Updated: Dec 27, 2020
Summer Game Festival [RAGINRAMEN EDITION]
HIGHLIGHTS PART 1
Arietta of Spirits
A charming adventure RPG that works as a prologue of what's to come in the final game. We start with Arietta on a family vacation.
There is apple pie involved, giant bees and some sad emotions brought up of grandma.
Within half an hour you end up absorbing a lot of information, both about your family and also about the spirit realm. It's not overwhelming, but it does slow the pacing down a little. The characters are likeable, but what is more intriguing is the lore. Despite being told through dialogue plenty of what it means to be Bound and of these despicable Roamers, there is still a feeling that I have much more to learn about the Spirit Realm.
As for gameplay, it is pretty standard so far. Combat is limited to a single slash and roll, no pickups except for health and navigating the world feels somewhat linear. I've read comments from the Dev that this will indeed be expanded on in the final game, especially combat. This makes me hopeful as what is keeping my interest is the story and music, but it will need more than that upon release.
Batbarian: Testament of the Primordials
Developer: Unspeakable Pixels
Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment
Very nearly landed itself on my Top 20 list, had an incredible amount of fun and laughs. What drives most people, including me, to stoke the flames of high praise is the humour and writing. There is a certain wit to the dialogue that reminds me of old D&D campaigns that bring charm to the characters. The journal entries are especially well penned.
All the tropes of playing a barbarian are here, from the hatred towards wizards to the appreciation for food allegories.
I look forward to what other companions you will meet along the way, and who the strange (evil?) shadowy figure is? And will you get out of this cave? Many questions and I think that only shows how much the world has drawn me in. The dialogue choices are a brilliant touch. To me, it doesn't look like the answers mean too much and are more of a subtle way to involve and immerse the player more, although the steam page does say there are several endings... Which will be interesting.
Only two complaints come to mind, and they are minor ones. The sound fx for the dialogue needs to have an option to lower it or be taken out/replaced entirely, it feels jarring and doesn't work. Secondly, although it didn't affect me at all, I've noticed many complain about the jump mechanics and that they need to be adjusted to be more forgiving. There are several tales of woe, of players bumping their heads on ceilings when trying to reach other platforms.
Let's end on a good note... the music... absolute brilliance. Put that on Bandcamp, Spotify or something, we need more of it!
Developer: Guanpeng Chen
Publisher: Guanpeng Chen
Release: July 2020
Ah, dystopian futures. They're always so bleak and authoritarian. It's always one thing that goes wrong, then the powers in charge overcompensate.
Immediately upon starting my daily routine, I am hit with a sense of familiarity. We have a menial job, rules that we must follow for the good of the nation and suspicious characters that pop in occasionally. It did not take long for me to get very involved with the characters and world around me, much for the same reasons I did for Papers, Please.
There's an allure to game mechanics that force you to weigh your moral compass against your personal well being.
Just like Papers, Please, you begin with a simple job. You don't know the reasons behind your choices, and you don't much care. Then it gets strange, and conversations with other characters start to make you question things... By the end of it, you will be wearing a tinfoil hat, eyes darting and no one can be trusted.
Before we start reaching for that foil, the game is pretty simple. It has a lot of extra characteristics to the gameplay; you can give a personal touch to your bedroom, keep your sanity with a book and order food. It's perfectly fine to eat from the fridge, but I was drawn to order every time as it gave me a chance to talk to someone, to have human interaction. It immerses you in this feeling of being alone up in the booth.
The only reason this isn't in my Top 20 is that when dealing with a narrative like this, it can go extremely well, or fall short of the mark. It's hard to gauge which way it will go. The demo is fantastic, and I hope the full game delivers on the finale.
Cyanide and Happiness: Freakpocalypse
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Release: Summer 2020
On: PC, Mac, Linux, SWITCH
We've read the books right? I would think so. There should be no surprises at the dark sense of humour that is abundant throughout the narrative, and I love it.
Making this into a point and click game is a perfect choice. It takes advantage of all the tropes we accustom to the genre, exploration, adventure and most importantly, the opportunity for humourous jokes and snide remarks.
I think every one of us did a double-take upon entering a room with a gimp.
It was at this moment we all knew what we were playing and decided we are in for the whole ride.
It wasn't even the worst joke that had me equal parts laughing and questioning if they can do that.
With humour like this, it is hard not to see so many compare it to South Park. It's the kind that comes out of left and slaps you in the face, some won't like it, a few may even hate it, but there is a reason why South Park is still popular... the majority like it.
However, the demo runtime is approximately 15-20minutes, which isn't bad, but it didn't leave a lot to judge the game on. It definitely has lots of potential, and I WILL be checking it out on release.
Final point... The voice acting is incredible, hits those comedy beats just right.
Developer: Afterburner Studios
Publisher: Maple Whispering
Release: August 2020
On: PC, SWITCH
I'll be honest this IndieGame probably deserves to be on my Top 20, it was a hard decision to drop it into my highlights instead.
The majority of the demo takes place in a dream world, hence the name, where you battle surreal nightmares and bosses that embody Isolation, Fear, Negativity and Loss. Our hero Cassidy seems to be at odds with her subconscious, and this is the main driver of the narrative. The roguelike fights are not the only solution to battling your depression a big portion of the narrative takes place in the real world. You meet the residents of this quiet little town, craft gifts and have intimate conversations. They only touch upon this in the demo, but it shows the potential of what is to come.
Let's talk about the roguelike elements of Dreamscaper. In a crowded genre with many studios creating their adventures and narratives around the mechanics of clearing rooms, procedural item drops and progressive equipment that give you unique skills. How does someone stand out from that crowd? We've already talked about the narrative, that is certainly one way, but within Dreamscaper, we have brilliantly designed boss fights. Roguelikes can get quite creative with boss fights, where most will be a variety of huge enemies that send bullet hell style attacks at you, very few have a boss fight that feels cinematic and makes you strategise.
What Dreamscaper does right, however; smooth combat, powerful-looking skills and incredibly creative boss battles.
Pair that with the marvellous artwork and lighting, you are onto a winner. Can't wait for the full game to find out how the other boss fights play out, dig deeper into Cassidy's subconscious and get to know all the local residents of her town.
What I have here is only a portion of the IndieGames I played during the Steam Summer Festival. To see the full list of demos and to read more reviews, go check out my featured article down below.