Tag: indie games

Carrion Review

 

Developer: Phobia Game Studio

Publisher: Devolver Digital

Audio: Cris Velasco

Platforms: Switch, Xbox One, Window, Mac & Linux

Release Date: 23/7/2020

Genre: 2D Action Platformer

 

Carrion is made for those who have, in one way or another, wished to unleash their inner Mr Hyde. And a warning to the wise and not so wicked, if you dislike the creepy, or are triggered by pixelated gore, the spatter and squelch of viscera, screams of terror, or unleashing the horror within… you are probably not going to be into this.

In Carrion, you control the hive mind of a symbiotic colony of an antediluvian ancestor to the tubifex worm, resulting in a cyclopian monstrosity of Lovecraftian horror. Basically, you’re a mass of prehensile tentacles and teeth bent on freeing yourself from the scientific dissection of your biomass.

Commonly, this game is described as reverse horror. Instead of playing the protagonist hiding from the horror as it stalks through the facility seeking freedom, you are the horror.

After breaking from your containment, you stalk your captors, ripping and tearing apart the available flesh to absorb as precious biomass. The biomass you will need to protect yourself while searching for the genetic skills of your kin scattered the of throughout the facility.

Towards those that dare fire upon your amassed power, you will revengefully return to chew on their corpses for the audacity of attempting to damage your majestic abomination.

Or maybe that’s just me…

What the developers at Phobia Game Studios really got right was the weight and movement in the game. The feeling of throwing doors, grates, vending machines, and human torsos come with a satisfying inertia and the added benefit of distracting – or even dismembering – your human opponents. This satisfaction also extends to the effects of your size on your movement as well.

Your own movement is also hypnotic. The worms that make up your body constantly move and shift, slinging out to fling you, swing you, and catch you. And while the movement looks complicated, it controls remarkably well.

I played on PC, and if you have ever played a shooting game, you know that your hand need not move from that position. The mouse controls your movement and prehensile tentacles while your left hand activates skills and levers, the latter of which are many.

Carrion is at its core a linear game pretending to be metroidvanian. The aim is to move from area to area, with you unable to traverse to the next without a new genetic skill. To reach the next save point, lever, or destroyable terrain piece, you are required to solve little puzzles or battle the different types of security intent on annihilating you.

And did I mention there is no map? You will have to rely on your own unique awareness and memory, a special little trap for overthinking completionists and people to took so long between gameplay that they forgot where they were up too… not that that happened to me.

Visually, the pixel art is perfect for the transitions between the clean, bright scientific active compounds, the rusted and disorderly industrialism, and the luminous greens and blues of botanical cave systems. It also means the game can live between the super realism of our imagination and the disbelief of pixelated abstraction, allowing for a modicum of separation between you and the horrors you commit. This is especially relevant as the game play actively covers all the interacted environment with a visceral palette of reds and purples as you course through them.

Acoustically, the game does balance the need for horror elements to the environment without overdoing it. So, while the screaming and whimpering of the cowering humans is ended with the crunch of cartilage and bones, there are no wet slaps of tentacles as you traverse. Instead, a pleasant soft carolling of schwips as your weight-bearing tendrils flail about to find purchase. The atmospheric soundtrack, composed by Cris Velasco, matches the horror theme perfectly. The tension-filled tracks, rather than filling you with dread, instead drive you further into the carnage as you lay waste to all before you.

Overall, Carrion is not a long game, and manages to find a place in the truly short list of games I’ve actually finished. The game’s length means it sits comfortably between learning how to utilise all the skills, and not overstaying its welcome. If you are looking to speed run this metroidvanian world in your first playthrough, I don’t think you’re going to get much satisfaction out of Carrion. However, if you choose to relish the screams, take revenge on those that hold you back, and take your time to work through the puzzles like the Dexter you always knew you were, then I think this sinewy tale might just be for you.

It is no wonder this game won the 2021 BAFTA’s Game Awards Best Debut Game and was nominated for best original property game.

Trashed Review

Developer: Josh Presseisen
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games
Music: Josh Presseisen
Platforms: Steam
Released: Early Access – 17/February/2021, Planned Release – early 2022
Genre: Adventure strategy

Garbage disposal and management is a problem that has plagued us for years, and it continues to be a problem far in the future, on a planet far, far away. Hundreds of ships dump their rubbish on some far-off desert planet, leaving bags of waste, plastic lawn chairs, and who knows what else.

And you, the newest hire, are tasked with solving this eternal problem: how to make all this trash go away?

Trashed is a strategy game about garbage management and disposal. With a chunky, 3D artstyle, your long flowing blue hair, and more than a few guns under your belt to take care of some problems you might run into, this is definitely a game meant to challenge you. And maybe overwhelm you, just a bit.

So, the main goal of Trashed is to dispose of garbage, and manage the waste and pollution it causes. A ship will come by about once every minute (or an in-game hour) to dump rubbish at a marked site. This can very quickly develop into a gigantic pile, with garbage bags just rolling all over the place. You need to move that garbage into an incinerator. You have a helpful robot that manages to push some bits of trash into an incinerator, and you can pick up a piece of garbage, and toss it in yourself. But you will not be able to keep up. And each bit of rubbish burnt will affect the air quality.

Thankfully, you have more than a few tools to help you out. As you earn money, you can buy a garbage blower, to move several pieces of rubbish, and blueprints to build more incinerators, air purifiers, solar panels, batteries, recycling machines, grinders (for the giant pieces of garbage that will get thrown onto your head by yet another ship), and more, including conveyor belts, which quickly became my favourite thing in the game.

In addition, you progress by picking up bounties from the office, requiring you to process a certain amount of garbage, or to kill some of the local creatures who will rock up to cause some trouble.

Of course, you can purchase various weapons to help you.

It’s addictive, it’s satisfying to optimise your dump site, to set it up so you only need to worry about some wayward rubbish. There are cutscenes with voiced characters, for some reason they’re all from Texas. I named my helpful robot Marvin. I love him. He gets stuck sometimes but he’s doing his best.

The music is pretty minimal, and there is a lot of silence in the game. The creatures I run into make some weird, alien-like sounds that makes me a bit nervous to hear. The sound of the ship arriving is overwhelming, and I’m glad to hear it go (mostly so it stops making a mess of things). It’s really satisfying hearing the constant sound of garbage being recycled and burnt, it tells me things are working. More music would be nice, but I find myself zoning out a lot, so I’m not too bothered.

There is one thing to note however, this game is in early access, and at the time of writing this review, in pre-alpha. There are a lot of bugs, there is only a portion of the planned content in the game, and I wasn’t able to actually complete the tutorial. My playthrough could be described as playtesting. This is not a finished product. But the content it already has, and the gameplay so far, is enjoyable. When I get past some of the worst bugs, and I get used to the rough controls, I found myself playing for hours. I had a playthrough where the bounties glitched out, so I couldn’t progress through the game, but I had so many conveyor belts, and you have never imagined air could be so clean.

I am looking forward to seeing this game continue to develop, and to revisit it over time. And I can’t wait until the team goes ‘Yup! That’s a finished game!’. Because my heart needed a garbage management game that takes place on an alien planet.

Green Hell Review

Developer: Creepy Jar, Forever Entertainment S. A., Incuvo S. A.
Publisher:
Creepy Jar, Forever Entertainment S. A., Incuvo S. A.
Music:
Adam Skorupa & Krzysztof Wierzynkeiwicz
Platforms: 
Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Released: 
29 August 2018
Genre:
Survival, Adventure, Simulation, Indie, Action

It has been three years since Jake and Mia first visited the Yabahuaca people. Originally Jake & Mia visited the Amazon Rainforest to study and learn about the tribe. After returning from the jungle Jake published a book called “The Spirits of Amazonia” discussing all the cultural elements of the tribe and its customs. However, the book wasn’t received well by its readers and criticized Jake for using the Yabahuaca tribe for his own personal gain. This time Jake has returned to the forest undergrowth in hopes of learning more about the jungle’s flora and fauna while Mia (his wife) ventures off to visit the Yabahuaca tribe to hopefully gain their leaders trust, be initiated into the tribe and ultimately share their secrets with the wider world.

Dialog over walkie talkie:
MIA: “I need you here. Jake. Please, please answer me!

JAKE: “Mia, what happened? Mia, speak to me… Mia!”

As you might’ve guessed things don’t go so well for Mia and it’s up to you (Jake) to find her and bring her to safety. Of course, this is a survival game which means things are not going to be so easy. If anything, they are going to be extremely difficult. Well with all the dangerous wildlife, angry Yabahuaca, rainforest dwelling drug cartel and of course Omolu Corp searching for the cure for cancer what could go wrong? Narratively speaking Green Hell is a game with branching narratives and multiple endings making for an interesting and long journey that can end happily or in tragedy. So, watch where you step my friend.

There are 4 difficulty levels in Green Hell. There’s: A Walk in The Park, Welcome to The Jungle, King of The Jungle, and of course Green Hell being the hardest. The big thing with these difficulty settings is that you can have the option to turn tribe hostility on or off, predators on or off as well as Jake’s sanity, making for a truly terrifying experience should you be chased by a big angry cat through the jungle, at night, in the rain, whilst not being too sure that you hallucinated the whole thing. But don’t worry the tutorial eases you in. First by showing you how to check your backpack, inspect your body should you become injured, how to set up a camp, build shelters and so on. The controls and interactions are pretty intuitive and easy to follow making the learning curve a breeze to get through.

Similar to ARK: Survival Evolved, Green Hell is spectacular in its environmental design taking you through creeks and undergrowth with brilliant visual clarity. The Amazon truly comes alive if you can turn those graphics settings right up and even on a low-resolution the environment still looks pretty darn real. You can tell by how well the water animations have been done that it’s a very aesthetically pleasing game. Making the terror that much more real.

There’s a bit to juggle in the first few hours of gameplay with learning a map, navigating a notebook with all the details of “How to do things” as well as finding the right time to rest, eat, and maintain sanity. You have a smart watch gifted to you from Mia that aids you with managing your player needs. As someone who gets spooked a lot this game is probably best played with friends. Green Hell gives you the option to play cooperatively both with survival mode and story mode. I find myself being more confident with decisions in survival games with friends by my side, but by all means if your more of a lone wolf kind of player than good luck to you.

What really gets my heart racing is the music, with low tribal drums, maracas, bamboo pan flutes and suspenseful themes Adam & Krysztof have done and insane job of elevating the experiences of Green Hell to not just increase your fear but also showcase the native South American musical instruments. Touching on classical Latin guitar, whilst still keeping true to the native sound of the Amazonas, I am definitely impressed. Of course, most of the music is designed to keep you on your toes so be prepared for that.

To summaries my experience with Green Hell I have to say that as much as I spent my time working up the courage to venture further into the rainforest, there is so much going for it aside from the fear aspects. There are many moments of appreciating the natural world, spinning out with Ayahuasca, and learning about the wonder of the Amazon. The story is compelling and is a fantastic driving force when you are unsure about what to do. The music is heart thumping and beautiful and I’m looking forward to playing more of the Green Hell universe as the developers continue to expand on Jake & Mia’s story. Hopefully when you play, you both come out alive.