Deja vu is a sentiment I often find cropping up around games like Flat Heroes. Much as I love minimalistic art styles, there are only so many times I can play as a monochromatic quadrilateral before starting to wonder if maybe I should be asking for more. After all, appealing as I find flat-shaded shapes, others may see the aesthetic as little more than laziness on the part of the game’s art team. And with all the titles out there that do similar things with better art, it can be tough to justify the existence of another game like Flat Heroes.
Challenging games are a pain to review, and not just for the obvious reasons. Sure, it can be difficult (and often frustrating) to throw yourself against the same obstacle repeatedly, solely because you want to see as much of a game as possible before reviewing it. What I find to be far more stressful, however, is when that challenge becomes insurmountable. With the recent controversies surrounding games like Cuphead, the notion of saying that a game is “unfairly difficult” is frequently regarded as taboo. It’s not that the game is hard; it’s just that you need to “git gud”.
Imagine if Nintendo released a compilation of the best user-created levels from Super Mario Maker as a standalone package; that’s basically Crazy Dreamz: Best Of, except it replaces all the Mario assets with magical cats and other fantasy-themed critters. What’s most interesting is the monetization model: 50% of the profits go to the creators whose levels made it into the game. Not only that, but each level spotlights its creator at the start and end, giving players the option to send monetary tips to their favourite builders. It’s a rather heartwarming collaboration between developers and players, and one which I’d love to see more games explore. However, can the creativity of an entire fanbase produce an inspired, diverse set of game levels to experience?
“I’m sorry, what?”
That was my first reaction upon receiving a press email about de Blob 2’s release on current-gen consoles. The inaugural title was a Wii exclusive which – while attention-grabbing to my 13-year-old mind at the time – ended up becoming little more than another bargain basement platformer in the Wii’s sea of them. Hell, I was pleasantly surprised when it got a multiplatform sequel in 2011. Yet when not a peep was heard about the franchise afterwards (following publisher THQ’s closure in 2013), I had pretty much accepted that it was all over for Blob and friends.
Myths and legends are frequently the basis for elements of games, be it their plotline, characters, setting, or some mix. However, these are usually components cherry-picked from a larger narrative, serving less as a means of introducing the audience to the original piece, and more as scaffolding to support the world created by the developers. In contrast, nearly every element of Mulaka feels like it was designed to honour and bring attention to the traditions and culture of the Tarahumara people. Yet rather than being little more than an elaborate Wikipedia page, Mulaka sucks you in with its vibrant world, and does everything it can to keep your attention until after the credits have finished rolling.
“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
From its opening moments, OVIVO gave me a sense of déjà vu.
After getting briefly stuck, I learned that pressing the space bar caused my character to flip to the other side of the floor, turning what was once empty space into a new plane to slide along. Immediately, a slew of “yin-yang platformer” flash games came to mind, and I was worried that OVIVO would end up feeling like a generic clone of a tired (though still enjoyable) concept. Thankfully, it revealed itself to be a pleasant, bite-sized game that uses clever mechanics and clean visuals to create a thoroughly compelling experience.
Move over, Indiana Jones. You too, Lara Croft. There’s a new tomb raider in town, and they’ve got one hell of a mouth on them.
That mouth certainly gets put to good use in Immortal Redneck, an Egyptian themed, rogue-lite first-person shooter. The titular redneck spouts countless quips as he traverses one of three pyramids, spewing everything from random expletives to Back to the Future references. Ordinarily, this would seem out of place, considering the myriad of mystical monsters in his way that would have most folks running in terror. Then again, most folks probably aren’t equipped with enough firepower to make Michael Bay shed a tear.
Appearances can be deceiving, and this is certainly the case with So Many Me. Despite its cartoonish appearance and cast of cute and cuddly characters, what lies beneath the surface is a truly difficult, occasionally maddening puzzle-platformer. As an adorable green jelly blob named Filo, you suddenly find yourself in a world requiring saving; you know how these things go. Luckily, he quickly comes across a small green egg that hatches into a duplicate of him. Discovering that the clone mimics his every move, Filo sets out on his journey, discovering new clones (the “Me”), interesting powers, and an assortment of enemies along the way.
Alice: Madness Returns is a game that attempts to convey the realities of a descent into madness to the player, and in that regard, it is an unequivocal success. Unfortunately, that’s because it is one of the most maddening games that I’ve played recently. It’s a game that feels like it had so much effort poured into certain aspects, while others were left to waste away in irrelevance. And unfortunately, most of the latter were the elements that would make it a compelling and enjoyable game.