July 30, 2022



Echo is a third-person science fiction adventure game with stealth and horror elements. It was developed and published by Ultra Ultra and was released on 9/19/17, available on Steam, GOG, and PS4.  At the date of this entry, this game has a very positive rating overall on Steam.

When I first started playing Echo, I knew nothing about it aside from the summary on the Steam page.  I bought it as a part of a Humble Bundle full of stealth games, so I thought stealth was the number one gameplay mechanic in it.  

I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case once I started playing.

The main menu is eye-popping.

Echo starts with a heavy narrative and no real gameplay other than some minor exploring to get the controls down, which are not very complicated.  I enjoy science fiction and games with lots of exposition. It tells the story of the main character, En, and her ship AI called London.  They have been traveling in space for 100 years, looking for a "palace" that is rumored to be able to revive the dead.  En is looking to revive her uncle Foster at this palace, though she doesn't know where it is or how it works.  At the start of the game, she wakes up from cryosleep and banters with the entirely-too-humanly-sarcastic AI as they approach a planet.  Over the course of the beginning and throughout occasional places in the game, En and London talk to reveal more of the characters' histories and backstories.  As expected, you find out quickly that this planet is where the "palace" is, though it's not what anyone expected.  

 A little way into the first chapter, you power up this palace, and Echo begins to become less narrative and more stealthy escape room.  Tension picks up as you go from area to area, trying to avoid enemies who get smarter as you play.  And here's the thing: the enemies are YOU.  

The palace creates batches of clones of En called Echos, and the whole place goes through a cycle of power and black-outs repetitively. During each black-out, the palace reboots, and the Echos learn from anything you do during the last powered-on cycle. The atmosphere of this game is tremendous as the ambient music lets you know when the next black-out is happening.  When the power comes back on, any Echos you eliminate during the last cycle revive and learn the things you did, like sneaking, vaulting, shooting, or sprinting, among other things.  You have to continuously adapt the way you play to make the Echos and levels manageable.  If one of them catches you, you can fight them off by mashing one of the buttons, but there's a recovery period afterward where another Echo can kill you if they catch you during it.  

The gameplay is simple: duck, vault, sneak, shoot, and throw things. Keep the enemy adapting and guessing.  Make it through the puzzles of each level to get to the next instance.  Get caught?  Try again.  And again. 

Echo has a few low points, but not all of them are game-ruining.  Halfway through the game, you realize that this game was made with one character model, two excellent voice actors, and a ton of repeating resources for the levels.  Ultra Ultra did a great job taking limited models and using them effectively.  This game sometimes feels like a random layout full of baddies as a sandbox stealth game rather than a fully fleshed-out game, but I feel it works well enough if you're hoping for something simple.  The game definitely has its moments where it feels tiresome and repetitive, but I still found myself wanting to come back and try it again despite that fact.

Levels are pretty, but resources are heavily reused.

There was a point in the beginning during one of the first levels filled with Echos that I was a little stressed and didn't think I'd be able to make it through.  I took an overnight break, came back the next day, and proceeded through a few of the chapters.  I felt very accomplished when I was able to make it through all the various areas, changing up sneaking and avoiding with running and gunning to keep the Echos from learning too much.  I avoided running during the on cycles because I think I'd freak out a bit if the Echos started sprinting at me.  I did get over that after a while, but I still kept running to a minimum, usually only doing so to escape an over-populated area or sprint to the exit.

I enjoyed my time playing Echo.  This game is about 7-9 hours long, and despite many times of needing to shut this game off, I found myself coming back for one more attempt at a level.  Even though I don't see myself playing this again when it's done, this could be my gateway drug into finally playing other stealthy types of games I've been neglecting, like Metal Gear Solid V or the newer Hitman games. I did see that this game concept was being considered for a movie, but I can't tell if it hit a wall or not.  Since the last I heard about it was from a post in 2019, I'm assuming the worst, especially since Ultra Ultra doesn't exist anymore.  

In the end, I'd rate Echo a 7 out of 10.  It haunted my thoughts enough to keep coming back to it while I was mid-adventure, but now that I'm done, it's not coming back to the library again for a while.  There are more fully fleshed games I can play with the same mechanics, but this game does what it does very well.  Tense and stressful at times, can be repetitive and boring at others.  Give it a try if you're in the mood for a slow-moving, tense, stealthy adventure game.

July 29, 2022

Bass Monkey

 Bass Monkey is a 2D Hack-and-slash co-op platformer game developed by Jacob Weersing AKA YakobSoup. Initially released for free on Steam in early June 2022. The game features a fun and colorful pixel-art art style full of character and charm. It’s a very accessible game that lives up to its title as a ‘low-stress, musical platformer.’ as described on Steam. Bass Monkey has positive reviews on said platform and includes a few design decisions like a simplified control scheme and fast respawn mechanic that allow people of pretty much any skill level to jump right into the game and experience it, alone and with friends.

Bass Monkey doesn't have much of a story, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. This game doesn’t need a complicated narrative to be enjoyable. The setup is extremely simple; you play alone or with friends as either a monkey with a guitar or a bear with a bass, touring through the jungle. Or, at least, that was the initial plan. Unfortunately, you're in the jungle with a surprising number of hamsters. Like, a lot of hamsters. This would be less of a problem if these hamsters weren't also big fans of your band. It appears safety isn't their top priority, and they'll go to any length to get close to you and get your autograph, even if it means hurting you in the process. What's the only way out of this? Swinging your instruments at them wildly, of course. Don’t worry, the game’s intro says they love it.

Bass Monkey is designed for cooperative play, but you can fly solo if you prefer. There is a single-player mode in the game. Unlike many games that focus on co-op and have significantly unbalanced difficulty curves when playing solo, it works extremely well in Bass Monkey. It never felt unfair or unbalanced while playing through the campaign. Between each level there are short platforming segments designed to help teach you new mechanics and allow you to collect a ton of bananas which help add to your high score. Even though there are only two animals and two instruments to choose from when choosing your character, there is still some strategy involved. Choosing whether to play as a monkey or a bear has little effect on the gameplay experience, based on what I've seen while playing the game. Despite that, both the monkey and the bear have adjustable stats so that you can create a build that suits your playstyle. 

Your music seems to attract a wide variety of fans in Bass Monkey. Of course, they're all hamsters, but what I mean is that there are a few different enemy types you'll encounter in the game that help make the various stages feel more diverse and unique. When you first start you'll only face the basic hamster, which isn't a particularly formidable foe. They don't have much health and don't deal much damage, and they only attack at very predictable times. Their strength is in numbers. These hamsters are relatively weak, but in each stage you’ll find yourself being put up against hundreds of them, and if you aren’t careful, you’ll likely end up getting swarmed and taking a lot of damage. Other than the basic hamster there are also the ‘punk’ hamsters. These hamsters mean business, and they deal a lot more damage. I found myself dying to these guys more than any other hamster variant, although once you know how to fight them, it isn’t that bad. Moving on to the next level you’re introduced to the ‘Bowel Movement’ hamsters which are fairly round compared to the other types. Not only are they round, but they also tend to… explode, which is their main attack. Their explosions can both damage you and knock you back, so be careful. Other than these three unique hamsters, there are also the boss hamsters. They’re large, have a lot more health, and do more damage but are still very manageable, especially when playing with friends. There can be multiple boss monsters in a stage at once, so if you ignore them you might find yourself overwhelmed.

While Bass Monkey has many positive aspects, it also has some drawbacks, and some of these drawbacks have a significant impact on the overall experience of the game. For starters, the game's death mechanic feels like a last-minute decision at times. The idea is simple: if you lose all of your health, you will die and will be able to respawn at the point where you were killed in a very short amount of time. The problem is that there isn't much of an incentive to not die in the game, and there isn't much of a punishment for losing all of your health other than a measly 500-point deduction, which is honestly not that much considering how many points you'll rack up during one of the five main levels. Of course, this 'negative' is highly subjective, and some people may enjoy that system; it was something I felt needed to be addressed because it came up while playing with friends. 

Another design decision that detracts from the gameplay is how electricity is handled in the game. After the third stage, you're introduced to the concept of electricity, which is essentially just another obstacle type that you'll encounter throughout the levels. This includes lasers and, more importantly, electrified floors, which can injure the player. The lasers work fine, you have plenty of time to avoid them, and once you figure out the timing, they pose no real threat. In my playthrough, the floors, on the other hand, presented some unfair challenges. They work occasionally, but other times I found my character trapped on top of it, taking damage and unable to move, which became a bit frustrating. There is also a section in the game where you must choose between two holes to fall into. You can't see the bottom of either one, so you have to guess, and if you guess incorrectly, you'll be forced to take some damage, which is a design decision that I don't think is very appealing because it doesn't involve any strategy or planning, and whether or not you lose health on your first playthrough is simply luck.

Finally, there is an issue with the audio in the game. Overall, the music is fantastic; it's catchy and fits the tone of the levels perfectly. However, I believe some tunes could have benefited from a longer runtime, such as the main menu music, which is a very short tune that loops indefinitely. That was fine at first, but if you have to wait for a friend or sit on the main menu for a while, it can become a little tedious because there isn't any variety, just a short endless loop of a tune that quickly becomes monotonous. The sound effects in the game can also 'stack,' resulting in large audio spikes in some areas that can be a little uncomfortable when wearing headphones.

Overall, Bass Monkey is an indie game that clearly has a lot of heart behind it. The characters are entertaining, even if they don't have much personality aside from their instruments, and the game feels great as a hack-and-slash, with tons of hamsters flailing around as you swing your instruments to the beat of the music. However, there are some issues with the game that sadly detract from the overall experience. Overall I rate Bass Monkey a 7 out of 10. It’s a good game, and it has a solid foundation. But it’s a game that has a few glaring issues which I feel prevent it from being something I can see myself returning to after it’s done. I believe that with some work and possibly another chapter, it could be an incredible hack-and-slash game to play alone or with friends. I think this is a developer that has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to see what they decide to work on or create next.

July 25, 2022


Traumatarium is a randomly generated dungeon crawler made in the style and format of an old-school Game Boy cartridge. It was released on itch.io as a .gb file, which can be downloaded and played in any Gameboy emulator program or can be played in the browser from the itch.io site. For this review, I used Retro-arch, which worked like a charm. It was developed by Eligos Games (Horatiu.nyc).

In Traumatarium, a great evil falls over the land, and the queen calls upon a great, yet comically vain, hero to delve into four dungeons and face its various forms. Simple premise, but this adventure will be a difficult one. It seems to me like a love letter to old-school dungeon crawlers like Wizardry or Shadowgate but doesn’t contain all the party and inventory management that made those games so deep. This game does have charm and style, though.

Traumatarium starts at a crossroads between the dungeons and the town area, which has an inn, item shop, armory, and library. The Inn saves your game and recovers health, the shop has food and recovery items, the library has some basic tutorial advice for you, and the armory provides weapons and armor that will be crucial for your success. Each dungeon has ten randomly generated floors with some kind of encounter, and each may contain monsters to fight, treasure to collect, or health recovery. When you reach each floor, you have an option to interact with the scene or attempt to leave the dungeon to return to the town. Either option can have you caught in a battle, so be prepared.
The battles are turn-based and only give you the option to attack or use an item. Battles are the only time you can use an item, so if you are fatigued from hunger or weak from a previous battle, you need to use up a precious turn while a monster gets another hit in. As a precaution, I’d advise keeping a dungeon map (purchased at the shop) with you since it will instantly take you back to town during a battle that is going wrong.
Traumatarium is truly made to play on a Game Boy, though the graphics are done as full-screen scenes rather than sprites and scrolling landscapes. You can see from some of the screenshots that the graphics are detailed in that Game Boy monochrome. The music is perfect for the platform and the setting in a hypnotic-chiptune way. As a gamer who lived through the birth and death of the Game Boy system, Traumatarium strikes all the retro feels. It also makes me dig deep into my memories to try to remember if this is almost too advanced for old Game Boy hardware. But the fact that Horatiu.nyc, the dev behind Eligos Games, has made at least a few custom-packaged Game Boy carts gives me confidence in this game.

The gameplay is where Traumatarium will get players to either love or hate this adventure. You bounce back and forth from the dungeons to the town, and if you don’t prepare or have enough gold to purchase items to survive, you’ll start over and over again. I found that I could only enjoy this game in small bursts and got a bit frustrated when really trying to dig in. If there was a mobile option for this game, its simplicity would fit right in as a game you could play with one hand while riding a subway, eating a sandwich, or swinging a sword at real-life trolls with your other hand. I have a lot of respect for the artists involved in developing Traumatarium and can tell that it was a labor of love for the Game Boy hardware.
In the end, as much as I loved the retro feels Traumatarium gave me, I could only rate it as a 5 out of 10. The gameplay didn’t strike a chord with me despite my love of old-school dungeon crawlers, mostly because of your limited ability to manage your character both in and out of battle. I don’t see myself repeatedly booting up my emulator to try to make progress. I did find that Traumatarium may have opened Pandora’s box for me to explore other indie-developed retro games made in the same vein, so I encourage anyone who finds all my descriptions interesting to grab a copy from itch.io and give it a whirl. I dare any 8-bit dungeon-crawler enthusiasts to put the game on with the speakers on max volume, close their eyes and try not to imagine themselves in 8-bit muscular glory. Go ahead, I'll wait.

July 24, 2022

Ashina: The Red Witch

 Ashina: The Red Witch

Developer: Stranga Games
Other Releases: Red Bow, My Big Sister
Initial release date: 4 June, 2022
Genre: Adventure Game
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Vita

Ashina is a game about Ash's exploration of the spirit world, discovering more about her mother and herself. This was funded by a Kickstarter created in July 2020 and is a prequel to My Big Sister which Stranga Games confirmed is getting a remaster soon. I started this three weeks ago, but I paused on writing a review until I felt I had ventured far enough into the game to give a full review. I am posting a full playthrough to YouTube and feel I've reached a point where I can discuss the game and not spoil too much! 

I want to start by discussing the visuals and soundtrack; this is an original soundtrack that is available free on Spotify. Whether or not you play this game, you must listen to it. It is phenomenal. The style is pixel art and works very well for what is a very cute game.

The colours work beautifully, everything is clear and well designed I have nothing negative to say about the design whatsoever. Many I know have said it has huge Undertale vibes and I don't disagree.

The one partial downside I believe is the lack of voice acting; I feel that good voice acting would elevate this game beyond belief. The characters of this game are so wonderfully designed, with their sass, wit, and originality. You could know exactly who is speaking with no hints from the language alone. I am a Tanto stan, likes sleep, likes food, can't be spoken to whilst eating. I also love Tena and her huge confidence; I think everyone could use a bit of Tena's flair.

This characterization alongside the story of Ashina is why this is one of the games I have loved most this year. There is a lot of reading which can put some people off, the puzzles are simple, but I feel these mechanics aren't the main focus. This is a story, an experience.

I have probably given the characters about 20 different voices going along, but one thing has stayed consistent: the voice they have in my head. They know who they are and they express it perfectly. It sounds strange to talk about characters as living breathing beings, but if Tanto isn't out there somewhere, scamming free sushi, I don't need to know.

I don't want to spoil the story of the game in this review, and the reason why is because I am desperate for people to experience it. The game is making me feel like I was Ash; I've been annoyed, frustrated, disgusted, and more. For that last one, all I'll say is bath sludge; I know you shivered too...

Stranga Games are also very responsive to players; I do love it when a dev team cares about its community. It is part of the reason I fell in love with indie games but whilst it can't save a bad game, it certainly elevates a good game.

I feel as if I have nothing but praise for this game but to focus on the downsides of Ashina itself is simple. If you want difficult puzzles and intensely detailed fight scenes, this may not be your cup of tea, but for genre fans and those who enjoy a good story and characters, it is a must-have.

This game is currently half price until the end of July at £3.59/$4.99 and at this price I have no hesitation in saying buy it. It is worth it. At its usual price of £7.19/$10, I still think it's worth it; if you like good characters, design, and story, this is a great choice. In my heart, this is a 10, but if I am going to give it an honest review I will have to go with an 8.5/10 it is a very good game within its genre and in general. With voice acting and maybe a few more difficult puzzles this could have easily been higher in my view, but objectively I think this is just a great game.

July 22, 2022

Blackguards 2

I am by no means an expert in Dungeons and Dragons. I've played a handful of campaigns with some friends which none of them ever completed. I enjoy the game when I have time to play, and I know people are hosting a game. Why do I bring this up, you might ask? Because the game I'm reviewing today feels like it's been ripped right from a D&D campaign. Blackguards 2 developed by Daedalic Entertainment was initially released on January 20, 2015, for PC and OS X and then released on consoles in June 2022. I played the Switch version for this review.

The game plays like a tabletop board game version of Dungeons and Dragons. Each level of the game has hexagonal tiles which correspond to where characters can stand. The character's stats will determine in what order they play their turn. Each character is given a move set and may move to the maximum of that move but without the ability to perform an action after moving. Instead, you may opt to move the character within the minimum move set and perform an action. Spells and items can and should be equipped, as well as armor and weapons. The game is turn-based and there is an element of RNG involved when performing attacks, as I found out when my character missed multiple times in a row. Weapons and armors have stats specifically to that item and they don’t correlate to another similar item. Like in Dungeons and Dragons, if you have a weapon, it has pluses to specific stats and negatives to other stats. And there’s no way to improve on those stats like you can in JRPGs. All your stat increases only come from when you level your character.

When your character does level, you have to allocate stats on your characters; unfortunately, this is where I ran into problems. Before I started this game, I was unaware that one of my Switch Joy-Cons wasn't working properly, and by that, I mean my right bumper was completely broken. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn't get to the page where stats could be allocated, the page where spells could be selected, as well as various other pages. So, my first go-round was riddled with frustration and dismay. The first few levels were fine, but when it came to later levels where I had to have spells and other skills selected, I was out of luck. There is no way to get to the pages that I needed to access. The menus didn't wrap around, so I couldn't use the left bumper to access the proper menu. After replacing my Joy-Cons I was able to access the proper menus and progress through the story.

I'm not going to pull any punches, and Blackguards 2 doesn't either; it is frustratingly hard. If you don't do what exactly the level is looking for you to do, you're not going to pass them. If you are told to escape the area, you need to escape and not stick around to fight the enemies on the map, as you will most definitely fail the level. I made that mistake around the fifth level and was forced to replay it as I was quickly overwhelmed by the forces being thrown at me. And by being forced to replay I mean that I played it over, and over, and over again. That being said, the game is engaging and has a well-thought-out story. And the 25 to 30 hours that it takes to complete the campaign is well worth the $19.99 price tag.

 I would only recommend the game if you're a hard-core Dungeons and Dragons fan; however, for the casual gamer, I don't know if I would. The game could use some quality-of-life changes like having the menus wrap when a button might be malfunctioning. Or showing stats that compare weapons in the shop to the current weapons equipped. It is a daunting task to get through Blackguards 2 and it can be frustrating at times. On some levels it’s unclear as to what route to take to get through. On other levels, the odds are so overwhelming against you that if you don’t take the proper path, defeat the correct monsters, or even have allocated the correct stats to your characters, you won’t pass. Because of this, I have to give the game a 6 out of 10. It just isn't for me with my limited time, I can't afford to repeat levels over and over just to pass them. I didn't see a way to decrease difficulty; sometimes it's needed, especially in this game. I did run into a critical error that shut the game down completely when I tried to cast a barrier spell to block some enemy advances. After this occurred, I didn’t try to recreate the error as I was already on my fourth time of retrying the level in question. 

Sinister Night

Sinister Night

Developer: zstar
Initial Release Date: June 8, 2022
Genres: Multiplayer, Social Deduction
Platform: Steam, Microsoft Windows

Sinister Night is a game that makes you form bonds, distrust your friends, and develop a thirst for murder. This is Phasmo meets Among us, but with much better detailing. The plot is simple, five or eight streamers go to a haunted school for clout, and one to two of them, depending on the game mode, get possessed and decide to murder their friends. This is the first game release I can find from zstar who both developed and published this game.

Sinister Night is a social deduction game at its finest; you are given clues through ritual results, as well as tools that you can pick up or buy from the store. These items include night vision cameras, tracking orbs, and a bird that cheeps when near someone who is possessed. There is also lore hidden around the map in the form of diaries. These can be sold for in-game currency to purchase items.

When playing for the first time, the game gives you control hints that help you start the game straight away. That is a bonus for players like me that launch straight into a game head first.

I enjoyed the atmosphere of the game, and the occasional jump scares. Survivors have a sanity meter that, when depleted, shows you to the possessed for an easier kill. This means you need to not only perform the rituals but maintain your sanity. Running will also deplete your sanity, so choosing when to run is as important as keeping your sanity up.

The possessed are not only trying to sabotage rituals but to gain enough evil power through crystals and other items. There are different types of spirits with different powers. I personally got to play as a shapeshifter with absolutely zero success. You'll see... Once the possessed have enough evil energy, they can transform and kill another player. When this is triggered the game shifts entirely,  all the survivors can do is run and hide, hoping for it to time out without a death.

Once the timer is over, if someone is killed, the game directs you to find the body and hold a meeting. In these meetings, the dead get a public vote to accuse someone else and are allowed 30 seconds to give as much information as possible before being placed into spectator mode. This can really change the whole direction of the game and got me murdered a couple times.

I would be remiss to not discuss the issues that some of us have had with the game. There is a lack of servers within North America and Europe. Asia luckily, does not seem to have this problem. Being in Europe, I've played the game for over three days and have encountered this issue. I did not face the issue many complained about of getting kicked out of Asian servers, but this is a repeated complaint. Some have also complained about people creating locked servers. There is an option to create a passcode to join, and whilst I can understand player frustration, as a streamer, I know that this can actually be key for moderation when individuals play on their own branded platform.

This issue was much more prevalent before the devs responded to the complaints by adding a five-person mode. Originally it was eight players only to start a game, but the developer added a second mode to allow five players, with only one possessed. Developer zstar is not only very responsive to criticism but is always submitting new updates and changes based on player feedback. zstar has also created a discord server for those looking to find matches in their own country and language.

As I said earlier, I played this game on 3 occasions to not only get a real feel of Sinister Night, but also to investigate the server complaints. On day one, I played on an Asian server of eight players. I was tied up first due to my own fault, but I did not feel as though I was targeted or attempted to be unincluded even if I couldn't speak with them during the discussion. On the second day, I again played on Asian servers, not managing to survive but again of my own fault. I found a game with some chaps from the Netherlands and had a lot of fun in a five-person game, even adding them on steam to play more games in the future. On day three, I met a fellow content creator whose group not only welcomed me into their discord chat but treated me as everyone else in the group. We played quite a few games together even though there was clearly a skill discrepancy.

I think the community I've met during my time with Sinister Night has been great, and whilst I understand the frustration with servers, I think once you get into a game, you can easily get involved and make friends.

I know the reviews have been mixed, but honestly, I enjoy this game a lot, and it is likely something I will continue to play. At £7.14/$9.99 I think the price for the replayability is on the higher end, but due to the number of updates, it is worth it. I want desperately to give this an 8.8, but due to the lack of players, I need to give it an 8/10 because I can get a game, and I thoroughly enjoy my time when I do. There is occasionally a bit of waiting to get a game. The developers have been improving this constantly, making me wish more people were playing. If there was a cross over free to play mobile version this could top not only Phasmo but also Among Us.

July 20, 2022

Kyubu Kyubu Dice

Kyubu Kyubu Dice released on Android July 13, 2022, developed by Sleepy Dog Games is a Japanese-inspired action puzzle game. Unlike traditional action puzzle games Tetris, Puzzle Quest, and Candy Crush, this is a new game to the genre.

Currently, there are two modes of play, arcade mode, and puzzle mode, in addition to a tutorial. In arcade mode, you have a board of 7 by 8 squares, and your die starts in the center. As time ticks down faces of the die will appear on the board, your job is to roll the die so that the corresponding side of the die falls flat on the board where the faces have appeared. If you manage to match multiple sides subsequently it will create combos and when you roll onto an open spot with no face and will clear an area around your die depending on how many faces you managed to match. As you progress through levels the time between spawns will decrease. There is no level cap in this mode, but the spawn rate will be so great by level 130 that it would take a master to be able to contend.

Puzzle mode is just that. Each level has a different layout with a different objective. You do have to meet the objective within the given amount of moves to pass the level. The mode does mix it up with raised blocks that really turn up the difficulty factor. There are 25 puzzle levels at the time of writing, with more to come in future updates.

The game is free to play but does have some intrusive ads. Currently, an ad plays at the beginning of play, there is also a banner ad at the bottom of the play area. The developer is working on changing this and is considering offering the ability to remove ads completely for a small fee. There is also talk of adding cosmetics to the die, as well as future updates with new game modes including multiplayer. An iOS version is in the works, but no projected release date as of yet.

Baring the intrusive ads (which the developer has stated he plans to change) this is a near-perfect game. Also, the start of arcade mode has an awkward pause before any blocks are added to the board. I believe this game could become as popular as Tetris. The different game mode possibilities could make the replayability of this game quite high. That's why I'm giving the game an 8 out of 10. If you have an Android device, go download it and give it a try.

July 19, 2022

Gravitar: Recharged


Gravitar: Recharged

Developer: Adamvision Studios, SneakyBox

Other Releases: Pivot XL, Goalkeper VR Challenge

Initial release date: 2 June 2022

Genre: Shooter Video Game

Platforms: Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and Steam

Gravitar: Recharged is the latest resurgence of Atari, Adamvision Studios developed it in conjunction with Lithuanian codeshop Sneakybox, who was also responsible for many other Atari renovations such as Breakout: Recharged and the most well-known Asteroids: Recharged.

The game itself is simply designed but very pretty; the lights and color scheme add a very good layer of calm to what is at times a very frustrating game. The developers clearly know how to put together a good pastel pairing, and I am certainly a fan of what they did. They make it easy to understand where you must avoid, leading to my advice, if it's black, stand back!

Gravitar: Recharged also offers the choice between Keyboard and mouse (kbm) or controller, having both fully supported. Personally, I found the controller an easier option, but my skill level of the game tells you that this does not mean it is correct. As someone who knows many gamers who struggle using kbm due to hand injuries, this is a welcome addition, adding another layer of inclusivity for the game.

The menu is clean, showing the options of arcade and missions, but as I only delved into the arcade mode, that is what I will be talking about today.

I did not try the multiplayer mode of the arcade, but I think it is important to note that this is a great feature of the game, as it triggers the nostalgia of playing these games with my friends and siblings a long time ago in my childhood.

When entering arcade mode, you are thrown straight into the game with a simple instruction "land on a planet." This, however, is much easier said than done. As I began the game, I realized the difficulty of Gravitar: Recharged’s controls are well modeled after its predecessor. You are not only fighting your own reaction times but also the gravity that pulls you down throughout. Standing still in this game is nearly impossible, which keeps the movement throughout.

You enter a planet by hovering nearby it for a small period of time. Each planet has a different level with some different objectives; examples include; activating the beacons, stealing the intelligence, and my personal hell reactor. These levels all have their own reasons for difficulty, whether it be limited space to maneuver, enemies shooting back at you, or just the gravity on each planet.

You shoot in bursts of 3, with a small charge up between each set of shots; this makes aiming important. If you're struggling to stay upright in a fight with another ship, that shot could be the difference between life and death in this game. The sad animation of the ship poofing out of existence breaks my heart to this day.

There are also power-ups you can collect during the game to have different effects on your ship, from health regen to missiles and more. This can make things a little easier for those of me who struggled with certain missions.

I'm going to take a moment to talk about the reactor mission. Out of all the missions, this one was the most difficult for me and, for a while, something I considered impossible. I actually put a bounty out for this and was proven wrong by a player called Hansel_Panda. This mission was tight, not just in movement space, but with the enemies flooding it, the beams waiting to kill you with the help of gravity, and also the escape timer. This was, in my opinion, the hardest part of this game, not to say the rest was easy, however.

On top of everything, Gravitar: Recharged is priced at a very reasonable £7.39/$9.99 this makes it not only a perfect impulse buy but also a great game to gift friends in order to force them to play with you.

I had hoped, however, to see this on speedrun.com; this seems like the type of game that would be incredible to speedrun due to its difficulty, simplistic movement styles, and from what I saw, lack of cutscenes. I really want the speedrunning community to pick this game up, as whilst I could not run it, I certainly would love watching it!

Finally, if you are indeed a psychopath, there is also a way to make this game even harder! With the addition of bonuses including single life, no power-ups, and no shield, this adds a huge difficulty boost for those of you who hate yourself, as well as a lot of replayability.

If I had to assign a number to this game, which, as you know, is 9/10ths of the review process, I would give it a 7/10. 

Overall, this was a very fun game with good replayability, albeit frustrating at times. I like the style, game options, and ideas, but I may not have the skill level it takes to really get into this game myself. Although it is a game I will likely take out every few months to rage at, watch this space to see me beat reactor one day!

July 4, 2022

Mercury Fallen


Mercury Fallen is a casual sci-fi colony management game developed and published by Nitrous Butterfly. It was released in April 2017 as a prototype on itch.io and October 2017 on Steam (PC and MacOS). At the time of this review it is in early-access and has a very positive rating by reviewers on that platform.

Mercury Fallen is about space exploration and colonization gone awry. A corporation called Infinity Corp started sending people into space to colonize other planets, and those people wake up from their cryo-sleep chambers underground and their surroundings in shambles. From there you start begin  mining the area around you and building a way to survive and expand. Typical sci-fi plot, but not one that really does more than set the stage of why you’re there.

In Mercury Fallen, there are various “difficulty” levels to begin with, which pertain to how many human colonists and robot helpers you have. There is a list of skills that both can specialize in, such as mining, engineering, botany, hauling, and building. Humans also get quirks that can be positive or negative, such as being muscular or frail, lazy or ambitious, and sickly or anxious. Robots don’t have quirks, but need to recharge their batteries from time to time, which requires you to build power generators and charging stations.  There were no quirks referring to combat, so you shouldn't expect to find aliens or hostile wildlife, which is appealing in a casual sim game.  Perhaps I didn't get that far, or it may be added in a future update, but I like that this game focuses more on mining, exploration, and building and doesn't try to add a layer of combat.

Early on you’re given a couple of missions to complete, tasks like exploring, mining and building. These missions also act as a sort of tutorial. If you don’t dig into the menu (pun intended) for the missions, you will have to try to figure out how to select, move, and sift through the interface. Some of it is intuitive, and some of it takes some reading and practice as there is quite a bit you can do within the UI. In a way, it’s very Sims-like, where a human’s personality, skills, and needs determine what they do at any given time. Much like a Sims-type of game, I found myself setting up the units in a way I thought would be self-sustainable, walked away for a bit, and came back to either find things where I wanted them to be, or I made mistakes and found corridors full of vomit from sick workers and electricity brownouts.  Exploring is done by mining through the ground, instead of telling a worker to start patrolling the fog of war. I found myself constantly wishing that there was a way that you could give the people waypoints and set your own queues of tasks, but it's understandable how that might take away the meaning of each person’s quirks and the casual game label.  Materials for building are either mined from the ground, found in caches, or by deconstructing existing structures that you find while exploring. If you don't manage your jobs and materials well, you'll find yourself hitting a wall before long.

Mercury Fallen takes place mostly underground, but eventually you receive a mission to build an elevator to the surface. I admit, even after hours of playing, and many restarts in the game, I never had the materials to build the elevator. I got very close once! I thought my jobs were set in a good queue, so I walked away for dinner, came back and half my humans starved. Luckily I found a couple of new life pods with some workers, but they weren’t savvy enough to mine or produce the right materials to finish the job. I’m determined to see the light though! To be continued…

In the end, Mercury Fallen has a great start to a sci-fi sim game that still needs some polish to make it truly shine. The dev plugs this game as a casual sim game, but with all the menu reading and unit queue management, I found that learning the ropes is a little more strenuous than it should be. I don’t find hand-holding tutorials appealing at all, so I'm thankful for that much, but it wasn’t as casual to play as I would hope. The concept is fun, but the goal still seems very far away despite all my attempts at it.

I'll definitely revisit this game later to see how it's improved, but for now I'll rate Mercury Fallen as a Six out of 10. It got its hooks into me, but after hitting walls with the progress and the interface, I will most likely put it down for other games and pick it up again later to see how it has improved. Keep on flying Nitrous Butterfly, and I look forward to seeing your future iterations of this concept metamorphize into greatness.

July 2, 2022

Knife Trip


Knife Trip, Developed and published by Mad Point and released on June 29 2022 for Android, is an arcade style knife throwing game. The game gives off heavy boardwalk style arcade machine vibes similar to skee-ball or basketball shootout games you would find in an arcade situated near the beach. What really adds to this aesthetic is the character design of each boss. Bosses really give off a 1960's cartoon vibe, similar to Cuphead.
The object is to throw knives at the target boss ahead of you, sounds simple enough. Sadly, it's anything but, each boss has ten levels to them and each one throws a new gameplay element at you. The first level is simple, the circle of the boss rotates counter clockwise around the face, as long as you don't hit one of your knives when it rotates back around it's easy to beat. Quickly the game ramps up. The circle will rotate one way stop and come back the other way, if you're tapping too quickly you'll end up hitting one of your knives and it's game over. Spikes start to appear on the circle and if you hit any of them it's game over. Some bosses have items that you have to hit in a specific order to progress, all while avoiding hitting obstacles on the circle. Other bosses have barriers that will activate and deactivate and you can only throw your knives when the barrier is down.
There is no paywall on the game, it's 100% free. However, there are ads once you run out of continues. You're given the option to watch an ad to receive more continues to keep playing. Continuing has no consequence as you just start back at the level and boss you were previously playing. There is however no way to save in this game. If you decide to stop playing mid game you have to start all over when you boot the game back up. That is the biggest drawback of the game as it creates the issue where it isn't pick up and play quickly. There is no toilet time for this game as to get through the entire game would require a lot of hours, even if you were very good at it I would gather at least 45 minutes to get through all of the bosses.

There is an in game currency that is earned as you play. For every knife you stick you gain 2 coins, every star that you hit that orbits some boss levels you gain 20 coins, and if you happen to beat a boss (passing all 10 levels for one boss) you get 10% on top of what you've already accumulated during the run of that boss. The coins are used to buy new knives and with each knife you unlock the ability to start at one of the later bosses in a practice for the main game. There are 12 bosses with 10 levels each for a total of 120 levels.

Overall the game is quite fun, it could be better if there was a save feature. The fact that I can't put it down and come back where I left off is quite frustrating especially for a mobile game. There is no pay to win which is a huge plus and the ads aren't intrusive as you can avoid them all together if you're good enough. I give this game a 7 out of 10 purely because of the fact that the pick up and play and come back later doesn't exist and I would have to spend far too much time to beat the game in one sitting.