Hades Betrayal, the penultimate premium campaign in Raiders of the Broken Planet’s debut season, was accompanied by a stellar free update that overhauled the game’s systems and pretty much fixed all of the wider issues we’ve raised in our past coverage. Whilst the patch is an overwhelming success, Hades Betrayal is a strong outing that wraps up with a bit of a whimper.
New recruit Ayana is a characteristically bizarre prospect within the Raiders universe - a tribal future pirate with an accent that flits between Jamaican, Indian, German & Welsh.
Having inadvertently recruited the red-headed teen, he’ll soon be added to the roster as a universally purchasable playable character, whereas Ayana is a free exclusive to Hades Betrayal owners.
Breaking from established convention, a boss battle rounds out mission number three. Taking place in a gorgeous interior, you’ll aim to draw a big ol’ chainsaw-wielding mech towards explosive plant life, utilising the bulging buds to damage its armour and expose the vulnerable pilot within. It’s a hugely chaotic encounter, true to Raiders form, but one we ultimately could’ve done without.
Hades Betrayal’s culminating confrontation proceeds to shoulder the blame for this; what’s typically a spot reserved for grossly malformed behemoth bosses that beg for you to put them out of their misery, is instead occupied by another mech requiring similar tactics to take down. Once again, there’s nothing technically wrong with the fight, but it would’ve been so much more effective to see Hades Division’s Gundam-style tincan descend without it ringing incredibly familiar. While the shoe fits - General Krausher is exactly the kind of character that’d send a series of giant robots to do his bidding - it just isn’t worthwhile to end on such a comparative creative low.
Samey bosses set aside, Hades Betrayal does boast good mission variety and a heightened sense of scale to build towards Council Apocalypse, which is set to close out the current season of content at some point soon. As ever - in fact, especially so following the update - what’s here is highly revisitable thanks to digestible mission lengths, a sustained level of challenge, the ability to replay as an Antagonist, and now, to earn greater rewards than ever before.
Couple that with access to the brilliant Ayana Kwena and plenty of kooky, character-driven cutscenes to build upon the burgeoning lore, and Hades Betrayal is another standalone campaign that Raiders of the Broken Planet fans won’t want to miss.
If you fancy trying Hades Betrayal for yourself, free of charge, why not enter our giveaway for a chance to win one of two PS4 keys? Click the banner below for details on how to enter.
Bypassing the troublesome Shadwell Overground stairs via the elevator once again proved a dream, especially the smell, but the lack of fish in the ornamental canal was of great concern to me. Where had they gone? Why? And could they ever truly exist in those two-inch deep waters? So many great questions, but only one certainty: I was back at Tobacco Dock for EGX Rezzed 2018.
This year’s show had so many playable games that even two days worth of attendance was insufficient to see them all.
First up was Lake Ridden, a first-person puzzle-adventure set inside the guts of a gloomy lake, largely devoid of water. The puzzles are cryptic enough, the setting has a creepy edge, and the story is intriguing. Let’s see how it develops.
I followed-on with a selection of games from cracking London-based publisher Chucklefish. I’ve mentioned Wargroove a few times on the site - most notably as one of my most anticipated games of 2018 - and I have no qualms in reiterating that this is going to be essential gaming. They also had “Stealthvania” game The Siege and the Sandfox on show, as well as Pathway, another fabulous strategy game. All three titles are a great showcase of Chucklefish’s brilliant expanding roster.
Curve Digital - another splendid publisher - had a few games on show ‘ere too. I thoroughly enjoyed the arcade-stylings and twin-stick fun of Rogue Aces, cartoony aircraft-sim Bomber Crew, and strategic RPG For The King. The former is available now on Switch and PlayStation platforms (that’s PS4 and Vita), whilst the middler and latter are currently available on Steam.
My time in the Indie Room (above-ground branch) came to a close with two biggies: Disco Elysium and Phoenix Point.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty; be they booze, smoking, drugs, memory and/or mental health related. Tasked with solving a murder, this unique isometric police RPG gives the player a staggering amount of choices, featuring multiple skill sets (these affect your character’s perception of the world, and how he interacts with people), a gorgeously gritty hand-painted art style, and ever so much replayability. I can’t help but be excited!
Phoenix Point is the latest strategy game from master of the genre Julian Gollop. In time-honoured fashion, you take control of a team of grunts armed with big guns, rippling muscles and cheesey dialogue as you tackle objectives and blast alien scum. Fans of all things XCOM can PARTY now.
What goes up must surely come down, so, like morning toothpaste finding its way to trouser leg, I stumbled downstairs to the Indie Room (basement branch). Just like its above-ground brethren, the basement room was chock fulla great games.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty, and I can’t help but be excited about this unique isometric police RPG!
PQube’s selections caught my eyes and ears first, which lead me to enjoy time with sinister text adventure Stay, 8-bit side-scrolling slasher Aggelos, and produce-focused karter All-Star Fruit Racing. They also had the wonderful Cat Quest on the go - if you haven’t already, go and check it out!
It was great to see Aperion Cyberstorm being enjoyed by many in its Switch incarnation, Hipster Cafe Simulator providing many laughs, and beautifully animated (and darkly funny) adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, all running side-by-side.
The highlight of the room was local multiplayer communicate-‘em-up Catastronauts. You and your associates are placed in charge of a spacecraft, tasked with blastin’ away other crews. Much like the genre-defining Overcooked, Catastronauts uses the rising panic of putting out fires, removing bombs and firing lasers to create real laughs. Look out for this one when it drops later in the year.
By now the bells were tolling, so off I toddled to the land of the well established: that’s right, it were time for PlayStation, Sega, Xbox and Nintendo.
PlayStation had a paltry amount of titles on show this year, but as if to paint quality over quantity, what was there was truly fabbo. Guacamelee 2 provides more hectic, Mexican rasslin’-infused fun, there was silliness aplenty in The Adventure Pals, and irresistibly cute graphics in The Swords of Ditto.
Gorgeous adventure Heaven’s Vault is what really stood out, though. Featured in my seven to look out for at Rezzed piece, HV surpassed my already high expectations of what the open-world point-and-click adventure would be. Taking control of archeologist Aliya, I interacted with helpful/humourless robot chum Six, investigated the ruins of a beautiful lost world, and attempted to translate lots of hieroglyphics. The alluring blend of 2D character art and 3D environments is a triumphant success, as was the slow-burn quality of the gameplay. One of my games of the show, for sure.
Microsoft’s ID@Xbox room was lacking in space (at least for corpulent Milky Bar men like myself), but did exhibit some superb games. Our esteemed Editor, Monsieur James Michael Parry, joined me for a blast at Metal Slug-like Huntdown - which is really good old-school fun - Terratech’s Minecraftian vehicular combat, and the joys of reigning over the proletariat in Kingdom: Two Crowns. The highlight here, however, was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person cooperative shooting. It was great fun, and even better when played in a group, as Jim lad will testify to.
The ID@Xbox highlight was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person co-op shooting. It was great fun, especially when played in a group.
Nintendo and Sega offered slim pickings this year, as they both showed games already available on other platforms. Mega Drive Classics will definitely be a day one pick up for myself, but I don’t see why they needed to bring it; the just-announced Shenmue re-releases would’ve made more sense. Nintendo’s appeal rested solely on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We’re pleased to announce that it’s shaping up to be another Suda 51 classic, the auteur's crazy combat, retina-destroying colours and self-aware dialogue all being intact.
Are you still with me, comrades? If so, let’s travel into the dark heart of the Unreal Engine Showcase to sample Another Sight, Metamorphosis, Space Cows, some fishing, and the brilliant Lost Ember.
Another Sight puts you in the dual-role of blind gal and nimble cat, as you explore Victorian-era underground London - sewers, trains, et al. Space Cows carries the same charm as clumsy controllers Octodad and Manuel Samuel, as you traverse a colourful world in search of milk and cows. It was hilarious.
Metamorphosis casts thee as a man trapped in the body of a spider: Why are you here? What are those men doing to your friend? How will you return to human form? The game's sneaking and scuttling was good fun, as was currently-available-on-Xbox-Game-Pass carp-botherer, Dovetail Fishing - maybe this is where the ornamental canal’s dorsal-equipped water breathers had vanished to?
Lost Ember was the real winner here though, with its attractive visuals and possessing gameplay mechanic. You play a wolf, who, with the help of a spirit mate, can possess other animals to help traverse a natural world free of humans. I got tinges of Journey and Abzu playing the game, but there’s definitely plenty of originality lurking in Lost Ember’s characters and story. Once polished, this has serious potential.
Coatsink and Wired Productions had some quality stuff up their sleeves this year too, with games that really honed in on fun.
Wired had gravity-defying speedster Grip on show, as well as the glorious return of Shaq-Fu. Shaq was a personal favourite, featuring Saber Interactive’s pleasing NBA Playgrounds art style and side-scrolling, button-mashing bouts straight outta the 90s. Add to that rich colour comic book cutscenes with hilarious writing and voice over, and I cannae wait for this one.
The hockey/football/Micro Machines mash-up that is Coatsink’s ClusterPuck 99 thoroughly entertained myself and herr-Editor, as we managed to win both of our games against fellow attendees. Coatsink’s highlight, however, was the fabulous Phogs, a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
Jam and I played in co-op mode, using the same controller to immensely increase the hilarity of the experience. You each control one end of a double-ended dog, aiming to progress through some exquisite locales via the medium of hungry giant worms. The game had a real Nintendo-at-its-most-joyous feel to it, and trust us when we say, this is going to be the game to play at parties.
The fabulous Phogs is a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
My voyage around Rezzed finished at the glorious Leftfield Collection this year, a place that truly encapsulates the spirit of the show, in one’s humble opinion. The feeling of community was present as soon as I entered, gazing upon hand-drawn posters above each title, friendly faces from all over the world, and some superb games.
Leftfield was a true exhibition of the arts; from design, to visual presentation, to music, it all came together as my personal combined star of the show. A cop-out maybe, but there’s no doubting the reality: Leftfield displayed the true nature of gaming, and maybe even life (if you’ll forgive my pretension) - personal, meaningful, fun. It’s for that reason you can expect to see an article focused squarely on the great Leftfield games on show, which really deserve the spotlight.
With that, I downed my last coffee of the weekend, checked one last time for fish, and disappeared into the night. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, farvel - see ya next year, Rezzed!
For plenty more EGX Rezzed 2018 coverage, stay tuned to Pass the Controller.
Raiders of the Broken Planet is a strange egg, but in a good way, with its oddball cast and mechanics making it all the more endearing. That said, the episodic sci-fi shooter has been held back by a few core issues as a result; from endless matchmaking instances and overly expensive character unlocks, to a lack of concrete progression and little in the way of encouragement to engage with its asymmetrical multiplayer. Now, courtesy of a sizeable free update built on community feedback, each and every one of these problems has been admirably addressed.
Raiders has been held back by a few core issues, but now, courtesy of a sizeable free update, each and every one has been admirably addressed.
Whilst those specific rewards are much the same as before (currencies and weapon blueprints), there’s now a more conventional progression system on top. You’ll earn experience points proportional to your performance, with each gained rank bestowing unlocks and passive gameplay boons that apply across all characters.
It’s a much needed motivator and a leap in the right direction when it comes to Raiders’ ensured longevity, but considering the fact everyone starts at ground zero, some veterans may take issue with the implementation. Everything that’s previously been bought remains readily available, but say you were close to acquiring a specific character with in-game funds, you may now need to reach a heady level just to qualify for the purchase. Considering all character unlock costs have been slashed in half, however, that should be a relatively easy pill to swallow.
Levelling can be accelerated with the purchase of experience multipliers - though returning players should find that they already have a few in stock, free of charge - and also by splitting your time between the roles of Raider and Antagonist in an effort to maintain a 50/50 balance in the new Aequilibrium War. As your assigned group edge closer towards achieving equilibrium, all of its members will receive a greater experience boost, encouraging the playerbase to engage with both sides of Raiders’ criminally underutilised asymmetric multiplayer. Having also brought the rewards for playing as a solo Antagonist into line with those offered to co-op Raiders, being the bad guy is now the deviously attractive prospect it should have been from the start.
The new progression system is a much needed motivator and a leap in the right direction when it comes to Raiders’ ensured longevity.
All of these changes are squarely aimed at making the game more accessible, without compromising the level of challenge that attracted players in the first place. One final addition of note, the Forge, further attains that goal by allowing the customisation of firearms to fit different play styles, provided you first get your hands on an advanced blueprint.
MercurySteam have likened pre-patch Raiders of the Broken Planet to an early access version of the game, which is a strong way to put it, but they‘ve most certainly eclipsed their initial offering. It’s very easy to imagine ways in which AAA publishers might’ve squeezed money out of their following for such an overhaul, or just kept it back for a sequel, but that isn’t this Spanish studio’s style. With a “dizzying” rate of updates promised moving forward, now’s certainly an exciting time to be a part of the growing Raiders community.
Raiders’ biggest update yet accompanied the release of its latest premium campaign, Hades Betrayal, which we’ll be sharing our thoughts on very soon. Until then, if you’re eager to give the game a try, you can click the banner below for a chance to win free access to Hades Betrayal on PS4!
Emily Munro, former Features Editor, shares her personal story of gaming addiction and the dramatic and destructive impact it had on her life, her health and her relationships.
Most gamers have been there: ‘just one more quest then I’ll go to bed/eat/shower’. I always jokingly referred to it as one-more-quest syndrome, not really an issue, I’m just enjoying myself, and that’s what videogames are for. Realistically, for most people that never becomes a problem - but is there a line where that comforting feeling of immersion and interaction stops being fun, and becomes a real problem? For me, there was, and I more than just crossed that line - I jumped head first over it.
A large percentage of the games people attribute their addiction to are MMOs, such as World of Warcraft. Part of the reason for this is the amount of dedication these games require to succeed at a high level – the story never really ends, plus there are constant additions and endless grinds for the best gear and items. This means there’s a constant loop of rewards and gratification every time you play.
In addition to this, gaming allows us to escape and immerse ourselves in other worlds. MMOs particularly give us the opportunity to be someone else; we name our characters and give them backstories, we forge them into the ultimate representation of who we want to be.
I’ve always found slipping into imaginary worlds exceptionally easy, immersing myself in books and videogames since a young age. I believe this stems from my nature as an introvert; I always did (and still do, to an extent) struggle with social interaction. Shielding myself in those other worlds was a comfort to me, because while I was there I could be someone else. I suppose that inherent ability to lose myself in fictional realms lends itself well to modern games – people like me are the very ones that MMOs rely (I want to say ‘prey’, but that’s just deflection on my part) upon to make their money. And thus, when I discovered Neverwinter, I began one of the most difficult periods in my life.
In all honesty, my first foray into Neverwinter never left that much of an impression upon me. This was when the game first came to consoles, on Xbox One. I played it briefly, but the novelty wore off, and I never touched it again until its release on PS4. This was the beginning of a spiral I’m only now, nearly two years later, coming out of.
I immersed myself in my characters. When I played, I wasn’t the shy and socially awkward Emily, I was fierce and outgoing, friendly and popular. In a matter of months, I’d gone from being a casual player to running a relatively successful guild. What started as a bit of fun suddenly became like my job – when I wasn’t online playing the game I was organising guild events, creating spreadsheets of guild members to track activity, or smoothing over the inevitable online clashes between people. I felt important – people wanted to speak to me, I was liked.
These were things I craved, not realising I already had them, and Neverwinter gave them to me.
These were things I craved, not realising I already had them, and Neverwinter gave them to me. At the time I wasn’t working, so I’d drop my kids off at school, come home and log straight into the game, playing it until I had to pick them up again. When I eventually dragged myself away from it at night I’d lay in bed thinking about it instead of sleeping, strategy and ideas swimming through my head until I couldn’t physically keep myself awake any longer. I’d sleep for a few hours, then get up and the cycle would repeat, over and over.
My online persona’s progression became more important than my own; I didn’t shower often enough (I know, gross), and I think I was probably personally responsible for 50% of the sales of dry shampoo because it was quicker than washing my hair. I was a mess, and I couldn’t see it. Yes, my hair needed washing, but there was an event ending that day on Neverwinter and I had to get online. In my head that made perfect sense.
For a time, I don’t think even the people close to me realised how deep I’d fallen into my addiction. Inevitably, eventually my real-life relationships began to suffer. I developed friendships through Neverwinter that were bordering on inappropriate, I turned down social invitations with real-life friends in favour of the game, I stopped going to bed when my partner did and spent time in chats with online people from all over the world instead. And in my head, it wasn’t an issue. This was my escape, and I was entitled to it; if people couldn’t accept that then they were in the wrong, not me.
After 14 months immersed in my online world, a tipping point came. One statement: ‘I’d ask you to choose between me and the game, but at this point I honestly don’t know what your answer would be’. It’s then it hit me – I had neglected my family, my friends and myself because all I could think about was the game and the people within it. It’s true what they say about addiction – in any of its many forms, you can’t tackle it until you realise you have a problem. On that night I faced that realisation, and it was like being hit by a metaphorical bus.
I slowly began to tear myself away from the game. Cutting down on my time gradually, spending more quality time with the people close to me in the evenings instead of logging on. It was difficult – people would message me, asking where I was, would I come online and run dungeons with them. In some weird ironic twist, my online friends were worried by my absence and concerned for me. Dragging yourself away from something you’ve been so completely immersed in for so long is hard – the only thing I can compare it to is that it honestly felt like ending a relationship. That’s how involved I was with this other world. With perseverance, I whittled my time down to logging in once a day to collect daily bonuses. As I did it, I slowly began to notice that I wasn’t missing it at all any more. The compulsion and desire to play it just wasn’t there.
Two weeks ago, I finally removed Neverwinter from my console. I gave away all my gear and items to deter me from going back, I logged out and I uninstalled the game. I immediately felt like a weight had been lifted. It would be the easiest thing to blame videogames for what I did, I could deflect all responsibility onto Neverwinter and the games industry, but the fact is I just used it as a tool to hide from my problems. I still play games frequently – they’re a big part of my life and I enjoy them – but I’m also able to recognise that they should be an addition to my life, not the reason for it. I have a job that I enjoy, I’m studying to further my career, I have a renewed relationship and I’ve started writing again.
I’m still in contact with a couple of people I played Neverwinter with, but I’ll never go back to it, and I do believe that highly immersive games like MMOs should come with some sort of warning much like the ‘gamble aware’ system for gambling websites. Recognising the danger of gaming addiction is a step in the right direction, and as acceptance of it as a very real issue grows I hope more people find it easier to access the help and support they need.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing symptoms of gaming addiction, there are many organisations you can go to for help and advice, like the charity Action on Addiction.
Infinite State Games’ light-hearted take on aerial warfare, Rogue Aces, landed on PS4, Vita and Switch this week and is the latest to be given a quick one.
If you’re specifically looking for some mindless plane-based carnage, and nothing more, then Rogue Aces just about fits the bill.
Despite the drawbacks, would you recommend it?
If you’re specifically looking for some mindless plane-based carnage, and nothing more, then Rogue Aces just about fits the bill. If you’re willing to spend a touch more than Rogue Aces’ £9.99/€12.99/$12.99 asking price and have access to an Xbox One or PC, however, we’d have to say Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China offers far superior aerial arcade action.
This’ll be our third year at EGX’s fantastic indie game showcase, Rezzed. Set inside London’s Tobacco Dock, those lucky enough to be going - attendance swells every year - have literally hundreds of games to try out, covering every genre imaginable. The big boys will be there too, so those of you with a love for all things Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox have no excuse, either. With this in mind, here are 7 games we’ll be homing in on come Friday.
Another adventure featuring an alluring audio-visual assault, Lost Ember casts you as a wolf with the power to inhabit other animals, in a natural world shorn of mankind. Discover the ruins of long lost civilizations through the wings of a bird, the fins of a fish or the snout of the wolf himself. Check out the trailer for Lost Ember’s Abzu/Journey influenced world above, and get excited.
Set in a world covered in water - hello Mr Costner, how have you been? - Above puts the player in the cockpit of dinky plane, in this charming looking action adventure. Build, upgrade and modify your craft, fight against gargantuan sea monsters and sky pirates, and follow your character’s journey to hunt down a long lost sibling.
An open-world adventure the likes of which we rarely see, Heaven’s Vault puts you in the shoes of archaeologist Aliya Elasra, as you attempt to uncover the secrets of a civilization's past. Sumptuous hand drawn 2D art, hieroglyphic translation and absorbing characters blend to create yet another attractive adventure at this year’s show.
Double Kick Heroes
Labelled as a rhythm-metal-shooter by the developers, Double Kick Heroes has cooked those three ingredients up in to a sweet gaming jambalaya. The action scrolls from left-to-right, as you and your band of musical metal madmen crash drums and shred guitars; time it right and bullets will fly at the bastards chasing you. Check out our preview for more on DKH.
Take a B-movie narrative, arcade-style gameplay, limited sight and what do you get? Blind Drive, that’s what. Like many of the other gems on this list, the game will be playable in the Left Field collection at the show, a place where it seems we’ll be spending most of our time! Keep tabs on our coverage over the weekend to see if dev Lo-Fi People’s intriguing idea equates to a grand game.
Are you attending EGX Rezzed? Are you a developer who’d like us to see their game? Let us know via the comments and social media, and look out for more coverage over the weekend.
Music rhythm games are pretty old hat these days, having been run into the ground at the height of their popularity, around ten years ago now, through a greedy and endless stream of cookie-cutter releases. By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the genre back into the fold when it hits Steam Early Access on 11 April.
By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the music rhythm genre back into the fold.
Whilst carving a bloody path through the USA - across 15 stages set to the game’s original soundtrack, which spans light rock through heavy metal - you’ll get to know the head-banging fivesome comprising the Double Kick Heroes. Text-based interactions during interludes make reference to all aspects of pop culture, but they’re so ham-fistedly frequent and obvious that it can feel like there’s a sleeve-tugging child shoving their collection of “cool” toys under your nose. The aim here was never to produce an artsy, postmodern pastiche though, with the foul-mouthed stereotypes quickly establishing the desired sense of character.
Story mode currently runs around three hours, but that’s set to double as DKH continues its development and the band embark on a European tour. There’s also the mysterious Hellgate mode to be added, but in the meantime polishing your skills in Arcade mode and creating/downloading custom stages via the in-depth-but-straightforward Level Editor should be plenty to keep you busy.
Most user-generated levels are based on established songs, for example Metallica’s Master of Puppets, which means you’ll need the relevant MP3 file for the game to sync up and have you play along with. It’s a clever little way around hefty licensing fees and should serve to keep devoted metalheads indefinitely busy.
Provided you held on to them, you can also use your old Guitar Hero or Rock Band peripherals to play; you’ll have no issue plug and playing with a USB drum set, but old wireless guitars require forking out for a signal receiver, which is unfortunate when they’re precisely what most people will have to hand.
That’s not an insignificant blunder, but it’s ultimately outside of developer Headbang Club’s control. The team have otherwise done a great job on the technical front, maintaining a solid 60 frames per second during gameplay to ensure there’s no chance of dropping notes through no fault of your own.
Even at this pre-Early Access stage then, in spite of some largely par-for-the-course flaws, Double Kick Heroes is a very playable evolution of the music rhythm genre. It’s a game with a specific audience that does everything it can to cater to its niche, so, if you fit the bill, add DKH to your watchlist as it can only get better from here.
We’ve taken a saucy peek beneath the façade of this love letter to 90’s era platformers as part of our regular first impressions series, so go on, don’t be shy - read on for the juicy deets!
Is it easy on the eyes and ears as well?
Very much so. It’s incredibly sharp and vibrant, spilling over with loving little details from background to fore. Add in punchy retro sound effects that mix with a thumping modern soundtrack, and you have a presentational powerhouse.
Seems to have it all - presumably it comes recommended?
Rad Rodgers is chucklesome, satisfying sexiness wrapped in an attractive price point (£15.99 on Xbox One and PS4, £17.99 on Steam). If that sounds like your bag, there’s no reason not to get involved.
Join us down in the funk-bunker as we get vigorous, personal and brief with German developer Phantom 8’s new third-person story-driven action game, Past Cure.
Third-person action, you say?
For the most part, yes, though Phantom 8 do also shoehorn in some puzzle solving and survival horror elements as you play out sequences both in reality and in Ian’s dreamworld. The bad news is that everything fails: the third-person shooting is naff, the puzzling is as dull as an Ed Sheeran tune, and the telekinesis/sanity bending mechanics are just utter dross. Every aspect is a rip-off of a better game, or a story element taken from a better film.
So it doesn't play well?
Honestly, it’s clunky, gutless and devoid of fun - voice acting notwithstanding, but we’ll get to that - quite the killer triple-threat. It’s obvious that Phantom 8’s intentions were well placed on paper, but the finished form falls well short of modern standards.
What about the presentation?
Once again, it’s plain to see the minimalist chic that Phantom 8 are aiming for, but it just looks flat. The frame rate doesn’t help matters, chugging along whether you’re in the thick of an action sequence or just walking around.
The real winner, however, is the wondrously bad voice acting. Every cast member appears to have attended The Kevin Costner Conservatory of Thespianism, spinning all manner of emotionally charged lines in a vacuum-bag of monotonous drivel - we do hope Phantom 8 didn’t pay them much...
Well, all sounds swell thus far… Anything else to be wary of?
Endless, vacuous cutscenes. Seriously, where a standard narrative-focused game allows the player to explore environments and discover information for themselves, Past Cure instead slams in a non-playable sidebar. Want to see Ian walk across a path for three seconds? You’ve got it!
Also: The main character’s name is Ian. Ian!
Hard to recommend, then?
At its current retail price of £24.99, it’s simply impossible to recommend. Whilst it’s almost commendable that Phantom 8 tried to mash all these different styles together, it just never works. If you’re a real sycophant, wait for the price to drop to around a fiver and dive on in.
Welcome down to another of our indie dev chinwags, this time with the fine folks at aPriori Digital. Based in Bristol, the team have just released their first game, an old-school shmup called Aperion Cyberstorm.
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
The initial inspiration was the resurgence of couch co-op games like Towerfall. What we’ve found interesting is during development that style of games fell away for more online-based games, yet having recently showcased Aperion at EGX Rezzed, it seems they’re making a comeback!
"You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway."
Can you tell us about your team at Apriori Digital?
The team are all graduates of the Game Technology degree at the University of the West of England, and it was through that course that we all met and decided to form a company. We’re all in the South West of England, with an office in Bristol. Aperion Cyberstorm is our first major title.
How difficult is it for indie developers in this current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit? Are shows like Rezzed beneficial in helping you find an audience?
I would say it’s as difficult as it might be for indies in the music or book industries, in the sense that a lot of the time the thing you’ve poured your soul into isn’t going to bring in the big bucks. Sometimes you may find it won’t make anything. For a lot of indies, it’s a question of whether they would still make games if it wasn’t going to earn them enough to recoup costs. You have to be a little mad to work in the games industry, but I think it’s fair to say most games devs are a little mad anyway.
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
Network. Go to events, socials, anything where other game developers might be. But here’s the key part: stay in touch. Don’t go expecting to land a job or a contract straight away. A one-and-done email is more likely to end deleted than responded to. Follow up on the people you meet. We’ve contracted people for work that matches their skillset two years after we met them at events like Develop. We remember them because they would keep in touch every once in a while.
Understand that instant success isn’t a reality for 99% of developers. We spend a lot of our time working on contracts, and that’s the same for other devs. You’ll tend to find that the success stories are littered with a string of previous works that didn’t do as well. As an example, I’d recommend this talk by Jake Birkett about a decade of game making without a ‘hit’.
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
I wouldn’t say it’s the future, in the same way I wouldn’t say a particular platform or genre is the future. It’s another flavour of gaming, like augmented reality. VR’s working wonders for training in the engineering and medical fields, but I feel like it is still trying to find its legs in the gaming space. I hope it’s a success.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
Metal Gear Solid 2 – Holy bejebus, the back half of this game! I went in knowing nothing about it, so when the ‘Colonel’ went loopy it scared the crap out of me. I hadn't played the first MGS at the time, so the fourth wall breaks (like being told to turn the console off) left a massive mark on me. The game's almost prophetic at this point with its focus on the control of information context. Also, because Sons of Liberty in the UK came with a documentary on the making of the game, it was the first time I got to see how the sausage is made, as it were. At that point I knew what I wanted to make my career.
Eternal Darkness – Much like MGS2, Eternal Darkness’ biggest draw for me what the fourth wall breaks, using the game against the player by ‘deleting’ save data, loading the map upside down and dropping the volume on the TV. I loved traditional gameplay – I’m a sucker for the FPS genre – but challenging player expectation in the way that MGS2 and Eternal Darkness did is something I would love to explore.
Bloodborne - It was on sale, and people raved about it, so hey why not, right? Holy crap, this is one of the greatest games ever. The risk/reward gameplay and sheer speed of it is something I never knew I wanted. I wasn’t into the Souls games as much, but I’ve spent over 100 hours in Bloodborne, and I have no intention of stopping. Time will tell what kind of mark it has left.
What does the future hold for Aperion Cyberstorm & Apriori Digital?
Right now it’s coming to Steam and Wii U. As for other platforms, well, we’ll see. We have plans for our next title which is a bit of a departure in several ways from Aperion Cyberstorm, and we’d love the chance to bring it to its fullest potential. As a studio, we also work with other companies on their projects, whether games or other kinds of software, so if you’re looking for help on a project hit us up!
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
PlayStation 2. I mean, *that* library. I could spend most of my life playing through its back catalogue, then work my way through the PS1 library!
Thanks to aPriori Digital for taking the time to talk to us. Aperion Cyberstorm is available now on Steam, Nintendo Switch and Wii U. If you'd like to learn more about the game, check out our review.