Category: Reviews

Drake Hollow Review

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: The Molasses Flood
Music: Walter Sickert
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
Released: 2nd October 2020
Genre: Base Building, Survival, Multiplayer

The second game I reviewed for ZedGames was Flame in the Flood, a gorgeous survival game by The Molasses Flood. Now it’s my pleasure to review their latest release – Drake Hollow! In Drake Hollow you play as a human transported to a mystical world plagued by feral beasts and dark forces. You are tasked with defending the adorably helpless vegetable folk known as the Drake. This is hardly a burden though; the drakes are incredibly adorable. In addition to fighting monsters, you need to build a home that can support the Drake’s needs, hunger, thirst, energy, and entertainment. Yes, they can literally die from boredom. Search the world for resources to craft with. Fill your base with gardens, beds, wells, solar panels, puppet shows, and pinball machines. Spend an hour rearranging until it looks just right. Repeat. It might be that classic survival game play but it’s distinctly Drake Hollow.

As you progress through the story, you will periodically be transported (along with your drakes and camp) to a different region of the blighted world – each more difficult and rewarding than the last. Each region you visit spans more than a square mile and is procedurally generated so it will be unique from any other! Over the game, you will play through the seasons, each of which painting the world in its own vibrant palette. No matter what season you are in, the visuals of Drake Hollow are magical, fantastical, and unique. It’s a colorful, cartoony world scarred by destruction and dark forces. The blight monsters are a great juxtaposition to the cute drakes but still fit naturally within the world. I couldn’t shake the games aesthetic similarities with Fortnite, to the point I tried several times to chop down furniture for supplies. This isn’t a bad thing though; the game looks great and holds a lot of character in its designs.

Each map you visit consists of 20 or so islands to explore. You set off to find food for your Drakes and find more along the way. Then you want to age them up but to do that, you’ll need to fight monsters or the aether infection to get crystals. Unfortunately, the bigger the Drakes get, the more they need to eat, drink and keep entertained so you’ll need to collect resources and recipes to expand your base. I’ve not even mentioned curio crafting, defending against raids, or just getting across the seas so it’s safe to say you rarely run out of things to do. To secure resources in good number, you’ll need to set up supply chains across the map. Beams of light connect way-points between supply trucks and a base, across any distance. Building my first supply chain was when I discovered one of my favorite parts of this game – you can skate along the light beams! High speed, high altitude highways of light that let me live out my skater daydreams. Hell yes!

One of Drake Hollow‘s main draws is the co-op play. Up to four players can play together, fight together, build together, and explore the realm together. Unfortunately, there is currently no matchmaking service so co-op is strictly BYO but if no one will join you, or you simply prefer to run solo, the developers have made sure the experience is still robust and engaging. Plus, in a world full of adorable magic plant people, are you ever truly alone?

I played through the campaign twice within a week of the games release and was worried I would run out of things to do with Drake Hollow. Thankfully they released the sandbox mode, with cosmetics to unlock and no end to the fun! I adore the character creation in Drake Hollow, I change my look and outfit each time I open the game to play. Honestly, it’s not the most detailed system but the beautiful visuals and choices on offer delight me! Your hair can be in bright colours, available skin tones run the full spectrum, and every option for the characters is gender neutral!

The soundtrack for Drake Hollow is no less than I’d expect from the studio. It’s composer, Walter Sickert crafted several different instruments to create the specific sounds of the hollow! The sound effects mix with the soundtrack to form the magical world of Drake Hollow. The best part is the little noises the Drakes make when you interact with them – adorable chirps and buzzes.


The Molasses’s Floods previous game, Flame in the Flood was a spectacular survival game I fell in love with. So, I’ve been looking forward to Drake Hollow since before it was announced, and they did not let me down. Once again, The Molasses Flood has crafted a magical world, a captivating journey, and an engaging craft system with more on offer in every way. More to explore, more to build, and more cute cute drakes to befriend!

 

 

MO: Astray Review

Developer: Archplay, Rayark Inc
Publisher: Rayark Inc
Music: SIHanatsuka
Platforms: PC, Switch
Released: October 2019 (PC), September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 2D adventure puzzle

It’s dark, shadowy, and you don’t know anything, except how to move, and then how to jump.

And then, how to remember.

A little blob, you make your way through this mysterious world, absorbing memories of other creatures. And like a dream, you awaken from this world, and find yourself in a laboratory. Destroyed, overgrown, and filled with danger.

MO: Astray is a beautiful 2D game, with a gorgeous pixel artstyle, where you play as a memory slime, capable of possessing and accessing the last memories, or the strongest memories, of that creature. Some of them are human, others are not.

Most were once human.

Slowly, through the world and the memories you access, you begin to piece together what was here, why you’re here, and what happened. And as you explore, dodging danger, a voice guides you, lamenting what once was, cheering you on. That voice gives you a name.

Mo.

Gameplay is surprisingly simple! You have the ability to move and jump, but you can also stick to surfaces. So that manages getting around for the most part. But Mo has the interesting ability to possess other creatures, although what you can do once you possess them is limited. You can make them walk, activate buttons, and unlock doors Mo wouldn’t be able to unlock on their own. You can’t directly attack anyone, but you can move them around and manipulate your environment. With a well-timed flick of a switch, you can crush enemies, move boxes around, and open and lock doors. But you’d be surprised by how much you can do by simply jumping out of the way at the right moment.

You move from area to area by solving various puzzles, but believe me, finding the solution and then executing the solution are two separate tasks. It’s rather forgiving, in that if you do die, you simply respawn at the start of the room, so you never lose a lot of progress. But I did find myself having to put my switch down for a quick break after failing a jump for the billionth time.

It’s a challenging game, but not a punishing one.

However, the real bread and butter comes from Mo’s ability to access memories. Throughout the game you find large blobs of memories that give you insight into the past, but also makes you just a little bit stronger. And when you possess a creature, dead, alive, or otherwise, you can see their strongest or last memory.

It’s rather haunting.

As you progress you unlock new abilities, and learn new ways to get around. Jumping from bubble to bubble, learning how to double-jump, and even learning how to clone yourself and control your clone creates interesting and varied ways to navigate these levels, and come up with solutions to puzzles.

Sound, like the environment and art, is beautifully crafted, unifying your experience seamlessly. It is satisfying, descriptive, and immersive, without being distracting, or a hindrance. For this reason, I recommend wearing earphones, settling down, and get ready to get sucked into this world where you know so little, but learn so much.

MO: Astray is a beautiful, challenging, interesting game that is full of heart and care. There is so much detail put into the world that the team has created, with a unique culture, creatures I wanted to understand and get into the head of, and a tone of darkness that thrums throughout the game. I’ve not yet finished the game, but I have enjoyed every moment so far. Even when I would mess up a puzzle a dozen times, I would attempt it a dozen and one times because I need to know more about what happened. Mo and I are on this journey together.

What are these parasitic plants? Why are all humans like this? What was this facility for? Why am I here?

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 Remake

Developers: Vicarious Visions
Publishers: Activision
Music: Collection of Various Artists
Platforms: Original: PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Xbox, Microsoft Windows, Dreamcast, Game Boy, Classic Mac OS, iOS Remake: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One
Release Date: Original: 19th September 2000, Remake: 1 & 2 September 4th 2020
Genre: Skateboarding Simulator, Sports

Tony Hawk Pro Skater is rated one of the best video games of all time, and not just in the sporting games category but actually of ALL TIME! For those of you who haven’t heard about this epic game it’s essentially a skateboarding video game where you get to pump out cool tricks on a variety of different maps from local skate parks to massive ramps and stadiums. You play as all famous Tony Hawk himself and as you progress in skill you are able to unlock more skateboarding legends as well as heaps of other sick things like, skateboard decks, gear, clothing, and accessories. Most of these unlockable items are from the original game however there is a bunch more added, including appropriately a disposable face mask.

Essentially THPS1+2 Remake is the exact same game as the original but with a whole new glossy look and includes incredible attention to detail when it comes to the maps, everything is lovingly touched by the designers and visually the game definitely doesn’t sell itself short. The characters, animations even the cosmetics look fully sick!

From a gameplay perspective THPS1+2 Remake gives you the power to toggle off and on the original controls if you are a purist as well as the ability to toggle off a bunch of other features including the music (which is silly and you just shouldn’t… don’t worry, we’ll get there). This game has definitely come a long way since my button smashing days of my childhood when I was grateful for anything to happen when I got some air off a ramp however the new default setting of the controls coupled with the not too ‘hand holdy’ tutorials do a fantastic job of letting you take everything at your own pace.

For those of you who have played the original THPS1+2 the remake is structured in the same way where there are tours that you take where you play through a bunch of different levels on each tour. The aim is obviously to try and get high scores, collect points, and perform cool stunts. You can also jump back and forth between games 1 and 2 with ease if you don’t want to do things in any particular order. Something new that’s interesting is the online multiplayer mode where you can play ranked or free skate modes, you can also earn a bunch of cash that you can put towards new gear (mind you I haven’t actually played the online mode yet).

There’s also this awesome feature called create-a-park mode which, you guessed it, you can build your very own skate park and then share those parks online, it’s a great way to explore the possibilities of THPS especially if you’re into world creation. As much as there is in this awesome remake, I spent most of time trying to remember how to do combos and figure where the magical S-K-A-T-E letters are around the streets of New York City and San Francisco.

Now to the music, well where do I begin, there isn’t any singular artist that designed the music for THPS1+2 but a series of bands and artists that make up the playlist consisting of mid to late 90’s garage rock and punk bands. THPS1+2 Remake has all 22 of the original artists featured plus and extra 37 new additions to the mix, you may recognise some of them such as Machine Gun Kelly and Rough Francis, some of the oldies include Anthrax and Rage Against the Machine. All this music coupled with the sounds of skateboards on bitumen and rails makes for an epic afternoon session on the PS4. If you’d like to take a look at the full list of artists from the remake click here.

I’d like to mention that I’m someone who’s only played the original THPS 1+2 I haven’t played 3, 4 or 5, or any of the other 20 something Tony Hawk games so I can’t comment on the progression Activision has had with this series, my understanding however is that things have all been rolling downhill for a while *pun intended* if you’d like a bit of history on that here is a link to an article from Kotaku ranking the best and worst Tony Hawk games.

With that being said this remake has put Activision back at the top of its game *also pun intended* THPS1+2 Remake feels literally like playing the originals for the first time. I am overwhelmed by the stunning visuals, totally transported back to the 90’s with The Vandals and Dub Pistols and not to mention the heaps of fun I had button smashing my PS4 controller and hoping something cool happened. If you’re a THPS fanatic or a newbie, honestly this is a game purchase you won’t regret.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 30th September 2020

Milky Way Prince: The Vampire Star Review

Developer: Lorenzo Redaelli/ Eye Guys
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Music: Lorenzo Redaelli
Platforms: PC/ Mac
Released: 14th August 2020
Genre: Visual novel, horror

A fairy tale come to life. A fallen prince from the stars. An instant connection. Romance. Love. Passion. Pain. Guilt. Fear. Anger.

Mutual orbit, spinning out of control.

Milky Way Prince is a unique visual novel game about abuse in relationships, mental illness, and intimacy. With a combination of 3D environments and 2D characters, with a simplified colour palette, it is beautiful, haunting, horrifying, resulting in an experience that has left me thinking and feeling, mind turbulent.

I won’t go into detail in this review, but the game does delve into emotional abuse, self harm, suicide ideation, and the difficult ugly sides of mental illness. It’s rough. I had to take breaks between chapters to go hug my cat. But it is a beautiful game, it explores these themes in a way that was unique, thought-provoking, and jarring.

In Milky Way Prince, you play as Nuki, a young man with stars in his eyes, obsessed with the stars that litter the night sky. You learn of a fairy tale, where a prince from the stars falls to Earth. A beautiful romantic tale.

Nuki spots a falling star in real life, and follows it to find a man who is crying. He is Sune, and this is your first meeting.

What follows should play out like the fairy tale. And in a way, it does. But the brightest stars are the most unstable, and as beautiful as they are, to get too close is to invite disaster. But like a moth to a flame, Nuki is drawn.

He has stars in his eyes, and Sune is his prince.

Game Play

Most of the game functions like your standard visual novel game. The characters have some conversations, and you are able to select dialogue options to respond to the situation. There aren’t any wrong responses, but they change how the game plays out. Whether that prevents catastrophe, destroys you, or otherwise, it can be hard to tell with option will lead to which conclusion. And that’s kinda the point of the game. Sometimes, in life, and especially in abusive situations, there aren’t any safe responses, there aren’t clear ways out, and there aren’t tidy resolutions. Sometimes, all you can do is react.

There is a beautiful mechanic involving intimacy, where you swear an oath before engaging. With elements of BDSM, interesting symbology, and the ability to decide on which of your senses you will use in this situation, it gives you insight into this relationship between Nuki and Sune. It is intense, displaying both vulnerability and guarded nature of Sune. He is someone who gives so much, but withdraws in an instant. Who bombs Nuki with affection and love, only to immediately put up walls and become reclusive. Hot and cold. Light and dark. Opposites in a single person.

In a binary system, orbit is mutual.

At times, the game throws you into high-stress situations, where you experience an impending explosion, and you have to defuse it before it happens, a dozen times over. There are moments where the game will make you jump with how quickly things can change.

You are kept on edge, uncertain, afraid, but wanting to push forwards, to push through. To help Sune.

It’s kinda the point.

Music

The music is of the electropop variety, and it can be quiet at times. But even the music will lash out at you, throwing sound at you, lending an auditory punch to the visual hit. When things are calm and good, the music is nice, pleasant, kind almost. But when things are bad, when the situation is spiraling, when you watch Sune fall apart, it becomes painful, attacking your senses, overwhelming you. I became very stressed and anxious when I heard those discordant chords.

At times though, the audio is overdone, and it does become almost comedic. Sometimes it’s just not necessary, and just becomes annoying. Not in a good, adding-to-the-experience way. But in a ‘I am now clicking as quickly as possible to make that sound stop because it sounds like a rubber balloon’ way.

Overall Experience

Overall however, the game is jarring, it is beautiful, it is horrifying, it is frustrating, it is a lot.

Many people are aware of mental illness, and what it can do to the person. It can be exhausting, difficult to understand and explain, hard to live with. It can be managed, with the hope of being able to thrive one day.

But a lot of the time, it can be ugly, destructive, not just for the sufferer, but also for those around them. Those people can remove themselves from it at least. But what happens if you don’t? If you don’t understand? If you’re poorly equipped, unprepared, and if the person with the illness doesn’t want your help?

What happens when two stars are locked in orbit? When those stars spiral out of control, closer to each other?

One of the features of the game I really appreciated, after feeling like I just wanted to grab Sune by the shoulders and shake him, was that you can experience the game from his point of view, for a little while. You see through his eyes, see his thoughts, his reasoning, his logic.

You begin to understand.

I appreciated that.

Ten Candles Review

Publisher: Cavalry Games
Released: December 2015
Genre: Tragic Horror, Tabletop Gaming,
Players:
(1 GM, 3-5 Players)
Suitable for:
Single Sessions.

Ten Candles is a tragic horror tabletop RPG with zero-prep and a story focus. It is one of the most unique role-playing games I’ve ever played, notably (but not only) because it’s played in the dark, lit only by candlelight. Very little of the world is set in stone, most things are decided by players as play progresses. The only similarities between sessions are an unnatural darkness that smothers the world, the evil force known as “them”, and the inevitably of your death. Not the possibility, not the probability, the certain, inescapable death that marks the game’s end.This might sound strange for a survival horror game, but Ten Candles is specifically a tragic horror game.  It isn’t a game about fighting monsters, saving the day, or even just survival. Ten Candles is a game about people pushed into darkness and despair. It is about finding hope and meaning where none remains.

To play you’ll want a GM, 3-5 players, paper, ten candles, and a butt-load of dice. The physical rule book can be purchased from the publisher online but if you’re okay with digital, the PDF is all you need! Supposedly a session plays in 2-4 hours but every session I’ve played sat between 4 and 5. That might be the game’s fault or the fault of me as a player, but it was still good fun the whole time. In ten candles the game master takes control of everyone and everything that isn’t a player character. Despite being responsible for every danger the players face, and deciding the consequences, they do not act as an opposing force but as a neutral facilitator of the story. The characters will die, there’s just no rush to get there. For the most part players only control their characters but, between chapters, everyone has a chance to direct the story. This is done via chanting; in case the game needed a stronger occult aesthetic. THESE THINGS ARE TRUE. THE WORLD IS DARK. AND WE ARE ALIVE. The number of decisions is directly tied to the number of candles so a lot can be done early on, but at the end only one truth remains. THE WORLD IS DARK. AND WE ARE ALIVE.

Characters are also made collaboratively in the games setup, choosing strengths, flaws, goals, and the darkness within. These traits are key to your (temporary) survival as they can be used to turn the odds in your favor, a failure to success. Each trait can only be used once though, and when they are, you burn that part of your character sheet away. You know you will fall eventually, but not now, not this moment, and that defiance lights up the increasingly dark room with brief hope. The candles aren’t just for aesthetic and burning things, they serve as a countdown for the story and its chapters. The game consists of ten scenes, each ending with a candle snuffed out. This means that, as the story turns darker so too does the actual space, you’re playing in. In the final scene of the game, only one candle will remain, offering weak light for your characters last stand. They can fight as long as possible but inevitably the flame will go out. At the end of every game I’ve played, I’ve been left with a strange, slightly bittersweet feeling. I just spent hours with a character fighting against the odds to live and now they were dead, the game was over, and I would move on. It’s a good feeling though, the one that fuels my love for TTRPG, and the one that keeps bringing me back again and again.

If this review has been particularly intense, it’s because there’s no other way to discuss Ten Candles. It’s a game, but it’s also a collaborative story, a terrifying world, and an occult ritual with friends. Ten Candles delivers the best of tabletop RPG (atmosphere, emotion, high stakes), which many systems can’t offer in entire campaigns, in just a single gaming session. Even if you’ve never picked up a tabletop RPG, Ten Candles is simple enough to understand and interesting enough to win you over. If you’re a fan of survival horror or any part of my review piqued your interest, it’s definitely worth checking out.

Reviewed by Maylee Flannery @MayleeFlannery on 16th September 2020

Metamorphosis Review

Developer: Ovid Works
Publisher: All in! Games
Music: Ovid Works
Platforms: PC, PS4, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch
Released: 12 August 2020
Genre: Adventure puzzle

Ugh, you wake up with a hell of a hangover, you, Gregor, and your best friend Joseph had way too many drinks. But you’ve got work, and you need to go find your friend. It sure was nice of him to let you crash at his place. Now to go wake up your friend.

Except… the rooms are getting bigger… no, you’re getting smaller. Your body shifting, changing, suddenly you have more limbs, books tower over you, and your day becomes very surreal.

You’re… a bug.

And as you enter a letter, that is the least of your problems.

You must get to Tower for any hope of regaining your humanity. You must find and help Joseph, caught up in a trial for a crime no one will explain. Two very big problems, for one very small bug.

Your journey isn’t an easy one, with multiple pathways, colourful and bizarre characters, and a surreal, whimsical world, you need to find out why you were turned into a bug, what is going on, why is Joseph on trial, and what is Tower?

Metaphorphosis is a world inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, and it is a beautiful, detailed adventure puzzle game, with a hand painted aesthetic. You are Gregor, now a bug, and you need to figure out what is going on.

You’re a bug. So you get bug powers! If your feet are sticky you can climb up vertical surfaces. You have to get creative with how you can navigate the world, in some ways you’re very capable as a bug! You’re rather speedy, you can jump quite far, and walls aren’t much of an issue. But you are small, and it’s very easy to drown, miscalculate and fall to your death, or get crushed by a book. It’s very easy to get lost or overwhelmed by the sheer scale of things, but there is a helpful feature that allows you to get a fly-eye’s view of the world, allowing you to see your destination and goal, and to make your decisions.

You’ll have multiple paths, not just physically, but also with your decisions. Some are obvious, some are easier than others.

And the game has a lot of fun with the fact that you’re a bug and you’re bug-sized. Interesting pathways, unique obstacles, fun and creative ways to get around. There is a sense of wonder and joy as you navigate this world. I am reminded of when I was a child and I’d imagine being a mouse, sailing down the gutter on a ship made of leaves. And the world built at the bug level is delightfully detailed, populated with a variety of insects, speakeasies, and even its own form of government. Many of us are familiar with the frustration that comes with bureaucracy, don’t worry! It is well-recreated here. But even with all that, with everything that’s happening, you find yourself in a forest of mushrooms, or on a tiny ship sailing through the air, or surfing on a supply request form.

It’s beautiful, with a touch of magic and whimsy.

The sound is extremely immersive, you hear your own skittering, changing depending on the surface, the human giants around you chatting through walls, their voices garbled but deep, resonating through the walls. Machines whirring, drawers opening and closing, and a lawyer droning on and on, doing a great job at explaining absolutely nothing. It makes the world feel very big, and you very, very small.

The music is well composed, and a lot of fun, highlighting exciting moments, displaying the scale of the world. I would find myself feeling very nervous at times, as I felt exposed and vulnerable at times. The music contributed to that, but it also lent to the whimsical nature of this bug society you find yourself falling into. The wacky characters you’d run into, the things you’d see and experience.

I am not the biggest fan of bugs, but I found myself charmed and intrigued by the world Ovid Works had created. There was the human world that I was aware of, my best friend was on trial for something, and I watched the roadblocks and issues he went through. Gregor is invested in that world. But the bug world is just as intriguing, interesting, filled with vibrancy and character and wonder. And you have your own problems to deal with. So I found myself stressing about my tasks and trials, but also I just had to stop and look around. I wanted to observe and interact with this world. There were towns and groups and even a little cult to check out. Hidden areas, little secrets, a dozen paths to a single goal.

The world is so big, and so detailed, and it made me want to explore. The gameplay was creative, fun, and made me think and plot my path. And the ending… well, I’m not sure where you’ll end up, but it is one I want to revisit later. There are multiple paths, and I feel guilty about the one I took.

It’s kinda weird that as a bug you’d have so much control over what happens, it’s an awfully big responsibility. But the game makes you capable of it.

Fight Crab Review

Developer: Calappa Games
Publisher: Calappa Games
Music: DEKU
Platforms: Steam (PC), Nintendo Switch, itch.io/Booth (PC)
Released: 30-July 2020 (PC), 15-September 2020 (Switch)
Genre: 3D fighting game

You are a crab.

A simple crab, you find yourself thrown into the ocean with a single purpose, a single goal, and a single thought:
You must fight.

A 3D fighting game, Fight Crab takes you through battle after battle, flipping your opponents onto their back.

However, like crabs, your task isn’t all that simple. As a decapod crustacean, you must master control over your armoured body and 10 limbs. You not only battle in the ocean, facing other crabs, but you also take to the streets, castles, cities, determinedly focused on flipping every single opponent you encounter, whether they be crab, lobster, or otherwise.

But… does your tough shell hide a soft interior? Technically, yes! But emotionally, it’s all crab all the way through.

This is a fun, chaotic, broken-but-it-feels-right sort of game.

The game mechanics are cluttered to say the least, deliberately so. The controls make sense, and they’re easy to learn (it’s easiest if you use a controller!), but they’re difficult to master, and that’s part of the fun of it.

You’ll find yourself flailing your claws around, scuttling over obstacles, wielding anything your pincers can grab a hold of. Your body is a weapon, and so is your environment, and your enemy is also a weapon. The weapon your enemy is holding could be your weapon as well.

Punch your enemy, block your enemy, grab onto them, forcing them to yield to your crustaceous superiority. Who cares if you’re facing a lobster with a knife and gun, it could be your knife and gun if you’re crab enough.

You can level up your crab, perfect it’s form to your style. You unlock new crustaceans and weapons, and you also earn abilities and power ups. Are you ready to surge with righteous crab power, pummel your opponent, and then blast them away with pure, crabby energy? Well, you better be!

If at first, you feel you’re mashing buttons, that’s ok. Crabs also need to learn the ways of tactics, finesse, and controls. You and your crab will grow together. Soon you will be in sync with each other.

Outside, you may be human. But inside, emotionally, it’s crab.

Sound effects are standard for a fighting game, your claws sound satisfying, you can hear the energy of the blast as you’re blown away. There’s an announcer telling you your next opponent is arriving.

Now the music is good. It’s powerful, it’s futuristic, energising, and enjoyable to listen to. And it pushes the whole game experience to the limits. This is an absurd game, it’s silly, it’s like a joke that’s played seriously. And there were genuine moments when I thought ‘oh actually, that’s pretty cool’.

The music ties it all together.

I was a little nervous about playing this game, I have a history with our crustacean friends, and I worried I wouldn’t enjoy this game. I thought it would be too goofy, with minimal effort for a laugh. And the UI and menus reinforced that, they look very ‘serious’ but I couldn’t understand a lot of it initially. Parts of the game could’ve done with a lot more polish. So, I was a little apprehensive.

I am happy to say I was proven wrong.

I don’t know if it’s a great game, but it definitely was a fun game. And I am astounded by how well this was executed. The controls were easy to learn, the game actually automatically locks onto your target and manages parts of your controls so you’re not overwhelmed. You’re given so many weapons, power ups, and abilities that I just could not wait to use whatever it was I grabbed. It’s a tree? Ok! A coconut crab has appeared with a hammer? I’m not going to back down, onwards I go! A lobster with rockets attached to its claws? Who thinks of these things, this is brilliant! I’m having an absolute whale of a time. I can’t wait to crack open this sweet game at a party with friends.

Maybe the UI leaves me crabby, I felt like I was going crabwise with the layout and navigation of the menus, and maybe I felt like I was being thrown into boiling water with the battles as chaos reigned.

But that doesn’t matter much.

Because I am a crab, and I must fight.

Boomerang Fu Review

Developer: Cranky Watermelon
Publisher: Cranky Watermelon
Music: Paul Kopetko & Zorsy & Marskye
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC (Windows)
Released: 13th August 2020
Genre: Couch Co-Op, Local Multiplayer, Party Game

Ready… Set… SLICE!

Boomerang Fu is a slice and dice with your friends kind of couch co-op (that reminds me of fruit ninja, maybe that’s because of the fruit characters). With its cute little character design, you and your boomerang must face off other players to be the last one standing. Each round shows off engaging maps that you must manoeuvre in order to survive the wrath of a stray boomerang. This awesome game isn’t much on the story side of things and more of a party game that’s all about local multiplayer madness. Cranky Watermelon is an Australian studio that promised cute cartoonish food related characters and they definitely delivered on that promise, you can play as an eggplant, avocado, banana, a donut or even as a highly caffeinated coffee cup among other characters.

The game play is frantic and fast paced which is exactly what you want in a couch co-op. There are over 30 different maps that have a variety of different interactable elements such as traps, switches that open or close passageways as well as teleporters that can transport you across the arena setting you up for a surprise attack on an unsuspecting player. There are a few different modes with customizable rules just in case you want to slow things down or ramp it up. One of the modes involves teaming up with a pal to take on another group, there’s also a Golden Boomerang mode where you must hold onto the gold boomerang the longest to win each round.

When you first jump in you notice that the controls are really simple and easy to learn as there are only three buttons you need keep track of, dash, throw, and slice. As you play there are more mechanics that you get introduced to such as power-ups that stack together after each round. Some of the power ups are teleport, explosive, fire, ice, disguise, shield and many more.

Initially I was overwhelmed by this stacking of power-ups because I felt that I wasn’t clearly instructed on that mechanic and I thought that I might have to alternate between abilities that I gathered so I felt a bit caught off guard when an avocado not only threw an explosive boomerang but one that also split into multiple of them, thus ‘sliceploding’ me into oblivion.

Rounds last somewhere between 5 seconds and 15 seconds making this game one that requires focus in order to win the most rounds. Cranky Watermelon was inspired by games such as Overcooked, Towerfall and Love is in a Dangerous Space Time to give you an idea of what the experience is similar too.

Paul Kopetko not only developed this game but also had a hand in the music which has this futuristic, trap electronic music vibe that pumps you up nicely for some boomerang slicing action. My only negative comment to make is that the music is rather repetitive in game and after a while I found myself feeling a bit worn down by the high intensity, especially since the gameplay is already hectic enough, which I guess comes from the Overcooked inspiration.

Overall Boomerang Fu is the frantic, fun, and feisty little couch co-op that is ideal for any game loving household, especially if you enjoy kicking your friend’s butts on a game night. Boomerang Fu is also relatively affordable at a little over $20 of the Nintendo E-shop, I played on the Nintendo Switch and I feel this game is designed really well for console, so my recommendation is to play with either the Switch or Xbox One. I really enjoyed my time with Boomerang Fu and look forward too many more nights attempting to make fruit salad out of my friends.

Reviewed by Evie Gibbons @eviezgames on 19th August 2020

The Flame In The Flood Review

Developer: The Molasses Flood
Publisher: Curve Digital
Music: Chuck Ragan
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Released: February 24, 2016
Genre: Survival

Flame in the Flood takes place in an apocalyptic world ravaged by a great flood. The focus isn’t on action, towering ruins or cool weapons, rather on nature reclaiming itself. Nature is your greatest enemy and ally in this game, propelling you down the river but trying to stop you every step of the way. You play as scout, a young survivalist, following a radio signal down a perilous river. You aren’t a fighter but have good survival skills to navigate danger and make what you need. Your only companion is your loyal (and near indestructible) dog Aesop, who finds resources for you, alerts you of danger, and even carries a secondary bag. Aesop can’t fight but also can’t get hurt so it’s a fair trade off.

It boasts vibrant visuals that overflow with a southern Americana aesthetic. The colours are rich and the shadows are intimidating. This style, with help from the soundtrack, creates a charming folksy setting that’s relaxing even when fighting for your life. Sometimes (usually during a thunderstorm at night) I would be unable to make out an area in the dark and an enemy would jump out. While annoying, it probably came close to the vision you’d actually have in that situation and it kept me on my toes. The animal designs are great, stylized, and threatening when they need to be. Though uncommon to meet, the designs for NPCs are full of character!

Flame in the Flood offers two modes of play, campaign and endless. Campaign has Scout searching for safety down river and will take around 6 hours, assuming you don’t die. The game does allow you to return to checkpoints when you die but these are pretty spread out, so you still feel the sting of losing progress. The game consists of either sailing down river or gathering resources from the locations on its banks. Thankfully, the game doesn’t have time to get boring because just staying alive requires managing so many things. Additionally, each world is randomly generated so each game is a different journey. Endless mode operates basically the same as the Campaign but with none of the story-beats and no ending. It’s best for people who want to achievement hunt or challenge themselves.

Flame in the Flood doesn’t offer a tutorial and just throws players into the thick of things. Mechanics are simple and don’t need an explanation, but it can take some time to work out how to deal with enemies and treat different conditions. While having a tutorial would certainly make things easier, discovering new ways to handle problems is one of the most rewarding parts of this game. Plus, what’s a survival game without a dozen deaths under your belt before you beat it?

There are seven things you need to manage in order to survive your journey: hunger, thirst, temperature, energy, sickness, injury and raft integrity. To improve one usually requires resources that risk/reduce another, creating the delicate balance key to survival games. It’s easy to keep track of everything on the HUD, they even included a portrait that shows how close Scout is to death.

The crafting system in this game is one of the best I’ve played with. There is a logical path from basic items to late game ones. The scarcity of items, and the risk of obtaining them, is well balanced throughout your journey. Some things definitely don’t work as simply as they should like, when checking the stats of a particular clothing item it needs to be equipped, not just in inventory. This would only cost me an extra second or two, but I found myself annoyed each time. Thankfully the few flaws were never enough to take away from my experience with this game.

The soundtrack for this game is incredible and stands out for being comprised of acoustic country songs with strong vocals. This soundtrack, created by singer Chuck Ragan for this game, is heart of this game. It would still be enjoyable to play with different songs but would not be the same game and would not be the same experience. I fell in love with this game in one of my earliest attempts. I was bleeding out, incredibly thirsty and clinging to life on a raft held together with string. I was disheartened and ready to give up, when River and Dale began playing bringing a thunderstorm with it. I collected the rainwater and sailed down the rapids to the next town with more supplies. I lived for many days after that and made it twice as far as my other attempts. These songs are hopeful, emotional and always kick in at just the right moment.

Flame in the Flood doesn’t offer too much story and that is usually what I look for in games. However, its world is so captivating that I had no problem feeling emotionally engaged. The story doesn’t offer much replay value but that’s what endless mode is for! If you’re a fan of the survival genre, you should definitely check it out, if you want a rich world to get lost in, you should definitely check it out, and if you want a beautiful acoustic soundtrack you should definitely check it out.

Reviewed by Maylee Flannery @MayleeFlannery on 5th June 2020

Superliminal Review

Developer: Pillow Castle
Publisher: Pillow Castle
Music: Matt Christensen
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Released: November 12, 2019 (Windows), July 7, 2020 (Others)
Genre: First Person Puzzle

Are you filled with feelings of self-doubt? Do you find yourself prone to minimizing massive dilemmas or for allowing the smallest problems to get blown completely out of proportion? At the Pierce Institute, our patent-pending SomnaSculpt technology provides safe and effective dream therapy while you rest in the comfort of our flagship clinic.

SomnaSculpt: We’ll make your dreams come true!

A first-person puzzle game, you play as a client experiencing dream therapy. Many are familiar with ‘dream logic’, where impossible things happen, strange rules are accepted, and you just don’t really know what could happen next. Superliminal is like that.

Doors appear and disappear. Objects can appear flat, but become 3D with just the right angle. Big objects become small, and vice versa. It’s a topsy turvy world, and within it you must solve puzzles in order to progress, with the friendly voice of Glenn Pierce reassuring you, and the less-friendly robotic voice of the orientation system coaching you, to guide the way. The environment is clinical, but friendly. Safe, interesting, and just a little bit silly.

Until… something goes wrong. And you find yourself solving puzzles not just to progress, but to escape, with the dream becoming more and more confusing, erratic, with the still-calm voice of Glenn Pierce trying to help you, but it comes with a sense of someone trying to keep a level-head while things go very, very wrong.

The main mechanic of the game is the utilisation of ‘forced perspective’. Real life examples include when people take photos of themselves with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background, staged in such a way that it looks like they’re holding it up.

In Superliminal, that is turned up to 11. If you pick up or place an object further away from yourself, it becomes bigger. If you move it closer, it becomes smaller. With this you can create platforms to climb up on, enter toy-like buildings, or even shrink yourself down, and vice versa.

You’ll find objects painted in perspective, or in pieces, and you have to align yourself just so in order to bring that object to life. Floors won’t exist unless you put something on it, sometimes objects will duplicate instead of being moved or manipulated. I had a particularly challenging time in a room with a giant apple. The game teaches you to look around, literally change your perspective, and knowing that you must solve each puzzle. Some are a bit easier than others, there’s a few rooms where I found myself walking around in circles, trying to find the moment when the solution would just click.

But sometimes I would have a literal headache, trying everything I could think of, wandering around, hoping for the solution to reveal itself. A couple of times I would solve it by accident, with a sense of ‘oh… that was it?’.

It is mindboggingly clever how they managed to execute these mechanics, and for the first few minutes I just played around, marvelling at it and all its possibilities. And for the most part it was utilized in really fun and clever ways. I found myself getting deeper and deeper into the game, into the dream, as things got more and more twisted, unpredictable, progressing and finding a way forward somehow while feeling like the ground I stood on was about to fall beneath me at any moment, like the crumbling edge of a cliff.

The auditory experience was at odds with the erratic world I was experiencing, but it kept me grounded. The music was relaxing, clinical, like something you would hear in the waiting room at the dentist. It was understated, easy to tune out, but it always reminded me that I, the player, was definitely within a clinic at all times. Trapped within dream therapy. That relaxing jazz music felt quite sinister as the game progressed.

In addition, there are sounds specifically for giving you a sense of scale. You’ll hear a cute little boop sound when you pick up or drop objects, however you’ll realise just how gigantic you made the object as the sound of it falling fills the room. It’s not when it hits the ground, it’s when it’s falling through the air. What does that sound like? Like a big thing falling.

I enjoyed playing Superliminal, it was a lot of fun, with a lovely, consistent artstyle that ties everything together, an impressive feat as you see how lighting, tone, and setting changes throughout the game. The usage of forced perspective as a mechanic is fascinating, and unique. I love unique, when it’s executed well. It didn’t hold my hand, the game already told me everything I needed to know to solve these puzzles. I started off curious and excited to even more curious and nervous when the tone of the game shifted.

But it felt like there could’ve been more. More depth, more symbolism, more story. It felt anti-climatic. But thinking on it further, the ending wasn’t bad, and I liked the message it presented. I finished the game feeling cheated. It’s all just a dream, right? But…I’ve been thinking, does that make the dream unimportant?

Reviewed by Zahra Pending @Degari_rose on 5th of August 2020