no reason you shouldn't know that. Unless it's like 2007 and you just stumbled onto this site and haven't read the blog archives. Then it's okay not to know. End.
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