Join us as we take Flying Carpets Games' charming puzzle-platformer, The Girl and the Robot, for a wistful quick one.
The score’s truly ethereal too, carrying you forward on your melancholic journey through the castle. Trust us when we say: The Girl and the Robot is worth playing for Eiko Ishiwata Nichols’ melodies alone.
Is there anything we should be wary of?
The only real grievance we have with the game is its short length - around two or three hours - which some may feel is a touch rich in spite of the relatively small asking price (between £7 and £12 across the available platforms).
With that in mind, would you recommend it?
We thoroughly recommend The Girl and the Robot to puzzle-platformer fans, as there’s a lot to admire in the gorgeous music, charming art and gameplay - even if it's lacking in a bit of originality. For everyone else; definitely take a punt when the price comes down.
On a beautifully clear, crisp autumnal morning, I ventured forth from the homestead, braving a treacherous business-folk drenched train from quaint St Albans to the big smoke of London. Two further underground feckers later, I found myself wedged inside a DLR filled with Batman, Luigi, Wonder Woman and so many brightly coloured haircuts I didn’t know where to look. Did I wish I’d dressed up as Bananaman? Undoubtedly, yes. But pray tell, chums, I hear thee cry: “Where the buggery funk art thou, Bobby?” Why, MCM Comic-Con 2017, of course…
Jokes aside, it was all good fun, and I especially enjoyed playing Arms for the first time. The presence of Charles Martinet (the voice of Mario, Luigi, et al) was very welcoming, too. New stuff was what I was after, mind, so I barrelled over to Fire Emblem Warriors for a bit of the old hack ‘n’ slash.
I thoroughly enjoyed its Wii U cousin, Hyrule Warriors, so I entered expecting much of the same. Unfortunately though, comrades, I had no such luck. Objectives felt dull, the same combat system I enjoyed so much in Hyrule had gone hard like a Sunday morning posh-loaf of sourdough come Monday, and the constant pop-in and muddy background visuals left all four of my eyes aggrieved. I adore many of the Fire Emblem games, so it was great to see Chrom and the gang, but Warriors lacked any soul, and, ultimately, fun.
My hacking ‘n’ slashing muscle felt rather weak after its pitiful Fire Emblem Warriors workout, so I decided to do a few more reps with Dynasty Warriors 9 next. I can hear your chants already: “But Bobbo, these Warriors games all be the same!” And by the power of Greyskull are you right, folks; Dynasty 9 is the same punnet of shiitake mushrooms Koei-Tecmo have been flogging for years - dull, dirty and gone-off.
With those disappointments under my belt, I felt it would be a good time to see what lower-budget treats the show had tucked away. There were slow-paced horror adventures like White Day, pulsating SHMUP delights such as Raiden V, and text-heavy readathons like Dangaropa V3. Two games stood out for very different reasons here, though: Cat Quest and Gal Gun: Double Peace.
Cat Quest puts you in the claws, tail and anus of a cat on - you guessed it - an adventure… The top-down perspective, charming visuals and funny, funky characters reminded moi of Nintendo’s very own Zelda universe, with a feline twist of course. The sub-quests were enjoyable, the dialogue was amusing and the combat was fabulous. We especially enjoyed the extra strategy of the boss fight on show, where careful planning and learning of tells proved very effective in constructing his demise. Check it out on Steam now, or wait for its console release in the near future.
Gal Gun has been out for awhile now, apparently, but I definitely wasn’t aware of its existence - it’d be hard to forget, honestly. The game is a rail shooter unlike any before it; instead of firing bullets at angry aliens or roided-up meatheads, here you shoot kisses at waves of oncoming female classmates, stopping them from confessing their love for you. Yes, chums, you read that correctly, and for that reason only - and because it was so bloody hilarious - we’re happy to present Gal Gun: Double Peace our (un)official Wackiest Game of the Show award!
Still reeling from our truly bizarre experience with double-G, we stumbled towards the hidden-behind-ultramega-secret-curtains area belonging to Ubisoft. Once we’d completed the classified handshake and coughed up the password (“same old shit”), we slithered in to sample Assassin’s Creed: Origins and South Park: The Fractured But Whole (both of which we have full reviews in the works for, so keep ‘em peeled).
The former is everything you’d expect it to be, albeit reskinned with an Egyptian flavour. It was fun for five minutes, but, to be frank, I’ve personally been Bogtrotter'd with the series for a long time - time to put the assassin’s down now please, Ubi.
The highlight of my playtime was a QTE-filled sexy dance, where I had to control Sidekick’s hip movement and flatulence...
South Park fared better, but again I left with the feeling that it wouldn’t hold my interest in the long term. Playing as Sidekick, you infiltrate a strip club alongside Captain Diabetes, trying to find a dancer with a phallic tattoo. The highlight of my playtime was a QTE-filled sexy dance, where I had to control Sidekick’s hip movement and flatulence to extract information from a couple of seedy punters. It was funny, but I reckon the humour and RPG-style fights will wear thin rather quickly for non-hardcore fans of the show.
The long-awaited Ni No Kuni 2 was also playable on the show floor, and, although RPGs certainly aren’t my forte, I thoroughly enjoyed the luxuriant Ghibli-influenced art, as well as its compelling boss encounter during my session. This has the potential to be the RPG I finally bother to play through, grinding and all!
Comic Con isn’t just games either - as the name suggests... - so I took a jaunt around the venue and out of my comfort zone to see what else the show had to offer. There were plenty of Marvel bits and bobs, as you’d expect, but they stood alongside much smaller properties, where my personal highlight was meeting a fellow who calls himself BompKaDunk. He draws and writes a lovely comic titled Dungeon Crunch, but what really caught my eye was his drawing of a character that had gherkin-like genitals. This was for a commission, gang, and apparently not that uncommon a request…
So, we come full circle to my game of the show; none other than the fabulous Super Mario Odyssey. I eagerly awaited my turn for what felt like an age, hairline receding dramatically, until finally I got my hands on those far-too-small Joy-Cons. Time crumbled into dust, such was the perfection of platforming, humour, gorgeous colourful graphics and wonderfully invigorating music. Odyssey proves yet again - alongside Breath of the Wild - that Nintendo are still the masters of creating astoundingly enjoyable, fun-filled video games.
And with that, my time was up. I had trains to catch, a three sausage sandwich to eat, and an editor (James Michael Parry, of course!) to liaise with for old man ales. Had I learnt much about the comics world? I can’t be sure. Did I still wish I’d come as Bananaman? You betcha.
Join us as we take Crescent Moon Games’ sci-fi adventure come FPS, Morphite, for a low gravity gruntfest.
Don’t hold back now, is there anything else we should be wary of?
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that Morphite wears its influences a little too obviously on its sleeve, which left us with the distinct impression that we’d encountered many of the planets and creatures in the game elsewhere.
Some tedious side-quests and resource management don’t help proceedings either, leading to tedium eventually setting in.
With that in mind, would you recommend it to anyone in particular?
Sci-fi lovers and fans of exploration games will definitely find some enjoyment here, as there’s many hours on offer to keep folks going until Metroid Prime 4. Everyone else will most likely be left cold by Morphite’s offerings, though.
In these modern footballing times it’s not uncommon to see expertly coiffured hair, diamond encrusted earrings, and luminous-boot-wearing defenders alongside the beautiful game itself. Hope does exist for those of you that miss the golden age of perms, headbutting the ball/goalkeeper into the net, and John Motson’s ghastly jackets, though, as legendary developer Dino Dini returns with Kick-Off Revival, the plucky underdog to title-challengers FIFA 18 & PES 2018.
This is football boiled down to its simplest form - and it’s as hardcore as you’re ever likely to get in a sports game.
Anything else hamper Kick-Off Revival’s title challenge?
Well, the severe lack of options holds the game back from the opening whistle. To only provide players with three modes in exhibition, European Cup (based loosely on Euro 2016) and online play (no problems with lag, but it’s no FIFA Seasons/PES Divisions) would have been stingy twenty years ago, but is downright criminal in these modern times.
So, it’s safe to assume the underdog won’t be winning the cup?
KOR tries its best to stand up for the little man, but unfortunately finds itself knocked out of the competition at the group stages. The lack of modes and sheer difficulty of mastering the controls ruin what could have been a joyously simple return to pure football. If you’ve got a pal for local fun then perhaps consider going for it, otherwise, fire up that dusty old copy of Sensible Soccer for your retro footballing fix.
Dino Dini’s Kick-Off Revival is available now for £7.99 on PS4 and PS Vita, and £6.99 on Steam.
It's that time of year again; riding a swanky E3 showcase and a heavy marketing campaign, the latest Forza is upon us. This time however, it's joined on Xbox One by relative newcomer Project Cars 2. Let’s see if the underdog can give Forza a run for its money.
Testing the brakes in both games revealed that Project Cars doesn't have variable braking; in Forza, holding the trigger halfway would gently apply the brakes, whereas the slightest touch locks the brakes instantly in the former.
Progressing to some faster cars in PC2 saw the game fare better on the whole - steering felt looser and braking was easier, though still slightly problematic even with assists on. Project Cars has a huge number of assists and difficulty levels on offer, with the option to play using the same assists that a vehicle’s real-life counterpart features being a particularly nice touch, along with the different damage levels and engine failure options. Someone heavily into their racing games will doubtless be able to mess around for hours tuning the experience to handle just as they want, but, for us, it would be nice if the game a little more accessible.
While that’s the basics covered, how do the more in-depth areas compare?
A notable difference between the two is that Project Cars doesn’t feature a rewind function, which only serves to make it even less accessible. Yes, it might be more true-to-life not to have it, but losing a whole race because of one mistake on the final corner is just plain frustrating. There’s a reason most racing games have adopted the mechanic.
A notable difference is that Project Cars 2 doesn’t feature a rewind function... There’s a reason most racing games have adopted the mechanic.
Both racers feature weather and time of day options that affect events, though Project Cars boasts snowfall as a unique weather condition between the two. Despite that, Forza feels more realistic on this front, with attention to detail like hitting a puddle causing the car to hydroplane (veer) and lose traction. Project Cars in the wet is hampered by a weird sliding mechanic, where even driving in a straight line the car starts to randomly jerk and slide - the perfect AI goes completely unaffected, naturally. PC2’s nice adaptive weather system somewhat makes up for it, whereby rain can come and go at any point and you can even program weather patterns for custom races. Forza, on the other hand, only has rain and night options for certain tracks, which is oddly restricted, though probably explains why it works so well where it’s implemented.
As Microsoft themselves may have already made you aware, Turn 10's Forza is the winner in terms of performance. The game runs smoothly and always looks great, whereas Project Cars generally looks good, but occasionally suffers frame rate dips - quite noticeably when viewing the car info HUD mid-race. Both games have similar loading times, which can feel a bit long, though Forza has the benefit of interactive loading screens to help pass the time.
Both games feature a wide variety of vehicles to choose between, ranging from small saloons to Formula series cars, though Forza has the clear advantage here, boasting over 700 cars to thoroughly trounce Project Cars’ 180. Whilst PC2 has silly Go-Karting to enjoy, as well as specific race series cars (eg. Clio Cup), Forza’s 1950s classics, lorries, dune buggies, and more, have them beat.
Slightly Mad Studios’ Project Cars has quite the edge when it comes to tracks however, featuring over 40 individual tracks and many variants of each. Well-known tracks stand alongside smaller ones you probably haven't heard of, plus Rallycross events even enter the mix. Forza has all the big-name tracks from before, along with a few new ones, all of which are beautiful and provide enough variety, but, if you want something new on this front, PC2 is the game that delivers.
Forza's 700+ cars thoroughly trounce Project Cars’ 180, though Slightly Mad Studios' racer has the edge when it comes to number of tracks.
In terms of visual customisation, there’s really no contest, as Project Cars comparatively may as well have none. You pick your car and then have a choice of decals to apply to it, adding flavour but no real personal touch. Forza allows you to fully customise the look of every car in the game, all through simple systems. If you aren’t the creative type, you can also download shared designs, some of which are genuinely amazing.
As mentioned earlier, you can make pre-race tuning tweaks in Project Cars, but you can’t change the bodywork in any way. Forza features component choices and upgrades, plus a limited selection of body changes, as well as the fun swap option that lets you shove huge engines into tiny cars and inevitably spin-out upon revving up.
Forza and Project Cars both feature career modes that see you attempt to climb the career ladder, though you’ll do so in different ways. In Forza, you continually gain points, experience and currency to work towards unlocking and purchasing the next tier of vehicles and events, lead along by fancy videos and voice overs about becoming a racing legend. PC2 makes more of an attempt to have you feel like a bona fide race driver, with contracts, team support in-race and liaising with the team off-track, though it's nowhere near as detailed as in the recent F1 2017.
Free play and multiplayer are also on offer in both, though Forza has the larger variety of race types available and multiplayer feels more integrated. Project Cars does have the option to do a 24-hour race though, which is worth mentioning, for anyone dedicated enough to undertake it.
It must be said that, despite all of its positives, Forza 7 doesn't really change much from Forza 6. Arguably the main addition just so happens to be is an unwelcome one: paid loot boxes. Their inclusion seems forced and adds nothing to the game; when players request more cars, locking them behind a gambling system and microtransactions wasn’t what they had in mind. On the other hand, Project Cars 2 fixes many of its predecessor’s issues while also implementing substantially more cars and tracks. In terms of evolution, PC2 is the better sequel.
The racing genre has always been a flaunted visual powerhouse, making the question of how good these games look an important one. The quick answer is that both look good, but you aren’t (still) here for quick answers. Vehicles appear crisp and shine a gleaming shine, though Forza has an extra level of detail as every car is beautifully rendered right down to the interior. Forza's tracks are more immersive too, with expansive backdrops and nice touches like moving cameras, cheering crowds, and even Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen on some tracks.
Project Cars, while still a looker in itself, can feel very bland in comparison. Tracks look somewhat flat, seemingly retaining no tyre marks and overlooking details like spewing dust when you stray off-track.
Weather wise, both games have visibility nicely reduced in heavy rain; Project Cars has more spray flying around in the wet, but, in a stunning bit of detail, raindrops on cars dynamically react to movement in Forza, whereas there’s no such technology in PC2. Forza’s night races are also quite beautiful, and very dark, with the areas outside the headlights a deep, inky-black.
One pet peeve with Forza has always been the poor damage model when crashing, and, in a recurring theme, this instalment doesn’t change that. Cars get scratched, dented and dirty, but never anything more significant, no matter how terrible the collision. Driving the same vehicles into the same situations in Project Cars will rip the bumpers and bonnet off, or may well even cause you to flip and roll.
A pet peeve with Forza has always been the poor damage model, and, in a recurring theme, this instalment doesn’t change that... Driving the same vehicles into the same situations in Project Cars will rip the bumpers and bonnet off, or may well even cause you to flip.
Now to the aural side of things: both racers have loud and throaty engine sounds, but Forza has the most variety and detail, from screeching engines at max rev to squealing tyres as you drift around corners. The music in both games is serviceable, if unmemorable, Project Cars going for a 'chill beats' feel while Forza has a ‘70s rock vibe to it.
Forza Motorsport 7
While Forza 7 doesn't really bring anything new to the table, it's still a fantastically satisfying game to play, looking gorgeous and maintaining a fluid feel all the while. Project Cars 2 is very much more an enthusiast's game, with a wealth of options and track choices that simulator fans will love sinking their teeth into, but, the unforgiving mechanics won't be for everyone, just as they weren't really for us. Still, considering Project Cars 2 was faced with full AAA fury, it puts in a podium-worth performance.
You might already be familiar with Raiders of the Broken Planet if you’ve seen our EGX 2017 interview or our Game Chat feature. If not, Raiders is a unique shooter independently developed by the folks at Mercury Steam (Castlevania: Lords of Shadow & Metroid: Samus Returns), which places a focus on intense, asymmetrical multiplayer missions.
Ongoing development is the reason you aren’t reading a full review, though we’re nonetheless going to take an in-depth look at what Raiders currently has to offer.
The titular Broken Planet is the Universe’s single source of Aleph, a powerful resource that attracts droves of Raiders to its surface in an attempt to claim it for themselves. War breaks out between the invading factions, and thus, a simple premise lays the groundwork for a well-humoured story told through a cast of flawed anti-heroes.
Mercury Steam are committed to implementing feedback from the established player base in order to build a better game together. The developer goes as far as to say they expect Raiders will look very different a year from now.
Over-the-top dialogue and confident delivery imbue the ugly, foul-mouthed characters with an eye and ear-catching quirkiness that should grow on you in time. Though the Raiders are undoubtedly the stars of the show, the game as a whole is awash with a bizarre and grotesque aesthetic that takes inspiration from the likes of Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil and Mad Max while feeling unique in itself.
Story segments are kept relatively light, due to multiplayer serving as the backbone of the experience, but there’s plenty of lore to read up on in-game as you wait on matchmaking. On that front, while finding a match on a Prologue level is snappy, expect to wait a while longer when looking to play the paid Alien Myths campaign. It’s not terribly bad, thanks partly to Windows 10 players getting in on the fun with cross-play, but it can be annoying to wait it out and then spawn into a laggy session due to the antiquated peer-to-peer hosting.
Going solo to bypass this is an option, but not a particularly attractive one. The premier way to play is 4 vs 1, as the game blossoms twofold with the addition of close cooperation and challenging competition. There are currently seven Raiders to choose from, each of which have a simple, customisable loadout that consists of a primary weapon, an ability, and passive buffs. While it might not sound like there’s much at your disposal, considering many games offer sidearms, grenades and ultimate abilities, there’s still a definite knack to mastering each of them and best fulfilling your role within the team.
Playing your part while remaining focused on the current objective is vital; enemy grunts and the player-controlled Antagonist respawn endlessly, whittling the Raiders’ limited life pool away as they delay. Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters - in which you might carefully shoot from cover, break away to run and gun, then launch into a rock, paper, scissors-style CQC encounter (dodge beats strike, grapple beats dodge, strike beats grapple) - a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival. Expect to do your fair share of dying, though accept that and persevere and the victories are extremely gratifying.
Constantly facing heavy opposition often makes the frenetic combat encounters a messily-choreographed, desperate struggle for survival.
In the event that the endless action becomes too stressful, either in reality or in-game, hiding will lower your character’s anxiety and allow you to go unseen for a while. All combatants in Raiders use Aleph to boost their combat performance, though a notable side-effect sees physical exertion betray your position, even through walls. While maintaining an entirely slow and steady approach isn’t necessarily realistic, you’ll definitely want to take a breather when you can to regenerate health and, critically, afford yourself an opportunity to stealthily take down an enemy in melee combat, replenishing a portion of your limited ammo supply in the process.
The same exact rules apply when you play the role of Antagonist, as you select from the same group of standard Raiders, rather than a separate suite of baddies with their own weapons and abilities. This is atypical of asymmetrical multiplayer games - just look at the likes of Evolve and Friday the 13th, both of which see the solo artist play as a comparatively overpowered monster - and somewhat stacks the odds against you in Raiders, even with the AI on your side. Winning as the Antagonist isn’t out of the question, and playing the part is still intense fun in spite of the slight imbalance, but we do feel this is an area in need of tweaking.
Raiders’ fun factor combines with a drip-fed rewarding of currencies - which are used to upgrade and customise character loadouts, whereas flashy skins require a further paid currency - to make its levels highly replayable. Varied enemy types and objectives keep things interesting as you bounce between missions, with repeat runs often proving more satisfying as you strategically pick a Raider (provided someone else doesn’t annoyingly insta-lock them) and tactically handle now-familiar layouts to ace sections that had initially proven to be a real struggle. The lengthy boss fights never cease to be an entertaining spectacle, either.
Once you surmount the initial weirdness and learning curve, which can, honestly, be quite off-putting, you’ll uncover something unique and exciting in Raiders of a Broken Planet, which is one of the reasons we handed over our Best Newcomer Award at EGX. Mercury Steam have taken risks to produce a commendably different entry into a crowded genre, that only looks set to improve as it continues to develop with the input of its community.
The biggest event on the UK gaming calendar, EGX 2017, is already over, but there were plenty of exciting things to see and do at this year’s show, so let’s see if we can remember a few.
This year, for the first time ever, we’ve singled out the top showings from the event into an easy to digest list of awards, so that you can jump into the comments and disagree vehemently.
One To Watch: Yoku's Island Express
A delightful little game coming from Team 17 in 2018 combines traditional 2D platforming with a more mobile-friendly pinball element, which sees your character - the titular Yoku - only able to jump by using bumpers embedded throughout the level. Feeling somewhat reminiscent of the Sonic 2 Casino Nights Zone but with an aesthetic closer to recent iterations of Rayman, what we’ve played so far has us hooked and itching for more.
Biggest Disappointment: Far Cry 5
A change of location, villain and tone isn’t enough to spark interest in Ubisoft’s explore-'em-up franchise. While we’ve only had limited exposure to previous games (personally), the performance of the demo in particular was very poor and really muddied what would otherwise have been a serviceable shooter experience. The ability to take command of a dog is a nice touch but hardly unheard of in today’s gaming world.
Best Newcomer: Raiders of the Broken Planet
While Sam and James already have some hands-on time with Mercury Steam’s asymmetrical third-person shooter, it was clear the development team had since spent some considerable time polishing things up. The game feels fresh and unafraid to present brash, unattractive characters in building its sci-fi world. While the game plays best in multiplayer, it’s compelling in single-player as well, and in chunks just the right size for its simple and effective mission objectives. Expect more on this one soon.
The 'Shut Up and Take Money’ Award: Mario Odyssey
This award is fairly self-explanatory. We’ve already gushed on our podcast about how much we’re looking forward to Mario’s next adventure, and after just a 15 minute demo that’s enough for us to say we don’t want to know any more until the full game is in our hands. Swimming costumes aside, the design and presentation is some of the best we’ve seen on the Switch, even rivaling Zelda’s stylised look in terms of sheer shininess. The variety offered by Cappy alone is impressive, and certainly not just a gameplay gimmick.
Most Ridiculous Queue: Shadow of War
It cannot be overstated how large the queue to play Middle Earth: Shadow of War was, on both days we attended the show. We have no doubt that the final game will offer a wealth of Tolkein-inspired goodness for us to immerse ourselves in, but dipping our toe in the water proved out of the question at EGX itself. Fortunately, there’s quite a few trailers to look at in the meantime, including ones which talk more about the nemesis system, which we can’t wait to explore.
Game of the Show: Vostock Inc.
When we were invited by Wired Productions to try out an unannounced (at the time) title for Nintendo Switch, speculation ran wild for what the game might be. It’s fair to say that we never expected anything quite like Vostock Inc. Already released on PC, Xbox and PlayStation, the Switch version is undoubtedly the way the game is intended to be played. There’s wall to wall character and humour built into the game at every turn, as you’re put in charge of a company tasked with making as much Mulah (the universal currency) as possible. It combined idle gameplay elements which see your cashflow tick up when you aren’t even playing the game, with tons of content thrown in to keep you coming back for more.
Platform of the Show: Nintendo Switch
Everywhere you looked at the show - you could see the Nintendo Switch. Whether it was the games on show or eager gamers passing time in the queues, this year shows the real potential of the hybrid platform. Now that the launch period dry spell is over, there’s plenty to look forward to, not just Mario (with the superlative Mario+Rabbids just released and Odyssey not far away) either, there’s Fire Emblem Warriors, indie games and ports (Wolfenstein anyone?) galore to look forward to.
Honourable Mention: Hyper Sentinel
One title which shouldn’t go unmentioned is Hyper Sentinel. Not only is it sharp, but CEO & Creative Director Rob Hewson’s commitment with both outfit and swag is absolutely what EGX is about. Aside from dressing in full space pilot attire, he furnished us with treats from days of yore - flying saucers and Space Invaders crisps.
Take a look at his geddup, and his thoughts on the game, in our round-up video.
Let Them Come is reminiscent of a flash game I used to play at school, poised to hastily tab out when Mr. Phillips established line of sight. Nostalgia aside, does the same simplistic corridor defence experience work in the context of a paid console game? Join us for a quick one and we’ll find out.
While Obligatory Stationary Turret Section: The Game might not sound immediately enthralling, Tuatara Games have done a lot to make Let Them Come exactly that.
More subjectively, some players might not appreciate the fact that failure doesn’t carry any real consequence. This largely makes the campaign a breeze, even on the hardest difficulty setting, though there’s something cathartic about just blasting away without worry.
Oh, and three of the achievements are currently unobtainable - completionists beware!
On the whole, would you recommend a purchase?
For a mere £6.39, Let Them Come is a quality, over-the-top sci-fi shooter that we’re confident will scratch the itch of anyone with a case of arcade addiction.
Let Them Come is out now on Xbox One and PC, the PlayStation 4 version will follow later this month.
We recently sat down with acclaimed indie developer Thunder Lotus to discuss their latest game Sundered (which I bloomin’ love - check out the review), the difficulties of turning a profit in an oversaturated market, the power of conversation, PC emulators and more. Enjoy!
Can you tell us about your team at Thunder Lotus Games?
We're a small team, around a dozen people at the peak of each project. We're based in Montreal, Canada. The company was founded by Will Dubé, a young veteran of a now-defunct mobile game studio (Sava Transmedia) here in Montreal. Back in 2014, Will left Sava with the goal of bringing an indie game to Kickstarter. In a few months, he had recruited most of the core team from his old colleagues at Sava, and other friends that had some experience among the AAA devs that pepper this city. That core team would go on to produce our first game, Jotun, in September 2015 - and the same core was on-board for Sundered as well!
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit?
It is difficult, and only getting more so. The golden age of indies, where just releasing a game on Steam or Xbox Live would almost guarantee a profit, has long since ended. It's definitely no longer enough to simply make a great game. Great games are now coming out weekly. We would suggest that it's almost impossible to expect a viable product unless you take risks, artistically and otherwise, so that you (and your potential audience) can take one look at your game and identify what is unique about it.
"Strike up a conversation with a dev at a game con, or a local indie meet-and-greet, and you'd be surprised what professional opportunities might come from it!"
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
It's not a hard industry to break into, at least in a city like ours, where a solid core of AAA devs have bred a healthy indie scene. It's staying profitable, so you can keep making games, that's the real challenge. But if you're just starting out, don't know where to begin, you just need to go out and meet people. Indie devs are by far the most approachable creators I've ever seen, speaking from experience, having worked in the music, movies, and TV industries. Strike up a conversation with a dev at a game con, or a local indie meet-and-greet, and you'd be surprised what professional opportunities might come from it!
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
Tough to say. VR doesn't seem ready for mainstream prime time in its present form; maybe next generation, once it credibly evolves beyond on-the-rails-lower-res-FPS-ports, prices come down, and some unanimously praised revolutionary killer apps start appearing. In the mean time, it looks like more of the same for the industry over another two or three years, just with slightly better resolution and HDR.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
Strictly personal response here, but the games I played obsessively when I was young basically fused themselves to my DNA, and still define "fun" for me in their specific genres: (in no particular order) NHL 94, Wonder Boy III, Ultima V, Revenge of Shinobi, Civilization I, Pirates!... I could go on.
What does the future hold for Sundered & Thunder Lotus Games?
Most any news will be revealed when the time is right. Anyone who followed the Sundered Kickstarter knows that we have some DLC planned for the game, but our lips are sealed as to what and when it will be. Meanwhile, prelim work on our next project will begin in parallel - but it will be a while before we're ready to give any details!
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
No single console would keep me from missing the others terribly. I'd cheat, and bring a PC that could emulate as many of the classic machines as possible.
Thanks to Rodrigue at Thunder Lotus for talking to us. Both Sundered and Jotun are available now - go and check them out!
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist. With The Nightmare from Beyond’s final release slated for Q3 2018, the current Steam Early Access build is far from content complete, but does it seem poised to deliver on the promising concept?
The Domaginarium describe their third-person horror platformer as (old) Tomb Raider meeting Lovecraft, in space - a pitch we found difficult to resist.
As Sanja, a young D’nyg woman in search of her sister, Dajana, you’ll traverse environments that seamlessly shift from stoney fantasy to techy sci-fi. While starting out linear, things open up to reveal some solid, looping level design that’s complimented by platforming and light puzzle solving elements straight out of a classic Tomb Raider game (as promised).
The disparate-yet-connected world, which houses interesting architecture and artefacts that make it enticing in the absence of impressive graphics, definitely has us curious to explore more in the hope of uncovering how exactly the scattered sections came to coexist. It serves as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story, which isn’t helped by a reliance on nonsense fantasy terms that haven’t yet been explained.
As a D’yng, you're marked with tribal patterns that emit a neon glow, dimly lighting your way through the bleak nightmarescape. When you encounter the mysterious creatures within, you’ll need to hold your breath to extinguish the light and sneak past them, avoiding a swift and inevitable death.
The one creature you directly encounter can’t be combated - though you do get some bombs used to open a shortcut later on, so it’s possible you might eventually be able to put these to use - and is obscured by a black smog to preserve an air of mystery, with otherwise indirect encounters seeing you relentlessly pursued or your ankles snapped at from an off-screen presence to push you through platforming sections at pace. What you don't see is often more unnerving than what you do, and that's the case here.
The disparate-yet-connected world has us curious to delve deeper, serving as much more a driving force than the beginnings of the bland story,
If you're caught, you’ll need to go back to the last manual save point. These are fairly frequent, so you’ll never lose too much progress, and help to highlight the game’s '90s inspirations by feeling very Resident Evil.
Weighing in at around two flawed hours, what we essentially have at the moment is a paid proof of concept demo. As a result, we’d recommend waiting to see how The Nightmare from Beyond develops before laying down your hard earned, especially considering the price isn’t set to increase once the game leaves Early Access. There’s reason to remain optimistic in the interim however; The Domaginarium have put in a decent first showing and hold both a commitment to frequent updates and a development roadmap that looks set to iron out the acknowledged issues.
The Nightmare from Beyond is scheduled for release in Q3 2018 on PC, PS4 and PS Vita. It’ll set you back £14.99 or your regional equivalent.