Life Goes On – Review

$12.99 (but 25% off for launch, demo available)

Death. It has always been something that is best avoided in video games. Also real life would be the other main place. But as Life Goes On, an indie puzzle game by Infinite Monkeys shows, sometimes it can be used to solve environmental physics based puzzles.

The hook of this game is a little tricky to wrap your head around, but simple to understand once you see it in action. Basically you control an infinite number of little knights and want to get them to the golden chalice at the end of each level. To do so, you can respawn a knight whenever a death occurs and make use of the previous body to further your cause. For example, you might be faced with a spike pit which is too wide to jump over. In this case, simply jump a knight into the middle of it, respawn and use the lifeless body as a stepping stone to get to the other side (The game gives each character a name, but you’ll never bother to read it).

It is a base mechanics that works extremely well. If you played the demo (and you should) you would quickly have got into the swing of using your minions to get a little bit further each life. It is clever and the initial levels make great use of the different possibilities the mechanic presents. Unfortunately, like a lot of clever ideas it runs out of steam far too quickly.

Life Goes on just doesn’t have enough good variety to maintain your attention. By the end of the first set of levels you will have had your fill of the different types of puzzles and so it is a let down that the next set is more or less repeating things all over again. The levels get longer and the challenges more difficult, but really the game is just chaining the same challenges you have already faced over and over again into growing chunks. Worse, whenever a new mechanic is introduced, it tends to lean more towards frustration rather than fun, especially when compared to the very solid base (trying to avoid activating respawn points is never a fun time).

To be fair, although the 3rd “world” on drags a lot, there are still a couple of memorable stages here and there. One in particular pays homage to a popular steam themed game and the “final level” in each group represents somewhat of a boss battle, that is much more fun to play through. If only these levels had been the norm, rather than the exception this review would be a lot more glowing. As it stands the game only shows glimpses of potential and innovation, perhaps a lesson for the developers next game (quality of puzzles over quantity please!).

Mixing it up is the set challenge of beating the clock and set number of deaths for each level. You will also have a “fuzzy” creature to find in each level which will eat one of your knights. While this promises diversity, the reality is it just means you are beating the level three times with a slightly different focus. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be much scope for earning all three in one run consistently and there is seemingly no payoff for doing so anyway.

The rest of the package is well put together. The graphics are functional and the sound and music is nicely done. The menus work, but are a little uninspired (think ios style) and there is basically no story to drive you on. The environments are nice though and have a lot of good touches such as moving power cables. There isn’t a lot of variety in the caverns, but later levels do at least provide a slightly different colour palette.

In terms of gameplay, the knights themselves are perhaps a little inconsistent as platforms (you’ll often try to jump on one and “miss”) but this isn’t something you can’t adjust and plan for and there is a very low penalty for failure. The controls in general are tight and it is nice that the game automatically “grabs” you onto other knights so this is nowhere near as fiddly as it might have been.

Is there enough content for the asking price? I’d still suggest that there is, at a push, but it is walking a very fine line (looking at 4-5 hours I would think). The base game here is so solid that I highly recommend everybody tries it, but the lack of ideas means even the demo might just be sufficient (or waiting for a deeper sale might be the best option).

So ultimately a bit of a disappointment despite still being a solid game. But then, life always goes on.

Indie/Bundle Game Roundup

It is that time again to delve into the Indie/Bundle barrell and see what comes out of it. Today these games are from the current groupees retro bundle and the indie game stand.

The LootCastle

Upgrade based tower defense game, where you pick skills for your “rooms” and try to stop the knights from killing your main skeleton lord thingy.
Nice graphics and functional gameplay, probably just lacking that “hook” to keep you invested. But it seems there is a good bit of game here if you feel like putting in some time.

Well worth a look.

Litil Divil

I seem to remember this game from a long, long time ago. But I don’t remember much about it, so I either didn’t enjoy it or I didn’t put much time into it. Probably the latter, because it took me five minute to work out how to even attack (you hold down z and press a direction).

Yeah no.

Another Perspective

An indie puzzle game with a heavy “Braid vibe”. Basically you move around a screen and collect keys to open the door. The hook is you often have another copy of yourself in the room which you can switch to. This copy can be used to make a platform for instance, but it also changes the “perspective” of the room, sometimes making some things appear and others things vanish.

It is all pretty clever and well designed. A bit slow to get started perhaps and the puzzle style will not be for everyone (quite a bit of trial and error I think).

But certainly worth a proper look.

Cube & Star: An Arbitrary Love

You are a cube, who rolls around on a sphere… crashing into stuff. Sometimes when you crash into stuff, other stuff pops out which you can collect. Then you move around a bit and find some other stuff to crash into.

Sometimes little bits of words pop up when you hit something. Sometimes it is in a strange gibberish language. Sometimes nothing happens.

I want to say there is some next level Fez/La Mulana shit going on here. There might be…or you might just be a cube rolling around adding colour to a sphere.

I can’t say it isn’t interesting…whatever it is. I don’t even…

Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi

Seems to be a randomly generated first person… horror action survival thingy. In my first game, I spawned and was given a cane sword. Thinking this was a good start, I entered the first room and got two med packs. Things were looking up!

I then entered the second room and was attacked by three guys, with guns, and rather nifty looking hats. I died in about two seconds.

So yeah, the next run didn’t go much better. I did at least hit a few jump scares this time and was attacked by a vampire thing that kept getting dropped with one hit…but kept getting up again. Then it glitched through the wall.

Maybe vampires are meant to glitch through walls after you smack them around a bit…maybe not.

Too rough for my tastes, but I’ve played worse.

Shad’O Review


So Shad’O.

As some might have noticed today it got steam trading cards so I decided to idle for them. While doing so, I even decided to check the store page to try to work out exactly what this game is (god knows what bundle I got it in).

Short story, it is a tower defense game. There is nothing wrong with that, I enjoy the genre so I figured I’d actually download the 1GB or so and give it a go.

The game places you into the mind of a “Where the wild things are” style boy. And by “style” I mean exactly the same thing, complete with the little ears. You are then joined by Super Ted who tells you that you need to push the shadows in your head back and then a little penis mushroom indicates that the real game is loading.

I’d classify that as a somewhat odd start.

From there, things don’t exactly get any more sensible, but the action is easy enough to understand. You summon critters to mine light, which you then use to place other units along a path. If you pick the right mix you protect your memory, get a short cutscene and move onto the next map.

On the plus side, the neat fog of war effect adds something different to the genre. You will need to place your units strategically so you can even see what is coming, let alone stop it. On the other hand, progress seems reasonably easy, there doesn’t seem to be any real strategy in tower choice (lots of redundant towers) and there is no “star” or “rainbow” system for perfecting levels. You either win or you don’t.

Graphically, Shad’O is pretty impressive, especially outside of the game. Once you are in there it does suffer from a bit of “unityitess” if you know what I mean and is a bit rough around the edges. But the effects are nice enough, the fog is impressive and the level designs are clear enough that you know what is going on.

Of special note is the writing, which seems to be of a decent quality. The voice acting too is a notch above other efforts, even if it is always a bit strange. But being quirky isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Shad’O manages to pull off the atmosphere it was going for (I believe we have a French thing going on here).

I wouldn’t mark it as a must play, but it is certainly worth a look. The game reminded me of GrimGrimoire in some respects, with perhaps a bit of Alice Madness returns thrown in too. The actual tower defense gameplay isn’t special enough to carry the whole experience, but it at least gets the job done to kill a couple of hours.

If you own it or see it on sale, check it out while you grab the cards.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 – Review

First things first, compare the following to get an idea of where I’m coming from here:

Rollercoaster Tycoon 3:

Rollercoaster Tycoon 4:

To me that says a lot of things about the game and the state of the games industry itself. Once you could sit down to build a park and you were only limited by your imaginiation and the time you wanted to put into it. Now? You are limited by the time the game lets you play, the amount of coins you have and the amount of tickets you have collected. That is right, in RC4 you can only add parts of Roller Coasters if you have things like tickets.

Which you can buy, for real money, in the game you just purchased ($3.79 for Australian’s).

So what you have here is a reasonably full priced title (for ios) that is basically as bad as the free My Little Pony game. Or from a different perspective, it is just as good, if you enjoy playing your part in the destruction of a once loved franchise and pastime. Atari claims it is ok, because you get about $5 worth of coins with your purchase! Well to put it politely they can fuck right off with that.

So that aside (and no, I’m not really putting it aside as you will see), is the game any good? The answer is “who cares?”. I sat down to build a roller coaster. I couldn’t do so until I had levelled up and collected more in-game currency. This is fair enough to some extent because some modes in the previous game had similar restrictions (the “sim” part).

But then you have no other option, but to wait and kind of spin the screen around while you do not much at all. Even this isn’t easy to do, because the game begs you to “complete” everything you build to skip cool down timers (with an instant pop up to pay more money). When you get to actually build something, the construction is so basic that you will wonder why you would bother. Feel like building an indoor aquatic themed park? Yeah good luck with that, if you cant’ do it in Farmville, you are not going to be doing it here. Perhaps this is ideal for kids, young gamers who are just feeling their way into the simulation genre…and their parents have a fucktonne of money to waste on bullshit IAPs.

Staff management? Managing queues? Having fun? There is none of that here and it also happens to look like garbage. I’m really struggling to find a lot to recommend.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 4 is a travesty. Sure it’ll be free to play in a week and it might be worth trying for old fans of the series. But only if you are on one of those crazy diets where you need to throw up a few times a day.

I have to say, there are better ways to lose weight.

Raptors – One to watch

Care of NeoGAF member More_Badass, this little Dinosaur themed unity prototype was brought to my attention from a Projekt Red developer

For only a 30 odd MB download you get to run around as a Raptor, jump on some bigger dinosaurs and … bite them for a while until you get bored. Nothing much else happens, things like water are not implemented and the camera is almost as bad as the one in Dragon’s Dogma.

But man if it isn’t a cool start. So check it out and keep an eye on it. Who knows where it will lead one day?