Random Game of the Week

So…what is this?

Given the existence of massive indie charity bundle #2 plus my habit of looking through new release lists for random games it seemed like there were still more random games for me to play, but I simply don’t have the time or will to do nothing but play them exclusively for another year-plus (I like other games as well and grow to miss them). Still while I can’t play just them… they’re generally on the short side so there’s no reason I couldn’t play one a week. So let’s try that!

What games are random games?

A large portion of them will be from said second massive indie bundle (which I still have five or so pages left to look through), plus other lesser known games I have picked up over the years in addition to random free games and demos I stumble upon from time to time. Due to the nature of this they’ll likely exclusively be PC games, but there’s no real rules so maybe one day I’ll want to play a gameboy game or something.

Does random mean randomly selected?

At times yes. I still have the system I had set up last time to select unplayed games randomly that I will make use of fairly frequently, plus it is fairly random as to when I’ll stumble upon a weird little game or demo that I want to try out. That said I am certain there will be times I’ll just pick the game directly myself, the “random” deal is part of my brand and branding is key I hear.

Is there a set time of the week for this?

The thread title is aspirational :slight_smile: Mainly I hope the name keeps me on a regularish schedule, and maybe I’ll end up picking a specific day for it, but let’s consider it fluid. Plus there may be a week where I want to play a bunch of games like this so perhaps there will be busy weeks to make up for weeks where say I don’t want to stop playing Elden Ring for anything else.

Couldn’t this just be done in the “games you played today” topic?

…Moving on~

Is this definitely a good idea?

Not at all! When I wrote up games for the first giant indie bundle you got a fairly curated, edited experience after the first week or so where I generally only mentioned games that struck me for whatever reason. Here the game of the week I play may be bad, or boring, or four minutes long and while there is the potential option of me deciding to play an additional game when that happens often times it might just be what we are stuck with for that week. Add in that randomization means several of games like this could be picked in a row and there will likely be some rough stretches of time.

The second bundle also seems a good bit thinner in terms of obvious “oh this legit feels like it could be something” games because many of those type games in it were already in the first one so this could all go horribly wrong, get hyped!

Can others post about random games in here?

I…um, hadn’t considered that? Sure, I don’t see why not.

If worried about keeping on a weekly schedule why start this a week before major winter holidays?

I actually wasn’t gonna start this until January (always like having a gaming project for a year) but something came up that I’ll touch on when I put up the first game in a bit after I crop some screenshots.

11 Likes

Filmechanism (demo)

It feels like cheating to start with a demo for a game I didn’t purchase, but hey I played it yesterday and it felt like the type of game to mention so you get this topic a couple weeks or so earlier than you otherwise would have. Consider this a brief test run.

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The basic idea is that this is a 2d puzzle platformer where you can pick up the equivalent of a camera flash that lets you take a single picture of the level in its current state, which you can then revert it to with the press of a button.

This ignores items you pick up, mainly limiting itself to the locations of blocks you move around the stage and doors you may open/close. The latter offers one of the demo’s earliest interesting wrinkles where if you take your picture at a poor time you may end up re-closing a door with the key that opens it already used and no longer present.

The other wrinkle that pops up is that you may end up with two different snapshots of the level (each one can only be reverted to once), forcing the player to determine what arrangements are necessary to complete it and then capturing and reverting to them in the appropriate order. There is also a quick puzzle that makes use of these to conserve otherwise single use platforms that fall after you touch them that hints at some interesting potential expansions upon said concept.

The biggest mark I can put against the demo is that for the most part it feels very easy. At the end of the 15 levels included in it (out of 200+) there is a branch that leads to three sets of three normal, hard or hell puzzles of which only one crossed me up for even a bit (that one was pretty good), and in truth the normal ones were easy in a way that felt kinda uncreative level/puzzle design wise, which is always concerning. There isn’t really a way to tell if the hell level puzzles selected are from around level 75, 125 or 175 hence it isn’t possible to tell just how far it ramps up beyond looking at some images on its store page, which do admittedly look a good bit more advanced than what the demo offers.

The good news is I added the game to my wishlist so I may get to follow-up on this at some point in the future. The bad news is that its regular price is listed at $20 which is about triple what I expected. That said it is a random game I stumbled upon that has an interesting enough hook, seems solidly crafted and has virtually no discussion around it (it has 2 user review not in my language and a single topic on its discussion page) so hey, feels like a good fit for here.

13 Likes

Can you link the bundle?

It was sold back in June but if you just want the link to see what was in it…

1 Like

I have most of these games. I wish I supported this tho. Woof

Start a weekly project, get sick during the first week (no covid apparently at least), that all tracks. Since I generally just tried the browser-only games from big bundle the second I came upon them in the list let’s go with a brief one of those, hopefully my sleep deprived self will be somewhat coherent but if not… might be the right game for it!

Glitch Dungeon

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Glitch Dungeon is a very small scale… I guess puzzle platformer. Your goal is to exit this dungeon by making your way to the exit of each room, it isn’t a straight path to the right but since there generally only seems to be a single path forward it doesn’t really fit into the metrovania mold in terms of structure.

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Where it does borrow from the metrovania toolbox is how you gain a few different spells that allow you to bypass otherwise unpassable obstacles. What gives it an advantage over many other games is that the abilities are fairly uncommon. One of the first ones you gain is the red one shown above where you simply don’t fall when you walk off an edge. There are others that let you climb up walls or make you “invisible” (enemies and hazards don’t affect you).

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A nice touch is that both the palette for yourself and often times the actual sprites that make up the environment change when you have a different spell activated which make it very easy to tell what effect is in play at any given moment. Initially you don’t have any control over which is active at a given time although by the time you reach the second half of the game you gain the ability to control that at which point the more puzzle platformy elements come into play (use one ability to get past these spikes, then another to bypass this pit, etc.).

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Shortly after you gain full access of all your spells you are basically told “now get out of here” and the glitchier part of the aesthetic becomes more pronounced. The way out loops you back through the earliest rooms in the game (occasionally in a somewhat more glitched state) that does the neat deal of showing how your new abilities now allow you to bypass them in different ways.

Fifteen minutes after you start you are done, and that’s that. On one hand, I’d be lying if I described any of the actual traversal puzzle parts of this game as remarkable. That said it is a nice small scale compressed take on a game like this that does have some neat ideas in terms of abilities and reusing earlier spaces and very much held my attention for the little bit of time it asked of me.

Bonus Game: Chickenswamp

I do love me some puzzlescript games so let me drop a quick recommendation for Chickenswamp. You play as a chicken who has to get itself (and eventually an egg) to its nest. Unfortunately for it there are crocodiles all over the place who will move one space towards the chicken in a straight line whenever it or its egg crosses their line of sight. The deal is that as long as you don’t approach these crocodiles head on (they will eat you) you can step onto their backs or even heads and use them as bridges to cross water and get closer to the goal.

The game’s puzzles have a decent bit of depth to them all things considered, you can use one crocodile to push or block the sightline of another or have to figure out multiple paths to the nest if both you and the egg cannot take the same one. It isn’t a lost gem or anything but is a good example of the surprisingly large number of solidly crafted puzzlescript games we might have otherwise never gotten if increpare didn’t create and release this engine for free.

7 Likes

Numtate

This is gonna be about as much story time as game describing this week. A bit over a year ago a puzzle game group on steam was doing a daily advent puzzle game giveaway and I entered on the day Numtate was the prize as I’m always interested in giving a numerical puzzler a try. I happened to win, gave the game a shot and… it was a mixed bag.

The basic idea was that you rotated numbered cells around these central hubs which you tried to surround with the correct numbers so that every number that touched these “cores” added up to their goal total (or greater/less than if so marked) and if all those cores had the correct totals the puzzle was solved. In terms of a concept it was fine in that you had to take a minute at the start to look at the numbers available and figure out what had to go where. The issue is that fairly early on they introduced “stop cores” where if the total around a given hub/core became either too high or too low you entered an immediate fail state and while you could still take back some moves to undo that it made maneuvering numbers around the board so very strict and finicky that it became more of a pain than it was worth. If you have most numbers in the right place but then need to get a 9 to say the upper right corner you would often have to scramble everything to do so, repeat this enough times and everything just sort of became a grind.

I didn’t want to put up a middling review for a game I got for free so I wrote up my feedback on the game’s forum and the dev responded saying that they largely agreed and that they were likely gonna redo the game in the new year to deal with such issues. I noted that the level of improvements discussed would justify a new release (left unspoken was the game seemingly not selling many copies at all) but they maintained that they wanted to see the project done right… and then silence for many months.

…Until almost exactly a year later when I got an update that Numtate 2.0 was released and it was literally an entirely new game (I didn’t finish the prior version but I think 49 of the 50 puzzles are new) with similar but altered mechanics all around. Fortunately it is also a markedly better one as well.

This version of Numtate (beyond having a bit more visual flair) is still built around rotating numbers around certain central hubs, but the key is that rather than the loops around the cores being the entire playing field they instead are generally placed about a larger somewhat more grid-esque field. The other shift is that anything located immediately around a core can be rotated around it, including other cores if they are so situated. This introduces a much more dynamic element to things where if you have two cores adjacent to one another you can move them and any other squares near them all over the playing field, making things much looser than the previously stifling set-up.

On top of this it adds on complications like arrows that can shove a cell in a given direction, magnets for a different flair of puzzle and even sokoban-esque unmovable grid squares that must have an object on them for a puzzle to be considered solved. At times these produce somewhat straightforward puzzles (the magnet ones are most guilty of this) but at its best the game will just throw a giant selection of a couple dozen squares that must be occupied along with a dozen “sum of touching numbers must at least equal X” cores with a theoretical intended solution but is comfortable enough going “you know the rules, here’s what you gotta do, any way you get there is fair game”. I am generally less of a fan of these sorts of more “open” kinds of puzzle solutions, but in this case it fits the game pretty well.

So is it now a hidden classic or puzzle game of the year? No. That said while I considered it middling before I’m comfortable saying that this version of NUMTATE is good, a legit second take on the basic underlying concept that accepted where the original fell short and did something about it. In reality it is basically its own sequel and should be NUMTATE 2 but the fellow behind it legit wasn’t satisfied with it and wanted to do right even though the game probably only sold about 30 copies (whenever I got an achievement the global percentage went up by 3.3%). That’s… probably not the sensible thing to do, but as one of the few who stumbled upon this game I do legitimately appreciate it and think it very much earns its spot as my random game of the week.

6 Likes

Neon Struct

Neon Struct actually has a decent number of reviews on Steam and multiple people on my friends list own it so perhaps it is actually known of, but I literally never heard of the game before I saw it included in giant bundle #2.

It is basically a smaller scale one person attempt at a Thief-esque first person stealth game, in the sense that said one person had someone else handle all the music and paid to use sound effects made by others (single person dev teams: notoriously bad at audio). Rather than play as an aforementioned thief you are a member of some fictional spy agency in the near future/recent past of 2015 who stumbles upon some secrets she wasn’t supposed to discover with hijinks ensuing. Said hijinks largely involve sneaking around buildings while hoping no one ever notices you while occasionally playing Breakout (will come back to that later).

It is clearly a lower budget game with fairly blocky low textured polygons but while the aesthetic does lack variety it is rather clean with very good draw distance with everything easily identifiable. For a game with neon in its name it doesn’t really lean on it all that much, more using it for highlights than anything else. The level geometry is somewhat blocky but often gives you the multiple paths or options that fans of this genre prefer. There are never any frontal assault options as you never have an actual weapon but often times there will be both a more direct “sneak through the guards” route as well as a more circumspect path for those who poke around a bit more.

What I enjoyed most about the game is that everything is fairly small scale. When you are outdoors the space is generally only a couple blocks large, the buildings for the most part aren’t all that sprawling or with tons of floors. There is one notable exception, but it being in context unusual large makes it much more memorable and distinct. It’s not to say that things are cramped or tiny as that would be inaccurate, but often these games have levels or areas that tend to sprawl so it was nice to have one more focused on some constrained designs.

There is hacking (this is how you deal with doors you don’t find keycards to or alarm stations/cameras) and as this is a small scale game they tackled this mechanic by simply having you play a game of Breakout where when you eliminate enough blocks to send the ball off the top of the screen something is successfully hacked. This is in essence silly but in a way that kinda works? Time doesn’t stop when you hack so you have to worry about being spotted while doing this and having to try and bounce the ball up as efficiently as possible while getting bothered when it doesn’t bounce in the exact way you hoped basically captures the spirit of the activity, albeit in a somewhat gamey manner. Plus I like Breakout.

Unfortunately the game does have two significant issues. First off the enemy AI is just rather poor. Once they spot you (and they will, they have exceptional eyesight over large distances if you are not in shadows) they will chase you but are… inconsistently bad at it. In the first or second area I was dead to rights spotted but escaped to a place that their pathfinding had issues with so they couldn’t reach me, lost me then respotted me several times until they finally wandered away. It was only that exceptionally bad that one time but in general they make occasionally baffling decisions when trying to follow you, which is in contrast to how efficient they can be at spotting you.

The other issue is the footsteps. The game gives every enemy fairly loud footsteps so that you know when they are around, which is a considerate design choice. The issue is that the dev had no idea how to set up their sound so that it was possible to use them to locate roughly where in the environment they were coming from. Nearer is a bit louder than farther but an enemy coming from the left sounds exactly the same as an enemy coming from the right sounds the same as an enemy walking on the floor directly above or below you. Given that this is the main way to locate enemies it makes things much rougher than it’d be if it was implemented better.

So what does that all leave us with? Neon Struct ain’t bad and it isn’t like we are drowning in first person stealth games, but while it is an ambitious project for a single dev (and his audio assistants) that is pulled off fairly well all things considered the limitations that are there do prevent it from being able to thrive like the game’s that inspired it. Still I do appreciate a game of this ilk keeping to a nice tight 4-5 hours and if one is looking for what the game is offering it probably does enough to scratch that itch, warts and all.

6 Likes

There You Go

There You Go (trying so hard to not tack Pink lyrics to the end of that) is a brief puzzle game where you have to find the way to exit ten rooms to win the game, which is generally done by rotating the room to look for information hidden from you by the initial view.

The puzzles are generally of the “let’s poke around the environment until something happens” variety which isn’t my particularly favorite kind of puzzle, although there are at least a couple more “real” ones in there.

Unfortunately one of them is the color one which took me ages to figure out and in truth if I didn’t switch on colorblind mode (the game has a button you can press on this room to enable it, which is a legit good thing) I probably would have never figured it out. Perhaps it was best left as a poke around game.

Given that it’ll probably take 10-20 minutes tops to run through the game (depending on how long you get stuck on the color puzzle) and that the actual puzzles aren’t great it is hard to recommend, but the tiny duration is also its saving grace? At such a brief ask I didn’t mind spinning the rooms around, catching hidden stuff and random easter eggs while getting a new room every couple minutes, and how the ways out gradually get a bit more ridiculous is a solid bit. The best way I can sum it up is that there isn’t enough there to really recommend but if you find yourself playing it there’s enough little stuff to at least make the time with it a bit charming.

Anyways I said there would be weeks with tiny or middling games, but too make up for it a bit quick bonus game:

Globesweeper

I spent much more time playing Globesweeper the past couple weeks, but it’s a much more boring game to describe. It is basically a hexagonal minesweeper on a globe, guaranteed to be solvable if you click on that option. There is also included variants for traditional minesweeper (which takes place on a giant cube) or the particularly tricky triangles variant where anything that touches even a corner of a triangle counts. The game in general feels a bit easier than traditional minesweeper does due to the guaranteed solvability, but what is notable about it is that you can choose the mine density and between four different globe sizes. The biggest is colossal and…

…it is impressively a lot. While theoretically doable in a session (there is a speedrunning achievement if you can finish one in under 52 and a half minutes) I find it generally works best as a “load up for 15-20 minutes to unwind/palate cleanse” experience that if lucky you eventually solve (at that duration occasional mistakes happen). This way I’ve managed to gradually clear both a colossal hexagonal and traditional one, but the recently started triangle one…

…Yes, at the top it does say that it has 3413 mines (almost twice as many as the hexagonal one) and it takes notable longer to suss out correct moves in this variant than the other two. It’s probably gonna take a while before I eventually complete one of those. Still if you enjoy minesweeper but wish it was guaranteed completable and on some sort of 3d shape this is an enjoyable variant.

6 Likes

Man I forgot about this, what was the random game I played this week again?

Magic Wand

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Ah yes, the game Magic Wand made by someone named thecatamites… wait that sounds vaguely familiar.

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Okay so problem with the whole random games thing notion that I just realized: there is a non-zero percent chance that I’ll end up picking a game made by someone who literally posts here and hence a good deal of the posters here are much more familiar with than I am. There is also a chance I won’t put this together until after the fact.

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So given that combined with my… unease in discussing a game in front of the person who made it when it isn’t a rave (I think Magic Wand is alright!) we’re gonna keep things pretty short this week and probably lean on screenshots.

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Hands down my favorite thing about this game is the world itself. Sort of a pixely looking 3d at any time you can just grab the screen and move the view around. While it is sometimes useful it generally is just a neat thing you can do and I got a lot of enjoyment out of moving the view around to get a different look at things. Technically this means the camera is fiddly and the minor platform-esque stuff is a bit more of a pain than it could be, but I think in this case it was more than a fair trade-off.

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There is a surprisingly large amount of text in the game, there is a story in there that I think I only got the vague shape of but I also don’t think it is the point of the experience. A bunch of the writing has the tongue firmly planted in cheek and often made me smile or be confused, both of which are fine enough responses.

Oh yeah, the HP in that screenshot there. Well you see…

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The game has combat; it’s not great but also not too common. It also has bosses which are generally inoffensive but one is a bit of a puzzle boss that I had to look up what I was doing wrong online. The good thing is that the HP count is a lie and goes well into the negatives, but it also ends up being a counter for how long it is taking (each hit I believe was -10HP and I ended up beyond -3000HP) and the battle is janky as heck.

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Really much of it is janky, but that’s okay. The only real annoyance tied to this particular instance is that if you enter a new “room” with low health a yellow enemy will appear that will attack you but will also heal some of your health when they are defeated, which means that every single time I moved to a new screen after said battle I had to deal with one of those. That’s still relatively minor, and that goes for much of said jankiness.

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It’s a very charming experience that leaves you curious as to what the next place will look like for the bit over an hour it’ll likely last, and it seems unlikely that you’ll see all of it in that first run. What it lacks in some polish here or there it more than makes up for with personality, and it was a brief trip I was glad to take.

11 Likes

We Met in May

We Met in May is a short collection of four minigames that examines the honeymoon period in what I gather was a previous relationship of the creator. I initially hoped it went full Wario Ware with absurdly short microgames about love, but instead they are all about five or so minutes long. Let’s look at each of them!

Nothing to Hide is the first and perhaps strongest of the bunch. It is the first time you invite the fellow you like to your room and have the crushing realization that doing so might reveal a bit more of yourself than you might be comfortable with and the panic that they might think you are a weirdo. As you wander around the room you periodically have the option of deciding to stand in front of something to try and block the view of it, just admit that you dig it or play it off/shift the discussion in another direction. I think it is actually impossible to fail as the guy seems to like you no matter what which is probably a good moral and is definitely relatable.

Beach Date is… well a beach date. You can pick stuff up and do the whole “intentionally difficult to control” thing (oh no I just wanted some sun screen but I spilled it everywhere) with the main thing being grabbing handfuls of sand and dropping them on your date. It is split into a few slightly different scenes that all end when your eyes inevitably meet and you share a moment. I think this one is the weakest of the set as even by the standards of the package it is very thin.

Strike a Pose is about your paramour accompanying you as you try on some new outfits. You have four different tops and bottoms you can match up to make four total outfits, and each time you show one off you basically cast a jrpg-esque spell or summon on your boyfriend with a damage number showing how much he digs it. Each piece of clothing has different abilities and hence you have different spell choices before each “encounter”, and when you are done you are told what total “damage” you did. Simple, but cute.

Dinner’s Ready is probably my favorite of the bunch, as it is basically you deciding that you are gonna tweak his nipples while he prepares dinner and I for one am for more nipple tweaking mini-games. You basically ask him some questions and while he answers you try to get the nipples, it is mechanically a bit rough but I forgive a lot because, you know, nipples.

None of the four minigames really have a ton to it. There is a bit of replayability to a couple of them but there’s isn’t really enough to any of them for that to come up. That said it is nice to have a relationship game that isn’t like a dating sim, that instead just focuses on the feelings that come up in the early “everything is great” parts of a relationship. It was a very pleasant 15 minutes.

8 Likes

Putrid Shark

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Putrid Shark is… well it’d be easy to make the obvious negative comment but…

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I respect that it’s an actual Gameboy rom and not just aping the look, but it is basically a 40 or so minutes long series of fetch quests and comedic comments/observations and… it’s not all that great? If I found it funnier it might be better but I’d say most of the comedy was a miss for me (it isn’t cruel or offensive or anything like that, it just didn’t really make me laugh) and wandering around asking everyone if they have X and eventually finding the person who does but will only give it to you for Y which requires asking everyone again about that was just kinda irksome. It is rough to say a 40 minute game is too long but it would have probably worked at 15 or so minutes a lot better.

Worse there just isn’t a lot to really say about it, so…

~Bonus Game~

Chessformer (demo)

The full version of Chessformer came out recently on Steam but the earlier itch version (which is I believe the first half of the game) is still available so I messed around with that as I’m always down for an interesting puzzle platformer.

Chessformer is a mash-up of “chess” not with “transformer” but “platformer”, to set your expectations more appropriately. Your goal in any stage is to maneuver one of the blue pieces all the way to the always stationary red king, which will then capture it and win said stage. The fairly obvious hook is that every piece moves like they would on a chess board. Rooks, bishops and queens can move as far as they want in the given directions they are allowed to, knights must move in their 2x1 L shapes and pawns can move up a single space… except for their first move in which they can move up two spaces.

It’s a moderately clever conceit and while it starts a bit easy it does at some point prove capable of producing some moderately tricky puzzles, I played through the first 17 or so and it was never outright hard but it did require some thinking by the final set of those. The first several were simple enough to worry me that the concept didn’t have enough depth but it eventually proved that there is enough to it that a decent dev could get a lot out of it. I’m not sold that this dev will (what I saw was fine but rarely “sang”) but there were enough decent bits of having to use certain pieces as stepping stones for others or seeing what happens if you get a pawn to the top row (it works as one would hope) that I tossed it on my wishlist and will likely give the full version a shot when it eventually goes on sale.

5 Likes

Hey I actually played Putrid Shark what a weird ass little thing that was

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This looks like a nightmare I had once.

1 Like

Triple Take (demo)

Triple Take is a fairly minimalist 2d platformer with the central gimmick being that you have to complete each fairly short stage three times (hence the name) with the layout changing a bit between each take to make it somewhat more tricky.

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That tossed together gif shows the most basic implementation of it to give you a rough idea, but in practice it does end up being a bit more significant than that. There may be cannons that are blocked from firing the first go around, jumping sequences shifted dramatically via the removal of a few key blocks or even entire different paths through said stage that are opened up by the removal of a floor.

It is worth mentioning that this is also a game that cares a good bit about story, or at least some sort of narrative. It is somewhat outside of the box, if you’ve played or are aware of OneShot it seems very inspired by that. This means that the story appears to be working on two different levels that happen to overlap at places, and you might have to peak at things not wholly within the game itself from time to time based on said demo. The story doesn’t seem completely novel but this kind of… again let’s say outside the box approach is still fresh to me and while it doesn’t at this point seem as developed as what OneShot offered I am curious as to what the full game will do with it.

The level design is a bit on the simplistic side but the demo is only the first world of five and the boss encounter at the end was notably more complex, so based on that and the trailer on the store page I am pretty sure that won’t be as much of an issue in the full game (full game also has a touch more color than the solely black and white demo); does make it trickier to evaluate here though. The controls for the most part are solid with the slight exception of wall jumps (which can only be done off of certain marked surfaces) which are a bit finicky. For the most part that isn’t a problem as the game isn’t “urgent” but the boss battle at the end is and that is where it not working quite as smoothly as one would hope can be an issue. This always seems to be where indie 2d platformers are most likely to struggle (I played a different puzzle platformer this week built around wall jumps that were among the worst implemented I’ve ever come across) but I’m hopeful it could be cleaned up before the full release, I even left a polite comment about it on its steam community page.

Oh yeah it has a demo-specific “ending”, I am always a sucker for those. They are likely a complete waste of time in most cases but they almost always make me smile.

So this falls into that weird demo category of “what’s there isn’t enough to convince me that the execution (specifically level design) is going to end up anything to write home about, but it has a few twists that legit intrigue me”. Having to replay three variants of every stage might end up feeling like padding that wrecks the pacing rather than as a neat way to play with layouts and tricks for the player. The narrative-and-related half has a real risk of ending up the annoying type of “saw something in a popular game to swipe without understanding it” situation, but also has the potential to go in its own direction and end up doing some creative stuff. Still I definitely walked away from the demo with my curiosity piqued markedly more than I anticipated when I started it.

Next couple weeks gonna be tricky with having to cover a ton of hours at work, still I hope to get to an actual full game next time; I tried to this past week but the one I played was grim.

4 Likes

10mg Sealed Estate

The 10mg series is basically a collection of games that are each designed to be finished in roughly 10 minutes. Taking a quick look at them they are all rather different and put together by different creators, presumably as a way to make some quick low-level experiments.

Sealed Estate is a top down view horror game. In terms of presentation the closest comparison I can come up with is Teleglitch due to the top down view and how both games handle displaying your line of sight. Anything behind a corner or obstacle is completely blacked out with it only becoming visible once you start to move around it. As it was in Teleglitch (and whatever other games it has been used in) it is a very clever technique and one that feels well suited to a horror experience.

The game does a good job of setting up a tense atmosphere early on. The view is dark and there is much you can’t see, the audio is unsettling with the sounds of something creeping around the estate and knocking on doors and there are a few interstitial bits that further feed into this. The issue is that said atmosphere begins to dissipate as it becomes clear that there isn’t much that can harm you. The game is mostly clear of enemies, with only a few things like them present and always clearly seen well before they can react to you. You set the terms of these encounters so strongly that it sorta defuses any tension they could hold, which is a shame.

The story is fairly rote and a bit split in terms of quality. There are some touches in the game proper that build the world and set bits of the narrative, and for the most part they are good. There is also a lot of the story that is told through found notes and television sets and they are markedly less inspired. They are also a bit buggy with said notes sometimes getting froze on the screen after you walk away from them, which both blocks your view and prevents you from interacting with anything else in the room. I ended up missing a bit of the story as one room had several of these notes and the only way I could get said note off the screen was to go to the door, which closed behind me.

Overall it is a bit of a mixed bag. I think the presentation is fairly well done for the most part, and the line of sight system feels like a great match for a horror game. While I know one can make a suitably decent 10 minute horror game I think this one needed a bit more of a threat of danger, and it probably leaned too heavily on the “tons of notes left around” method of storytelling given how by the book said story was. Still for a 10 minute game you hope to see some ideas that get you excited for someone to potentially take and use to fuller effect elsewhere, and this game does meet that standard.

CAST (投影) demo

Cast is an interesting little demo for a future release I came across this part week, so as a bonus a quick word about it.

The basic concept is that you are moving a particular character around between three surfaces, and that said character is casting a circular shadow on each of these surfaces based on their position between them. It is a bit tricky to explain, so here is a quick gif of the three surfaces connected to the above “central” image.

Webp.net-gifmaker

Now you can only move the character when looking at an individual surface which acts like a normal platformer game. Generally these surface rooms are impossible to bypass on their own, resulting in you having to switch to a different surface and use the platforms/stage design there to move to a location that is advantageous or bypasses an obstacle on a different surface. This is key as you can’t switch to a surface when you would be in the middle of a wall or some other solid structure, which makes this a bit of a puzzle platformer.

It is a tricky thing to wrap one’s mind around at times. I don’t know how to explain this but often times no matter how one moves on one surface it will only affect their position on a different surface on a single axis. You can climb high in one surface, switch to other ones and often have that elevation maintained even if you ends up dropping lower on a different one. I’m sure it all makes sense and can eventually be internalized, but it initially is very complicated and as the later demo puzzles become trickier it can be a lot to keep straight.

I can’t get a full grasp on if this will work in a full game or if it is perhaps just too finicky/tricky to put into increasingly complex layouts without it just becoming too much, but while I’ve seen this type of “shadow-based” set-up in games before from time to time this perhaps goes all in on it harder than I’ve ever previously encountered. I can see it potentially collapsing under the weight of itself but I’m generally for games that commit that fully into some abstract idea.

5 Likes

Landlord of the Woods

Landlord of the Woods is a strange yet charming… I guess point & click adventure game? You play as a young adult fairly worn down by the repetitive hollow routine of their life until they receive an invitation to become the titular landlord of the woods. Seemingly with nothing more fulfilling to do they accept the offer and needless to say it is a rather unusual job.

As you meet with each of your new tenants to collect the rent (which naturally are bits of ephemera or what some would consider junk rather than any kind of currency) they each have a demand to be met before they do so, such as preparing them a meal or locating their missing internal organs. Again, it is all rather strange.

The game most closely resembles a point & click adventure game, albeit without a player avatar or much in the way of dialogue. Clicking on certain things changes the view to something more focused on said object, where often you will be tasked with solving some sort of basic physics puzzle to either gain a piece of the rent or some object used to satisfy the tenant’s requests. These are rarely all that challenging but fairly interesting in how off kilter their set-ups may be. It really is more about the journey than anything else.

Everything is suffused with this basically charming yet somewhat dark when thought about aesthetic. To use an early example to prepare a meal for some creature you may end up basically removing an undigested mouse from inside of a dead snake, which sounds gruesome but is presented in a way that… I hate to repeat myself but charming is the best word I have for it. I saw someone compare it presentation-wise to the Rusty Lake games and based on my limited exposure to them I can definitely see it.

At a bit over an hour long it certainly isn’t much of a test of one’s logic or abilities as I’m not sure a single puzzle raises to the level of even moderately difficult, but it is paced well to move you from tenant to tenant fairly quickly which allows you to take in the sights and moods at a good clip. Given what its goals are I think it is a clear success as I was very into it for as long as it lasted, from the initial set-up to the rather well delivered conclusion. For me it is a clear recommendation.

7 Likes

It is short free game week!

Elec Dude

Elec Dude is a simple game where you have to pick up every lightning bolt on a stage in order to pass it, and there is a lightning bolt on every single tile in every stage. The challenge comes from avoiding various enemies that move around the stage in regular patterns. As I said, it is very simple with only a pair of boss stages to mix things up even a little bit but as a 20 stage long game that takes about 20 minutes to complete it is a solidly executed take on the idea that held my attention for about that long. Would probably be a solid little speedrun game.

To a Starling

A game that has gotten a bit of attention due to being on the itch front page and a few write-ups, To a Starling is a Pico-8 almost precision puzzle platformer. Presenting roughly a chapter’s worth of single screen challenges you have to reach the exit of it is clearly still a pico-8 game but one that makes impressive use of what that is capable of. Comparisons with Celeste are unavoidable due to this but while it is unfair to compare with the eventual full release version it does compare favorably with the initial version of said game.

Rather than have a jump and a dash this has a jump and a teleport. At the press of a button you immediately teleport to a set green warp point with the key being that you maintain whatever direction and momentum you had at the time of the button press. Where it takes a turn is about halfway through where the (now red) warp points become maneuverable as they sort of rotate to be on the opposite end of a barely visible circle from you. While initially straightforward this quickly adds a more strategic/planning element to thing as you have to figure out where you eventually need the warp point to be and how to get opposite of said point. It doesn’t sound like much but in execution it is rather clever and satisfying to work with.

Over the half hour it lasts it adds in a good number of twists both familiar (keys, optional collectible fruit) and less so (warp points that drop after use and have to quickly be used again before they hit the ground and shatter) and is just rock solid. If this was the first stage of a full game I’d be hyped to see what else it has in store, hence I hope it follows in the footsteps of the aforementioned Celeste and grows into a more full-sized game. Even if that never happens this is still rather good and worth playing for those into games of its ilk.

Vigorus

Vigorus is a… rhythm battler? Like Crypt of the Necrodancer but… not?

The beat is always moving (thankfully shown on those 4 white lines on the bottom of the screen) with the enemies moving and attacking based on them. You have to move in one of the four directions, turn around (if you are facing left and an enemy is to your right you have to spend a beat/turn to turn and face them) and attack in time with the music while ideally avoiding taking damage and keeping your combo climbing higher, although the combo won’t break if you take a few beats to stand in place not getting hit.

Each area ends with a big boss battle with a first phase where you just have to avoid a ton of attacks coming your way, and a second phase where you have to dodge some more but also have some openings to attack. Unfortunately for the boss here the pattern was identical yet the boss took like 10ish hits to defeat which made it kinda rote after the 4th time through said pattern. There is also a system in place where when you kill an enemy it “angers” the nearby enemies which generally makes them attack quicker or otherwise change their behavior.

I only played through the first area of I believe three as while I respect the concept and dig the art style (that’s a swell looking boss IMO) it just didn’t do a ton for me in practice. It felt like you might have to tank some hits based on if certain enemies get angry and it was a bit more than I was willing to figure out. It also talks way too much between battles. That said I do think it is legit pretty clever and if one is more into games like this than I am it may be worth giving a shot.

Rainboy (demo)

Listen, I write these games up in the order I played them this week (it’s why I didn’t lead with To a Starling) and I hate to end on a disappointment yet… here we are. A colorful precision platformer that looks neater in motion (you can sorta see the leaves floating there, and those hanging vines sway as you pass them) is generally exactly what I’m prone to like but I struggled to wrap my brain around this.

You watch the video on the store page and everything moves quick and has a real momentum to it but in practice I honestly struggled. It feels like it runs a bit slow but mainly I’m not sure that I click with its central mechanical twist. You have a helper you can toss at those colorful circular things and if it touches them you fly at them in a straight line from the direction said pal hit them in. You fly at them fast and this is often used to basically put you into a sprint to allow you to make jumps that are otherwise too far for you to make, and that’s legit very neat! I like stuff like that a lot. The execution just feels rough (there is an animation delay that often makes it feel like it warps you back into place to do the dash) and it demands precision in ways games like this rarely do. Those mushrooms act like springs if you ground pound into them, yet if you don’t do it at the far end of them you often won’t bounce far enough. I eventually hit a room that I just couldn’t figure out and had to quit at which is very rare for me in this type of game.

I hate to be so negative as it’s a legit neat sounding game on paper. A precision platformer where there is a big focus on momentum is something different that could be very cool, and again you watch the store page vid and it looks so smooth and the visuals rather nice. If I could play it like said vid looked I might be in love, and it is possible I just have a particular mental block that prevents it that others might not have. If that ain’t the case though… a bit of a personally crushing what if.


Next week… well I looked at the upcoming annual massive charity bundle #3 game list and several games made my eyes light up, perhaps we’ll skip the randomness for a week and try one of them.

7 Likes

So gonna try something different this week: since there is an active one of these massive charity bundles on sale and I always worry about a theoretical person going “hey that bundle game sounds swell, wish I knew about it back when the bundle was on sale” I’m gonna try to play and write up a single bundle game that looks neat each day (open to recommendations BTW). Obviously I won’t be able to finish most of them so likely short write-ups, consider them quick looks.

Pig Eat Ball

Pig Eat Ball is a game made by Mommy’s Best Games, who made their name from Explosionade and various other Xbox Live Indie Games; I never played them but I know some who were fond of them. I don’t know what those games were like but this is… definitely something.

The goal in each quick stage (apparently a couple hundred of them) is to eat every ball in it. At least early on it seems impossible to actually lose half the stages with you instead being awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal based on your completion time, although that may just be the early game taking things easy on you. That screenshot makes it look like a Pac-Man knock-off (and the game describes itself as Pac-Man mixed with Super Mario Galaxy) but the actual stages are all over the place in terms of design in a good way, plus you have other central mechanics like dashing and… vomiting.

If you take damage or eat “rank” balls you can upset your stomach, and if you vomit you have to go regather the balls you spit up (which are kinda disgusting and can make you sick once more). Eating balls also causes you to grow in size and in order to get through some tight openings you might have to spit a few out in order to fit through, also since you “suck” constantly if not holding down a specific “don’t suck” button (which it is called and is a tremendous name) you might suck up things that get stuck in your mouth and need to be spit out. All of this takes up valuable time so while it sounds like a cheap gross-out addition it actually adds a lot mechanically.

The overworld is a bit of a maze full of its own secrets, opening up more as you complete sets of stages. At the least it adds a bit more personality to things and even early on it seems like it’ll add more than just that. Really the whole game feels like it is bursting with ideas and isn’t concerned if all of them work or are perfectly balanced, you’ll be on to something else in a minute anyways. This isn’t to suggest they are bad, so far they’ve been fun and fine, just that it has a definite energy and exuberance to it that I am a big fan of.

Aesthetically I kinda love the character designs. They are all fairly detailed pixel oddballs and that is one of my favorite things. I remember from seeing it years ago that it has some top tier boss designs that I didn’t get to, so let me grab a few screens from its store page.

So I’m digging this a good deal. Even only maybe halfway through the first world I really want to see what else it has up its sleeve to throw at me and am gonna continue playing this after this week. Maybe it’ll run out of steam or ideas and start to repeat itself too much but it makes a strong first impression and I’m down to take this ride.

7 Likes

Cloud Gardens

Cloud Gardens is pretty much a chill puzzle/sandbox game. It is split into two main sections: a campaign where you need to cover enough of the given structures with plants to move on to the next one, and a sandbox mode where you can build your own layouts to then want to grow plants across. It is worth noting that progress in the first mode unlocks options in the second and that the campaign is apparently rather long (based on Steam times I’d eyeball it at a dozen or so hours).

The flow of the game is that you are given a seed or two of a given sort (some sprawl as long as there is stuff nearby, some are better at hanging, some are tree-like, etc.) that you place where you want, and then are given various objects/junk to place around the scene. Generally clutter near the seeds make the plants grow better (at least early on) which causes them to bloom, allowing you a chance to harvest them and gain more seeds to better cover things with greenery. That’s pretty much all there is to it so far so while it is something to solve it more feels like something to relax with a bit.

This is where the flaw comes in as… sometimes what you lay out just isn’t ever gonna cover enough of the stage to pass it. It can feel a bit arbitrary at times at least early on, plus due to the mechanics it feels like no matter what you are gonna create something fairly cluttered which is mechanically fine but a bit at odds with the more open sandbox feel it can put off.

(That one’s from the store page, it seemingly gets a lot larger in scale.)

Still even with that I do find some joy in watching the plants gradually overtake these abandoned structures. It approaches being meditative, before I start to worry about if it is gonna be successful enough. I can’t see being dedicated to it and playing for an hour-plus multiple days in a row to get through the campaign but as something to pull out and mess around with for a bit… I think it’d be nice.

8 Likes