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Indie Investigation Vol. 4: The Twist Where They’re All Good Games

Dammit, I’m sick of all these games.

 

I yearn for positivity, something that my body exhumed along with all of the healthy habits I had before I picked up a ten-a-day smoking habit. Well truth be told, the positivity is still there, it’s just rather infrequent. For every Mooseman, there is two Spectrum Retreats or seventeen SHiNYs, but after biding my time, five are here to blow your socks off.

 

From dinosaurs to neon, match-three puzzlers to violence, there’s something for everyone within the five titles featured here. These are games that couldn’t get a full review done on them for one reason or another, be it that they’re too short, too difficult to think of things to critique, or were just lazy (especially the last one). So buckle up lad, let’s dive in.

 

Octahedron – Blade Runner 1999 – Dev: Demimonde

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

 

 

Fiiiiiiiiiiiirst up, Octahedron, a fancy neon-blasted platformer from Swiss one-man studio Demimonde and published through the Square Enix Collective program. They’ve got an eye for talent, as Octahedron barrages you with oodles of creativity, and it shows as soon as you start the game up. The synth kicks in and suddenly you’re in an audio-visual dimension of possible photosensitive seizures.

 

You’ve got to get to the end, that much is established, but with every new world you venture into, the tools used to get there vary. It’s not that there are new rules being added to the book while time passes, it’s that with every new world, Demimonde gives you an entirely new rulebook. The main gimmick is that at the apex of your jump, you can create a platform from beneath your feet, which you use to navigate around obstacles, activate pickups and avoid hazards, and the skill ceiling for such a simple gimmick is huge.

 

 

Soon enough, you’ll be jamming to an utterly superb synth soundtrack, hopping from one materialized platform to another, and managing to keep a slick feel of skill throughout. The slight variations in gameplay mechanics work well with how they ease into the flow of the level, and the dangers you’ll face aren’t too obnoxious to dispose of… well, the bulbs that dart from wall-to-wall can kiss my arse, but still, fun throughout.

 

It loses steam around World 5, however. It’s around this point that Demimonde might’ve have run out of ideas with what you can do with a platform that appears underneath your feet, which is why most of the obstacles are  designed to make the platform seem as useless as possible. Nevertheless, the game still shows a great sense of precision, with extremely tight platforming control, and the pacing mixed with the difficulty make it something for everyone to enjoy. Woo.

 

Rating: 7.5/10 – Ill

Omega Strike – Klink – Dev: Woblyware/Stage Clear Studios

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC

 

 

Next on the list is Omega Strike, a Metroidvania from another one-man studio, Woblyware. Wobly has mostly been making titles for iOS and Android, with League of Evil being the only other game that’s been put on Steam. Omega Strike shows an evolution of what Woblyware is capable of, even if the steps are smaller than what humans are capable of.

 

You play as three people in unison, who might as well be The Scout, The Demoman, and The Soldier from Team Fortress 2. They have base differences in how they can attack, interact and navigate the environments, and to be honest, the game pulls a black bag over your head at the beginning when you’re stuck with The Soldier only. A third of the way into the game and boom! Suddenly the game opens up with all three able to be used.

 

 

The art style is easily one of the best parts of this game. Everything’s detailed with lush pixel art, and every new environment manages to look cozy and dense. The boss fights are also a huge highlight, with there being a lot of variety in playstyles used for each one, and generally showing off what Woblyware is capable of. Shoutouts to General Armstrong and the Drillmaster 5000.

 

While the game gains a head around the halfway point, there’s a lot of stuff that could be improved upon. It’s not that it’s bad– There’s the poppy chiptune, the warm visual design, the actual lack of common enemy variety– But it all feels like placeholders for better sound design, art design, and gameplay flow respectively. Truthfully, it’s kind of like Cuphead, where the effort was put into the bosses, and not the calmer sections in-between. Regardless, for its RRP or under, Omega Strike is a quirky little Metroidvania that’s sure to charm.

 

Rating: 7/10 – Ill

 

Turok (1997) – Your Ass, It Parks – Dev: Nightdive Studios/Iguana Entertainment

Platform(s): Xbox One, PC

 

 

You’ve got to hand it to Nightdive Studios for trying to revive the old-school. System Shock, Forsaken, Bad Mojo, Shadow Ma Okay, maybe not Shadow Man, but most of the titles Nightdive have bought back from the dead in order to reach a wider audience have still retained almost all of their qualities, including Turok! The time-travelling, dinosaur-hunting FPS originally developed by the now-defunct Iguana Entertainment. Thanks, Acclaim.

 

The selling points on the store-page are incredibly humorous if you wish to know what 1997 was like. “Completely 3D Virtual World!”, “Intelligent Enemies…!”, “Cobwebs sway!”, and so on and so forth. It makes Turok sound like a tech demo more than anything, but it has aged like fine wine, with the combat and progression being top-notch. It truly deserves a spot in the list of “Best FPS’s of ’97”, along with Half-Life, Quake II, GoldenEye, Doom 64, and Blood.

 

 

While eight levels might not sound like much, they are overwhelmingly huge, some of them teeming with seemingly endless secrets. Turok also employs a lives system, which is rare for an FPS to do, but the game needs it for some of the insane platforming you’re about to do. Every once in a while, the combat will be broken up by you attempting to navigate to the next area, with the Thinnest Rock Pillars Ever™ being the only way to get across. It’s not bad platforming, but the controls have gotten stiff after 21 years, so failure might happen often.

 

Upon returning, I don’t remember the enemies being such incredible bullet sponges. Around Level 4, you’ll start to come across Fire Priests quite a bit, and these bastards can tank grenades as if they’re Wolverine. Still, you have fourteen weapons to try and remedy that, including the stupidly powerful Fusion Cannon / Nuke, along with a lot of enemy variety to test the weapons on. Triceratops with rocket launchers, aliens with jetpacks, and the good ol’ Longhunter, a well-varied arena fight is Turok’s goal and it succeeds.

 

Rating: 8/10 – Ill

 

Not A Hero – Only Fools And Bunnylords – Dev: Roll7

Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Android, PC, Nintendo Switch

 

 

Next up is probably the most recent title or porting, Not A Hero! A side-scroller that recently got released on the Nintendo Switch, in collaboration with Devolver Digital and Team 17. The perfect game for such a console, as the adventures of the Pink Bunnylord are quick, snappy and comedic. Wanting to stop the human race from becoming extinct in 2048, the anthropomorphic pink bunny travels back in time in order to start a political campaign, become mayor of England, and prepare humanity for the onslaught.

 

Joining Bunnylord on his journey are a colourful cast of stereotypes and beyond, all equipped with different ways to tackle the, err, cleaning process Bunnylord has in mind for the country. What follows is essentially a side-scrolling version of Hotline Miami, complete with ultra-violence and a cutesy little zest to the whole ordeal.

 

 

Bunnylord drops you off in the campaign helicopter, you run into the building filled with Badmans and former ASBO holders, spread the good word by blowing their faces off, and Costa Coffee afterwards? It’s this archaic flow that makes the game thoroughly intense, as varying objectives help keep the playstyles you’ll obtain over time fresh and exciting.

 

You could choose Steve and his “ur mom m8” jokes to slide tackle the enemies into submission, or you could pick the Scottish Cletus to blow back the foes into hazards, but then there’s also Ronald Justice and Samantha . It’s this variety and flow that helps Not a Hero to never miss a beat through its 21 missions, and accompanying hardcore challenges in the “Me, Myself & Bunnylord” side-missions. A perfect mix of fast-paced side-scrolling and tactical approach make Not a Hero great for the same reasons Hotline Miami is.

 

Rating: 9/10 – Viral

 

Slime-San: Superslime Edition – Super Sticky Boy – Dev: Fabraz

Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch

 

 

Finally on the list, we have Slime-San, a 2017 hardcore platformer from four-man team Fabraz, which recently got a huge content update with the “Superslime Edition” that dropped onto the Xbox One and PS4 storefronts. With the Superslime Edition, you get a massive stack of 150 levels, taking place across four different campaigns, and the only lesson that comes across is that Slime-San is apparently very, very tasty.

 

It follows the Super Meat Boy route, but chooses to take the form of four different rooms you have to navigate Slime-San through as one level. From the get-go, how Slime-San can interact with the environment is shown; He can detract his density in order to slip through other green objects, and the double jump can be improved via dashing at the correct time and timing them for maximum efficiency.

 

 

It’s surprisingly really fun! For the first 75% of the game, that is. After a while, the phrase “Quantity over quality” comes to mind, and a lot of the levels in-between the meatier boss fights or challenge rooms feel like packing peanuts in comparison. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of ways you can utilize the obstacles and platforms thrown before you, in order to shave seconds off your best time, and feel like a goddamn badass.

 

Collect some of the Apple collectibles in the levels, however, and you have the chance to buy a lot of new items for Slime-San. Different playstyles, cosmetic clothing, and even different graphical filters. Unfortunately, the latter choice is the one kick to the teeth that might be a bit of a detriment to some: the deliberate use of Game Boy-style graphics. A lot of people complained that it’s a strain on the eyes, even without the shaders, but if you’re a MAN made out of PASSION and BEER, you may not mind.

 

Stick through it, and you get one of the best platformers of this generation.

 

Rating: 8.5/10 – Sick

 

Well, that’s that week of indie titles looked at and praised with obvious overwhelming emotion, and hopefully next week will be the same joy and love I’ve shown here. All of these titles are worthy of being on your console, and they always shall be… unless they make sequels… or reboots… or they’re de-listed…  or the developer turns out to be a part of the Third Reich.

 

Damn, might as well get them now then.

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