I wasn’t looking forward to April.
I thought it was going to be a dull month, with absolutely nothing worthwhile to look forward to unless you like the typical Sony Third-Person Exclusive. If you weren’t a fan of The Last of Us having a woman to look after, then I’m sure Sony Santa Monica have got the right game for you with some androgynous male to mentor instead. Anyway, that’s not why we’re here, we are here to inspect the peculiar beast known as “Sometimes You”.
A small time indie publisher, the company is an enigma of sorts. Their website shows no information except a fraction of the games they have published, with only one of them being a part of the 9 that they’ve plopped onto the UK Xbox One Store throughout late March/early April. Confused and bewildered by this movement, I’ve taken it upon myself to delve into every one to see what sticks to the wall, starting with…
Energy Cycle – Ring a Bell – Developer: Sometimes You
Energy Cycle! This is the only one developed by Sometimes You themselves. You play as a cat which looks like an old concept drawing of the Pokemon Jolteon, who will be hopping on grid-set orbs until all of the orbs have turned into one colour. Out of all the games released by Sometimes You, this is the only one with so little gameplay it shouldn’t even be discussed.
The puzzles aren’t hard, the music is non-existent, and when there is audio, it’s grating. Energy Cycle is a 30-minute Flash Game that someone had the balls to distribute for actual money, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Sometimes You developed actual shame upon that realization. It would explain why they worked towards getting other indie highlights onto the Xbox One Storefront. Games like…
NORTH – Artificial Death In The West – Developer: Outlands
NORTH! It’s not indie without a walking simulator these days, and developer Outlands have made one worth talking about. You play as a nameless immigrant from the South who has began a pilgrimage to the North in order to seek asylum from the horror that the South has been subject to. It’s not a simple form to fill out, however, as your character needs to show that he can become an upstanding citizen, and over time, he begins to question whether this initiation is worth the freedom.
If you were to look at the core of NORTH, you’d think it would be telling a tale through the filter of Blade Runner 2049, and you’d be right. Unfortunately, Outlands quickly disregards their own promise by patronizing the player to a frustrating degree, with its unsubtle winks to the player about how much control you’re really in. Yes, I get it Outlands, video games and their narrative promises of freedom aren’t that free, now stop interrupting me and let me immerse myself.
After a while, the game continues to piss around in this condescending nature, to the point where everything annoys you. The stupidly loud soundtrack, the ugly, UGLY textures, the really weird Sonic The Hedgehog section… and when it ends? It just ends. No fanfare, it just gives you a pat on the back and that’s it. Despite its neat aesthetic, it’s not as well-executed as…
Metropolis: Lux Obscura – Year of The Snitch – Dev: Ktulhu Solutions
Metropolis: Lux Obscura! A match-3 puzzle game inside a Frank Miller graphic novel. No, seriously, this game is Bejeweled meets Sin City, with everything that would call for concerned mothers to think about the children. Profanity, violence, full-frontal nudity, all tastelessly drawn by a Rob Liefeld impersonator, and written by someone who deserves a pay cut for this horrific try-hard edginess writing.
I use no hyperbole when I say that this is the Hatred of puzzle games. It’s not offensive in the slightest, it’s just needlessly pathetic attempts to make the world more harsh than it is, despite the aesthetic already doing enough of a job with its monochromatic graphics. Beyond that, the gameplay’s alright, even if it’s in a hilarious juxtaposition with the art style and aforementioned writing.
It’s about an hour long, and even less if you figure out just how easy it is to manipulate the mechanics. You can move a block anywhere on the grid as long as it’s in the same row and column, and if you have an eagle eye you can get 4-stacks and combos that end the game faster than the game throws out its integrity. After you get all four endings, which all end in the main character dying, that’s it. It’s not as wholesome as, say…
Where Are My Friends? – Lost Boys – Dev: Beard Games Studio
Where Are My Friends?! I don’t know! If they’re stuck in this game, they’re not your friends! You play as a Cyclops robot who is unable to find his scientist(?) buddies, and must venture through different worlds to find them. The gimmick here is the genre of game changing with each world, so one minute you’ll be exploring a Metroidvania-esque world, and the next will see you point-n-clicking through obtuse puzzles.
It’s cute! The art style is simplistic, and I can only think of one area where the visual presentation did absolutely nothing for itself. The kick to the teeth is that this gameplay is so ass-numbingly slow, with everything being so floaty and every new part needing a goddamn ceremony attached to it. Other than that, the game has almost unequalled charm.
While doing a slight bit of research, I couldn’t help but notice the game did get some unnecessarily harsh flak for no reason I could possibly figure out. Maybe it’s the whole “slower than a snail filing tax returns” thing, but that doesn’t make Where Are My Friends? incredibly bad. What IS incredibly bad however, is…
Alteric – Trash – Dev: goonswarm
Alteric. You’ll notice that I didn’t put a clever subtitle in or exclamation mark here, but that’s because the game is almost hemorrhage-inducingly bad on every possible level. How goonswarm failed at absolutely everything is beyond me. Not a single redeeming factor appears from any part of the game.
The aesthetic? Poor man’s Thomas Was Alone. The controls? Unfathomably shit, which I can’t even describe well. You have never seen controls that are both unresponsive and too sensitive at the same time. The music is dull techno, and the level design is awful… no, not just “awful”, it’s fucking awful.
You see, goonswarm made the levels just completable, and only just. When you look at the level and just how spread apart everything is, you’ll find that the level design has been stretched to its limits, and everything only barely makes sense. When you’re not sliding off platforms for no reason, you have to put up with bosses that don’t even work properly.
If you beat a boss, it crashes your console. If you die on a boss, it crashes your console. If you try to load up a boss level from the level select screen, it crashes your console. This is the new SHiNY , and it pains me to say it, but not even Creator’s Collection games show such an incredible lack of ineptitude on every front. Misery. Utter, utter misery.
To be Continued…
Yeah, we’re ending on a low note, but Alteric reminded me of the void that we all live in. Tune in next time where we dig into the other half of these indie games with the same precautions I would take while eating Chinese food from Chernobyl. Godspeed.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.