Let’s take a look at … – Knee Deep

I’m new to the genre of graphic adventure/point-and-click type games, so I agreed to give Knee Deep a try to help round out some of my gaming experience. I have to say that despite my skeptical attitude towards a game that didn’t include killing things, this new release from Prologue Games unexpectedly grabbed my interest.

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Set in a run-down, swampy Florida town called Cypress Knee, the story begins with the discovery of an apparent suicide. The body is identified as actor Tag Kern, whose semi-celebrity status stirs up the interest of law enforcement and media. Your job is to play three of these different curious characters and investigate the matter. Romana Teague is a feisty celebrity blogger for Fanrage, out to prove her worth to her boss.  Jack Bellet is a down-and-out newspaper reporter who wants to get the facts. K.C. Gaddis is a private investigator summoned to Cypress Knee especially for this case. Each character has a bit of background to their life stories that creates an interesting dimension to the game.

Game mechanics are very simple. The majority of the game is choosing where to take your conversations. These decisions affect the attitudes of the townspeople you meet, as well as the information they divulge. Interesting bits of gathered information are stored and accessible within the menu system for later reference. Occasionally, you will have the opportunity to submit a blog post as Romana, a newspaper article as Jack, or a police report as K.C. based on the information you obtained.  Choose the spin you want to take on this information- cautious, edgy, or inflammatory. Your choices will again affect your relationships with your boss and the subject of the story. Occasionally, you’ll be presented with a small puzzle to solve, but generally, this game is about conversation and report decisions.

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The graphics are also simple, but the mood they create is perfect. Dark, with mysterious lighting, little extra fluff, and all parts of the games set in what look like theatrical stage sets, this game effectively creates an air of almost creepy mystery. The subtle music adds to this, creating an all-around unique game experience. One aspect I was very grateful for was the lack of voice acting. I think it would have been very distracting to the tone of the game. Like reading a book, it allows you to use a little bit of your own imagination.

So far, Knee Deep has had only one of three total Acts released. The end of Act 1 had a nice plot twist that had me definitely interested in playing through the rest of the game once released. This pleased me, because normally I wouldn’t find much worth in a game that doesn’t include upgrading weapons.

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Overall, I am very pleased with a game that was able to win over my skeptical attitude about a very different genre of games. I recommend this for anyone who wants a laid-back, interesting way to dive into a mystery. I’m looking forward to Acts 2 and 3 being released soon.

Tl;dr – Knee Deep is a point-and-click adventure game that allows you to play three different characters investigating the apparent suicide of a washed-up actor.  Simple yet unique and interesting, you won’t be able to help getting absorbed into a story with an outcome affected by the decisions you make.

Rating – 8/10, for a higher price-point.

Purchase – Steam £22.99 (£19.54 until July 13th)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Big Pharma (Beta)

Big Pharma is a pharmaceutical-themed strategy game from one-man games studio Twice Circled. Published by Positech Games, Big Pharma is currently in beta, and available for purchase through its official website, however not yet available on Steam. Both I and Heather have been playing the title, and we’ve combined our thoughts! Let’s take a look.

Pharmacy is big business. And it is a business. Although the production of drugs benefits us all greatly, pharmaceutical companies still have overhead, shareholders, and ultimately need to make money. Big Pharma puts you at the helm of a pharmaceutical giant so you can face these challenges yourself. In one hand you hold the duty to the public, and in the other the balance sheet.

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Big Pharma has no single campaign. Instead, it features a selection of challenges stretching over various difficulties. These start with a tutorials that teach you the key concepts behind producing drugs, managing machines, and managing the financial side of your empire. While the tutorials provide a wealth of information, they are a bit overwhelming. Each tutorial is presented as a single lump of text in a clunky menu that you have to work through. An interactive tutorial that took you through the game mechanics step-by-step would be a much nicer introduction to the game.

The goal of Big Pharma depends on which challenge you select, but they all essentially boil down to create X drugs in a given time period. You start in an empty lot, with a given budget, and the rest is up to you, including what drugs you create, how you lay out your factory, and who you hire. Let’s start with drug creation.

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Creating drugs is a process with multiple steps, starting with sourcing raw ingredients. These have different costs, positive effects, and negative side-effects. In the screenshot above you can see one relieves hypertension, and the other soothes cold symptoms. There is also a red bar which shows the negative side-effects. The goal is to process the ingredient to a stage when it has the strongest effect with minimal side-effects. This is done through refining and diluting the drug with various machines. The better combination you get, the higher rating the drug will have, and the more money it will make.

These machines add another aspect to the game; the puzzle of logistics. Each machine has one entry point, and one exit point. By stringing the machines together with conveyor belts, and ending at an outlet on the wall, you creating a working production line. Machines can be rotated, but even still, there’s no fine control to be found. I found the system a bit cumbersome, and all my production lines took horribly circuitous routes. Despite my best efforts, my production floor was a mess.

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Every machine costs money each time it is used, so you need to weigh the costs of the machine, and the ingredients, against the final selling price of the drug to make sure you’re profitable. That’s the crux of what you’ll be doing. There are different machines to place and different drugs to create, but it all boils down to watching the numbers.

To add to this, you’re not the only company developing drugs. Depending on which difficulty you’re playing on, you’ll have anywhere from 1-4 competing companies. That means not only do you have to keep an eye on your numbers, but theirs as well.

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To progress and unlock more ingredients and machines, you need to hire explorers and scientists. If not assigned to a job, they will earn ingredient update and research points respectively. These can be used to bring down the cost of your ingredients and production. They can also be sent to explore and research, which is where new things are unlocked. They don’t work for free though! Each explorer/scientist will take a wage, so you need to ensure you’re generating enough revenue to pay them.

The graphics of Big Pharma are very nice. Everything is to a high polish. The menus are simple and solid, moving around the map is solid and the assets look and feel great. There’s depth to the mechanics. Keeping on top of your expenses, watching your competitors and reading the market to find which drugs are most desired … it’s just not that fun.

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As I mentioned at the beginning, both myself and Heather played this game. When we came to compare notes, we both agreed it’s a solid game, but both posed the same question. Where is the fun? Everything in Big Pharma boils down to watching numbers and math. There is no story, no ultimate goal and no surprises. If that’s your thing, a straight sim focused on numbers, then I’m sure you’ll find Big Pharma will hold your interests, but for us casual sim players it was too much.

The game’s official page says ‘What if you had it in your power to rid the world of disease, to improve the lives of millions, to ease suffering and cure the sick… and earn a tidy profit?’. If you let your imagination do 90% of the work, then you might find that in Big Pharma. We however got bogged down in the numbers, and wanted more gameplay. Playing felt more like a job or a school lesson in economics than something relaxing, but this very technical and methodical micro-managing might be just up your alley if you enjoy that play style.

Tl:dr – Big Pharma is a solid looking, and feeling, business sim. A lack of ultimate direction, and a strong focus on the numbers however left us anchoring for more gameplay. For those of you into this methodical, micro-management, and number watching sim style, Big Pharma is right up your street. For casual sim players however it might be a bit stale as it was for us.

Rating – 6/10

Purchase Big Pharma can be pre-ordered via the official site for roughly £12.99 (converted from $19.95) giving instant access to the beta

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – ShellShock Live

Fans of Worms and Pocket Tanks-style games, here’s one for you! Released in early access this past March, kChamp Games’ turn-based strategy game ShellShock Live is a blast … pun intended!

On the surface ShellShock Live might seem like just a clone of Pocket Tanks, but there’s so much more to it. Single player and online multiplayer options, an enormous plethora of unique and fun upgradeable weapons, unlockable maps, and a nice leveling system with achievements makes this worth checking out.

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Game play is simple learn, but hard to master. Each tiny tick of the arrow key to change the angle of your attack makes a big difference. Your location (changeable but limited by your fuel) and launch power are also factors. You might think you have it all lined up and figured out, but then an attacker’s weapon destroys your terrain, changing your angle of attack and therefore forcing you to re-calibrate.  You can attack directly in a straight line, by arcing your launch, or by using other items in the environment that can change the direction and speed of your attack. The weapons themselves act uniquely- some bounce upon landing, some roll, some stick and blow up wherever they impact anything. You have to practice with each weapon type to see what’s best for any given situation.

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Single player challenges vary between regular battles, target practice, or combinations of both.  Sometimes you’re limited as far as how many weapons and weapon types are available, and other times you’ll have packs that drop from the sky to replenish your expansive inventory. There are 8 sets of maps, and you have to beat every map in the set before moving on. After you finish a map, you will be awarded player XP for your performance and for finishing the challenge. You will also add points to each type of weapon you used, allowing you to level them into a more powerful version later.

Multiplayer is online only and the main screen shows all available players. The player level that you’ve earned from successful challenges is visible, so you can compare yourself to others to see whether you are evenly-experienced enough to battle each other. One glaring problem with this game is that because it’s so new, the amount of online players is always extremely limited, and those that are online are always much, much higher levels than me. Hopefully that changes over time.

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The first thing that caught my attention in this game was the sound effects. Launching weapons reminds me of the awesome sound of fireworks blasting into the air before they explode. I can’t help but leave my volume up unreasonably high while I play this, making my room sound like a war zone.  It’s a LOUD game. The other audio snippets in the menu screens are great too.

The graphics, although extremely basic, are also perfect. The mission screens and main page are nicely laid out and look modern and military. Each unique weapon has interesting details upon launch and detonation. Controls are intuitive. My only complaint is that load screens for re-attempts are a little bit long for my impatient personality, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

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This early access game is well-polished, with its main fault simply being that there aren’t enough players online to make multiplayer a good option for those who are low-level. Despite that, this game is definitely worth the buy, even at full price, which is still fabulously cheap at $6.99. Buy a four pack and play with your friends for $19.99.

Tl:dr – A Pocket Tanks-style strategy artillery game with a budding online multiplayer and tons of fun upgradeable weapons makes this game a great way to practice some of that trigonometry you learned in school!

Rating – 9/10

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Sproggiwood

Let’s start by saying this game wasn’t quite what I expected. I downloaded and installed Sproggiwood happily, excited to give it a try after very favorable reviews from a friend and because it happens to be my favorite type of game- an indie roguelike. “Awww, what adorable cute graphics!” I thought, thinking this would be one of those relaxing puzzle-type games. Boy was I wrong. Cute? Certainly.  Relaxing? Um, unless you enjoy being wildly frustrated, no, it’s not relaxing. But it is definitely a GREAT game….even though I had to attempt even the first map way more times than I’d like to admit.

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Freehold Games released Sproggiwood in October of 2014. This turn-based, story-driven roguelike is loosely based on Finnish mythology, telling the story of humble Cloghead. This unsuspecting farmer, who lives in a land ruled by the god of time Raako, is recruited by one of Raako’s mischievous guardian spirits, Sproggi. Sproggi is concerned that the inhabitants of the land will eventually resort to war and wants Cloghead to get civilization back in order. There’s a problem, though- the arrival of the mushroom species. Cloghead needs to control this sudden unwelcome addition to the already chaotic situation.

Gameplay is divided into levels in the form of procedurally-generated maps. Each map contains chests to open, potions to stash, coins under leaves and in pots, items that will slow you down, and of course plenty of enemies, including a boss at the end of each map. This game is turn-based, and each one of your movements or attacks is a turn. Each enemy type has an attack style and set amount of hit points so you must plan accordingly. Some even have effects after they are killed. Several play-throughs of each three-part map could be required to figure out how to manage the set of enemies you’ll find.

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Leveling, health, and stamina management are typical for this type of game. Health potions, stamina potions, and shrines can be found around the map if you’re lucky. Each time you level, you are presented with a set of abilities that you can unlock or upgrade at an appropriate character level. Each character has different sets of abilities, so you might find yourself having a favorite. Melee characters seem to have an edge in this game.

Pot and chests can also offer weapon and armor upgrades, as well as other random bonuses, both active and passive. After the first time you find a new item, it can then be bought in the shop found in the home screen of the game before you start a new round. This helps you start off beefier than if you were to go into a map with the default starter items. You can also buy “Civic Boosts” upgrades to permanently raise your base stats.

The home screen offers a view of your town and offers the ability to “decorate” it by adding buildings, trees, and landscaping. It has zero impact on the game but gives you something to do when you need a break between frustrating runs. After you beat levels, new characters show up in your town, so you might as well give them a nice place to live!

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The graphics are cute, colorful, and laid out well, with minimal yet appropriate sounds and music. I played this game on my PC through Steam (£10.99), using a controller to play and keyboard to decorate my town, and the key bindings are very intuitive. Sproggiwood is also available through the AppStore (£7.99) and Google Play (£7.74).

Tl;dr – Sproggiwood is an addicting, story-driven, turn-based RPG with adorable graphics, procedurally generated maps, many ways to upgrade several characters, and lots of challenges.

Rating – 9.5/10

Trailer –

Let’s take a peek at … – Courier of the Crypts

It’s your first day of work. You’re excited to start your new job as a courier, spending time delivering packages to their recipients. What will your first delivery be? The butcher? The blacksmith? Or maybe to a perilous crypt full of dark magic, angry spiders, hidden treasure, and difficult puzzles!

You might need to ask your boss for a raise when you return … IF you do.

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Guided only by your magic torch, your goal is make your way through the dark hallways and eerily-lit rooms of the crypt. With maps offering little in the way of hints and help, it’s up to you to explore the environment and work out what puzzles need to be solved in order for you to progress. For example, keys are hidden around the map, and once you’ve found a key, you then have to find the lock it belongs to! Buttons on the floor need to be held down, but with what?! 

Through exploration and solving the puzzles you find along the way, you progress through the crypt, working your way towards to the guardian. There are also multiple items such as ammunition, money, and hidden treasure to be found, so you need to be thorough in your searching.

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The main mechanic in Courier of the Crypt is the magic torch that accompanies you throughout your travels. It has limited power however, so you need to manage it carefully by deciding when to turn it on and off and by looking for fuel to bring it back to full power. If you run out of light, the darkness takes over, opening the door for evil spirits to come and kill you, forcing you to start the puzzles over from the beginning. Don’t let it run out!

You can also die from being hit a mere three times. Life can be picked up around the map, but it’s not a common find, so be extremely careful, especially around those spiders. Luckily, your trusty torch can scare some of them away, and if they get too close, the rocks you can find in the map make for good ammunition.

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Starting life as a Ludum Dare entry, Courier of the Crypts has come a long way. This early access 2D puzzle game by Emberheart Games features beautifully dark, retro-style pixelated maps, full controller support, and great ambient music. It’s not easy, that’s for sure, especially with extremely limited hints. I spent a long time even just on the first map, dying over and over again, learning more on each attempt. Once I DID figure out the puzzle, I was still killed by spiders before I could get out.

If you have a short attention span or are easily frustrated, this game will make you want to pull your hair out. However, finally figuring out the puzzle is so rewarding that you just have to try the next one … over and over and over.

*At the time of this review the game is in Early Access.*

Tl; dr –  Manage your magic torch and avoid traps and evil enemies while you make your way through an ominous crypt in this smart, challenging, retro-style puzzle game.

Rating – 7.5/10

Purchase – Steam £8.99 (or your regional equivalent)

Trailer – 

Let’s take a look at … – Steredenn

Blast your way through never-ending enemies and tough bosses in this brand new early-access title from Pixelnest Studio. Steredenn is a shoot-‘m-up that is both gorgeous and addicting; with big, colorful, pixels laid out in beautiful retro-style space atmospheres, overlaid with a wide variety of enemies blocking your path.

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You are a ship with a simple task: survive the onslaught of space pirates. You begin with a basic weapon that can shoot constantly as you weave around the screen, trying to annihilate all other ships in each round.  Bonus points are awarded for destroying all enemies on the screen before they vanish to the left and then more points for not taking any damage. Some ships will drop any of 34 other new weapons that you can pick up and use as you see fit. The game allows you to swap between two weapons at a time, so you have to be smart about what you pick up and which you use in certain situations. But think fast, because it’s easy to become quickly overwhelmed and lose the battle.  And yes, you have to start over from the beginning.

There are three modes of play: normal, arena, and challenge. Normal is typical game play to see how far you can get past waves of enemies and 10 bosses in 20 environments. Although this game is called a roguelike, there is no RPG element to this game. Your only hope of getting better is simply learning the mechanics and the attack styles of your enemies, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each weapon type. If you’re the type to be obsessed with beating your old high score, you’ll love this game even more. Arena is a mode where you can battle bosses that you’ve beat in normal mode, allowing you to set and beat previous win times. “Challenge” mode is currently grayed out in my account, possibly to be added as the developers work on the game.

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The soundtrack for this game is one of the first things I noticed and enjoyed. High energy, and perfect for the action; it never gets old no matter how many times you have to start over. I’m picky about music in my games (I often turn it off completely if it annoys me in the least), but I love the style they chose, a mix of electronic and metal.  Check out a sample here:  https://zandernoriega.bandcamp.com/album/steredenn-original-soundtrack

This game is still being refined, but it is very playable, and I only had one small issue so far. After defeating a boss, my next round of play had no enemies, just space rocks. This was a one-time glitch, though, and Pixelnest encourages reporting of any bugs so they can perfect their game before official release.

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Steredenn is now available in Early Access on Steam for $9.99 (or your regional equivalent), with a 10% discount for early adopters, and will also be available for Xbox One. They are aiming for the official release in July or August. Interested in more? Check out their dev-log at http://steredenn-game.tumblr.com/.

Tl;dr: Steredenn is an addicting early-access shmup with gorgeous retro environments and fast-paced never-ending combat set to fun, high energy music that will have you wanting to “try one more time” over and over again! 9/10.

 

Let’s take a look at … – Guns, Gore & Cannoli (PC)

The zombie craze rages on, inspiring movies, television shows, and video games, and we can’t get enough.  In a unique spin on a world overtaken by the rambling undead, Crazy Monkey Studios and Claeys Brothers Arts bring us an action-packed 2D platformer, Guns, Gore & Cannoli.

Vinnie Cannoli is your typical badass mobster in the 1920s.  Prohibition is in full swing, and so is organized crime.  Vinnie is sent out on some mob business and runs into a bigger threat than his rival mobsters: hoards of flesh-hungry zombies.  Vinnie has to use a plethora of weapons to escape and complete his mission, enthusiastically eating cannolis along the way.

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This shoot-em-up side scroller features basic, but not easy, combat.  Vinnie picks up new types of weapons as the game progresses, including hand guns, tommy guns, shotguns, revolvers, flamethrowers, grenades, and rocket launchers.  It’s up to you to manage your ammunition (more of which is available along the map for you to pick up), make sure you accommodate for reload times, and choose the right weapon for different types of enemies.  To give himself a little time to line up a shot, Vinnie can kick enemies away, which stuns them briefly.  There are also elements in the environment that can help you- barrels to explode, cars to blow up.  It’s easy to get surrounded by hoards of zombies and intelligent mobsters, so assessing the situation and coming up with the best way to combine your weapons and items in your surroundings is vital for your survival.  Many of the weapons are very satisfying to use, especially the flame thrower.  I will admit to cackling in glee while I send multiple enemies to their crispy death, screaming and fleeing in agony.

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The major group of enemies you will face are zombies.  There are a wide variety- undead mob guys, cops, soldiers and sailors, sexy women, butchers, even leprechauns.  They are all unique, whether it be some kind of protection they might have (like a helmet) or special ability (like speed or toxic belches).  You will need to learn the best way to defeat each type before you become overrun by a hoard.

Other enemies include rival mob members, rats, and the environment itself.  The gangsters are much smarter than zombies and can duck and hide, requiring a different strategy than you might use going after the undead.  Watch out for fires all over the city, which can kill you if you get stuck in them, and be careful when blowing up barrels and cars- they will hurt you too.  One of the clever aspects of this game is that the zombies will attack your rival mobsters, buying you a little bit of time where you can focus on killing the undead first while the ones you haven’t killed yet help you take out your living enemies.

You’ll see your health ticking down as zombies claw at you, mobsters shoot you, and fires burn you.  You can be revived by finding and eating boxes of delicious cannoli as you proceed along the map.  Health regen is full and quick, thankfully, but sometimes it just doesn’t come in time.  You will inevitably die.  Checkpoints are relatively fair, but even then, sometimes starting over too many times can be infuriating.

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I used a controller while playing this game.  The key binds are different than I’m used to, and I still make mistakes hitting the wrong buttons even after playing for quite awhile.  This gets really frustrating when you’re trying to fire and instead accidentally switch your weapon.  Basic controls are to switch weapon, fire, reload, throw grenads, kick, and jump.  The graphics are colorful, fun, and unique, hand drawn and HD.  Movement is fluid and the 1920’s detail is clever.  Anyone who appreciates gratuitous animated gore will love this game.  Killing fat zombies, for example, will cause them to explode their guts all over your screen, temporarily blocking your view.

To make this game even more fun, try the local multiplayer.  You fight along Vinnie in your own perfectly tailored suit and wingtip shoes.  Cannolis are shared, so health regen happens for each character at the same time, which is a feature I appreciated.  Multiplayer allows for respawn, although you come back with very low health, so it’s important to find some more of those cannolis as soon as possible.  Once everyone on your team is dead, the game restarts at the last checkpoint.  I had a great time playing this way, probably more than playing alone, which gets very frustrating sometimes.

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Guns, Gore, & Cannoli is available now on Windows and PC for £6.99, with Xbox One, PS4, and Wii U version to follow.

Tl;dr – Guns, Gore, & Cannoli is a fast-paced, shoot-em-up, 2D side-scroller with gorgeous hand-drawn, gratuitously gorey graphics.  Help your enthusiastic prohibition-era gangster fight his way through zombie hoards and rival mobsters, and stay alive by treating yourself to “some good cannoli,” as Vinnie says with his mouth full.  A great twist on the zombie fad!

Rating – 9.5/10

Trailer –

 

 

Let’s take a look at … – Survival Squad: Gauntlets (Early Access)

Survival Squad: Gauntlets is a top-down, zombie-survival strategy/puzzle game from the team at Endless Loop Studios. With a squad of up to four survivors under your control, you must lead your team to safety, travelling through various Gauntlets, each filled with deadly traps and hordes of infected. It’s currently in Early Access on Steam for a price of £5.99/$8.99, so let’s take a look.

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Survival Squad: Gauntlets has a unique control system. As well as being able to move characters individually, or in a selected group, you can also control their lines-of-sight. This adds another layer of control over your squad and their movements, creating a deeper, more involved combat experience. There are two modes of attack, and your survivors do not attack whilst travelling, so micro-management and well thought out movements are required. The two modes of attack are:

  • Auto – Characters will fire at anything within sight
  • Focused – Characters will only aim and shoot in the direction you choose

Different situations call for different attacks, so it’s up to you as squad leader to assess the situation and decide which method is best suited to keep the zombie hoard form becoming overwhelming.

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Not only are you in-charge of your squad’s movement and combat, it’s also your responsibility to ensure they are readily equipped to face the infected. Weapons and gadgets can be found scattered around the Gauntlets (the names of the maps, built by both the developers and the community), and to acquire an item you need just walk over it. If the item is better than the one currently being held, it will be auto-equipped.  There is a range of various gadgets that can be found by your squad, such as a remote control for opening gates. Each survivor has an area to the lower left of the screen showing what weapons and gadgets they are carrying.

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The goal of Survivor Squad: Gauntlets is not to ensure the survival of your squad, in fact, they don’t die! The goal is to get rescued at the helipad in the shortest amount of time possible, and with the least amount of damage taken. This will earn you rewards in the form of stars and three categories of achievements at the end of the run.

Getting to the helipad usually requires solving puzzles to enable access to different areas, for example, finding multiple switches that have to be engaged at the same time to open a gate that you need to pass through. There are plenty of blind spots and corners that require rigorous searching to find not-so obvious solutions to problems. If you aren’t a patient gamer this could become tedious on the tougher maps.

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The replay value of Survivor Squad: Gauntlets is very high. Given the wide variety of maps produced by the developers, and the community, there will always be a fresh challenge waiting. There’s even the ability to create your own gauntlets so you can create your own challenges and share them with others. If you’re a fan of competing against yourself it gives you the opportunity to obsess over improving scores and achievements from your last attempt. The graphics are basic, but smooth, and the music is subtle and perfect for the game, picking up intensity during interactions with the undead. It creates a great atmosphere.

Tl:dr – Survival Squad: Gauntlets is a top-down, zombie-survival strategy/puzzle game giving you control over a squad of survivors. With an interesting squad management system, a multitude of gear for your survivors and plenty of community created content, there’s plenty to go at.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam (Early Access, £5.99/$8.99)

Let’s take a look at … – Valiant Hearts

Valiant Hearts: The Great War, developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, is a beautiful 2D adventure and puzzle game that tugs at the heart-strings.  Set in World War I Europe, it follows the adventures and war-time drama of five strangers who meet by chance:  Freddie, an American soldier, Emile, a French farmer, Karl, a German soldier, Ana, a field medic, and George, a British pilot.  Their sidekick canine Walt is a vital part of their success.

Much of the play time involves solving puzzles using items found in the scenery, such as sticks of dynamite or even a dirty sock, and often times choosing the necessary character to make the most of their skills.  The puzzles are not extremely difficult, but if help is needed, hints will be provided after a set amount of time in the form of carrier pigeons.  Other tasks include races and avoiding being hit by bombs and bullets.

The soundtrack is charming and perfect for the theme.  The art style is unique and interesting.  It is colorful and playful, yet captures the stress and sadness of the war.  The characters are amusing, both how they are drawn, and how they are animated- running, punching, jumping.  The landscape has a lot of depth despite being a side-scroller, with plenty of places to explore, and the game never gets dull.

One aspect of this game that stands out is that it provides real historical facts about World War 1 during game-play.  Players are prompted to open pages relating to true information about battles, life on the front and at home, and technology during the Great War all during game play.  These little snippets are even accompanied with photographs from the time period.

It’s hard to not feel emotion (often sad!) for the characters while playing this game, no matter how cute and amusing the graphics are.  This game has a well-deserved 96% approval rating on Steam.  It is also available for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.  It won Best Animated Game at the 42nd Annie Awards and Best Narrative and the Games for Change awards in the 2014 Game Awards.

If you’re looking to play a story-based game with great graphics, wonderful soundtrack, and even the chance to learn some real historical facts, this is the game for you.

Valiant Hearts is available to purchase on Steam for £11.99 or your regional equivalent.