Thursday, June 29, 2017

Review: GoNNER




Though the Switch has had quite a number of notable roguelikes to this point in its life none of them have been quite like GoNNER. If anything I’d say it reminds me most of a classic arcade experience. There are variations and some choices to be made with every runthrough but the focus is really on side-scrolling shooting action with some platforming thrown in and it is hard. That isn’t to say you can’t learn and begin to have more consistent success but much like any great roguelike just when you think you’ve got a lock on things the game seems intent on reminding you how quickly things can go south at any time.

If only it always went this smoothly
The more I’d try to describe the story that’s only related in some images the crazier it will seem. So we’ll stick with the fact that you’re some sort of being named Ikk and you’re apparently in love with a whale. Something is going on and you’ve got to go through levels of different funky creatures in order to return to her. Oh, and at some point you’re going to have to deal with Death head on. Nothing is going to be easy, let’s put it that way.



In terms of audio and visuals I find the game to be a real treat. There’s an oddly hand-drawn style to everything and on top of that the way everything moves and flows isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever seen. The music, though simple, has the same sort of semi-ambient quality that I appreciate with Tumbleseed. Though there isn’t much to it the music has a meaningful (and adaptive) pace, and suits the action on screen in an odd way. There’s nothing to it that is terribly complex but as a package it all seems to fit together nicely.

Gameplay is probably where you’ll either love the title or you’ll hate it. As I said in the opening this is very much an arcade-style experience for better or worse. The vast majority of the time you’re going to die, but that isn’t to say you can’t have fun if you like the challenge. To make the job easier, or at least more fun, along the way you’ll have 3 choices to make in every run: What head, gun, and item you’ll choose to bring along. This absolutely has a tremendous effect on how you’ll approach the levels and each combination has specific strengths and weaknesses. 

Teddy Bear head killin'
Just to give you an idea we’ll break down a subset of just the heads: The normal head has 5 health but no other benefit. The teddy bear head has only 4 health but will both let you angle your aim in the air (I have yet to make this work in my favor, mind you) and give you a triple-jump instead of the normal double. The block head has only 3 health but its tremendous benefit is the fact that when you get hit by something you won’t fall apart completely. Oh, did I leave that out? With the exception of when you have the block head when you get hit your body, head, item, and weapon all get separated and sometimes thrown away from each other. You’ll then be able to control your body but without anything else you’re extremely vulnerable and will have to either avoid or jump on enemies until you can get your other parts back. Best of all, even if you’d had 4 hearts left if you get hit without your head you’ll die on the spot. Yep, it’s a roguelike! Now take these options and multiply by a number of weapon and item choices and you’ve got some tough decisions to make. For the moment I’m quite partial to the block head, shotgun (kickback and low ammo but glorious damage), and the shark fin (will give you huge bursts of fire without wasting your ammo, handy!). There are undoubtedly circumstances and style of play that would suit other combinations though, and that’s one of the great things about the game.



The control is probably the most critical element of the game, given the often high stakes, and while it is generally excellent I do have two relatively small gripes with issues I hit on occasion. The first is either a product of the art style or how the hitboxes are aligned with things at times. Especially since you’re able to kill enemies by jumping on their heads (and sometimes you absolutely will need to) the mechanics for being able to do this cleanly and consistently are essential. With that in mind there are times where I struggle to line things up well and will take a hit. The other gripe is with how you aim when you’re near or coming off of walls sometimes. There are some circumstances where I touch a wall, or when I fall down off of one, that I’m expecting to be facing in one direction but the game has me facing in another. It’s generally a minor complaint, and one I think I’ve generally been able to actively prevent or counter, but when you need to act quickly sometimes this issue can be a nuisance.


Each new zone ups the challenge level
For all of this discussion, whether you will choose to buy GoNNER or not is much more of a product of the game experience that you’re looking for than how well it executes on its design. If you’re a fan of challenging arcade-style run-and-gun shooting with a variety of selectable play configurations (and keep in mind the slight pricetag) I have an extremely easy time recommending it. The aggravation of dying in the current run is almost always quickly followed by the “just one more try” impulse and the relatively short length of an average run makes it even more compelling to play in between other things given the portability of the Switch. If the look or the description of the gameplay doesn’t appeal to you I don’t know if there’s anything that can be said to change your mind. It is a game that is extremely comfortable being what it is and generally executing on its vision very successfully, the only question is if you have the inclination and the nerve to give it a shot.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • Unique art style
  • An array of (unlockable) choices to give you options in how you play
  • If you’re up for a challenge, it will very much deliver on that

Cons:
  • There are some control quirks that can be annoying from time to time
  • There is absolutely zero hand-holding in the game, I strongly suggest finding a guide to make sense of things
  • The difficulty per run can be quite variable, just don’t be surprised and frustrated if/when you get knocked out very quickly once in a while

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Nindie Preview: Rocket League


Of all the upcoming Indie titles coming to the Nintendo Switch there’s none that I’m more genuinely excited for than Rocket League. Not so much for the opportunity to play it, my current logged game time for it on Steam stands at 491 hours, but for the opportunity for more people to be able to share in what I consider to be my favorite competitive “sports” game ever.

Ooooh yeah...

At it simplest level the game sounds a bit silly: Rocket-powered cars, playing soccer (or some variant) in a closed arena. Uhm… yeah. Well, I’m here to tell you that once you get your first goal off the wall or manage to make a daring last-second save you may just get hooked in. Getting started can be a challenge. Figuring out whether you want to play with your eyes ahead or on the ball (though it is confusing at first this view is highly recommended), learning to “feel” where the goal is, and working to develop your aerial skills are all important but there’s one thing probably more important than any other: Learning to figure out and play to where the ball is or will be going instead of simply chasing it (Damn you crowders and ball chasers, don’t be one of these people!).


Getting past technique there are a pretty crazy variety of ways to play, and the great news is that on a periodic basis Psyonix has continued to add new modes. Not all of them are great or popular, but I appreciate the continued effort they’ve put into the game a good 2 years in and there’s no sign of them stopping. First you have the standard matches, whether played casually or ranked, going from 1 v 1 up to 3 v 3. These are the bread and butter matches and where I personally (in ranked, typically 3 v 3) spend the majority of my time. In addition there’s a 4 v 4 and aptly-named Chaos mode, Hoops mode (somewhat as silly as the one in ARMS and I’ve never had much fun with it), Snow Day mode (replace the ball with a hockey puck), Rumble mode (my favorite alternative mode with a variety of ridiculous power-ups to spice the game up), and the newest mode called Dropshot (the arena floor for either team can be damaged by the ball, eventually falling away, the holes then become “goals”). Bottom line, there’s probably something for everyone and you can keep things from getting stale pretty easily.

Boots, boxing gloves, spikes... anything goes in Rumble Mode
There is a also a single-player Season mode, assuming it would come to the Switch as well, and it does do a fair job of putting you up against Bots that can play a generally good game. This is the place to hone your skills a bit after hitting the basic Training Mode that will cover fundamentals. Online play, as always, can be a “dangerous” place when your skills are lacking, though thankfully as a whole I consider the Rocket League community about the most consistently polite among the online games I’ve played. If you don’t have ready access to online play this mode can serve you well enough but you’d really be missing out on the best the game has to offer.

Dropshot is a game spent mostly in the air

I can (and probably would) talk all day about the game but in the end you’ll have to check things out for yourself to make up your mind. Even with all the hours I’ve put in, and with the skills I’ve developed, there is still a significant amount of technique the people who are very good at the game have over me. Some of the aerial goals you’ll see will simply blow you away and the good news is that if you get up your courage and refine your skills you’ll find that you can pull those moves off as well. It’s when you connect on those crazy impulses and score or block that the game makes you a fan, you just need to have the nerve to try.

This preview is based off of the current PC version of the game. There is no announced date or final list of features for the Switch version but cross-platform play has been confirmed so it should be comparable in what it offers.

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.

Meet Uncle Knuckle... He doesn't like you
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 on Flat Heroes


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 on Hyper Sentinel


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