I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard as I did when Journey showed up.
Or “I’m not going to pretend to know what all that was about”.
Kyoto must be the most beautiful game I have ever played. All the graphic and sound design was done so expertly one would have a really hard time thinking about how to make it better. From start to finish, every frame is imbued with just the right amount of light and darkness. Kudos and thanks to Illogic Tree for prividing us with such an experience!
You see, Kyoto is not your usual point-and-click. There is no room to escape from, neither a great mistery to push you forward. All you have is the moon, a small patch of land with some grass and a tree sprout, and a sea, seamlessly blending with the sky. For that is all it needs to keep you entranced.
Now, I could go on with a lenghty explanation of how this game represents this or that, or delve deep on what I perceive to be the creator’s original intention but… not today, not this time. Instead, I am going to tell you about my personal experience with it. (warning, NO spoilers ahead!)
Kyoto gave me time. Time to think, time to feel and time to rest. It allowed me to immerse myself without making me feel obligated to finish it. Or maybe I should say it gave me some “me time”. I guess that is why so many call it a “zen game”. Honestly, a game doesn’t have to be zen to make you think. All it needs is a bit of… intensity. And oh boy, this game has it! A long-lasting intensity, to which you almost grow accostumed by the end of the game.
Regarding controls, it works in a very intuitive way. Just poke around with the mouse: click, drag, drop and wiggle the pointer to see how everything interacts with it. The game
(oh no, I’ve lost the game!) is a really good example of how much of a difference all the little things, all the tweening makes on the end result and feel of a game.
Oh, and did I mention it is free?
Review: Soul Jar
Not just “another” entry for the 24th Ludum Dare, Soul Jar is a charming adventure by farmergnome, following a recently crashed robot and a rather friendly (player controlled) human. The latter’s behaviour is imitated by the former, making for several interesting situations that include cooperation, sacrifice and even what some may perceive as “backstabbing”, all of those entirely dependant on the actions the player takes.
Gameplay is further deepened by the presence of external threats. Hostile dogs and the often sandstorms target and damage you from the start, so taking cover and protecting yourself is important. That protection can be later augmented if you carry the robot around a lot, resulting in it raising a shield around both of you.
As to the controls, unfortunately they are a bit clunky. Nothing that prevents you from enjoying the game, but sometimes it takes more than just one key press for the game to register your intentions.
All in all, a really enjoyable experience. All the best of luck for farmergnome’s future projects!
…And did I mention it is free?
Review: Where am I?
A long corridor
Made for the 24th installment of the Ludum Dare competition by the same mind that brought us Slender, Where am I? is another take the terror genre, making for a good scare. As of the beginning of the game, players are left inside a maze-like place (with lots of shades of grey. Possibly more than 50) which they traverse, and as they press forward, the game’s visuals and sounds change and a certain effect (which I already discussed here) intensifies.
Short and straightforward as it is, there is nothing much to say about the game. Nevertheless, it is a nice experience, and a great example of how to build up suspense with barely any visual and auditory aid.
Review: Crayon Physics Deluxe
A most relaxing adventure, filled throughout with soothing music and child-like illustrations in crayon, all making up for an incredibly amusing gaming experince. Crayon Physics Deluxe presents solid handling of physics and incredibly creative puzzles, which always involve moving a ball so it meets a star. Every single one of these have more than one possible solution available, so that the players do not feel constrained or frustrated (which can happen in puzzle games, when they are forced to “read the developer’s mind” while trying to find an answer to a puzzle).
Level select screen
Players are also rewarded for creating different solutions for the same puzzle, so as to get flags for “elegant solutions”, where you can only draw one object, “old school solutions”, where you cannot give the ball any extra pushes, and “awesome solutions”, which are the most surprising of those three, because the players can mark their own solutions as awesome at any time, without any restrictions, and thus get the reward. Therefore, it is up to the player’s honesty to decide whether their solution deserves an awesome rating, which, in my experience, makes them push themselves much harder so that they feel they really earned that rating.
I can mark it as awesome myself
The game has vast amounts of puzzles, and they can get quite difficult after a while. But that is nothing unexperienced players should fear, because Crayon Physics Deluxe has a lovely and very smooth difficulty ramp. By the time they reach the harder puzzles, they must hav ehad plenty of training. At the same time, while solving previous puzzles unlocks the following puzzles, one is not required to solve them all to progress. Alternative “paths” can always be taken, so one single obstacle that cannot be beaten should not ruin the experience. Just choose another route and carry on!
Not the awesomest, but I’m proud of it
And lastly, it also features a very intuitive level editor, and levels designed by other players can be downloaded on the Playground. Snazzy and neverending content! Go play it!
Review: The Balance
The Balance is a game made as an entry for the 24th Ludum Dare competition, setting the player to act as an agent who determines the evolution of a planet by killing some of the creatures that initially inhabit it. Those creatures are either nice ones or evil ones, and the game starts with an equal number of them.
Whenever the player kill creatures, their world pulls back and is slightly overrun by the other one. Kill enough creatures from one side, and you quickly find that they barely have any space left to stay at. Oddly, it would appear the game always counts 1 kill for each side as of the start of the game, which would explain why I am unable to get a 0 kill score, no matter how hard I try.
The visuals are gorgeous, and I quickly found myself doing swirls and drawing waves with the trail the character leaves as it traverses the world. Much to the likeness of the graphics, the music is also beautiful, and they both go together splendidly. It reminded me of Bastion’s soundtrack, and those who read the review I did for it already know how moved I felt when listening to this game.
This is a highly recommended game, albeit one with no challenge, it is one to be enjoyed with the eyes, ears and perhaps with your sense of good and evil. You know, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
I’ll be over there drawing more stuff with my paint trail.
Double Review: All Of Our Friends Are Dead & Au Sable
All Of Our Friends Are Dead
With scarce and very subjective pieces of backstory and creeppy visuals, All Of Our Friends Are Dead and its spiritual sequel, Au Sable, are a couple of platform, run n’ gun games by Amon26 that will leave a player immersed into its rather curious and highly hostile world, regardless of understanding of the story elements or lack thereof. Both games present a heavy - and sometimes almost oppressive - athmosphere through the proper use of sound effects, background music and nightmarish graphics, making for a couple of games more than worthy enough of playing.
Controls are tight, but a little hard to master. In that matter, both resemble classic MS-DOS arcade platformer Abuse, which used the arrow keys for movement and the mouse for aiming and firing. Both games are short, and can be beaten in a few hours, and both present a handy saving and loading mechanism, which, when properly used, can prevent a great deal of frustration when dealing with the harder bits of the games.
Other than fear of induced nightmares, there are no reasons not to give this couple of freeware titles a run. Enjoy!
By Santa Ragione, FOTONICA is an extremely zen/ambient, one-button game about running, jumping, breaking free and simply reaching new heights (or maybe “reaching new distances”?). Set in a world where everything looks made of wireframe, including the player, and the only things that matter are timing and enjoying the landscape as you quickly run over it.
Several small touches make up for a great experience, from the small breath intake right at the moment you jump, to the ambient sounds, to even the almost lack of any sounds when you enter Gold Mode (that activates whenever you cover a certain distance while at top speed). Everything is extremely well-polished, and the graphics are really beautiful and consistent. Gameplay is tight and controls are incredibly “customizable” (hold any button down to run, release to jump, hold in mid-air to descent quickly), but the game can get quite hard at higher difficulties, with some jumps requiring near-to-perfect timing. It also features an endless level that is generated procedurally.
The game makes for a great past-time and a good way to release stress and just forget about the world for a while. Play it with headphones for extra immersion!