Causality Review – Bend Time in this Captivating Puzzle Game

Causality is one of those rare games that is so tight and clean, so well executed that even if it’s not exactly your thing, you have to recognize a level of excellence in it’s construct. Simple, beautiful, unique, and challenging as hell, this is a must-have for puzzle game champions.

Causality, a fresh puzzle game by London based game company Loju challenges players to guide several astronauts through simple mazes to color coded exits. Players will quickly discover the complexity of Causality as they are forced to navigate space AND time, rewinding and fast forwarding the timeline in order to time all their paths correctly. The cosmic explorers themselves can travel back and forth through time, helping their past and future selves, making for a tight, complicated, puzzle game.

Causality is not the first puzzle game to use time mechanics. Jonathan Blow’s “Braid” used similar elements. Causality is unique however in that the player is asked to manage several units and move them all to an exit rather than a single protagonist. If one unit moves into a time warp the others will continue on their first timeline, unaffected by the time shift, makes for interesting possibilities and path combinations.

I got this game relatively recently and found it to be harder than I anticipated. I’m not necessarily a champion at puzzles, but I’ve defeated my share of tricky games. I played through the first 4 Myst games (well, up to the end of 4) back in the day and have found a handle full of newer puzzle games like INSIDE, the Portal series, and Laura Croft GO to be exceptionally compelling. Causality,is simple, but becomes rapidly difficult. By the time you’ve overcome the challenges that face you in the first world the levels seem to grow exponentially difficult. There is some variance in difficulty, and since you always have at least 2 level options it is possible to skip levels that give you a special kind of torture. Sometimes I’ve had to skip levels entirely, but then found I could beat the next one without too much trouble.

The best thing this game has going for it by far is the time teleporter mechanic. Though it is always fun moving the timeline forward and backward at will, things really get interesting when you can move a character forward in time (causing him to appear already walking as soon as his past self has a path that will eventually lead him there.), or jump them backwards in time, giving you more “turns” to solve the puzzle. Future and past characters can get in the way, or aid each other as they can activate switches and remove obstacles. Be careful not to induce paradoxes in space and time on your travelers though! Getting an astronaut stuck in a time loop will prevent you from finishing the level! That along with a smattering of other dangers and obstacles make the best levels!

Because the game is so dense, levels can be headache inducing. Part of the charm of Causality though is it’s simple and clean presentation. There is no story, no reason for your missions, not even an intro video. But that’s OK. Sometimes games can try too hard to make themselves more complicated when the part of the game that’s fun is just the actual game itself. (Or in this case fun and often brain-smashingly hard). I only have two criticisms of the game in it’s current state:

1. The game does not take advantage of it’s most fun element enough (the time-teleporters, some levels don’t have them at all).

2. The game has only four areas which are not terribly large, but very hard. I would have liked to see the difficulty curve not spike so fast, but then again, I do appreciate that Loju stuck with what makes their puzzles stand out; which is complicated, nuanced levels that implement time-travel.

Causality is available on Android and IOS for $2. Honestly with the level of excellence that Loju has brought to us It should probably be more expensive, so for 2 bucks? totally worth it! I am yet to have beaten it, but plan on at least trying to finish all the main puzzles, which if I put some time into it, I’m sure I can do. If you have any thoughts about the difficulty or other elements of Causality, please leave a comment below, and as always…

Happy Gaming Friends!

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Pinout Review

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Ever since pinball games began to fill arcades they’ve become a staple of the genre. Since the trend towards digital over physical arcade games has accelerated recently, tons of pinball style games have come out for PC, mobile, and even been featured in console games. From the classic 3D Pinball (space cadet) for Windows 95, to the Pinball-like mini game in Final Fantasy XV (Justice Monsters 5), Pinball games are everywhere. A quick visit to any App store will reveal dozens of Pinball games to choose from, but Pinout is the only one that has ever stayed on my iPhone/iPad for more than a few days. Here’s what makes this Pinball adaptation stand head and shoulders above its competition.

Simple, Elegant Design 

The style of Pinout, Mediocre’s newest title, is a clean, crisp series of ramps and tracks dipped in a thick coat of 80’s neon. The level design is reminiscent of arcade-style pinball cabinets but is stripped down to only the essentials. Familiar elements such as ramps, bonus points, mini-games, and high score are all present, but without the usual busyness of 1000 flashing lights, and sounds. The combination of simple design with a heavy dose of style is perfect. It’s just so damn, cool. This simple design not only adds to its aesthetic value but also makes it feel really natural to play on a phone sized screen.

Adapted for Mobile

Though the visual design of Pinout is stunning, the most interesting and innovative change made to original pinball games is its progressive level design. Instead of well-aimed shots gaining the player points on a static arcade table, a successful shot scrolls the board up to new paddles and tracks to use. This is a natural adaptation for mobile and feels awesome! It keeps the feeling of traditional pinball machines with an added feeling of motion and progression. The player is battling the clock to get to the end of each area with the most extra time left as possible. Players who end each level with a low time left will have the opportunity to replay that level in order to bring more bonus time into the next level. Finishing one of the harder levels with only 10 seconds to spare will inevitably mean doom, as finding enough bonus time-points to sustain a whole level starting with non is almost impossible. The need to bank time as a sort of currency gives the game a feeling of linear progression, in what could otherwise be a series of scattered and unconnected levels.

Amazing Soundtrack

From the moment I saw the trailer I knew I would love the style and feeling of Pinout, but I wasn’t expecting the soundtrack to be such a strong addition to the overall value of the game. for an arcade game Pinout has an unusually striking soundtrack. Each level has it’s own song dedicated to it. As the player battles their way through the maze of ramps they are simultaneous journeying through the album. The game trailer doesn’t feature any vocals, but several stages layer mesmerizing vocals over the hypnotic, electronic beats, deepening Pinout’s winning style. The soundtrack is by Douglas Holmquist, who is joined by by Susanna Lundgren for the vocal tracks. Douglas Holmquist has done OSTs for other games such as, Smash Hit, Beyondium, and Does Not Commute. Pinout’s OST is available on SpotifyBandCampGoogle Play, and iTunes.

Pinout itself is technically free, but won’t save your progress unless you pay for it, so essentially the free version is just a demo. To really enjoy Pinout as it is meant to be played you will need to buy the premium version, which is $3. Not a bad price at all for the quality of the game.

What I’d like to see changed

Pinout is a win in my book, two thumbs up, a “Must Buy” for arcade lovers. My only reservation about Pinout is that it is a little too short. I felt like the game was building to a more dramatic and energy infused game ending, but as I thought I would be approaching what might be new game elements or some kind of dramatic end-game sequence, the levels were all gone, and a new endless mode was unlocked. The Endless mode is actually pretty cool, and introduces more randomness into the gaming experience than the main game did, but I wanted more handcrafted levels, with new themes and  new game elements. Pinout did some really cool stuff with doors and buttons near the end, but didn’t explore these options as long as I wish they did. If the developers would release more levels with a new song for each level that would really make Pinout a home-run. I would even pay another dollar or so for another 5 stages. It feels like they have something really unique and amazing here, and I would love to see that expanded on and explored more. However, the short time I had with it I enjoyed immensely, and I still recommend it as a game purchase.

Pinout is available on IOS and Android, and is a great mobile game to kill time when waiting in lines but is equally fun to play on the couch with a beer on Saturday night.  With good mobile games being hard to come by, Pinout is a creative and well made gaming experience, with a level of design and style I hope to see in more titles in the future. Let the chillwave, 80’s trance vibes flow over you as you gaze into a maze of neon! What’s your best end game score?

If you have thoughts about Pinout, feel free to leave them in the comments section, and as always…

Happy Gaming Friends!

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Enter the Gungeon’s Supply Drop Update is Here!!!

Finally, it’s here! If your summer was anything like mine you played a lot of hours of the unique and addicting roguelike Enter the Gungeon! If the 180+ guns were not enough for you (or you just understand that all good roguelike’s need tons of loot), fear not! The Supply Drop Update is live today, and TOTALLY FREE for current Gungeoneers! Don’t own the game yet? No worries, Get it now on Steam HALF OFF until January 30th!

The new update includes:

  • 33 New guns and items
  • Nearly 200 new rooms
  • 7 New enemy types, including Keybullet Kin
  • New third floor boss, the Mine Flayer
  • Pasts and alternate costumes for both secret characters
  • Save and Quit at the end of each floor
  • A new NPC, Challenge Mode, shrines, a new companion, and more!
  • Numerous bug fixes, item balancing, and quality of life improvements

I know what I’ll be doing this weekend! Happy Gaming Friends!

 

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Fight Aliens, Save Humans, and become…The Bug Butcher!

Looking for a great, original space action shooter available on PC, Consoles, and IOS? Well then my plasma pistol wielding, astro-exterminator friend, it’s time to rise to the occasion, and become… The Bug Butcher!

Your chunky space transport slowly touches down on a wintry planet, you know this will be just another day at the office. Maybe a science research project had gone horribly wrong, maybe someone touched a glowing meteor, or maybe it’s was just a really bad alien moth problem… but no matter what, the cold metal of the plasma pistol in your hand will soon be glowing hot with the hazy blue inferno of battle! Someone has called you; Someone has called The Bug Butcher, and that means that you were their final hope, their only chance… you won’t let them down!

The Bug Butcher is a whacky vertical shooter by Awfully Nice Studios and published by Noodle Cake Studios

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Setting: Humorous space cartoon action! 

The setting is not essential to the gameplay or story, as the game is an arcade shooter at heart. Nevertheless, the backgrounds and visual elements are compelling and creative additions to the world of The Bug Butcher. The player progresses through various levels of a remote outpost, seeking to exterminate the alien vermin that are attacking. All the enemies, weapons, and levels possess a certain cartoon/sci-fi element, reminiscent of a “spaceman spiff” sort of vibe. Each new area of the outpost has different environmental elements and new enemy types that require specific strategies and attack patterns to conquer!


As could be expected from an arcade shooter, there is no real storyline progression but the story isn’t really crucial to the game, since it really is just a reason to shoot alien bugs with energy weapons. Then again, who really needs much of a reason to shoot aliens? Cause you know… some aliens are just dicks. The game has a satisfying amount of new environments and levels without being distracting or reducing the focus on gameplay. The game is half a zany cartoon and half shoot-em-up. This combination is a perfect balance of both and makes for a simple, compelling, and at times humorous adventure. It’s well worth checking out.

Gameplay: Classic 2-button vertical shooter + gravity.

The Bug Butcher has humorous dialogue scenes and awesome cartoon graphics, but at its core, it’s a high score chasing, combo building, bullet blazing arcade game! The game mechanics are simple; the hero can walk or sprint back and forth, but can only shoot up, while enemies have a tendency to bounce, fly, or fall down, attacking from above. Some enemies split, some follow paths, and some can’t be slowed by bullets, causing various combinations and patterns to form, which are unique to each level. This creates a sense of fluidity and keeps the player learning and forces them to get better.


The game does feature an in-game currency which is used to buy new weapons, upgrades, and perks. Progressing through new enemy types unlocks new weapons which help with the increasing difficulty of the levels. Rockets, lasers, Gatling guns, and even a “lightning gun” are all at your disposal when facing the galactic hoards. Also for your use are speed boots, invincibility, ice bombs, and homing missile packs to level the playing field when backed up against a wall (or the floor!).

Difficulty: challenging but attainable. 

If you’re into climbing the high score chart and achieving 100% on every level this is a good game for you. Building combos without getting damaged will build your score multiplier, which you will have to rack up pretty high to achieve 3 stars on each stage. Every level is a multi-faceted challenge. If the alien insects don’t kill you, every level has a timer that exterminates everything in the chamber when it hits zero (including you!). The player must balance speed, attack, and defense to master all 5 floors of the complex.


One complaint personally is that the game is not terribly long. It is highly repayable, especially for those who did not get 3 stars on the first go at each level. There are 5 floors, with 6 levels each, the last of which is always a boss fight. with only 30 levels, each of which have  timer that is less often less than 5 min, presumably a skilled player could finish the game in around 2 and a half hours. This is my only complaint.

If the game is too easy or too hard, you can switch to any of 3 levels of difficulty at any time. Conquered all levels at 100% on normal? Seek those golden medals of mastery on hard mode for a real challenge! Don’t like fighting alone? If you’re playing on PC you can battle against friends too! Unfortunately the current IOS version of the game does not have a multiplayer mode, but hopefully they will add this in an update.


The Bug Butcher is available on Steam for $8, and  IOS/Android, for $4. The game is not super long but, still well worth the price. If you love arcade shooters, I recommend you check this one out. I’ve really enjoyed my time playing it and will keep it around on my phone for when I need to kill some time (and consequently, some galactic vermin!)

Final Score: 8.5/10

Happy Gaming Space Friends!

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Bro Force! Our Full Review

Freedom has never seen so many explosions and iconic heroes!

Whether you are feeling particularly patriotic this election year or completely cynical about the USA, Broforce has some freedom for everyone! Broforce celebrates the many iconic heroes of classic American action films, while also poking a bit of fun at neo-Conservative military policies around the world.

The ultra patriotic game is developed by indie studio Free Lives and Published by Devolver Digital, and like essentially everything Devolver publishes, this game is great! As a lover of action arcade games, I personally really enjoyed Broforce’s use of chaotic explosions and punchy fast-paced action. The massive array of movie based characters will ring particularly true with those of us that grew up watching Tom Clancy movies and 80’s/90’s classics like Indiana Jones, Terminator, and Rambo (IGN’s full satirical character list here). Broforce is simultaneously a celebration of cinema while a critique of politics.

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Setting: 3rd World Nations Void of Innocents. The world of Broforce is essentially a satirical take on the USA’s historical treatment of 3rd world countries. Of course, the game starts off in Vietnam with the super-archetype Rambo (Rambro in Broforce) taking on terror and bringing a full clip of freedom.  After that, the game progresses through a series of levels in different environments with various dangers and bosses gradually increasing in difficulty I think the best addition to Broforce was the addition of otherworldly levels. After taking on the Anti-American masses of earth our heroes are called upon to deal with an apparent alien invasion. This comes with playable character variations of Ripley and Predator.  The Broforce will battle through the heart of the hive, roasting xenomorphs and face-huggers till they reach the giant alien boss!

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The hive is not the final challenge. If incinerating giant aliens with Chuck Norris and RoboCop wasn’t dramatic enough, the final stages bring our heroes literally through Hell! Terrorism is the Devil’s work, and that tricky bastard has to be dealt with, AMERICA STYLE!

Gameplay: 3-Button, arcade pandemonium. In regard to controls, Broforce is reminiscent of classic 3-button arcade games, with a fire, melee, and special attack for all characters. Though some characters do have unique abilities, they are all controlled with 3 buttons, which makes fighting simple and easy to learn. Everything in the  environment can be destroyed which allows for some strategy in how the player takes down enemies, though if not cautious, this can lead to mayhem quickly as huge craters and crumbling buildings make a dangerous battlefield for both hero and villain.

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Personally one of my favorite parts of battling through Broforce was how many new characters there are to unlock along the way. The gameplay reminds me a bit of Super Crate Box  since every life acquired (or lost) immediately switches the player to a new character. The player is constantly gaining and losing lives, the whole time cycling randomly through a large catalog of action heroes.  I do wish there was some way to gain shields, armor, heal, and gain strength as you progress… Broforce simply is not that sort of game. It is likely that the player will die often and randomly in huge explosions, flying buzz blades, falling buildings, flaming fuel tanks, and hails of stray bullets…which brings us to our next section…

Difficulty: A Bit Crazy, at Times, Random. Broforce can be insane! The randomness of Broforce makes the combat fast-paced and exciting, but it can also be what makes the game difficult. Some weapons can sometimes be more dangerous to the player than the enemies, and since you can’t pick the character you are using it can be a bit frustrating. OP weapons combined with the ability to destroy ALL the ground under you at any time can make YOU your worst enemy (especially in co-op games with several heroes destroying everything!) If you can embrace the randomness and chaos, though, Broforce is a great rush of ultra-patriotic adrenaline!

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The Bosses in the game are equally exaggerated as the heroes and are a load of fun to take on. These deadly encounters often turn the heat up to 11 and blast everything they can; often taking a bit more planning to take out than the generic terrorist goons. The game’s most notable increase in difficulty comes with the arrival of the Alien and Demon bosses, which ramp up to an epic final boss battle with a super satisfying final boss take-down!

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If you like arcade action pixel games then Broforce should be on your Christmas list this year. It’s available on Steam and PS4 for 15 good ol’ US dollars! For the amount of FREEDOM packed into this US fueled hell-storm it’s well worth the price!

Now get out there and liberate some terrorist filled nations! FOR DEMOCRACY!

Happy Gaming Friends!

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Enter the Gungeon! Why it’s worth dying 100 times!

Enter the Gungeon: Our Full Review

With the massive surge of rouge-like games flooding Steam, it might be hard to find the best ones. But fear no more! It has officially been confirmed, Enter the Gungeon is what you’ve been waiting for!

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Enter the Gungeon is an arcade style, rouge-like, dungeon crawling game available for PC and PS4. It’s developed by Dodge Roll Games and is published by Devolver Digital. Like  practically everything that Devolver publishes, this game is AWESOME!  I’ve been playing EtG almost constantly since I bought It this summer, and after 60+ hours of dungeon-crawling, dodge-rolling action I still have a fat stack of items and guns to unlock! The game is hugely fun solo and even better co-op. One of the great appeals of this title is the sheer number of unlockables available to the player. With 180+ guns and 150+ items to discover and wield, each delve continues to be interesting and new.

As per my usual review style, I find it helpful to break my experience down into three categories; setting, gameplay, and difficulty. Though there are certain elements that are consistent in all good games, some games are awesome due to their adept use of dialogue and storytelling (such as Kentucky Route Zero and Bastion), while others excel at having intrinsically fun gameplay mechanics. Enter the Gungeon has a bit of everything + more gun puns than you thought existed!

Setting: dungeon crawling as you have never seen before!

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The setting of EtG is especially interesting because it is both familiar and new. The game takes the familiar idea of  the procedurally generated dungeon and adds guns to EVERYTHING! Almost all the loot that your character will find in each delve adds guns, ammo types,  mags, bombs, etc… to your arsenal. The combination has perfect synergy. With a gun-themed dungeon, there are hilarious gun puns at ever turn. Even the enemies you fight are mostly bullets and guns that have been re-animated by the mysterious powers of the Gungeon! You can use “bullet time” and “Shotgun Coffee” to get the upper hand in tense situations. Or try using “Gundromona Strain” with the “Ring of Triggers” for a heavy damage tactical advantage! The Gungeoneer’s weapon choices are equally punny and awesome! Wield “Makarov (The People’s Gun!) or the “Budget Revolver” for affordable options. For Supreme firepower pick up the “Machine Fist” or the “Shotgun Full of Hate!” + Tons of iconic guns like “Void Marshal” (Han Solo), “Heroine” (Samus Aron), “Mine Cutter” (Dead Space), and “Deck4rd” (Blade Runner). 

Each character has a reason that they are in the Gungeon looking for the ultimate loot, the gun that can KILL THE PAST! This is awesome because it’s kinda a quirky idea, but also because everyone in real life has something that they would go back in time and change. It is a noble goal, but do you have what it takes to conquer the Gungeon?

Gameplay: Shoot and dodge with 180 + guns

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As is true with many roguelikes, EtG has loot, loot, and more loot! Most of which has to be purchased before it’s added to the pool of randomly available treasure on each individual delve. It’s a ton of fun to collect more wild and crazy weapons and items the longer you play. This awesome element of looting and shopping combined with the actual gameplay of fighting enemies is near perfect. The gameplay is basically just a matter of timing dodge-rolls under patterns of bullets while mastering each random weapon you’ve picked up on the current delve. Since this is a bullet-hell game dodging can be the hardest thing to nail down on your way to Gungeon mastery, especially when it’s boss killin’ time!

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Of course, these are just the basic mechanics and each delve will evolve its own strategies and challenges as  you pick up unique items and weapons. Arguably this is the best thing about roguelikes; each run changes and evolves as you play it.

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Difficulty: After Lvl 1 all bets are off…

EtG certainly has a learning curve. I’m not going to say it’s as hard as some other “hardcore games” that punish players brutally for every mistake, (like Darkest Dungeon) but as you descend to deeper and deeper levels the game will ramp up difficulty sharply. Cleaning floor 1 for me personally is a cake walk after 60+ hours game experience, but after walking onto floor 2 things can go incredibly well or start to take a turn for the worst. Since so many elements of each dungeon are randomly generated rooms, they can be super easy or throw 4 waves of enemies at the player as early as the first room of a delve. I would not say that the game is RNG heavy, though there are a lot of random variables. Though there is a lot to learn with gunplay, the really important skill for Gungeon survival is learning to dodge and maneuver so you don’t take damage. Because of the insane spray of bullets that often build up deep into floor 3 and on, this can become quite difficult.

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Some gamers have questioned if the game is too hard. I suppose this is a matter of opinion.  Even though I personally have never beaten the last boss nor assembled all 4 pieces of the bullet for the gun that will kill the past, I’m not dissuaded from playing the game still. I feel confident that with practice and persistence I’ll reach much further goals in my future Gungeon crawls, + have a ton of fun!

Enter the Gungeon is an incredibly fun game, playable single player or co-op with 1 friend. Both modes are incredibly entertaining and well crafted. With hundreds of guns and items to find + challenges, achievements, bosses, NPCs, secrets, and hidden items, EtG will keep players entertained well into this winter. And for those who have been playing for a while, sometime this fall EtG is getting a huge free update:“The Supply Drop Update”!!!!!

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Enter the Gungeon is available on PC through Steam and the Humble Store, as well as on PlayStation 4 for $15. You will die often, but trust me, this one is worth it!

Happy Shooting Friends!

 

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The 5 Best Indie Games with Pocket Editions

The last decade has brought an amazing amount of high quality indie games to PC and consoles, providing a vast variety of games to pick from. But sometimes you might want something a little different than the many “pay-to-win” mobile games available when you are on the go. The struggle is real when it comes to finding great quality mobile games that are complete in themselves and that don’t lean heavily on in-app purchases to be fun. Everyone knows that Minecraft has had a mobile edition for quite some time now, but here are a few that you may not know about. This is my list of the top 5 best indie games that have pocket editions, so you can take these high quality games with you when you are waiting in that long line at your next concert or convention.

1. Downwell

Downwell gets the first slot on this list for a few reasons. first of course, it’s just a really great game that I think more people should know about. But secondly, it’s the perfect mobile game due to its fast pace and simple gameplay. Though sometimes it is nice to have a more complicated gaming experience on mobile, or perhaps a narrative based adventure, for those times that you need a quick burst of bullet-shoe, high-score, well-diving action Downwell has your back. Perfect for waiting in lines and killing time, but still a compelling game for Saturday night. Downwell is a simple game to learn, and truly a challenge to master. Any arcade game lover needs to go get addicted to this ASAP! It is available on on IOS and Android for $3

2. Crypt of the NecroDancer

WOW. This game is so unique and clever that I tell people often to check it out on the PC. Now that it’s available on IOS you can take the dungeon-crawling dance party with you! This one will be harder for people with smaller phone screens, but this shouldn’t be much of a problem since every phone these days looks like an iPad Mini. Even so a larger screen will be helpful as you have many enemies and items to view the farther each run takes you. Essentially this is a rouge-like that is played to the beat of the music. There’s a good number of items and weapons to discover along the way to dance-move mastery! Crypt of the NecroDancer is extremely well made. This title is currently available on IOS devices for $5.

3. Bastion

Bastion brings a gaming experience heavy in environment and brilliant story telling. The hero is accompanied in his journeys by a narrator who speaks about player in 3rd person, recalling your past while also commenting on present actions. This is tricky story telling medium that Supergiant Games nails in this title. Bastion is great because it actually transfers over to mobile pretty naturally. As with other titles you will need to have a decently sized screen for optimum gameplay, but Bastion should play well on most mobile devices. It’s a lot of fun, and tells a moving and beautifully imaginative story. The experience is well worth the low price of $5 on the apple app store, especially since on Steam it’s $15.

4. Transistor

Transistor is another title from Supergiant Games. This title takes place in a sci-fi, almost cyberpunk universe, and like Bastion, Transistor also has a great aesthetic and brilliant storytelling. In a world where people’s consciousnesses can be downloaded, city covers all you can see. The player takes the role of “Red”, an unlikely enemy of the government who escapes execution with an unexpected friend, a circuitry sword that is occupied by the consciousness of an old friend. The game can be played in real time, or in planned out turns where Red uses her highly customizable array of moves and weapons to take out her enemies in the most efficient way possible. Transistor truly is a unique game that borrows very little from other titles. Transistor is the most expensive game on the list at $10, but Supergiant Games seems to keep their games the same on mobile devices as on PC, so it’s still kinda like getting 50% off, as it’s priced at $20 on Steam.

5. Don’t Starve 

Don’t Starve is a brutal, crafting survival game set in a Gothic/Victorian setting. This game is both addicting and maddening. It’s very different from the other games on this list as a standard game of Don’t Starve often takes a long time, and being a rouge-lite game with no linear narrative plus perma-death, it is less fitting for killing time and lifting boring moments, but is better for sitting down for longer periods of time to focus on it. The PC version of Don’t Starve has been out for some time, but if you haven’t enjoyed the brutal sanity draining adventure yet this is a great way to try it out. There does not seem to be any additions to the pocket edition yet (no “Reign of Giants”, or “Don’t Starve Together”), but but hey, you can play in an airport now. As with the other games, the pocket edition is much cheaper at $5, as it’s $15 on Steam.

That’s my list of my top 5 indie games with pocket editions. I know there are some other good ones out there too, but these happen to be my personal favorites. If you have a different favorite indie title with a pocket edition leave a comment, or let us know on our Facebook or Twitter page!

As always, Happy Gaming Friends!

– Jacob Tillson

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Game Review: Luftrausers

Dominate the Sepia Pixel Skies!

Luftrausers is an excellent arcade game created with modern and classic game elements. when I looked at my Steam library I discovered I’ve logged 23 hours of flight time in this great retro shooter. That may seem a bit high for a simple arcade game, especially one that has no level progression, but that’s one of the great things about Luftrausers, it’s beautifully simple and like a good song that gets stuck in your head, it just works. The college semester I bought this it became my go-to homework break activities. This punchy fast-paced shooter is great to jump in and burn through 20 lives or so in search of that high score you’ve been chasing. Every play is a kick of WWII arcade nostalgia and adrenaline.

Story & Setting – The Wrong Side of History? The setting of Luftrausers is not really part of the gameplay at all. The game is a sort of playful nod to all those rumors and stories of WWII German war inventions and science experiments. You play as the German super weapon taking down the faceless hoards of the Allied powers. Though this seems to be the setting of the game, there is no story beyond that, just hours of bullet hell arcade action.

Gameplay – True Arcade Simplicity. As I mentioned before, the gameplay is very simple, even minimalist. This seems to be an intentional return to true arcade roots; the player uses two directional steering, one fire button, and one thrust button. Some more modern game elements are present though as well such as achievements that you must complete to unlock new ship components, which you can mix and match to fit your particular fighting style. Though the gameplay is simple, it’s compelling. You mostly are trying to out shoot larger enemies while tearing through swarms of small planes to keep your multiplier up to score those big points!

As I mentioned before there are many different weapon and body types to choose from. This is great because it makes gameplay custom to each player and also gives you goals to work towards as you work to unlock each one.  The different combinations make for exciting and sometimes bizarre combat situations, making gameplay different with each new combo.

Difficulty – Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master. The difficulty of this game starts relatively easy, and grows steadily harder the longer your plane stays alive. On each run until other experimental planes show up followed by massive blimps filling the skies with bullets. This will eventually be extremely hard to survive though the opportunity for a higher score accompanies this new level of danger. If you do not feel challenged enough, you can also activate SFMT mode, and really punish yourself for playing with brutal and near impossible odds.

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To sum it up, Luftrausers is a great game that deserves attention from arcade shooter fans of all kinds. It makes for a great game to compete with friends for high scores. My brother and I went back and forth for a long time competing for that top spot after the other would beat the old best score. With a current play time of 23 hours, my highest score is currently 34,875 points. If anyone has a better one let me know on the blog or through our Facebook and Twitter accounts! The game can be purchased on Steam or directly from the website  for $10.

Happy Rausing friends!

– Jacob Tillson 

 

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Game Review – Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a game about making the best of hopeless situations. It’s a Gothic style turn based RPG, that not only explores the challenge of nuanced battle strategy, but also deals with the stress and trauma your heroes suffer as they drive back terrors in their assault on, The Darkest Dungeon!

I have personally become a bit obsessed with this game. Aside from the occasional arcade shooter, it’s about the only game I’ve played for the last month. Darkest Dungeon is not a game for the causal gamer. I am always up for enjoying an atmospheric, Zen-like gaming experience like Alto’s Adventure, Monument Valley, and Fez, this however is not one of them! It takes a great deal of time and strategy to successfully complete the various dungeons available, while meanwhile preparing for the future final challenges. It will test your strategies brutally and swiftly punish any mistakes.

Story/Setting – Gothic Lovecraft  This is one of those games that has a brilliant narration that plays in the background as you succeed or fail your missions. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the narrator in Bastion in that the narrator serves as much as an environmental ambiance as he does a means to further the story. I personally really enjoy the dramatic overtones of the game and it fits well with the theme of overwhelming darkness and despair.

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The actual story it’s self is not played out in real time, but rather is more the story of how the insidious madness of the void has grown to how it is when you arrive. At the entrance to each boss (which there are quite a few of) the payer gets a narration that begins a story of how this boss came to be. All boss stories have 3 parts as bosses must be fought 3 times (easy, medium, hard versions), and this forms the structure to most of the story of the game till the end. There is however an equally interesting and ever changing story of your own personal experience in DD.  What I love about this game is its attention to detail. Each hero has positive and negative quirks (like heavy drinker, or warrior of light, etc…) which give them a special uniqueness.  Random events trigger after most quests, and while in the dungeon heroes have virtue checks that will cause them to become either afflicted with damaged mental/emotion states, or draw out best in them, causing them to become powerful, courageous, stalwart, etc… This gives every run its own story, and things even take place back in the relative safety of The Hamlet while you are gone. All this adds up to make for a great gaming experience that feels both personal and natural.

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Gameplay –  Nuanced Battles in 100’s of Different Encounters.  To finish the final quest and defeat the most difficult dungeon will take many hours of preparation to level up at least 1 strong 4 hero party, and after that it’s not even a guarantee that you will succeed. After each dungeon crawl 1 week has passed. For me personally I take on average 1 hour per week (including both preparation and the crawl itself), though I do tend to think and strategize longer than other players likely do. I know the final battle is possible to complete in less than 100 weeks as veteran players have been challenging each other to complete it in 72 weeks. I am at week 85 right now and do not see myself beating the game in less than 100. The length I think is excellent though as there are many details to attend to in each individual dungeon crawl, but the whole time there is a sort of “macro game” you are playing of managing and altering leveled heroes to prepare for your final assault. It is a long run to work your way through the whole game, but it’s designed to challenge the player to do just that, and there are always bosses at every difficulty level to fight to keep things interesting.

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The actual gameplay mechanics are excellent. It is incredibly well balanced, and really forces you to think about skill and class combinations, as well as the party’s resistances and initiative (called “speed” in DD). It is possible to both make a party that always stays in the same slots, and to make a party that is highly mobile and adaptive; the player must decide which is best for each situation. Heroes that reach 0 HP are on “Death’s Door” and have a “deathblow” check every time they receive DMG. This creates tense moments, narrow escapes, and realistic death counts.

One thing I love about this game is how unique and imaginative some of the classes are. Classes like the Leper, Plague Doctor, Antiquarian, Abomination, and the Grave Robber are some examples of characters you don’t often see in many other games. As many other RPG games do, this one takes bits from history, mythology, and religion to make it’s world and lore. Darkest also takes a heavy dose of H.P. Lovecraft influence as well and serves as the main theme for the whole game, though it is set in a Gothic world rather than the early 1900’s, as many Lovecraft stories do.

Difficulty – Sometimes, Victory is Retreating Safely. No matter how you look at it, this game is really hard. Maybe not like bullet hell 80’s arcade game hard, but more like really hard strategy with heavy RNG. It will cause any gamer to grow and adapt to its volatile nature, and makes one second guess their own style and battle plans. One of the main complaints I’ve heard about this game is that it rely too much on RNG and that bad luck can overcome any hero party. This I partially disagree with. Though it is true that bad rolls can cause devastating losses, the game gives the player a great deal of information about the percent chance of almost everything your hero’s will attack or defend against. It is true that the game gives no info on enemy DMG and ACC stats, but after hours of gameplay you get a pretty good feeling of how most attacks can fair against different parties.

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Since the player only gets detailed stats on their own heroes and not the enemies, it feel realistic in that way, since you often know much more about your troops than your opponents. The only hero stat that I would really like to see is the hero change to pass their virtue check when tested, and to my knowledge, it is not displayed anywhere even though you can modify it with trinkets.

Though the gameplay mechanics in DD are very good, this really serves as a strong foundation that makes the strong emotional impact of this game possible. The overwhelming feeling of darkness and despair creates a drastic contrast to the rare moments of heroic victory and virtue. when several heroes are “selfish” or “irrational” then that last one becomes “Courageous”  and leads the others to victory with CRITs, party buffs, and stress heals,  it feel so much more meaningful! The struggle against terrible evil in this dark fantasy game feels perfect for an Eldritch horror style RPG. If you like RPG games or H.P. Lovecraft games this is one you don’t want to miss.

It is available on Steam and recently was added to PS4  for $25. It’s well worth it! Also check out  the developer webpage

“Return! Claim your birthright! And deliver us from the ravenous clutching shadows of, The Darkest Dungeon!!!”

Happy Gaming Friends!

 

 

 

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Steam Summer Sale!!!

Well friends, the Steam summer sale is finally here! I’m always super excited for this time of the summer and look forward to it for a long time. Steam is cool cause there are other sales throughout the year that are really great, but when you see titles at 75% and 80% off it’s a whole new level of awesome. I’ve only bought a few so far but I have my wishlist all lined up and ready to go. Here is my top ten currently. Though I may change a few around near the bottom, the first 5 I’m really excited to play!

  1. Skyshine’s BEDLAM

2. Deathstate

3. Enter the Gungeon

4. Undertale

5. Firewatch

6. Dungeon of the Endless

7. The Banner Saga

8. NeuroVoider

9. P-O-L-L-E-N

10. Hyper Light Drifter

This is what I planing on playing this summer and those which I do I’ll be putting out posts about my personal gaming experience along with screenshots, links, and other interesting things I find and want to share. It may take a little time before I get too many hours of these in though as my current obsession is taking up a lot of it; that being Darkest Dungeon. I’ll be putting out a post about that game shortly so I won’t go on about it here other than to say if you are an RPG fan and/or you like H.P. Lovecraft you really should get this one ASAP as it is on sale till the 4th of July.

I always love recommendations and would love to hear how you liked any of these titles. Feel free to leave a comment or message us via the contact page.  Happy summer sale!

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