Let’s take a look at … – Undertale

Undertale is a game by developer Toby Fox, a name that probably doesn’t mean much to you … for now. It’s a pixel-based RPG that was quietly released on Steam in early October, but once mainstream game sites picked up on it and started writing about their experiences, the game blew up. With quotes floating around like: “Made me cry”, “contender for game of the year”, and “I haven’t played anything like this before”, it was hard not to be intrigued by what players were experiencing. After playing the game 3 times, and with over 25 hours invested, I can safely tell you that this game is easily in my top 5 indie games I’ve ever played. It’s something absolutely special.

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For those who have played the SNES classic Earthbound (also known as Mother), you’ll feel right at home here. Dialogue that breaks the 4th wall, characters with the strangest quirks, and enemies that make no sense but interact with you during battles in ways that are impossible to describe. You have the choice of Fight, Items, Act, and Mercy. Depending on what you choose you might be talking, hugging or petting an enemy during battle. There are also many, many more options depending on the enemy you are fighting. Choose to a spare an enemy and you can select Mercy to avoid killing it all together. Want to murder its face, choose Fight and play out the battle in a timed event where you have to press the attack button at the right time for maximum damage.

Every battle will play out a little different depending on if you choose to kill or spare. Every enemy has a unique attack which might require you to do some platforming to avoid projectiles, pressing the directional pad in different directions to avoid being hit. It varies from moving around like you are playing a “shoot-em-up”, to just sitting there and not moving against the dreaded “blue attack” (it’s hardly scary, just don’t move). I never once got bored with any battle as I was constantly kept on my toes by each unique attack. It’s incredibly brilliant and fresh.

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The soundtrack is a chiptunes, 8-bit style score that was so catchy and engrossing I would sometimes just turn it on and listen to it while I was doing other things that day. Not much more to say except that it’s masterfully crafted, changes on how you play the game and will pump you up when it’s time to play a deciding battle. The music takes a perfect package and wraps it up in an equally perfect bow.

The story is the most important part of this game and I will not be spoiling any of it. It takes so many turns, making you think one way and then changes it all on you over and over. The game has 3 endings that provide a different experience each one you go through. What does that even mean? I’ll explain…

Your first playthrough will be the normal ending. No matter how you play you will be forced to get this ending. Once you’ve finished you have some choices. Do you spare every enemy you come across or kill them? This aspect of choice is an important mechanic. No matter how you play through the game’s roughly 6-8 hour story you’ll be learning what it means to spare a life or take it. Maybe you’ll run into a battle and that enemy starts using powerful attacks against you and just wants to hurt your character. Maybe you’ll come across a frog that just wants to be complimented and doesn’t intend on harming you. How you deal with these choices affects how the game will play out in the end.

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The game’s alternate endings are The Pacifist Ending and Genocide Ending, requiring you to have beaten the game on Normal, and then on your next playthrough either choose to spare every life or take every life respectively. There is no middle ground here, so I recommend looking up some guides prior to taking these on. Be aware they will challenge you emotionally, strategically, and physically. I managed to unlock all 3 and by far the hardest was the Genocide Ending.

Without ruining anything, there are two bosses in the game that require you to take part in some of the most grueling, fast-paced, and extremely enjoyable battles I’ve ever come across in a game. One battle takes upwards of 15 minutes to finish and required my full attention and focus to beat it. After many hours of trial and error, I was able to finish it and the feeling of excitement I got was beyond comparison. I also felt kind of terrible too. Terrible because I don’t know if I really wanted to kill this character, but I had no choice. This is what makes Undertale so special.

Each ending is unconventional, each character plays an important role, and each battle is so unique that this isn’t the kind of game you run through and quickly dispose of. You want to see what happens, you are invested in the world and characters. They are your friends, maybe they’re your enemies; it just depends on how you play the game. I promise you that every ending will surprise you and give you something you’ve never seen before. Just remember, if your game shuts down because an enemy deletes your save file, all you have to do is reload. 🙂

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This is a game where words cannot do it justice. This review is all how I felt when I played this game and the surprises I encountered in every meeting with the characters and every battle. Nothing is what it seems. Currently at over 7000 reviews with an Overwhelming Positive review score this game is something that doesn’t come along often. This might be the best $10 dollars you’ll spend this year as you’ll be experiencing something unlike anything else. Undertale stole my heart, made me hate myself sometimes and filled me with determination unlike anything I’ve played before. Hands down, this game will affect you in one way or another and will leave an impression on you for years to come. It’s perfect.

Tl:dr – Undertale is one of the best indie games to come out in the last 5 years.  Fans of Earthbound will immediately see the similarities but will be immediately surprised at how different of an experience this game is.  The choices you make in Undertale matter, they affect you and those around you.  With non-traditional RPG elements, amazing soundtrack and a touching story and cast you’ll be hooked.  Multiple endings that are actually worth earning make this game something more than a beat it and walk away type of game and you’ll never forget your time in this world.  Simply put there is nothing out there like this game.  It’s an unforgettable experience.

Score – 10/10, Perfect

Steam Page – Steam £6.99/$9.99

Demo – http://undertale.com/demo.htm

Trailer –

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

Earlier this year we covered the title Guns, Gore and Cannoli; an action-packed 2D run ‘n gun featuring a mobster working his way through the zombie apocalypse. You can read that article here. Well, that was on PC, and it’s now released on XBONE and we were lucky enough to get a review code to see if the console version matches that of its PC counterpart. Let’s take a look .. again!

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Starting with performance, the game runs great. It’s certainly not a last-minute dash to get to another platform. It’s clear time and effort has gone into making the game run soundly on whatever platform you choose. The game suits a gamepad incredibly well, with tight, self-intuitive controls. In Heather’s article she mentioned she has trouble with the controls, sometimes hitting wrong buttons; I had no such issues!

The quality of the art and other resources is on point also. There’s no scaling or compromise in quality; the game looks and feels just as crisp as the PC version. I did experience some loading times higher than I would have expected. Not huge, but enough for it to catch my attention, but it’s hardly a problem. The content is well worth the extra few seconds loading. Maybe it’s because I’m used to gaming on a PC!

Best of all, the game is priced fairly. The title is currently £6.99 on Steam, so I was expecting a price tag of ~£10 for console, but it’s only £7.99. A really nice pickup price for the XBONE. To be honest, mine has sat unused in the corner for the most of the time I’ve had it as I can’t justify paying 2x more for a game than I would do on Steam. It’s awesome that this isn’t the case with Guns, Gore & Cannoli and it’s given me a reason to keep my XBONE out for a while!

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I’d like to just share few thoughts on my own experience with game. A cinematic brings the game to a start, introducing Vinnie, a mobster on a mission to capture someone. Sleeping on a boat he learns that the world has been overrun by zombies. Naturally, been a mobster and all, he’s well kitted out and does not deviate from his macabre task. From here on you work your way through a multitude of environments, collecting new and exciting weapons as you progress, and meeting new enemies to test you.

One thing that I really liked was the difficulty. The game looks great, has a really funny story, and as such I was expecting something much more casual that what it is. The game puts up a fight, and if you don’t stay on your mobster toes it will punish you. Everything Heather said in her original article about the title I can 100% corroborate, and it is well worth the 9.5 we gave it originally. I’m not that far in, and already I’ve fought across a boat, a dockyard, a town, and met a wide range of interesting enemies!

A zombie football player that knocks you on your ass every opportunity he gets. A pinup zombie resembling Marilyn Monroe that likes to jump about, and another female zombie that can’t stop burping out some horrible green gas! I’ve also met a couple of NPC characters, all of which are funny and interesting dialogue with Vinnie. The game is lots of fun, plays great, looks great and sounds great, and it arrives on XBONE as strongly as it hit PC.

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Tl:dr – Guns, Gore & Cannoli is now available on a number of game consoles and it’s no shoddy port. It’s clear the Crazy Monkey put time and effort into ensuring quality across the board, and the XBONE version is just as good as its PC counterpart. At £7.99 (or your regional equivalent) there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have this title on your XBOX. Get it downloaded!

Rating – 9.5 (again!)

Purchase – XBONE £7.99 or your regional equivalent | PC/Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Reign of Bullets

Reign of Bullets is a side-scrolling 2D shoot ‘em up from Critical bit, a small indie studio based in the Netherlands. They have quite a line-up of games under their belts. Reign of Bullets is their latest, and it’s hitting Steam today. Let’s take a look.

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What would you do if a big-ass corporation steam rolled through your house, and didn’t offer as much as a sorry? Well, when the Titan Corporation rolled through Troy’s garage, he wants revenge. As most garages do, he has an old jet in the corner, so puts it to good use by launching his own assault on Titan.

Gameplay is classic 2D shoot ‘em up goodness. Enemies come at you from the right, and you have to dodge and shoot as you make your way through section of level. As well as fighting flying enemies, ground units and civilian vehicles move along the road beneath you, adding more targets. Each level last 1 minute 30, and if you survive that long you beat the level.

Each level is also graded, so depending on how many enemies you killed, and how much health left, you will get a score which helps determine how much scrap you get from the level. Each 10th level is a big boss battle and will allow you to move on to the next area.

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Throughout the game your ship can be upgraded as you please. As you fight through the levels you will collect both scrap and weapons. If you go back to your hangar, these can then be purchases to upgrading your ship and weapons. Your ship has 5 attributes that can be levelled up using scrap; Autogun, Weaponslots, Luck, Hitpoints, and Shield. Also, each weapon you unlock can be upgraded using special pickups that are also dropped as loot. You can increase a weapons damage, and range for example, amongst other things.

Weapons are applied to your ship however you like. There are no set weapon positions, so to a certain extent, the design of the ship is up to you which is a cool little feature. Smash through levels, spend your scrap upgrading your ship, and repeat.

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You can use either a mouse or gamepad to control Reign of Bullets. I started with pad controls. When actually fighting, the pad feels great. Nice and responsive, and the controls are self-intuitive. This all goes to pot when you enter the hangar menus however. The pad control scheme in the menus feels incredibly sloppy and not self-intuitive at all. I was having a hard time understanding why it felt so weird until I tried the mouse and keyboard controls. It appears to me that Reign of Bullets was built and tested using a mouse first.

The menus when using a mouse are a lot easier and can seemingly do more things. I had no idea you could rotate weapons on your ship until I used the mouse. Maybe I missed it when I used the pad, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there. It’s not a major issue if you use the pad. But it does take some getting used to the seeming arbitrary key mappings. I often accidently nearly scrapped a weapon when using the pad.

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Reign of Bullets features 10 difficulty levels, ranging from Rookie to Legend. I fancied my chances and choose Legend straight away, and just got owned. It’s clear I’ll have to work my way through the lower difficulties first, develop an epic ship, and then come back to Legend difficulty for retribution. There’s also plenty of levels to go at. 4 distinct areas, each having 10 levels, provides 40 tough battles to get through in the campaign. There’s also an endless mode available for those who may want to spend some time mindlessly destroying the Titan Corporation, or grinding to upgrade your ship.

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Reign of Bullets is a solid 2D shoot ‘em up and implementation of the genre. I like the graphics and the character of the game, the story is novel and has funny moments via the twitter messages, and ultimately I had fun smashing through the Titan Corporation. Apart from the sloppy feeling pad controls in the menus, Reign of bullets doesn’t do anything wrong in my opinion, but on the same token it doesn’t do anything particularly ground breaking. A solid entry into the genre, which fans will pick up, play, and then move on.

Tl:dr – Reign of Bullets is a solid implementation of a 2D shoot ‘em up, which a nice aesthetic style and novel story. I had fun smashing through the Titan Corporation, and once complete I’ll have no problem moving on.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$12.99, discounted to £8.99/$11.69 until August 25th

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Apotheon

Apotheon is an action-platformer based around ancient Greek mythology. Released back in February on Steam, we’re a little late to the party, but god damn am I happy Heather brought it my attention. With a beautifully unique aesthetic, epic and well narrated storyline, and brilliant combat, Apotheon is firmly on my ‘Best games of 2015’ list. Let’s take a look.

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Let’s start with the aesthetic since it’s the first thing that you’re likely to notice about the game. Apotheon looks like its set on the side on an ancient Greek urn. The colour pallet is restricted, and well executed, with variance in shades and intensity creating the diversity of the environments. Predominantly orange to begin with, as you work your way through the various areas of the game, different colour pallets come into play. There is also a sheen over the entire screen, a rough rock texture that everything is drawn on, and vignette in the corners. Put that together with simple line work, and animation, and Apotheon nails its aesthetic.

The game also features a great soundtrack. The music works hand-in-hand with the aesthetic and ties it all together perfectly. It’s pretty epic when you’re in a hectic fight, great scenery and an epic fight track behind you. It’s available as DLC for the game £4.99.

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You’re a Greek by the name of Nikandreos, and the Gods of Olympus have abandoned humanity. Famine and violence has left the lands in ruin, so you head up to Mount Olympus, place of the gods, to kick some ass and sort things out. Featuring a wide range of gods from Greek mythology, you have to fight your way to the top of the mountain, collecting each gods divine powers one by one, until you’re equip enough to fight the one and only Zeus, god of the sky, lighting, thunder, law, order and justice. (I Googled that!)

The story is really well put together and presented. For one, it’s fascinating. The names you see playing through the game are names of Gods that you’ll no doubt be aware of, and you learn who they were and the role they played in Greek mythology. Also, all dialog is narrated, and presented in a way that compliments gameplay. Sometimes, I find games that may have a great story, but it’s not presented well, and you almost have to go out of your way to really understand. Apotheon does a great job of melding story with gameplay.

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Gameplay consists of a series of quests that lead you through Mount Olympus as you pick off the lower gods one by one. Objectives are set for you, and you have some control over the order in which you choose to play, but ultimately it’s a linear narrative through the world. That doesn’t however means there’s nothing to explore. The world is vast, filled with many rooms and secrets to be found within them. If you’re the type of gamer that likes to explore every room and every chest, like I am, Apotheon rewards that curiosity with weapons and items.

Dotted around the map are various fast travel locations also, so while objectives are set, you are still free to explore the parts of the map you have unlocked. At any-time you can return to an earlier part of the level and look for more goodies!

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There are a number of item types to be collected throughout Apotheon; Weapons, armour, potions, and shields. These are found both through exploration and given as rewards for objectives. Weapons work on an inventory system, so you can hold more than one at a time, but they have a health level. Use your favourite mace too often and it’s going to break. There are repair kits to be found however to combat this. Armour on the other hand, you can only have one of each item. If you find a new shield you’d better be sure you want it because your old one will be gone.

Health and mana work on an overflow system. Typically if you’re all full health and you collect a health potion nothing will happen, but in Apotheon it just keeps rising, and you gain a temporary boost until it eventually settles back at your normal max. Same goes for mana, and it means before big fights, there are multiple boss fights, you can really jack-up ready to kick some ass!

With full controller support, the game feels great, although it look me a little while to get used to it. You control the movement of your character with the left stick, and the aim of his attack with the right. Different weapons take different amount of time to swing, and also take different amounts of mana. All this put together creates an incredibly satisfying, and deliberate, combat system.

If an enemy is charging at you, and you’re using a heavy hammer for example, you time your swing, jump forward, do a quick 180 and land the hammer with a heavy thud on his noggin. It’s very satisfying, and you feel the weight of every weapon, and every swing. It makes combat more than just button mashing. If you don’t pay attention during combat things won’t go well. You have to actually fight with skill.

Obviously I played on a pad, and I’ve seen reviews state that K&M controls are poor, so bear that in mind if you down own a pad; all my comments regarding for controls apply to pad only.

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Apotheon is a great game. Great aesthetic, great music, great story, great gameplay, and it’s all executed incredibly well. I’m currently 2 hours into the game and am raring to continue fighting through Mount Olympus slaying gods as I do so. With the open environments and wide range of items, you could spend hours exploring Olympus and the treasures it holds. For any gamer, Apotheon is a must-have title, that’s soon going to be rising to the top of my most played list in Steam.

Tl:dr – Apotheon is a great game. Great aesthetic, great music, great story, great gameplay, and it’s all executed incredibly well. With a deep combat system, interesting story based on Greek mythology, and a lot of gameplay, it’s well worth a spot in your library.

Rating – 9.5/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer –