November 7, 2019

Jello and the Valley of Duh - Review


   Jello and the Valley of Duh is game about Jello, a shiny Jigglypuff that was abandoned by her parents, and how she goes on many adventures with her friends Raiblu (A mix between a Raichu and an Azumarill) and Kirby (Yes, that Kirby) in the planet Lodoran, inhabited by many different pokemon and even some humans. At first glance, is easy to mistake it for just another weird fan project that only the developer would care about. And in some ways, it kinda is. But judging the book by its cover will make you miss all the colorful graphics, the original soundtrack, and the lovable characters. And if you look a little deeper, you will also find the growth of the developer, both in their skills and in a personal way. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.


   The graphics are definitely one of the strong points of the game. Every place you visit is full of color and charm, and every character, even NPCs, have personality. The maps use a mix of RTP and custom graphics, but they blend pretty well. Most characters also have a custom face set, with most of them looking cute and appropriate (though a few of them, especially humans, look... off.) There are also many illustrations in a few key scenes, with many of them looking great and perfectly setting the mood. You just gotta love every picture that appears at the start of every chapter. And of course, all of this accompanied by a mostly original soundtrack with songs made by the developer, a few from other games and another few RTP songs. There are some really good tunes in there too, I gotta love the Duh town song because you always keep coming back there and is a good tune to feel like you are back home.

But ok, I've been singing praises about the presentation this whole time. What about the gameplay? Well, it's kind of a mixed bag. Most battles are pretty easy, and the enemy's rewards tend to be so low that there's really no point in fighting them. Thankfully, most battles can be avoided, and it doesn't hurt that much seeing as the bosses also suffer from the same "easy" problem. It kinda feels like battles are there because they are expected to be there, but the developer wasn't really interested in working too deeply on them. This can be seen both as a good and a bad thing because honestly, the battles kinda feel like filler at times, and making them quick and easy lets you enjoy more of the story, but more depth could be appreciated.


   What about the story? Well... before I talk about that, I think it's important to make clear that this game took many years, working on it on and off. With the last two chapters almost feeling completely apart from the rest of the game due to the changes to the tone of the game. One very easy way to notice it is with the pictures before the start of each chapter, with every new one having progressively better-looking artwork. I can really appreciate the growth and changes, both of the developer and, in some way, of our main characters.

   And that's cool and all, but what about the actual story in the game? Well... I gotta admit it's kind of a mess, with no clear direction at many points. At the start it seems that it will be focused on Jello's parents, but then Kirby comes and now it's about getting him back home. Mid-way through the game we solve the mystery of Jello's parents and then we kinda get lost for a pair of chapters until the plot picks up again until the end where the tone of the game takes a dark turn. Don't get me wrong, individually, each chapter contains its own story and are fun on their own. You don't ever feel that lost, but when you look at the whole picture it can be a little confusing.

   Also, there are a few moments that leave you thinking "Wait, are we doing this now?". Without spoiling too much they are mostly crossovers with other games. I'm pretty sure that back then it sounded like a great idea to add many references to your favorite games, and why should I blame them? I'm sure that many of us did that in one way or another in our early game making days. And they aren't really bad sections, though I admit that they kinda drag the game more than necessary.


Overall, I really enjoyed the game, a lot more than I expected actually. It isn't perfect by any means, there are many little bugs and quirks here and there, plus many issues with the pacing and the gameplay, but the overwhelming charm of the game won me over. I believe that this is the result of many years of work, of innocent days long gone, of little past dreams and a dash of newer experiences. It is a product of love, and I respect that.

Download Link

November 3, 2019

The Babadook - Review


   Oh boy, where do I start? Maybe let's start with the game page itself because as soon as I looked at the list of characters in the game, with one-line descriptions for each one ("Player's Mom - The player's mother"... ok), I knew that this was going to be something else.

   Now, let's name the good points, I liked the graphics for most of the characters, they look nice and consistent enough (Except for your father, he looks low-quality and out of place) and I appreciate people making Visual Novels in RPG Maker. It's amazing how it has all the tools right there to make a decent VN without needing a lot of scripting knowledge, making it more newbie-friendly than some of the more specialized programs, like Renpy.


   Here comes the harsh part though... As a VN, this game fails in the most important aspect of them: the writing. There are so many problems with it that I don't know where to start. I'm not a native english speaker, but yet I could still identify many spelling and grammar errors, I suggest to the developer to run all the script through a spell checker, there are many websites online that can help you with it. I personally recommend Grammarly.

   But then comes the next part, and probably the hardest to improve because there's no easy way to do it. I'm not even sure how to exactly describe it as I also have problems with writing, but one way to put it would be: Things happen just because. Here are some examples: When you go back to your home after school, you find the abandoned house where the Babadook lives, and then it starts to haunt you. Why it didn't haunt other people that have walked that same road before? Why nothing happened on the way to the school, only when going home? There's also absolutely no build-up to the Babadook haunting you, you just walk in front of the house and *boom* now he's chasing you. 

   Another example, your father mentions something about needing a key to open the house where Babadook is, if I recall correctly, it was thrown down a well so nobody could free that monster. Then the next day, a girl finds the key because she just walked in front of the well that day, it's too convenient and ridiculous. Another problem is that it seems you are introducing various characters, but with only a few lines for each one, it's hard to care about them. There's even a scene where a new girl joins the class and some random guy instantly falls in love with her. Ok, that's fine, but are these characters important to the story? They never appeared again (though the demo is too short to say if they will have a more important role later on). And finally, everyone agreed too quickly to go to the abandoned house even though your father already told that the Babadook lives there, so why would you even want to go? 


   There are also some other problems: Why is all the text red? Why not just plain white so it's easier to read? There's also the issue when people name the Babadook, the text turns into a dark grey/blue color, making it hard to see in certain scenes. The name of the characters should have some kind of outline, because again, they kinda blend with the background, making them hard to read. Why are there so many save points? Sometimes they are back to back too, but the game is short enough that you won't need them, making them completely pointless. 

   My recommendation to the developer is to take a few steps back and really examine what they have in their hands. Try to look up tutorials on how to improve your writing and how to tell a consistent story. Honestly, I would even dare to suggest to scrap this game or put it on a long hiatus, focusing on other projects while building up their skills. Again, the most important aspect of a Visual Novel is the writing, so I suggest to practice a little more before tackling a project like this. Maybe even ask for a little help from a beta-reader? Or maybe start with a simple rpg story that doesn't require so many "nuances" in the way a horror story needs? The game has a release date for the full version in August 2020, which is a little excessive, but perfect enough if the developer takes the road of improving their skills before working on this project again.

Download Link

July 11, 2019

Unfinished Stories - Original Soundtrack


Download it here!


 There are 28 tracks in total (including two bonus tracks), with ample looping and tailored arrangements of the dynamic tracks. It's free/pay what you want (if you decide to pay, it'll go to lavendersiren's PayPal, our awesome musician) so there's little reason not to download it.

 (Make sure you've played the game at least once before listening to the soundtrack.)

April 8, 2019

Unfinished Stories


This game was made for the 2019 Timtam Slam Jam by Team Oreo.


Once upon a time, there was a kingdom ruled by a king and queen.
They had two children: one destined to inherit the throne, and the other destined to become a hero.
This three part story chronicles the story of that hero...


Chapters:


 Chapter one - The dragon master has stolen the tablet of power! As the hero, you must get it back!

 Chapter two - The kingdom has torn in two. Can you prove yourself as a hero and bring it back together?

 Chapter three - It has been many years since the events of chapter two. 
What will you do now? Are you even the hero you thought you were?

Gameplay:


 This game has two main avenues of gameplay: the overworld platforming sections and the battle sections.

 Very early on, the hero will obtain boots that will allow them to jump across small gaps. There is no penalty aside from positional setback for falling, so don't give up!


 The battle sections are all unique encounters with immediate relevance to the story at hand. The battle system is fairly standard, but with much smaller numbers than usual. Items cannot be bought so use what you can find wisely!

Characters:


The Hero

 The noble child on a journey towards adulthood. With their trusty blade, they can conquer any obstacle!


The Hero's Brother

The heir to the throne and the coolest brother you could ever ask for. Unfortunately, his princely duties cause him to be absent more than you'd want...



The Hero's Dog

The hero's faithful companion. What would you do without this fine canine?


The Hero's Friend

 A magician with a strong moral compass. What they lack in strength, they more than make up for in magical power.



Download

February 17, 2019

Alpaca Moon - Review

 Alpaca Moon is platformer game made in Unity for the second CFN’s game jam at itch.io. The theme was “The Road Less Traveled.”I’m not sure how an Alpaca having adventures fits the theme though. Funny thing, I actually tried to participate in that jam but real-life stuff got in the way and I never managed to finish the game in time. But anyway, back with Alpaca Moon…


 The story is about an alpaca that one day decides to leave the pen and go on a journey, facing many dangers and adventures along the way. To be honest, this is just an excuse to have an alpaca as the main character; the game doesn’t really have a “story.”But it doesn’t matter that much, what matters in a platformer game is that the gameplay is fun, right? Well... the game works for the most part. It's nothing amazing or groundbreaking though, just a run of the mill platformer. You move, jump, collect gems, avoid enemies and jump on moving platforms. Again, pretty standard stuff, I would even dare to say that there’s nothing really “wrong” with the game (aside from being boring due to how generic everything is.) The graphics are mostly fine, they look pretty nice except for some details. For example, I’m not a fan of that orange sky, and the legs of the foxes look so wrong. The sound is also very generic with nothing of note to say about it; the background music can get a little annoying though.

 Now a single but very big problem turns the game from “standard/mediocre game” to “almost unplayable,” and that’s the camera.  The camera is so zoomed in that is hard to see your environments. It reaches the point where 70% of the jumps in the game are leaps of faith and is incredibly frustrating having to jump without knowing where are you going, only to fall to the bottom of the level. I couldn’t even finish the first level and was so frustrated that I didn’t advance more than a few screens on the other two levels due to how annoying this issue is. It doesn’t matter anyway, as the other levels don’t bring anything new to the table, they even share the same graphics as the first one. I even messed around with the resolution options to see if it was because I was running the game in a small window but nothing changed (by the way, in low resolutions, the hud doesn't even appear.) I know I shouldn’t judge too harshly on a game made in a little less than two weeks, but the camera is more of a design issue than a problem of not having enough time to polish it.


 Overall, I can’t recommend it, unless you have 5 mins with nothing better to do. The game isn’t bad per se, but I just can’t stand that camera, it ruins the whole game for me. I would love seeing another version with the camera less zoomed-in, the overall score wouldn’t really change, but the game would be a lot more enjoyable.

Download

February 16, 2019

Path of the Murderer - Review


 Path of the Murderer is a little arcade game made in Game Maker. You play as a serial killer and your objective is to kill as many people as you can in every level, while also trying to get your score as high as you can. The concept is good enough and has some potential, but the execution is… a little poor. Let me explain.

 You control your character with WASD and the Spacebar keys, A and D naturally moves you left and right, while the spacebar makes you jump (Which is pretty useless.) You press W to hide in the background and S for attacking. While hiding, you move a lot faster and nobody can see you, but you can’t hide anywhere you want, and houses will annoyingly block your path. You have to stop hiding and walk in front of the house. The problem is that if anyone sees you, they’ll run away and you’ll lose a potential victim, but when you are forced to stop hiding (thanks to a house or some other obstacle) there’s almost no time to react and hide again. The only way to avoid scaring them is to replay the level until you know where everyone is going to appear. Or walk slowly so you can see them as soon as they appear at the border of the screen, which is not so easy as you have a time limit in each level.


 I have a few problems with the controls, first, is that to stop hiding you have to press W. This is a little confusing as your normal reaction is to press S, to press “down”, but S is your attacking button. It sucks when you try attacking someone and this little mix up makes you lose a few seconds of time. By the way, your attack has a really short range. This wouldn’t be as much of a problem if it weren’t for the “clunky” feeling that the controls have. They aren’t as smooth as they should be and this hurts the experience. For example, if your target is moving you want to appear and quickly kill them before they get too far. But more than once, I attack the air and get stuck without moving. Is hard to explain it, but the keys get a little “sticky.”

 Overall, the game has a decent presentation, and the concept is fun. But sadly, clunky controls and questionable game design choices bring down the game. The game is not BAD, it is just… mediocre. Give it a try if you are bored.

February 15, 2019

Ghost Run - Review

 Ghost Run is one of those games that should’ve never been released on the internet. I’ve never used Construct 2 before but reading the comments and the description it seems like this is one of the tutorials but with a few rules changed, making this probably the laziest game I’ve played so far. This makes reviewing this very hard task, what could I possibly say about it?


 I usually talk about the gameplay in this section but… there’s not much to talk about. You spawn on the left upper corner of the map, and your objective is to “eat” the humans that periodically appear. Two problems quickly arise, first, the HUD doesn’t move with you making it pretty pointless as enemies spawn on the bottom of the map. It shows your health and points but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because the second problem completely breaks the game. You see, I’m not sure how the dev programmed the enemy spawner, but it seems like every time you eat one, two more will spawn, eat those two, and four will spawn next. If you keep doing this, the number of enemies on the screen gets ridiculously high. Stick to the bottom of the screen and keep eating enemies as soon as they spawn and watch how the screen gets flooded with enemies. Is actually amazing how my pc was still running fine even with so many sprites on the screen. As soon as you multiply the enemies though, you will also die pretty quickly due to everyone shooting you at the same time.


 And… that’s it. There’s nothing else to add. Even if the bug of spawning gets fixed the game is still too simple and boring to be worth anything. Thankfully, it doesn’t even last a full minute, you’ll play this once and never touch it again, it doesn’t even have a restart button anyway. The graphics are… kinda ugly and there’s no sound as far as I know. The biggest problem with the game is how… lazy and unfinished it feels, it doesn’t help that it is just the tutorial project with a single mechanic changed. I’m assuming that the original tutorial had you play as the human and you shoot the ghosts as they get closer. That actually sounds more fun than this, but then again, it all depends on the execution. A game where you play as the monster and you have to attack the “heroes” sounds like a fun premise when done right. This game, though… it sucks, just avoid it.

Download

February 12, 2019

Hover Tank Battle Arena - Review

“It is the year 2080.  For over 20 years, all around the world, millions of young girls are being kidnapped, and subjected to all kinds of terrible exploitation. They are being taken to a country where the government is a harsh and brutal theocracy.  There, they are treated much worse than slaves.  The evil leader of this country wishes to impose his harsh and brutal religion upon the American people.  He has also demands that 3000 American girls become members of his harem." 
“You are one of the girls that he demands become a member of his harem.  Furthermore he demands that you convert to his religion.  But that would mean you would have to deny your Savior and Lord.  You refuse to convert to his faith and you also refuse to join his harem.  He is very deeply and personally insulted because of this. As a matter of fact he is so deeply and personally insulted that he declares war against the United States" 
“Because his honor is so mortally insulted, the only way he can regain his honor is to fight in combat.  Your are chosen by lottery to fight him, and his minions.  You will fight against him and his allies in tanks with in an arena.  The top ranking members of his government will fight you, in different arenas, inside of tanks.  If you can defeat him, this will mean the end of his reign of terror.”



 And that’s a copy-pasted and somewhat shortened version of the story of Hover Tank Battle Arena, a small game made in Clickteam Fusion 2. It is a ridiculous backstory for such a simple game… even though it is only included in the readme and it never shows at all in-game. 


 The game is basically a top-down shooter where you control a tank and shoot at your enemies. It is fairly standard, and there’s almost no noteworthy feature to talk about. Yeah, there are some special colored enemies that can only be damaged by special shots of the same color. But this doesn’t really feel like it adds a lot to the game. Probably another point to talk about would be the very high difficulty, for example; the first boss can hit you from off-screen, sometimes multiple times, while you are still trying to get close enough to land a hit. It doesn’t help that the mouse cursor “sticks” to the map, instead of moving independently. To explain this a little better: in any top-down shooter when you aim a spot with the mouse and then move around, your character will still aim at the general direction, but it will move with the camera. Here, it sticks to that spot, and you have to reposition your cursor all the time, especially when trying to dodge the enemy. Is hard to explain but once you play the game you’ll see what I mean.


 Overall, there’s not much to talk about. The whole game is just mediocre with nothing interesting to speak of. Personally, I didn’t like it, but I believe some people out there will find more enjoyment out of this… maybe?

February 11, 2019

Crazy World - Review

 Crazy World is a map pack for Super Mario Bros. X, a fan-game the allows you to create your own Super Mario Bros. levels and share them online. This game was made in 2011 for the RMN Summer Games, an event in RPGMaker.net where participants developer a game in a single month with a certain theme. The theme was “Surrealism”, so the after the announcement, the developer decided to create “weird and random” Super Mario maps without any underlying message, because it surely is the best way to represent  “a movement that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious and is characterized by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.” (Fun fact: After checking the event page it seems that the dev never participated at all! They didn’t even sign up for it.)


 It's going to be hard to talk about this game, not only because it is extremely short, being no longer than 5 minutes. But because of how terrible it is, this is one of those games that shouldn’t be released on the internet. Do you see these screenshots? Aside from the first level, those are all the levels in the game, each one taking no longer than 1 minute to complete. There isn’t even enough substance to do a review without having to write what happens in every single scene, and even then, it may be too short.



 Here’s a brief summary of each level: The first one is pretty short, you start trapped in a corner of the room and to get out you have to hit some blocks. In the second, a weird Toad greets you and then… transforms into a Goomba? To advance you have to go up in one of those levels that wraps around the sides. Then comes a puzzle where you have to go through some doors until you finally can be free again and go through a pipe to the next level. Next is a section where you have to jump on top of some small blocks surrounded by lava, and thanks to its hitbox, it becomes very annoying as you die in jumps that seemed perfectly safe. And finally, the last level, where you go down and dive into a pool of purple water… and then find out that there’s no way to progress.


 And that’s it, that’s the whole game. I gotta admit that I liked the concept and a few little details, like spikes that can’t kill you or how Mario’s sprite is facing the opposite direction. But these do nothing to change how I feel about this, it just screams laziness. The developer promised to make more updates but it's obvious that this game was abandoned. Even the 78 KB of space the download occupies is too much. Avoid it.

February 10, 2019

Pixel Oscar - Review


 Looking at Pixel Oscar: The Pixelated Door’s game page, I was kind of impressed by it. The graphics were colorful and the premise sounded unique. A 2D platforming game made in RPG Maker VX? That’s something that you don’t see every day, I had to try it. But once I downloaded the game, I was met with disappointment.

 You play as Oscar or one of his many friends, exploring different worlds and defeating enemies along the way. One of the first things you’ll notice is… how poorly drawn are the main characters, while the rest of the game uses ripped resources from other games. I don’t really want to criticize it, because I’ve been there, I’ve made shitty sprites with my bad art skills before. But is hard to not point out how awful they look, especially compared to the rest of the game. Most of the graphics are ripped, so why not use some too? The graphics of the different characters that you can pick are just recolors with a different head, which feels just plain lazy. There are so many of them but none really stands out, a few them have some nice extra features, like shooting double shurikens or shooting through walls. But really, there’s no reason to have so many of them and I’m starting to believe that they are friends of the developer or something like that.


 Speaking about the graphics, the game looks very colorful indeed… but feels like a mishmash of styles at times, with not a very well thought design beforehand. One perfect example is the already mentioned problem with the sprites, the main characters look awful and simplistic, the villains look like they were taken from Disgaea? And the normal enemies just… spin around all over the place.  Some levels look a lot worse than others, for example, the Pagoda Pathway is an eyesore, and Haunted Harbor has some unnecessary effects that only distract you and obscure the view. The game feels like it doesn’t have a consistent art direction.


 Now let’s talk about the gameplay, most importantly, the physics. And I’m not sure why, but they feel a little off for me like you can’t move your character as precisely as you want. This makes some sections of the game very frustrating, there’s nothing worse than failing a jump not because of your skills, but because of the game. Is hard to explain it, you have to play it to see what I mean. There are also a few RPG elements, like every time you kill an enemy, you gain experience and gold, plus there’s a status screen where you can check out your stats. I haven’t gotten far enough to know if you can do something with the gold you’ve gained, but the experience helps you to level up, which is mainly useful for the boss fights… though they tend to be very easy anyway.


 There are a lot of other minor complaints too, like how is hard to know which tiles are solid and which are not. Some hitboxes are bigger than their sprites, like with the blue fire in the Haunted Harbor. Hell, there’s even some “floating invisible blocks” in some levels, and some are not hidden at all. Then there are the enemies, which are a complete joke. Their AI makes them jump into pits, getting stuck there forever, and even if they manage to attack you, they don’t deal too much damage. How about the skills you can gain? You get a Heal spell that completely trivializes any kind of difficulty the game had. And some of the skills are simply unusable, the same happens with some items you can find, you can’t equip them. And finally, the writing, which is full of typos and the story feels dumb.

 I really wanted to like this game, I wanted to see how could they make a platforming game in RPG Maker, but welp, the end result is pretty awful. At least the game is playable enough to be able to finish it, but me? I can’t stand it. Not only it has a lot of problems, even if they were fixed the game is still kinda boring. If you want to see what is possible in RPG Maker? Try it, but be ready to expect a mediocre experience.

February 8, 2019

Legend of Pan - Review

 Legend of Pan is a very peculiar game that takes inspiration from The Legend of Zelda series and of course, Peter Pan. It was made in Blitz3D, a little known 3D game engine that works in a language derived from BASIC, making it a good tool for beginners. With very few games made on it, is hard to know the possibilities and the limits of the engine, with only SCP – Containment Breach coming to mind (one of the few games made on it, and it’s probably the most popular.)


 The story starts with Captain Hook killing Wendy and her brothers, and then hanging their corpses in the beach… wow. This causes Peter Pan to lose any happy thoughts he had, making him unable to fly. Looking at some comments made by the dev, it seems that this story was done so he wouldn’t have to create a flying mechanic, which is understandable, but holy hell, this is a little too dark. The story sounds like some kind of edgy fanfic, yet when you play the game it feels like just another happy adventure game.

 Anyway, once you start the game, the first area where you appear looks somewhat familiar to the Kokiri Forest, Tinkerbell is there saying “Hey! Listen!” to help you out at some moments and Peter Pan looks strangely familiar like he could scream “HYAAH” at any moment. Of course, all of this is because the game draws a lot of inspiration from the Zelda series. Even the developer stated that he wanted to add a lot of movements options to Li- I mean, Peter Pan, similar to Zelda, like strafing, jumping and a bunch of combat maneuvers. Sadly, this never came to be due to time constraints, and Peter Pan controls very clumsily, with the combat boiling down to easy and boring hit-and-run tactics. The best strategy is actually to simply avoid the enemies, there’s no point in fighting them. Even Captain Hook, the final boss, has the same simple AI where he just slowly follows you around and hits you when you are close enough.


 The game is also pretty short, only having a single “dungeon”. In reality, there are like two or three fetch quests until you are finally able to fight Captain Hook. There are no puzzles or anything of the sort, and frankly, the game is fairly simple and boring. I like the graphics though, they are very rough but I find them somewhat charming. The Never Woods and the Skull Dungeon look very blocky and bad though, a few extra decorations would’ve helped a lot.

 There are a few nice touches here and there, like the possibility to buy health potions (pretty unnecessary due to how easy is the game) and two side quests to gain extra heart containers. The first one is about finding a bunch of marbles and giving them to his owner, while the second one you have to buy it at a price of 20 crystals. Both are pretty easy, though there’s a bug with the crystals one where if you talk to the NPC again a bug will prevent you from exiting the dialog box, the only solution is restarting the whole game again. Thankfully the game is short enough that you can restart the game and finish it in around 15 minutes.


 Overall, the game is pretty short and interesting, but a little rough around the edges. It feels like a little more development would’ve helped the game shine a little more though, the potential is there. There’s also the chance that the Zelda nostalgia isn’t making me look at the game as harshly as I usually do. But would I recommend it? Not really, but if you have 15 minutes with nothing better do, this game isn’t that bad.

February 7, 2019

Lands of Lore - Review

 Lands of Lore is a little interesting demo released in 2011. It was supposed to be a non-linear game in the same style as The Elder Scrolls series, where you explore and do whatever you want. A very ambitious goal, but was the game on the right track? Well...


 The game starts with you as the default character, Zack, appearing randomly in some kind of town. Is disappointing that there aren't any options to customize your character but I assume that it must be because the developer didn't have any time to work on that feature. As soon as you start to explore your surroundings you can find some of the objects and NPCs. When interacted with they will show a message saying something like “Roll: 7”. This is the basic and most prominent feature of the game, the “rolls”. Actions, like stealing, climbing a rope, or even talking with people, have a random chance of succeeding or failing depending on what number you roll. The developer points out that the system works like this: You first roll a random number based on your skill proficiency and your main stat, lockpicking, for example, works with the lockpicking skill and your Agility stat. After that, the game randomly adds or subtracts a number from 1 to 5, and the final number is compared against the difficulty of the task.


 This is all fine and good until two problems appear. First, there’s no way to check how high is your skill proficiency, or if it even increases with certain actions or anything. You have to rely on your main stat, and it isn’t very easy to increase, as level ups come very rarely in this game (unless you exploit a glitch later on.) Second, for a demo, you want the player to complete most of the challenges they find so they can get a better taste of the game, right? Well… here, nine times out of ten, you will fail the rolls. This becomes annoying as it is simply a matter of trying to steal or speak with the person over and over again until you finally get a good result. This probably has to do with that extra number that gets added or subtracted at the end of the calculation. It means that your rolls can vary from 0 to 10, with only multiple rolls ensuring that you will get a good result. And sometimes it is impossible to even complete a task, no matter how many times you reload the game, as your skill will not be high enough. What makes this annoying is that there’s no way to know if you just have bad luck or if the stats are the problem, this game really needs a window to look at your current stats, or at the very least, less variation between the rolls.

 Don’t get me started on lockpicks, which there only a limited number of them available and they get used no matter if you pass or fail a task. You can waste all your lockpicks on a single door before you finally get a good roll that lets you open it. Yeah, you can buy lock picks at the store, but this leads to my next complaint, the economy. Enemies drop very little gold and experience, with too many of them dropping nothing. Couple this with your very low stats at the start of the game and inns taking a 20 G to use. This doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that rats drop 5 G each one, and they can easily take a good chunk of your health. You can only beat a group of two before getting badly hurt, let alone four. The same applies to experience, with few enemies actually granting exp, and they only give small amounts.


 You would imagine that after all these problems I would hate the game, right? Well, in some way, yes, there are the previously mentioned problems with the mechanics and balance, the maps ranging from “okay” to “horrible”, many paths leading nowhere, stupid and very simple quests, and the game overall being an unpleasant experience. But at the same time, I really like the mechanics and I would’ve loved to see them more polished. Is understandable why the game was unfinished, as ambitious games like this tend to end up with the developer burning out or planning and adding more features than they could ever finish. Do I recommend the game? Nope, it is pretty bad, but still, it is a shame that we could never see a finished version of this.

February 5, 2019

Tactics Blade: Episode Two - Review

 I feel that this review is a little unnecessary, as these two already explain the issues with the game much better than I ever could. But my completionist spirit wants me to do it anyway, I already reviewed the first game so it is only natural to do the same with the sequel.

 Created in SIM RPG Maker 95, Tactics Blade: Episode Two is the second part of the Tactics Blade trilogy. Well... duology, as the third game was never released. It was created mostly because the developer didn't know how to get around the max level limit (which was a big problem in the first game, you could hit max level around mid-game.) The games were actually made one after the other, which would explain why there are few differences between the two, aside from the story of course.


 First, let's talk about the "improvements". Leo, who was a boss in the first game now joins your party early on, this brings the number of unique playable characters up to three. It still feels criminally low though, maybe I'm just spoiled by other tactics games, but only three unique characters feel almost like an insult. The best strategy games are the ones that give you a variety of options and tools to face any kind of challenge.


 The next new feature is that you now can cast magic! Finally making worthwhile to get stat-ups in Magic and MP. The problem? Magic is simply too overpowered, with Leo having AoE attacks that can hit up to 13 units and deal a lot of damage. This coupled with the relatively giant MP pools makes the magic too good to not be spammed, and makes most battles pretty trivial.


 The worst of all is that the dev didn't learn anything from the first game, most of the issues are still there. Like how you'll get tired of seeing the same enemies sprites over and over with only their stats changing. Or the maps, which are big and bland, with very little space for strategic planning. Or the unbalanced difficulty, or the bad use of the RTP, or...

 Look, I don't really want to hate on this game too much, but it is really hard to recommend it. In some ways, it is actually worse than the first game. The SIM RPG Maker 95 is far from being a very flexible tool, but it at least has the potential of creating decent games. Avoid it

Download

Circle Saver - Review


 Circle Saver is one of those game that has almost nothing to offer. It works better as some kind of practice but is not really something that should be released on the internet. Hell, I'm struggling to think of anything to say about it.

 To be fair, it was originally uploaded to the Yoyogames Sandbox around 2011, which was similar to Gamejolt or itch.io, but for game maker projects. It was... okay, as most of the games there were of mediocre quality or made by newbies as practice (just like this game.) Most games are now lost as the site was shut down in 2014, taking with it a few gems here and there. Thankfully, you can still download a few of them with the help of the Wayback Machine, though it's not an easy task.


 But anyway, let's talk about the game, which is pretty simple. You control a white circle and you must collect the grey circles while avoiding the spinning white squares that float around the level. It is kinda confusing as everything is black and white, with the white squares blending with the blocks in the map. A bit of color would've really helped to recognize more easily the environment and make the game look less dull.


 The controls are bad as you can't move in diagonals, but the game is so easy that it doesn't really matter. There are also some bonus modes, like multiplayer (good luck finding someone that wants to play this with you.) and a game mode where you have to deflect the squares with the help of a paddle, similar to Pong. This mode is impossible to beat though, as by the third or fourth level you can't move the paddle fast enough to deflect the squares.

 And... that's it, there's not much else to say. While I can appreciate the effort of reuploading the game so it won't be lost in the archives of the internet, the game itself is just bad. Sometimes I wonder if the developers of this kind of games eventually learned how to use the engines more effectively and if they made better games in the future. Looking at the other games uploaded by the dev, you can see how they instead branched to other engines, especially Renpy. I'm not a big fan of VNs but I hope the dev finally found a way to better express their game ideas.

January 30, 2019

Tactics Blade: Episode One - Review


 Tactics Blade: Episode One is a game made in SIM RPG Maker 95. A very old and pretty much-forgotten engine made by the same creators of the RPG Maker Engines. It is specialized in making strategy games, similar to the Fire Emblem series. As a fan of strategy games, I had to try it out. Sadly, the game has a lot of problems and I can’t really recommend it.


 The first issue is that it uses the default assets. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but the game has a really bland look. You’ll get tired of seeing the same characters and maps over and over again. This is especially painful because different enemies share the same sprite, and even one of your main characters (Melanie) shares the same sprite as your soldiers. It feels out of place and makes it hard to find her in some situations.

 Speaking about it, you only have two characters for the whole game, Rose and Melanie, with generic soldiers to help you in most maps. I think this is one of the critical flaws of the game. You’ll focus all your attention to these characters, as the soldiers don’t matter at all, they are laughably weak 80% of the time, taking lots of turns to kill a single enemy. It doesn’t matter if they all die or if they get a few levels up, as they don’t get carried to the next map. In early levels, they work fine as meat shields, but by later levels, I stopped caring and I just used Rose and Melanie, they did most of the job anyway. Speaking about them, they’ll level up very quickly, and once I had them at max level I… dropped the game. There’s no feeling of progression as you no longer gain anything from the battles. The game became extremely easy and boring, and I found no reason to keep playing.


 The difficulty is pretty uneven through most of the game. It is kinda easy at the start, giving you time to level up the main characters. That's until Bandits appear for the first time, and they are very overpowered. They can deal 9 dmg to your soldiers, which only have 10 max hp. And they can take around 5 attacks from the soldiers before dying. If you didn’t plan ahead and focused most of the experience into your main characters, you’ll probably fail this mission. After that, there aren’t any more difficulty jumps, and it actually starts to become too easy as you gain more and more levels, while you are still fighting the same bandits. That’s a big problem with the game, it takes too long to show new enemies and when they appear, they are just an old enemy with higher stats and a new name, which feels very lazy.


 I can’t really recommend this game, the good thing is that it is at least playable and it isn’t “offensively bad”. But it gets extremely boring fighting the same enemies with the same characters all over again. Something to note is that it actually has a sequel. I’ll play it someday to see if the dev learned from their mistakes or not. Hell, I’ll be happy as long as it introduces more characters, playing with only two is painful.

January 29, 2019

Milk Quest - Review


 Today we are going play Milk Quest. With a title like that I was expecting a comedy or parody game, and while they tend to be hit or miss, maybe this time will be different, right? Wrong, this game is atrocious, but let me explain why.


 The game starts with a simple request, buy milk. This is pretty simple and nothing interesting happens along the way (except for a few sudden Game overs depending on what dialogue choices you take, but that's tame compared to what comes next.) After you bring back the milk and try to get out of the house, things start to get weird. Is here that I wonder if the dev was trying to create one of those subversive games. Starting with a happy and generic theme and now turning into a bad horror game. With repeated maps (but now with tint effects) and characters now talking in other languages (and badly done, like the dialogues were simply put into google translate).


 After this, the game turns back to normal, and if the game ended right here I wouldn't be so mad at it. Heck, you already bought the Milk, so there's no "Quest" to be done here, but oh no, this is when things take a turn for the worse. Now your objective is to find five stars, pretty easy, but you have to backtrack through the game to find them. While there are very few maps, it still feels like a chore. With the 5 stars in hand, you can now go to the forest maze, and this is where the game reveals its true colors. You have to cross a forest maze, not once, or twice, but SIX different times, with barely any changes each time. It isn't terribly long, but it really feels like it with how many times you have to do it.

 Once you do this to collect another five stars (and after another short "horror" section.) You gain access to the cave, and now you have to cross 4 gigantic mazes. With absolutely zero decoration or anything to break the monotony. Hell, they were made with the random dungeon generator that comes with RM VX Ace, with no changes at all. And you know what's funny? Once you get to the bottom, a character tells you that "Here's some money, go and buy the groceries for the characters in town", which would be fun and would close the circle of the Milk Quest. Except that... to go back to the town, you have to walk through all those mazes ALL OVER AGAIN.


 This is just ridiculous, whoever thought that walking through the same mazes over and over again is fun must be crazy. I know that this is probably one of those "troll" games and that it's supposed to be annoying, but good god, I can't stand it. There's absolutely no redeeming value because even without the mazes, the rest of the game is still boring and generic trash. Avoid it at all costs.

Download