I’m an old school gamer. I enjoy many new triple A titles, but my love for gaming will always lay with the retro. I know the trials and tribulations of playing classics Nes games where you have three lives and maybe a continue or two to beat a game. These games were built to be barriers. Artificial Walls to keep players from beating them in a weekend so they felt like they got their money’s worth. Of course what this usually broke down to was a lot of frustrated kids who never got to experience the full game their parents purchased for them. It was an unfortunate side effect, but luckily we live in an era where you can experience those same games again in one form or another. Many of our favorite classics are available through services like Nintendo’s virtual console or sites like Steam and GOG.com. There’s also the grey area of playing emulators which allow you to save anywhere in the game making it much easier to succeed. Or if your gaming skills have gone south, you can always just check out one of many let’s plays or speed runs of the game too.
Now why am I talking about lives, continues and artificial walls? Because I want to talk a bit about my love hate relationship with the “Roguelike”. For anyone not in the know, a roguelike a more recent gaming term that refers to a game that gives you one life to make it as far as possible in a game and once you die, you start the whole thing over. I believe it’s supposed to invoke the feeling of a retro game where survival was always first and foremost. But it ends up having the same problem as it did back in the early days of gaming. It’s an artificial wall that can actually hinder instead of help a game and it all comes down to balance. You can have a finely crafted game with great controls and slick graphics, but if the game is incredibly difficult or confusing, players will get frustrated and never really get into the game; which will not only be a loss for the developer, but for the gamer as well. I have found the games that do this right are the ones that eventually reward the player with unlockables in the form of gear and abilities. If you end up playing the same character again and again with no change to these key components, there’s very little incentive for the player to say “just one more go”. But if the game offers something to strive for like a new flashy sword or magic lightning ability, the player is going to reach for that because they will feel accomplished and of course have a new ability to help them further the game. This works well because the unlockables feel like another set of levels to defeat and act like another layer of accomplishment for the player. These of course need to be balanced too because if you become too powerful, the game is far too easy and if you have very limited abilities to assist you in your journey, you may never beat the game. As an avid gamer I have experienced both sides of this issue. I have played games that I wanted to keep playing but just couldn’t get far enough to continue and other games that I beat in a single sitting and was only left wanting more.
The key as with any game is about balancing accomplishment. It’s about driving a player to want to defeat the next boss, get the next power, and feel satisfied when they have triumphed at the end. Of course one other major factor that affects the average roguelike and modern indie titles in general is “procedurally generated levels”… but we’ll leave that for next week. On to the indies!
It’s time to fight like a girl! Keen is action puzzle game where players will take control of Kim, the saucy little samurai warrior as she faces the forces of demonic evil in a colorful neo Tokyo setting. The game is based on old school slide and bumper style puzzle game play with flashy little sprite characters. Players will slide around the map bumping into obstacles to change direction and clear the screen of enemies and items to carry onto the next level. Keen prologue is completely free so go try it out here right now!
In a dystopian future in the city of New Babel, crime is at an all time high. Luckily there are the ones known as Constables. They are thin line between order and chaos and it looks like they have their work cut out for them in MiniLAW. With heavy tones of movies like Judge Dredd and Blade Runner, MiniLAW will have players taking on the role of a constable who will need to scan New Babel to find criminal activity and apprehend those criminals to earn requisition points. With these points, players will be able to purchase gear and upgrades to equip to their exo frame to make them an unstoppable law machine. Players will be able to use lethal and non lethal force and even use diplomacy in certain situations to save the day. MiniLAW is currently in early access and is available on Steam.
Away: Journey to the Unexpected
Anime can be such a gorgeous art form, but it is rarely captured well in a video game format. Our final game on the list today looks to change that. With beautifully animated cut scenes and a colorful surreal world, Away: Journey to the Unexpected looks to be a truly unique experience. The game will be a first person action game where players will fight or negotiate their way through a mysterious land to recruit allies to help you in your quest. The colorful 3D cel shaded worlds mixed with the 2D anime style characters offer a fresh look and it looks to have a great sense of humor too. Not much else is known about the game at this point, but the developer is stating a release date of “see you soon 2017”. I really do hope it’s sooner than later, but until then you can check out more info about the game here.
If you have any indie topics you’d like to see covered or if you know of an indie game that deserves a shout out, please contact me and we’ll try our best to feature it.