Saturday, June 24, 2017

Nindie Preview: Death Squared


If Snipperclips would be considered the cute and quirky puzzle game in the Nintendo Switch family, 30 levels into Death Squared I’m thinking it would be the drunk uncle. It has a pretty offbeat sense of humor (flashes of Portal’s GLaDOS quickly come to mind), is a bit weird, but then will turn on a dime and get downright mean. If you like a challenge, though, I’d say that in this case it’s a good thing!

Learn to be very wary of those spikes!
The game is all about puzzling, conquering levels composed of a variety of obstacles and death traps (sooo many ways to die), in order to progress and move on to the next of the Story mode’s 80 levels. If you’re inclined to step up the level of insane coordination the game also offers a 40-level Party mode that will double the number of robots you’ll have to weave through a tangle of even more devious challenges.


What’s really great about the Story mode is that since each robot on the screen only requires a single joystick to control you can easily choose to play through it by yourself. It does require quite a bit of mental dexterity, at times, to remember which joystick is controlling which robot. That said, it is far less clumsy than having to press a button to switch control back and forth, also allowing for challenges that require both robots to move at once. You can obviously choose to play this mode with a friend as well, and whether having another person makes the game easier or harder will likely vary.

That moment you realize you may need to start over
What this also means is that the game’s Party mode can be played with only 2 people, each controlling 2 of the robots. Only having briefly tried this I will say that as hard as it can be to play Story mode by yourself, having 2 people each manage 2 robots at once steps up the difficulty quite a bit more.

Robot stacking, you'll need to do it in a number of ways and often
There’s still a lot of content left for me to check out in the game but even within the fraction of the content I’ve unlocked I’ve seen some great mind-bending and patience-testing puzzles. Every few levels there’s typically yet another element added to the pile of things you have to contend with so there’s not been an opportunity to get comfortable, and that suits me just fine.

This preview is based off the current release version of the game for the Nintendo Switch (barring a Day-1 patch). Its current release date is July 13th!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Nindie Preview: Rocket Fist


While I began getting acquainted with Rocket Fist I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. The controls were simple to understand, and the action was intense and frantic. Yet, underneath that simplicity, there was plenty of room for skill and even strategy. In the back of my mind there was a thought that was clawing to get out, a realization it took some reflection to finally put into words: In many ways this is what Bomberman used to feel like to me when it got its most intense.

Multi-Player Action
I’m not sure that even videos can properly convey the very fast-paced experience you get with this title. Find a fist, look for your shot, point and fire, retreat, try to stun someone with a fist so you can have it, look for a power-up, or maybe even look for an opportunity to throw your fist at one another player is trying to pick up to create some glorious chaos! If you’re feeling really daring you may even be able to time it so you can catch someone else’s punch… but you’d better have that timing nailed to get away with it! That’s just the bare basics, but once you layer in various obstacles that create a variety of angles for your shots, elements like walls that raise or lower on the press of a button, or moving conveyor belts that can speed you up or slow you down, it makes for quite a challenge to both your skills and your ingenuity!


The single-player Adventure mode is actually not so different from playing the multiplayer Versus mode, you just are progressing through various challenges until you get to a Boss fight, then move onto the next sector. That said, it does do a pretty good job of introducing concepts to you little by little, so you’re not just thrown into the mix and expected to understand everything while you’re busy dying. You can also rock Versus mode by yourself against bots and I was happy so far to find them challenging without also being cheap, though the dead “ghosts” did seem to try to team up on me from the sides.

Gotta be quick!
While the space for local multiplayer gaming on the Switch is about to get pretty crowded in the coming months I’m thinking Rocket Punch has a shot at capturing a safe chunk of people looking for some fast and crazy fun. It has a cartoony and colorful look, it brings the action to you in a hurry, and at least for me it inspires a nostalgia for local multiplayer games I enjoyed with friends on the SNES. Will check out the final version once it makes its way to the Switch and give you the full details then!

This preview is based off of the current PC build of the game, there is no known date for its debut on the Switch at this time.

Review: Oceanhorn


Even early on the Switch’s life there is an incredible contrast in content between AAA games that have been worked on by massive teams at an incredible expense and indie games created by smaller teams with tighter budgets. Oceanhorn is a game that is unmistakably inspired by classic Legend of Zelda titles, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetics, but that not surprisingly lacks the polish and refinement of those same titles. That said, there’s no mistaking the love and effort thrown into the game, and if you’re looking for a light “weekend game” of adventure and some puzzle solving it should serve you well.

Vibrant colors
Starting with the aesthetics and setting there’s no missing the that this game is a love letter to Wind Waker. You’ll explore a variety of islands, looking for quests, gear, and loot. You’ll get to sail out over the ocean, in this case shooting at enemies, crates, and mines as you go. While I’d say there are some visual quirks in places, with your character or other objects sinking into the ground or floating weirdly here and there, at no time does any of it complicate things. Not surprisingly, given its origins on mobile devices, the game looks spectacular and vibrant in handheld mode, with the scale hiding some of the aforementioned quirks as well. I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the look, again given the game’s more humble launching point. Having spent time aggravated with my nVidia Shield tablet, and how horrible games made for mobile would look on it, I pay my compliments to the team for not “phoning” it in when it came to making it look good on the Switch.

Taking to the seas
Gameplay, more than anything, is likely where your decision will need to be made on the title. Let’s be clear, this isn’t an intense experience in any way, if anything I’d say for me it is almost calming or soothing to play it. I’m able to just relax and work through the pretty simple combat, though there are a few bursts of challenge and excitement here and there as well. The puzzles are all basic and/or intuitive for the most part, something you should be able to solve in a few tries generally. There are some fun distractions to be had with things like fishing, which was a nice touch. At times it can feel like you need to backtrack a bit, but that also isn’t unusual in games of this kind. For a more intense classic Zelda-esque experience you should probably be looking more towards Kamiko, but if you want there to be more of a story and total experience the edge goes to Oceanhorn.


In terms of the remainder of production values overall the game is a mixed bag. The music is actually quite nice and soothing, mostly there for ambiance, and it very much reinforces the gameplay’s laid back nature. Voice acting, when used, ranges from decent to a little weak, but it was a good effort and works towards the goal they obviously had in raising the bar for the overall experience. One thing worth noting as an oddity is though it is overall very linear at the same time I’ll admit it wasn’t very clear what I was supposed to be doing. While there’s a mini map present on-screen constantly it isn’t used very much, perhaps there would be opportunities for cues to help people find their way in certain situations. Obviously I was able to find my way, but there were a few moments of bewilderment at times for me.

Critters to fight!
At the end of the day Oceanhorn stands a bit in the shadow of the classic Zelda games that inspired it but at the same time has more to offer than its age and lineage would imply. This isn’t a AAA game, but it appropriately also lacks the AAA price tag, so as long as you scale your expectations fresh off of playing the likes of Breath of the Wild it shouldn’t be quite so jarring. If you’re in search of a game that will satisfy you for a weekend or two, depending on how much attention you’re setting aside for its 10+ hours, it is an enjoyable experience if the pace and level of challenge are a good fit. I have high hopes for the upcoming sequel, to see what the team has learned and what they can produce when they’re targeting the console market as the base this time around.

Score: 7


Pros:

  • A satisfying length, doesn’t overstay its welcome
  • Looks vibrant and fabulous in handheld mode in particular
  • Overall a very relaxing game to play from the music, to the puzzles, to the action itself


Cons:

  • In some areas its age and its mobile roots are hard not to notice
  • Both generally linear and somehow too unguided at times
  • As much as it obviously aspires to recreate the classic Zelda experience it can’t quite meet that finish line overall

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Interview with Roger Valldeperas of Parallel Circles


Parallel Circles was founded by two former developers for TTGames. Deciding to venture off on their own to pursue their own ideas their first offering, Flat Heroes (see preview), is a game whose looks are deceiving. Due to its minimalist vector graphics screen shots don’t give the game credit, but once you start to get into the groove playing with its tight and responsive controls the brilliance can click pretty quickly. Many thanks to Roger Valldeperas (@InspectorRoar) for taking the time to answer some questions on this upcoming Nindie title!

What's it like going from a big-name studio, working in a large team, to forging your own path and working in a very intimate one? What's the general balance of it being empowering versus a bit terrifying since this is your company's first project?

RV: It can be overwhelming, in a way it feels great because we are doing what we want and we can work on projects that motivate us and that we truly believe in, but of course not having the stability and security of a big company is sometimes haunting. It's also a big change having to worry about sales, marketing, PR, taxes and all that coming from just working for some hours and then going home and not worrying about anything until the next working day. But at the end of the day making our own projects clearly outweighs all these little issues for us.

1-Player Campaign Evasion Action!
Having been a small fish in Steam's absolute ocean of content initially with the Early Access path what's the contrast as you're making your way to the much more limited current Switch market? Given what you know do you think the Switch can become a real hot spot for Indies? Is there anything you think could improve their situation overall?

RV: Steam is becoming over-saturated and it's really hard to stand out at the moment, and that's especially true when your game features a minimalist graphic style that to some people will just look like square placeholders and its strongest feature is the control and game-feel. So definitely, we hope on Switch Flat Heroes will have a bit more of exposure that will hopefully invite more people to give it a go.

We don't have much more info than you in terms of Switch support for indies, but as far as we can tell they are doing a pretty decent job and have been really inviting, it's quite clear from the many great indies already announced for Switch.

What made you decide on the extremely minimalist art style for the Flat Heroes?

RV: That's a long story, but basically one day the two of us decided to start a little 2D game and I was going to add a simple sphere just to have something to work with but Lucas insisted in making it a square, just because he loves squares. Then we coded some basic movement and it felt awesome controlling that little square around so we started thinking on what we could do to with that and began Flat Heroes. We had some discussions about the style and since we are both programmers we decided to try a code-driven graphic style, where there are no sprites, every shape is created and animated in code. We liked how it turned out and just kept going with that style, since having a more complex style would probably result in noisy situations where it's not 100% clear what's going on. The simple shapes and flat colors allow us to have more intense scenarios without being chaotic, although it's quite a nightmare from the marketing perspective -_-

4-Players Can Tackle Campaign Levels to Improve Your Odds
The control in the game is absolutely a central part of its hook and overall some of the movement feels reminiscent of Super Meat Boy. Was that an inspiration for the move set or was there another influence that helped define what you were shooting for?

RV: Thanks! The control is indeed one of the strongest features of the game and one of our main focus when working on Flat Heroes. Super Meat Boy was one of the inspirations, probably the most important one in terms of control, the really tight controls and quick movement was something we wanted to have in our game, one of the initial ideas for the game was making a competitive multiplayer Super Meat Boy-like (we started with the versus modes, although the other modes have become more important now). We also loved the first N-ninja game which kind of made us want to focus more on the enemy behaviour than the maps themselves. At the end we're really happy with the result and especially how it feels while at the same time being substantially different to these games (Super Meat Boy has become way harder for me after getting used to Flat Heroes, and I always miss the dash there)

In terms of gameplay I have been surprised at the mixing of styles in Flat Heroes. It will feel like a puzzle game one moment and then suddenly throw in elements that require quick thinking and top-notch evasion skills. On top of that I've seen signs of other styles of play. Did you start out with this ambition or have you just seen opportunities throughout the development process and embraced them?

RV: As I said before the game started with the control of a square, we had nothing else in mind by then we were just enjoying how we could move around with that little square, and it was great. So from there we wanted to make a game that allowed everyone to enjoy moving around as much as we did. But you cannot expect everyone to just pick up the game and immediately get all the subtle accelerations and moves so we decided to add some levels for tutorialization, which are a bit puzzle-y because this way players can focus on perfecting how they move while at the same time we introduce them to the nature of the levels, being able to memorize the level if they need to. But the actual game we want people to play is not about memorizing levels, is about being able to get out of all situations with the move-set provided, it's about moving around. That's why recently we have added the survival modes, because although you may have a general idea of the enemies that are coming it's not about memorizing them, it's about learning how to get out of the different scenarios.


I hope I'm not ruining any surprises here but Level Bosses?!? Really?!? While many games have let me down in terms of boss challenge I'll also go on the record saying that at least one that I've encountered is a complete bastard to beat as well. This is a game of shapes that starts out feeling like a straight puzzler in the campaign mode, what kind of evil people are you?!?

RV: Well, that's when the fun starts really! To be honest when we first decided to have bosses in the game and made the first one we though it was really fun, but it turns out we had become too good at it by then, so that first boss we made is not even in the game now because of how hard it was for most players a(although we'll bring it back), we've been making the bosses easier and easier until players could beat them, so be ready!

Having been blown away by the single-player content and replayability in the title I'm amazed to know I still haven't even gotten to the fact that it supports local multiplayer as well. What has been your approach to each and did the game start out intending for both to be fully viable in their own right?

RV: That's another one of the features we are most proud of, we always wanted a campaign that was possible to beat with single-player, because we know most people won't always have friends to play with, but we also wanted to let players enjoy it with their friends. So we decided to design the enemies and the levels in a way that the whole game can be beaten in single-player, but bringing in friends will make the game a bit easier the more players there are.

So players can choose to play with friends, where the game is a bit easier and welcomes players of any level of experience, requiring less concentration and making it a bit more like a party game (in multiple events we've showcased the game it's been a real pleasure seeing friends, families, couples and many non-experienced players enjoying the game). Or, for more experienced players, they can try to beat the game in single-player, with an experience similar to Super Meat Boy, which is more demanding but at the same time gives an extra satisfaction knowing you could do it all by yourself.

3 Players Try to Survive
Assuming you have success with Flat Heroes do you all have any general ambitions on what you would hope to get the opportunity to explore next?

RV: We do have many exciting future projects in mind! Most of them a bit more risky and experimental than Flat Heroes, depending on how this goes we'll choose the safer options or the more resource-consuming, risky and unique ones.

Many thank for Roger for taking the time to answer my questions! Flat Heroes is currently in Early Access on Steam with no final schedule yet announced for release. If you'd like to sample the game's survival mode a demo for PC can be found here or on Steam.

Nindie Preview: Flat Heroes


I know this is just meant to be a preview but the Early Access version of the game I’ve already played on PC is enough to make me say it here: This is absolutely a game people should be paying attention to. As a single-player reaction/puzzler it is devious and brilliant, as an exhilarating exercise in testing your ability to use a tight moveset to survive it is inspired, and with a group of friends there is a great mix of both simplicity and nuance driving fast-paced multiplayer fun. Screen shots and even video can’t quite do justice to the experience I’ve had checking the game out, but I fear because of its minimalist appearance people will mistakenly pass it by.

4-Player Chaotic Action in Versus Mode

Flat Heroes is precisely what I am looking for in an indie title, and that so often is missing in mainstream offerings: the purity of a great idea impeccably executed. What looks to have begun as an exercise in working control mechanics to an extremely satisfying level of quality has been turned into a gauntlet of maddening challenges.

While the campaign starts out feeling more like a simple-ish puzzle game you’ll quickly begin to see signs of what’s to come. It very effectively begins to nudge you towards learning the control mechanics like double-jumping and sticking to walls, as well as the various enemies you’ll need to contend with. With each level new combinations of enemies and level designs will push you to further refine your skills and then each world culminates in a boss fight to test what you’ve learned. Perhaps it is the years of playing too many games with underwhelming boss battles talking but every boss battle is a challenge and several of them are downright brutal to take out.


On top of the single-player campaign (that can optionally be played in multiplayer as well) there’s also then a Survival Mode and a multiplayer-focused Versus Mode. Survival mode requires little explanation, it is a gauntlet of challenges on a single level that will test all of those evasion skills you’ve mastered. Though the enemies and placements will remain the same for each round every match will inevitably play out differently the moment you begin moving. Through persistence and a bit of luck you’ll then unlock additional levels to further test your skills. Versus mode offers a variety of relatively simple game modes that will pit you against up to 3 friends or CPU opponents. Gameplay is fast and chaotic, seemingly perfectly suited to a raucous time with your friends locally.

Boss Fights (That Are Actually Hard)!!!

As the game, at this point, is still not finished there may be additional additions and/or changes made but I’m very eager to see how the game ends up, it is already a very compelling and challenging package!

This preview is based on the Early Access version of the game currently available on Steam. If you'd like to sample the gameplay there is an available demo you can check out of Survival Mode here or on Steam.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Interview with Rob Hewson of Huey Games


As you may have gathered from my recent preview of Hyper Sentinel I’m a die hard retro gaming fan, though to me it is all just games I grew up with. When I first saw footage of the game I was intrigued but then once I played the available demo I realized I was looking at something pretty special. From the moment the game loads it is an immersion in, for me, Commodore 64-era goodness but the gameplay also displays sparks of modern sensibilities.

Having been impressed with the game I decided to reach out to the folks in charge of distributing Hyper Sentinel, Huey Games, and it was at that point I began to better understand why I’d been sucked in so completely. While the game had been developed by “bedroom coder” Jonathan Port it is fitting that he then teamed up with Huey Games, as the lineage of great gaming runs deep there. Rob Hewson himself has worked on a number of modern gaming projects, formerly working as a Game Director with TT Fusion, helping produce several notable LEGO projects. More significantly Rob’s father, created the company Hewson Consultants Ltd. which published a number of notable titles including one of my favorites from that era, Paradroid.

With that in mind I decided to talk to Rob about how Hyper Sentinel got started and on their radar, the Kickstarter campaign that got the game off to a strong start, retro gaming in general, and what more we can look forward to from Huey Games.

Devastating Power-Ups

Aside from the obvious reverence your team has for classic games what was the inspiration for Hyper Sentinel? How did it get started?


We bumped into Jonathan Port, the creator of Hyper Sentinel, at an indie developer’s beer night in Manchester. It was immediately obvious that the game had potential and that it would appeal to our retro community.

Jonathan was working on the game in his spare time and hoping to release it on the iOS AppStore, so I proposed a partnership which would bring three clear benefits for the project. Firstly, working together we could amplify the production values and quality of the game and really take it to another level. Secondly, we could hit many more platforms, including consoles and PC, and finally we could enhance the market potential and generate much more buzz.

In terms of inspiration for the game itself, Jonathan told us he wanted to create a game which played like 8-bit shooters did in his imagination and in his rose-tinted memories. That really resonated with us, and from there we built our Neo-Retro development philosophy for Hyper Sentinel.

Having seen many independent game projects struggle to get funded on Kickstarter how would you describe the process and your success in meeting your goal?

Huey Games has a unique 8-bit heritage, and as a result we are very lucky to have a community of fans who remember the games our team produced all the way back to the early 1980s, including Uridium which was by far the biggest 8-bit hit. Hyper Sentinel is inspired by several classic shooters, but one of the biggest stylistic influences is Uridium itself. That community helped us to successfully fund a book about our heritage called Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers, which gave as a platform to build from and lots of lessons to learn.

We then came back to Kickstarter with Hyper Sentinel, which has that particular hook from our heritage and we brought in the USB Cassette reward which really appeals to the collectors in our community.

It is certainly not easy, there is a huge amount of work involved, but we are very fortunate that the community we have built is hugely enthusiastic, massively knowledgeable and incredibly supportive.

Epic Boss Battles
In the US there has definitely been a resurgence in the appreciation for classic arcade experiences with Bar-cades and other classic venues opening up. Is the same happening in the UK? How would you size up the retro arcade gaming community as a whole right now?

The retro scene is huge in the UK and there are retro events almost every weekend somewhere in the country. It is interesting because it seems like most people know about the US version of retro gaming history, with Atari, then the video game crash, then Nintendo re-igniting the industry, but in the UK there was no video game crash. During that period, the UK industry was massively exciting and was arguably producing the finest games in the world, but many people outside the UK don’t remember them. As a result, the retro scene in the UK feels like a club – we all know each other and we all remember the games we grew up with, which many people in other countries missed out on. It was a fascinating period, which we really enjoyed recalling in our book Hints & Tips for Videogame Pioneers, and it has led to a hugely vibrant retro scene in the UK.

Having played the demo I was immediately pulled in by the great retro music and then quickly felt very much at home with the gameplay style. What modern sensibilities have you worked to infuse into this classic experience?

This goes back to our Neo-Retro development philosophy for Hyper Sentinel. We want players to pick up the game and jump straight into the action with a big smile on their faces because it captures the essence of all those classic shooters. It’s a bit like watching The Goldbergs on TV, where the warm glow of nostalgia is weaved throughout the experience, back packaged in a modern format.

Hyper Sentinel is an unmistakably modern experience with nostalgia deliberately weaved through it. There’s absolutely no way you could throw this many enemies around on screen and maintain 60fps on a retro system. And while we have worked hard to capture the best bits from classic shooters, it is just as important to modernise those annoying elements which we forget in our rose-tinted memories - the overly punishing death systems, the lack of checkpoints and the thin, limited game modes.

It is the same with the visuals – you want to capture a style which evokes fond memories, but enhanced with modern effects and all the juicy feedback which the technology now allows. That’s what Neo-Retro is all about.

Retro looks with some modern effects!
What prompted you to look at porting the title over to the Switch?

Firstly, we are huge fans of the Nintendo Switch ourselves. Secondly, we think Hyper Sentinel is a perfect fit for the system. On the one hand, it offers a pick-up-and-play experience and bite-sized blasts of intense gameplay which works brilliantly in portable mode. On the other hand, you can indulge in extended gameplay sessions in TV mode when you are trying to unlock some of the tougher medals, beat a high score or tackle the ultra-hard Retro difficulty mode. Finally, the chance to get onto a Nintendo system early in the consoles life-cycle was a no brainer.

Having seen mixed impressions on getting started with Nintendo in terms of difficulty how would you describe the process you went through?

Nintendo have been brilliant for us, we couldn’t be happier. It feels like they are embracing Indies on the Nintendo Switch which is very encouraging.


I couldn't help but get interested in the tease for Mechinus on your site. Anything to share about your next project?

Mechinus is a unique and beautiful project, totally original. However, the focus right now is on doing the best job possible with Hyper Sentinel, so we’ll have to save the details for another time!

I’d like to thank Rob for taking the time to field our questions and we’ll be sure to share more on Hyper Sentinel and future projects from Huey Games here at MAMEiac Gaming!

For more info on the game be sure to check out the Huey Games website

Monday, May 29, 2017

Nindie Preview: Phantom Trigger


At the point I've gotten to in the Phantom Trigger alpha (looking and feeling quite polished for an alpha, BTW) it has pretty well sold me on the final product fully, and I get the sense that there's quite a bit more to see and do still. I've seen just enough of the story to be very curious about what's been happening in the real world and to then understand how the in-game action relates to it. It's an interesting and unexpected hook in a game of this general type.

Though the final product may attempt to do more to explain the game systems I was obviously able to make my way through them and come out the other end at least combo capable. While you can dispatch the menagerie of odd-looking enemies with standard attacks it is the variety of elemental combos you begin to learn that are obviously meant to be where you place your focus. With some attacks that freeze and slow and others that burn for extra damage there are a number of ways to deal with your enemies and you'll need to use them effectively since even early on the game is more than happy to give you several to manage fighting at once.


It feels as if, having made it through the first world, the table has been set with the basics and now I'll be able to dig into the meatier challenges the game decides to throw at me. Very early in the second world the first signs of that challenge have made themselves clear: Enemies that are in some way elemental, and can only take damage from specific types of attacks. Just to throw in a curveball some of them also rotate which element they have a weakness to. There's nothing like a game that is sure to keep you paying attention to details.

Phantom Trigger was only announced for the Switch this past weekend and there's no currently-known timeline for its release. Even with the promising gameplay I've already encountered I'm intrigued by the developer description for the game including the term roguelike. As a fan of that type of game I'm eager to see how that may play into things, though at the point I'm at in the game I haven't seen any signs of it. Regardless, what I've seen is quite promising and I look forward to the final release of the game!

Nindie Preview: Hyper Sentinel


Right from the moment you hit the title screen and the glorious retro music starts, taking me back to my classic Commodore 64 gaming days, there's no missing that this is a retro title in every way. Resembling, to me, a game I might have played on my buddy's ColecoVision, Hyper Sentinel is a fast-moving homage to a variety of classic arcade-style titles.

In each level you'll be challenged to destroy a number of targets on a huge ship you're flying over. You'll be distracted by enemy fighters, power-up opportunities, and a wide variety of ship defenses as you progress through the game. Each level is also capped off with a boss battle, and you'll need to work to drain the boss's health while keeping a careful eye on your own. Fortunately your ship will replenish its health if you're able to avoid being hit for a little while, though depending on what's going on at the time that can be harder to manage than you may think.


While your first goal will likely be to simply survive the levels and bosses that the game throws at you the game, for most people, will really be about chasing high scores. But, in order to maximize your score you'll first have to work to keep up with everything going on! Power-ups and score multipliers will often whiz by you, making you chase them down or circle back for them. However, as the levels progress, a variety of obstacles and enemy weapon systems will make you think twice about flying recklessly. The potential for a rich classic arcade gaming experience is already in place, I'm eager to see how the final product turns out!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Nindie Preview: Syberia 3


While I’d heard of the Syberia series before I’d not indulged in any of them to this point. However, since it has been confirmed that Syberia 3 will be coming to the Switch I decided to check it out. Having played quite a number of adventure-style games that Syberia 3 is reminiscent of, after a few hours of play, I’d say it represents its genre pretty well. It tells a reasonably good story and has you solving puzzles through a combination of smarts, found objects, and some good old experimentation.

Starting with the positive I’m reasonably intrigued by the game’s story and main characters. While there are elements to the story that are familiar the foreign setting and culture of the nomadic group that found and saved you are interesting and I’m curious to see how it will all play out. The puzzles to this point are also generally a positive as they do a good job of making you intuit your solutions through targeted trial and error, making you feel smart when you figure them out. A few times there have been clues there to help guide me, but the nice thing is that I typically didn’t completely understand them until I was well on my way to finding the solution, which is a nice balance.


Where I’ll throw a bit of caution out is definitely on the fact that this is a pretty classic slow-paced adventure title and there’s nothing here that breaks away from that mold so if you’re not into that sort of game you’ll want to steer clear. At least to the point I’ve gotten in the game a criticism is that even moreso than normal the experience is a bit “on rails” at times, turning it into a sort of mildly interactive story since there are limited things to interact with along the way. However, since some games in the genre have also infuriated me with a pile of garbage to wade through in order to find what you need to progress I’ll credit it with not needlessly wasting my time either. It’s a difficult balance.



At the end of the day Syberia 3 will be a completely unique experience at this time on the Switch, and people looking for a story-driven adventure should probably be satisfied with it, depending on pricing and other details. I played the game on the PC using an XBox 360 controller and it worked well, so control moving over to the Switch shouldn’t be an issue. The characters and environments are sufficiently large on-screen that it being playable while in handheld mode should also not be a concern. It’s a game to look out for if you’ve been itching for something story-driven with some puzzles along the way.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Not Yet Nindies: Indie Games I'd Love To See On Switch [Part 1]


The goal of this exercise is to shed light on independent games out there that I've had a great time playing and that would seem to be well-suited to playing portably on the Nintendo Switch. Nothing is listed here because of any special insights and there's no "wink wink" to any of it. It is purely a listing of indie games I enjoy, that perhaps you should check out if you'd like where they're available currently, and that would be awesome on the Switch.



Rocket League
OK, so the pitch sounds absolutely ridiculous to anyone who isn’t familiar with the game. For the uninformed you just need to imagine 3-on-3 soccer played with rocket-powered cars. Completely crazy, yes, but in execution it is a game that is slowly inching towards my all-time most played game second only to the hat simulator also known as Team Fortress 2. 

Rocket League is a legitimate eSport, it is fast, it is fun, and it is the only “sports” game I’ve ever stuck with for any significant amount of time. Even now, though the game has been out for quite some time, there are still new modes and enhancements being made to the game on a regular basis. Nintendo, please make this happen!



Flinthook
This one just came out and I’ve only just begun to play it but it is a roguelike with style and fun to burn, the only pain is it would be even better in portable form. You’re roughly a bounty hunter using your grappling hook, your gun, and some skilled execution to bring down your targets. A really good time, it is the newest big indie roguelike darling for a reason.



Nuclear Throne
OK, so this one is getting pretty old, and I’m also aware the toolset it was made in isn’t currently supported by the Switch. But when the details on the system were announced this was the first game I really got into wanting to see in a portable form!

Another rogue-like the itch for this will be scratched somewhat when Enter the Gungeon hits but, overall, I still prefer Nuclear Throne and the characters you get to choose from. Their play styles can be quite radically different and it is a whole lot of aggravating fun!



Super Mega Baseball


While I'd seen it available in the nVidia store for the Shield TV and had also heard some positive buzz it wasn't until I took it for a spin that I began to understand why people like it. I suppose it has just been such a long time since I've played a fun arcade-style baseball title that I'd practically forgotten they could be made.

Stylistically distinct it can look a bit goofy but make no mistake, there's both accessibility and depth to be had in this game, a combination that can sometimes be tough to put together in balance. Until Nintendo would decide to make their own baseball title this may be the most ideal option in the current market for making a splash on the Switch.


ClusterTruck

What an odd but engaging title this one is. Imagine a speed-runner mixed heavily with platforming elements, but that your platforms are actual tractor trailers crashing into things and each other. As it progresses there get to be even more diabolical puzzle elements that will force you to use your brains as well as your reflexes to control your flying through the air and hopefully not crash and burn. The quick round nature of the game would be especially well-suited on the Switch.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Editorial: Why I Love Rogue-Likes

While I may have been a little late to the rogue-like party in the PC gaming space once I finally got a taste of it, thanks to incredible indie titles like Rogue Legacy, Nuclear Throne, and of course The Binding Of Isaac, I found I couldn't get enough! Perhaps it is the old-school arcade gamer in me but I both thoroughly enjoy and even cherish the "put your quarter in, do your best, lose, and try again" experience. There are certainly modern games in that vein that aren't rogue-likes, my favorite probably being Geometry Wars, but where games like that merely replicate the old arcade experience I think that rogue-likes pretty well perfect it.

Before we delve into what the essential elements of the spirit of something being a rogue-like are, we should clarify something they most definitely aren't. Where people mostly like to think about games in terms of genre, here we're dealing more with a game "type" that could blend with pretty well any genre. Let's call it a catalyst for challenge and fun, transforming what could be somewhat ordinary into something more. Moving past that distinction we'll get to the core of what distinguishes a rogue-like from games that are just hard and "make you start over".

First, it is a given that the general layout of your game space will be different in some way every time you play. There can't be a static level design, you can't be allowed to get into comfortable assumed patterns (at least not too much), and where you'll find enemies and/or power-ups is going to be a toss-up. Looking at the 3 on the Switch you have Isaac and Has-Been Heroes with their random map layouts and Tumbleseed where the way the levels are composed is completely different every time. The emphasis here is on forcing people to be a bit off-balance by things every time, to only have a general idea of what they'll face but not a great one, and to keep them on their toes.

Second, on top of the level designs being varied and unpredictable what you'll be given to work with on any given run will also get changed up. Rogue-likes have a tendency to sport a wide variety of potential powers and when you go through them you'll be asked to make lemonade out of whatever ingredients you've been given. Sometimes you'll get things that work well together and suit your style, other times you'll simply know that the RNG (Random Number Generator) gods simply hate you and want to you die like the pathetic loser you are. Most of the time you'll thankfully end up somewhere in the middle, but you will have your peaks and valleys. Such is the way of the rogue-like and all 3 titles on the platform fill this line item handily.

The third thing that rogue-likes employ in some way is a very strong (sometimes more than people can take) sense of trying to balance risk versus reward. You will be tempted and whenever your run ends you will inevitably debate what would or could have happened if you'd only make a different decision when X happened. Should you lose the heart (or 2 or 3) and take the deal with the devil in Isaac? When you get to one of the handful of shrine types in Has-Been Heroes will you get something good or bad? Will you at least get something good enough to offset the bad that will likely come with it or should you just pass? In Tumbleseed, even though you know the Bouncy Friend is an unpredictable ball of pain that will somehow manage to run into you at the worst possible moment almost every single game will you hold out faith that the few enemies it will take out make it worth the trouble? These are decisions you'll make every game and likely many times in every game in rogue-likes and that's part of the reason they're often perceived as being "too hard" because making the wrong decisions in these moments can sometimes cripple your entire run. If you enjoy them you've merely accepted that the RNG gods are fickle and move on, weathering the storm and perhaps deciding to then double down with your next decision in the hopes it will turn around... though often it only gets worse.

Now that we're through defining what a rogue-like is and should always be I suppose all that's left is covering why I find them so appealing, especially on the Switch. A big piece of the puzzle is absolutely that the portable capabilities of the Switch lend themselves very well to the shorter-form play times that rogue-likes often have. Even if the run itself could be a bit lengthy they tend to be broken into chunks, typically lasting just a few minutes with an opportunity for a break in between, making for a convenient place to pause and come back to later. This quality also makes them well-suited to people who are pretty distracted and want to play something that isn't taxing them with story or complications. Get in, get a challenge, move on a bit refreshed... it can be satisfying if you don't get hung up on the fact you usually have failed to win in some way.

Another way that rogue-likes really appeal to me is that with their difficulty I find their sometimes infrequent rewards to be far more meaningful. If you're able to clear a run and be even somewhat successful, despite all of of the obstacles that have been thrown in your way, it is far more exhilarating to me because I've really had to earn it. That's not to say that games you've invested time in and complete can't be similarly rewarding but I've also completed my fair share of titles where the end was a bit ho-hum because the journey hadn't made me invest much to get there. I can't think of any rogue-like I've beaten where I wasn't on pins and needles the whole time. Even among the games I've never finished or rarely finish that tension as you inch closer and closer builds and, for me, even losing there is a thrill I don't often get in other "normal" games.

At the end of the day, I suppose, you're inevitably going to either "get" rogue-likes and love them or they'll likely be seen as nothing but horrible aggravation factories put on this planet to punish you. They're a type of game that is, no doubt, a lot more stick than carrot but when you're wired to rise to challenges put in front of you rather than shy away they can be very appealing. That said, as much as I enjoy rogue-like not all of them appeal to me. Spelunky, as much as it is revered, for whatever reason didn't click for me, so even if you have tried one or two games in this vein that doesn't mean that none of them will appeal to you. I'm just hoping by putting this together I've helped to inform a few folks and to convince them that perhaps rogue-likes are worth giving a try. A little bit (well, or sometimes a hell of a lot) of challenge can do you some good!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: Tumbleseed

Tumbleseed's core gameplay should be somewhat familiar to people who've spent some time playing a classic physical game like Labyrinth. The idea of balancing or controlling a ball along a path to avoid holes is a simple one, it's in the execution that the challenge arises. What looks easy and is conceptually straight-forward isn't always quite that way when gravity, your reflexes, and your patience get pulled into the picture. For me, perhaps it is this belief that beating a game like Labyrinth should absolutely be something I can do that typically makes me return to it over and over no matter how many times I may lose at it. While Tumbleseed adds a wide variety of elements that ramp up complexity, at its core its principles are very similar, as is the addictive "I can do it if I just try one more time" mentality when it continues to get the best of you.



The point of the game isn't a grand narrative with insights into the human psyche or somehow a re-telling of the classic hero's journey. You're a seed, you want to get to the top of the mountain, the game will throw a wide variety of challenges and decisions at you that you'll often get the short end of the stick on, and you'll die a whole lot. If you're a fan of old-school arcade challenges where your only reward is the accomplishment and hopefully a decent placement on the online leaderboards I'll enthusiastically say that Tumbleseed is likely a great match for you! If you want a deep story and meaning, or even a solid chance you may ever finish the game you may want to pass. If you've heard about these "rogue-likes" and are willing to front the very reasonable price of entry this is a pretty mainstream-friendly, though quirky, representation of that game style, though very distinct from any one that I've ever played.

Getting down to the basics the premise of the game is that you'll start each adventure with the capability to shift between 4 basic types of seeds: one for setting checkpoints, one for adding thorns for basic offensive capabilities, one for generating crystals you'll use as currency, and one for healing yourself. Your goal is to move through a variety of distinct zones, with all sorts of challenges and surprises at every turn, and get to the summit to fulfill your seedly purpose. Along the way you'll have standard rogue-like decisions to make: Which random power-up will you choose? Will you indulge in a challenge that could help you if you succeed but will hurt you if you fail? Are you willing to trade in 2 seed types you're unlikely to use in the hopes the one seed you get in return will be helpful? If the RNG (random number generator) gods are showing you favor perhaps you'll temporarily get a perfect combination of things going your way, but often those gods are fickle and your plans will quickly collapse with the wrong combination of enemies, a stumble or two in your execution, or often a lack of full understanding of how things that you thought were there to help you can also be lethal under certain circumstances. Every time you start it's a crapshoot, and this is where the game will either appeal to you or where it will fall apart, the same as it is for any rogue-like. 



Depending on how far you progress in a given run you'll begin to be given random choices of additional seed types to help you along the way. In general they'd fall under the categories of offensive, defensive, and "helpers" of various kinds. In general your offensive choices have their appeal, as you go along there are a variety of enemies who'll try to get you and it would be nice to both kill them to no longer be pressured by them (often leading to a fall down a hole) or to reap the benefit of crystals they leave behind when they die. The downside to using the offensive powers is that most of them will also harm you if you're not careful or if you don't get pretty far away. Your defensive choices include cloaking and some shield types but what you'll find is that their usefulness tends to be very specific. For example, a shield that will temporarily protect you from something shooting at you won't help against a pouncing spider. Add on the fact that defensive seeds tend to carry a pretty high resource cost and while they're an option, you need to consider them carefully. In the last category there are various type including seeds that will help you by springing you into the air (for a relatively short distance unfortunately), slow down time, or fill in (some) holes with water but again these powers have their limits, in this case mostly tied to proximity to a planting spot. Just to really make things crazy there's even a seed that is completely random, the great benefit of it, though, is that it is free to use, and it is quite possible to get a solid run going with it even if it is a bit crazy.

As you get a little further into the run you'll also be able to make use of a single aura chosen by the game at random. These also carry a risk/reward to their use. You have a bouncing buddy ball that will kill enemies... but look out, he'll hurt you too! There's a ghost variant that does the same except it will slowly chase you instead of bouncing around randomly. If you don't stop it can be useful, but considering this is a game where you sometimes need to wait on things it can be absolutely more lethal to you than your enemies. There are also power-ups like one that will increase the size of any projectiles you fire, but unfortunately you'll need to keep in mind this property also does the same with enemy projectiles. The message here is that there is no magic combination of seeds and abilities, the more effective types tend to either have a high cost or risk, and from run to run you'll need to be able to take a set of options in front of you and make the most of it.



The Switch has been blessed very early on with what is now beginning to take shape as a diverse collection of rogue-likes. While it opened with the well-known Isaac, bringing the rogue shooter to the table, it then veered off into the strategic lane-based challenge of Has-Been Heroes. Tumbleseed goes completely off the board and brings its own unique vision to what a rogue-like can be with an adventure game of sorts, though in general the game feels very much like its own thing and is difficult to put in any known box. I was enthusiastic about the possibilities it could have from the moment it was first shown and having sunk many hours into the game now I have to say I'm thoroughly impressed with the result and, especially at its very reasonable price point, would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a challenge for their mind and reflexes.

Score: 9

Pros:

  • A game unlike any you've likely played before
  • A fresh look with vibrant colors
  • "Just one more try" style gameplay that keeps pulling you back in
  • Online leaderboards and daily challenges to encourage people who like seeing how they measure up
Cons:
  • For some the challenge will be frustrating instead of encouraging
  • It's possible some people may struggle to become fully comfortable with the nuances of control
  • Par for the course as a rogue-like you'll spend time early on dying in order to learn your lessons rather than having things explained to you

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tips and Tricks: Tumbleseed

While I would in no way imagine that Tumbleseed will require quite the level of effort and detail that was needed for my Has-Been Heroes Tips and Tricks the common rogue-like DNA in the game does create a situation where gamers less familiar with this type of game may have a need for tips and guidance. Generally, by their nature, rogue-likes tend to lay out some basic rules and then expect that through trial, error, and probably a lot of dying, you'll work out the rest. In the name of aiding people in their quest to better understand, appreciate, and enjoy Tumbleseed through the early portion of things I figured I'd put together this rough guide. Keep in mind, as with the Has-Been Heroes guide, this isn't being put together with authority or definitive precision. These are my observations and what I understand about the game from having played quite a bit of it. Still a WIP, will continue to add more as I get the opportunity/capture screens/etc.

Rules to Live (Though More Often Die) By

  • The walls are your friends. Use them, at least most of the time: Always be on the lookout for holes that may appear under a part of the wall and be mindful if their gap is big enough for you to fall into
  • While the game's appearance is pretty flat the objects in your environment very much aren't: There's a certain amount of perspective trickery that happens with objects in the game but, in particular, walls are again the place where things can get interesting. Sometimes you can benefit from the fact that near a turn in the walls there's extra space you can't visibly see to move into. However, by this same principle there can sometimes be nasty "surprises" in those spaces you cannot see, so use some caution
  • Never forget your Flagseeds! It should be really obvious but I'll underline it for you. If you fail to make yourself a checkpoint on a semi-periodic basis you'll very likely end up hating yourself. It isn't just that without them you'll need to cover area you've already been in, its that you'll need to do so without any real help since you'll have likely used all of the spots to plant in, often making things a bit more interesting to get through since you'll have also lost any of your thorns as well
  • Have a plan... : In general you should determine a style that suits you and work consistently in that direction. Are you a "best defense is a good offense" kind of person? Prefer to health up and use your dodging skills? Will you hoard crystals for purchases? Are you some combination of the above? In general you need to settle in to what will work for you as a base
  • ... but be ready to abandon it: Something here about the best laid plans and how, with any rogue-like, that all can to go hell in a hurry. There are going to be games where right out of the gate you're facing a nasty enemy who is hell-bent on killing you. It happens, you've offended the RNG gods and you're going to have to deal. Always be ready to move and adapt... or you'll just die and start over
  • The best defense is most certainly not always a good offense: While I started out getting thorns regularly I've come to almost never use them. The fact that they need to be targeted/directed is a pretty big downside a lot of times and, overall, there are better offensive options in the game for tougher foes. At the end of the day the main thing to know is that to progress you'll need to have your evasion skills at top form anyway, you may as well learn to use them sooner rather than later. Don't sweat the small fry enemies, avoid them, get your crystals and hearts up, and be sure you get something that takes your offensive abilities to the next level when the enemies you kill will be more profitable anyway
  • Remember, you can move down! In general the game is about progress and moving up the field but there are times when the way to get to a specific crystal or plot may be too dangerous because of holes or enemies. Always keep in mind that there are multiple ways to get at things and sometimes that may include going past the object you're looking for and then backtracking if that may be safer
  • Patience can be a virtue: While there will be many times where you'll have enemies or situations demanding that you move very quickly there are also times where you can save some thorns or risk by simply waiting for an enemy to work through its pattern and clear the way
  • Obstacles like stumps can be more than a nuisance: While they can sometimes be a hindrance to get by they can also be used to stop yourself (like a wall) and the same principle with them that slows you down can also work with your enemies like snakes and spiders
  • Remember, rogue-likes are built on risk versus reward: Not all power-ups, plants, auras, etc are created equally. While many can be lethal to your enemies you'll find they're often also a danger to you. I'd go as far as saying that some things you can get are probably net worse to have than to leave behind
  • Some plants (and your checkpoint flag posts) have a surprising rebound/recoil to them: Just a word of warning to be cautious bumping into them when anywhere near a hole, they have a tendency to spring you back a bit more than you may anticipate
  • Learn how much space you need on the edge of hole above you and how much space you can have in a hole below you: Due to the angle you're looking at the playfield from until you get a good gauge for what the lip on the edge of a hole can be without you falling in you'll likely be surprised and disappointed at first. Until you get a feel for this once you lose some health in a game don't ruin the potential opportunity, move along the edges of a hole to be sure you understand how much space you need above and/or below to keep from falling it, it will save your life many times over later as you play
  • Momentum is your friend... As you learn to control the rate of speed you're rolling at you'll find that to make some diagonal moves you'll need to get up to a certain speed and then allow yourself to "coast" upwards on your bar to get you through some sections. Without a little momentum this would be much harder in some cases
  • ... and your enemy: An out-of-control seed or one moving too quickly typically leads to issues. You have to learn how to keep from getting your seed moving too fast and also how to do some emergency moves to get over to a wall or object to stop yourself
  • Always listen: Aside from being in tune with what enemies may be coming for you it is also worth remembering what it sounds like when your enemies die so if it happens off-screen you can be sure to backtrack if you've left a trap behind that something has managed to get killed by

Seeds (not complete)

FlyTrap
Possibly my favorite go-to seed. Relatively inexpensive, only lethal to you if you're foolish enough to roll over it yourself, and capable of killing even snakes on the first hit they work well. An issue you can hit is that the Pink Bastard Spiders, in particular, can be very wily in their avoidance of landing in the FlyTrap every once in a while. You can try to sit around the edge and lure them in but sometimes you just need to know when it isn't happening.

BounceBerry
While it can be useful in a pinch and is generally inexpensive I also don't find myself using it very often. One issue with it is that it doesn't really propel you all that far up, so you have to get some great placement for it to get you over or past things. As a note, though I can't think of how this would be terribly useful, enemies can also trigger these, perhaps there's a strategy there. I suppose in the right circumstances it would work well enough, just don't get your hopes up of it giving you a scot-free getaway.

Star Seed
 Considering the trouble and cost of using this seed (it requires being planted 5 times at a cost of 2 crystals per plot) I've never actually activated it, but I'd like to assume it would be quite potent for the trouble. I usually avoid it so I can conserve my crystals for less costly options.



Spread Spore
 Not terribly costly but it can be tricky to use depending on the circumstances and its distance from things like holes. It will create a 2-shot weapon spot you can use to fire at your enemies (aiming from the side opposite where you want it to fire) and buy yourself some breathing room.



Ray Flower
While not the fanciest or most helpful option you have if you have enemies directly above or below you it can be pretty devastating. Always be sure to stay out of its way the few times it fires, if you're directly above or below if you'l have to exercise caution when activating it.



Antidote
At the end of the day this one is really for pairing with the seed that creates a plant that poisons anything that touches it (including you). Since you'll die if anything hits you when you're poisoned the ability to get rid of that cloud around you will be crucial. Antidote is the key to saving you. Unfortunately its relatively high cost (5 crystals) means you'll have to be careful about your poison planning.


Avalanche
Very cheap to use (only 1 crystal) its results certainly feel very big but while you'll want to head for cover it has spotty results for reliably killing on-screen enemies. Whenever you want to use it be sure you're not stuck exposed in the middle of the screen. The sides underneath cover, or even just against the wall can be guarantees of safety. Powerful but not always very effective.


CloakFruit
 As its name implies it has the power to temporarily make you invisible, though still very much prone to taking damage if you're hit by anything. Generally I'd consider the trouble you'll go to to get it and then make use of it well to be a deal breaker but some people may like to get stealthy with things.



FloodFruit
Conceptually more valuable than it typically is in practice this has the potential to be very useful since it will fill in holes with water, allowing you to go over them without falling in. The issue it the limitation of its power to proximity to the holes you're looking to fill. Unless the holes are within a relatively small distance of the plot you plant in they won't get filled. Probably more helpful for creating an area you can kill enemies in without falling into holes than helping with traversal.

MineMelon
These can be pretty potent, dropping a mine every few seconds, ultimately dropping maybe 6 of them? One limitation they have is that you'll need enemies to go over them to take damage, which is sometimes challenging. They also aren't a guaranteed kill for more powerful enemies so that's worth keeping in mind. Perhaps their greatest downside is that they'll harm you if you go over them once they've been activated.


MissileRoot
Probably one of my favorite and most consistent offensive seeds of choice. Proximity is a danger since the blast from a missile explosion will shoot out shrapnel, but in general it is effective because the missiles will home in on the closest enemy, they tend to be enough to kill most foes in one hit, and that same blast zone that can hurt you can sometimes nail more than one enemy at once. Add in a low crystal cost of just 2 per activation and it is quite reliable.

Randobud
For a long time I avoided using it because of its unpredictable nature. Nothing will change the fact that you can't rely on it saving you, but it can sure be a lot of fun if you hit a productive streak with it. The main reason it is compelling to use, though, is that it costs you nothing to activate with it no matter what other seed's power gets used. On a crystal budget, if you can survive it activating bombs or other things randomly and can run away, it is a great way to make it rain crystals.

ReflectRoot
While not very useful initially, and carrying a relatively high cost of use, by Zone 3 this is a seed worth looking out for. It will only reflect one shot per use but when you're in spaces where multiple enemies are firing at you it can help you focus on getting through a tough area rather than trying to manage dodging projectiles as well as holes and enemies. The fact that it typically sends the shot right back to the attacker to kill them is just a nice bonus.

ShieldSprout
Another high cost protection option the shield is terrific as long as you're mindful of its limitations. It is great at protecting you from taking hits from enemy projectiles, however if a spider decides to pounce on you it isn't going to help you there. If you don't have the reflect as an option a straight-up shield isn't a bad second option. Again, some basic protection as you try to get through a nasty and complicated area can be a life-saver.

SlowRoot
While it isn't a seed I typically make use of I could see where, especially earlier in your adventures, it could be useful. It will temporarily slow things down so you'll hopefully be able to get through a more challenging obstacle course of enemies, traps, and hazards. It is also relatively inexpensive, I believe at 3 crystals, so if you're a bit intimidated by what's immediately ahead of you it may not be a bad option.


Notable Enemies (not complete)

Pink Bastard
Spider
Oh, Pink Bastard Spiders, how I hate you so. You're capable of showing up right out of the gate on the first zone, your movement pattern seems almost psychic at times, your evasive tactics against my FlyTraps is practically legendary, and once you lock your sights on my seeds you're relentless, cold-hearted, pursuit machines who won't stop until one of us is dead. The RNG gods were right bastards when they conceived you, and I hear them giggling when they spawn more than one near each other.

Snake
While I consider them a little less of a nuisance and danger than the Pink Bastard Spider the Snake is absolutely something you need to take serious. They move at a pretty fair speed, will relentlessly track you down, and seem to be harder to just "shake" as well overall. Thankfully unlike the wiley PBS they'll follow you diligently to their death as long as you have a trap between you and them and they can get snarled up in obstacles if you plan well.

Lurker
While not an enemy that pursues you whatever the hell these things are they can be very nasty to deal with if you don't keep your eyes on them and keep at a safe distance. Once they trigger based on proximity they pop up pretty quickly and will have an area damage effect that you won't want to get caught in. The best bet is to take them from above or below since it is easier to juke them and change course. Trying to shift momentum at the right spot and get away side to side isn't a simple thing to pull off.

Schnoz Shooter
There are absolutely worse things to need to deal with but these can be troublesome if you don't keep an eye out for them. They will shoot at you with fair accuracy once they get sight of you but if you're able to elude them for long enough they'll leave you alone once they pass by. Keep an eye out for the fact that at some point they will turn back around and again be a problem. Not the most lethal enemy in the game but you should be sure you don't lose track of them.

The Leech
These are probably the first "tougher" enemy you'll commonly see in the first zone. They're not terribly hard to deal with, you just need to keep an eye on where they're pivoting to before they strike next. They do take 2 hits to dispatch and with their quick rate of movement when they decide where to go getting in close to them can be risky. Probably easier to avoid most of the time.


Rotating Gate-r
Generally not a big deal to avoid since they spin at a relatively slow rate and stay in place they're also an obstacle you can tend to lose track of when you're trying to move quickly to avoid a nastier enemy. They only take a single hit so if they're being a nuisance you can remove them, but in general I find it is just better to avoid them whenever possible.


Crystal Fly
These little buggers are definitely in the game just to toy with you and to tempt you into trying to take their crystals without getting hit. They're not smart in any way, they generally have a pattern you'll be able to deal with, and any contact with them will kill them (though that doesn't mean they don't hurt you), but they're great at giving you pause or hitting you when you're not paying close enough attention.

Flying Chaser
 Another common early game enemy these creatures don't move very quickly but they are pretty tenacious and can be a challenge to kill if you're only armed with a single thorn. In general their low speed makes me simply decide to outrun them rather than try to kill them but your philosophy on them may differ.



Mini Spider
Not usually that hard to deal with, and they don't chase after you, but their tendency to show up in groups can make them a challenge to deal with at times. Whenever possible I generally just avoid them but as long as you move pretty quickly around them they aren't terribly lethal.



Pop Flyer
 While it is usually pretty easy to avoid them you will learn to respect them when they make their sound and appear, then quickly falling out of the screen. They're less often the direct cause of you dying than they are another distraction that opens the door to other things wearing you down.



Spike Trap
 While it doesn't move there's no doubt that it is one of the most lethal enemies you'll face in the game. Unlike many traps and enemies that just take one heart from you getting hit by the spikes means instant death for you and starting over again.




Auras (not complete)

You won't run into these until you get to the first town. They're free to grab, they have no ongoing cost, but you can only use one at a time, not all of them are necessarily helpful, and when you get hit you'll drop them, making you chase them down if you want to keep their benefits.

Ghost Friend
Will need to double-check the name on this aura but I put it in first as a warning to people... you probably would be better off not picking it up. While they can hurt any enemies they make contact with they will also harm you as well. Unlike the bouncy friend aura that simply ricochets off the walls the ghost will slowly and consistently track you down, which can really make for nasty surprises when you're trying to plot out your next move. Added bonus: They do this even in shops and in the challenges... how lovely!

SeekerAura
 A great double-edges sword, it will make any projectiles you're able to fire with one of your seeds track down enemies a bit, hopefully giving you more kills. A major downside to using this, though, is that enemies that fire projectiles at you will also get this benefit, making areas like the third zone a bit more challenging to your dodging skills. Worthwhile but be aware of the effect and be sure you even have a seed that will let you use projectiles in the first place.

Freeloader Aura
This is one of those cases where it could be "too little, too late" but this aura will let you plant in any plot for free if you have only 1 heart. It is absolutely useful if you're that close to death, but obviously that's a very dangerous spot to use the benefit. How you use it could also be an interest risk/reward choice. If you have seeds like shields or bombs you could try using them without a cost to make full use of the lack of cost but that also means you're not using them for hearts. Decisions.

BigShot Aura
This is roughly paired with the Seeker Aura in terms of its risk and reward. It will make any projectiles you're causing to fire bigger but it will do the same with anything fired by your enemies as well. Usually this isn't too big a deal but if you get a space where you have 3 enemies or more all firing on you it can definitely add to your stress and challenge levels in a hurry. Always be sure you're at least going to see a benefit for yourself before equipping this!

CrystalMagnet
Aura
This couldn't possibly have a downside, could it? Wouldn't you always want crystals to come to you and make it easier? Most of the time, absolutely yes. The one time this can be a less great thing is when there's one of those Crystal Fly enemies hovering around the crystal that's being pulled to you. Unfortunately those little buggers will continue to chase that crystal as it moves towards you and you'll have to be careful to dodge it. Once you get the crystal it tends to meander away but up until that point it can create a stressful situation.