Let’s take a look at … – The Dungeoning

My default favorite game type is RPG rogue-like platformers, so I didn’t hesitate to review Nick Donnelly’s The Dungeoning, which was released in April of last year. Despite the mixed reviews on Steam, I was determined to give this retro-style game a fair shot.

dungeoning_screeny_1

This game is exactly what you’d expect from something of this genre- a procedural dungeon map with ghosts, bats, and other creepy crawlies, with chests and boxes to open, potions, and basic weapons to upgrade. Upgrade your character with the experience you get from kills. This is all very straightforward….and then there’s perma-death. Extremely frustrating, but that’s the reason I love these types of games.

The game tosses you in head-first. There’s very little instruction besides some pop-up tips that occasionally show up in the lower right of the screen. No real storyline. Music was nothing exciting.  Graphics are retro and simple, but I liked them immediately. Controls were not as intuitive as I’d liked (I often manage to use potions instead of wielding my sword). Of course, I died almost instantly right off the bat. The few achievements I earned in my following runs didn’t synch with Steam until about two hours of game-play in. For an achievement Nazi like me, that’s a big no-no.

dungeoning_screeny_2

I decided quickly that I hated the game. It was boring and quirky and didn’t have much charm to it.  The controls (which I refused to even look into rebinding- I like testing the game as-is) and achievement issues bothered me. There wasn’t anything unique about this particular game that would make it more interesting than some of my other favorite rogue-likes, such as Rogue Legacy with its hilarious traits or Binding of Isaac with its black humor or Ascendant with its unique graphics and weapons.

I then realized something. I kept playing it. I couldn’t stop. Despite the lack of anything unique in this game, I found myself going back to it to try again. I still die often, but quickly made it to level nine after being stuck on level six for too many runs. I learned more about the way to react to baddies and how to upgrade intelligently, and my achievements came rolling in. Oh no, am I addicted? I think I am! Who cares about the music- I muted it and put my own on. Yeah, there isn’t anything unique about this particular game, but it does what it should- gets you hooked and makes you want to do better than your last run.

dungeoning_screeny_3

So, I don’t hate the game. I actually LIKE it. It continues to frustrate me, but for other reasons. Level nine took it from difficult to insane- too many enemies around me to survive. It’s hard to live if you get swarmed and don’t have enough potions and items to heal yourself. I figure this is something else I’ll learn to overcome as I keep trying over and over.

Overall, I don’t think this game really deserves its mixed reviews. I give it a thumbs-up. If you just want a difficult perma-death rogue-like to play, pick this game up. Worried about it being worth it? It’s only £4.99/$6.99, or wait for it to go on sale. I’d definitely add it to your collection. You might find yourself itching to do one more run, one more run, one more run….

TL;dr – The Dungeoning is a very stereotypical RPG rogue-like platformer with perma-death, but don’t be fooled- you’ll be just as addicted as any other game with more bells and whistles.

Rating 7/10

Purchase – Steam £4.99/$6.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Bob Was Hungry

[EDIT: In the review we stated that the game has only 19 levels. This is incorrect. The following is a message from the developer ragarding this:

“You mentioned that there are only 19 levels, but there are actually 5 different zones, with a total of 86 levels. Each of these levels has a hard version that is totally redesigned, so that adds up to 172 levels. It takes around 10 hours to complete the normal version of the game, and could easily take another 20 hours to complete the hard levels.”

Apologies!]

I used to hate platformer games. Didn’t have the patience for them when I first started gaming. Slowly over time, I’ve gained both some skill and patience and actually prefer such games. I picked Shorebound Studios’ new release, Bob Was Hungry, for what looked to be a fun, cute 3D platforming experience. I was in for a shock.

343560_screenshots_2015-08-19_00001

The opening cinematics were simple, a little cheesy, and almost misleading. I thought this game would be easy, at least to start, slowly hand-holding me into harder levels as I learned a couple moves. My little alien (who looks more like a meatball with eyes than anything) simply has to be guided to his dinner. Your time is only recorded if you also get the bottle of condiments before you finish the run and win your covered dish. Simple concept, but almost immediately, I was forced to rethink my expectations of this game. This precision platformer is absolutely no joke.

I can’t play more than a few attempts before I have to stop because my hands get too sweaty and I start getting that I-am-going-to-throw-my-controller-through-my-monitor feeling welling up from an evil place deep within my soul. Finally completing a level creates a rush of relief and congratulatory gloating to myself. Failing yet again usually leads to anything from a slight huff of annoyance to a long string of profanities. But, as a gamer, you know it’s kind of fun torturing yourself.

343560_screenshots_2015-08-19_00002

The controls are not like “real life.” Newton’s laws don’t quite apply here. You can move Bob around in the air, not following any Earthly-type physics rules. You can make him shoot farther, bounce up walls, and go backwards some, but he certainly is a victim to gravity. Don’t let him fall off a cliff or onto spikes or you’ll have to start over.

Wondering if maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this, being a newer gamer than my husband, I had him try it. It wasn’t long before he was grunting in frustration… and then cussing, which made me feel better about myself. There’s a lot of laughing in this game too- little Bob explodes in a fluffy mess of alien bits when you mess up.

343560_screenshots_2015-08-19_00003

The game offers a co-op option for 2-8 players. I have mixed feelings about it. The maps are the same.  If one person gets the condiment, it applies to the group. If one person dies, they respawn where the other player is (although I’m not sure how it works for more than 2 players). It’s fun to play together, but the respawn point makes it almost too easy for you to pass together. For how hard the game is, I was surprised at this. Connecting locally was quick and straightforward.

If you love torturing yourself with learning precision moves to get through a map, this game is definitely for you.  So far, it only has 19 levels*, but there are normal and hard difficulties to give you some replay value.  The graphics are simple and colorful and Bob is a cute little alien, but there’s nothing adorable about the frustration you’re going to feel playing this!

screeny_4

 Tl;dr – Bob Was Hungry is a difficult 3D platformer with a simple concept- get your Bob some food without dying. With unique physics “rules”, and lots of challenging moves to make, this game is perfect for the precision gamer. The £10.99/$14.99 price tag on Steam is a little steep for it being a small game, but it’s currently on sale for £7.33/$9.99.

 Rating – 7/10

 Purchase – Steam £10.99$14.99

 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.

screeny_main

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.

screeny_normal_fighting

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.

screeny_upgrade

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.

screeny_normal_fighting_2

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.

screeny_boss_fight

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 talk about … – Volume now available

Volume, the long awaited follow up from Mike Bithell, creator of Thomas Was Alone, has launched today for Windows, OS X, PS4 and PS Vita.

image_1

Volume is a modern ‘reimagining of the Robin Hood legend’. You play as Robert Locksley, a petty thief whose main weapon is Stealth. Gisborne Industries have taken over England, running the nation as a corporatocracy, and you’re going to stop him. With 100 levels of stealth action, and a range of different gadgets to help you get them, there’s plenty of varied stealth-action to be found through the campaign.

There’s also a fully featured level editor, so the community will be able to create are share maps, adding even more content and diversity to the title.

image_2

Danny Wallace returns once again to provide narration for a witty AI, along-side Charlie McDonnell staring as Robert himself, and the critically-acclaimed actor Andy Serkis providing the voice of Guy Gisborne, the main enemy. Another familiar face in Bithell’s work, David Housden makes a return with another incredible soundtrack, which is also now available to download via iTunes, or as DLC on Steam.

image_3

Reviews for Volume are already coming in, and they’re good! It looks like it’s living up to the hype, and we’re going to try and get a key to perform our own review.

Volume can be purchased on Steam for £14.99/$19.99, with a 10% launch discount (£13.49/17.99) until 24 August, and on PSN for PS4 and Vita.

Will you be buying Volume? Do you own it already? Let us know in the comments what you think if it so far if you do! Here’s the release 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.

apotheon_screeny_1

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.

apotheon_screeny_2

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.

apotheon_screeny_3

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!

apotheon_screeny_4

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.

apotheon_screeny_6

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 – 

Let’s talk about … – Rogue Legacy

I’m hooked on Indie games because they’re unique and cheap. Developers want to get their name out there, and to have a great game, it has to stand out from the others and not cost an arm and a leg like well-known franchise games like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed.  There are so many fun, creative games out there, and you can buy them for next to nothing.  As a PC gamer, I comb through the following places to find my next inexpensive purchases:

As a reviewer for this site, I am also lucky enough to have access to game keys given to us by developers who want us to review their products.

Some games aren’t that great or just don’t interest me. Some games are fun but I stop playing after racking up a few hours. However, sometimes I score the game that grabs all of my attention for hours and hours of play time, leading me to read forums, wiki pages, and guides for more info. Oh, and I talk about it. A lot.

At the end of April this past year, my Steam app on my phone notified me that something in my wishlist went on sale. I was delighted to see that it was Rogue Legacy, a rogue-like RPG platformer released in 2013 by Cellar Door Games that was both recommended to me and I was also warned about- apparently it is difficult as hell. $4 later, I installed this new game and started playing.

rogue intro

I kid you not, I died within seconds.

Flabbergasted and a bit disappointed, I tried again.

Dead. Super quick.

I turned to my husband (also a gamer) in shock. I was starting to wonder if this was even worth $4. He just shook his head at me- he was used to me starting a new game at least once a week. Pretty sure he expected me to give up on this one quicker than usual.

I pressed on, though. Not sure why. I have very little patience, but something about this game drew me in. Slowly, I began to learn how to kill enemies, gaining gold so I could upgrade my skill tree, finding blueprints for equipment so I could get more passive protection and skills, finding runes to make the armor even better.

Within a few hours, probably between 10-20, I was fully addicted. The kills are so satisfying.  The traits on the characters (to be explained later) made me laugh. Grinding wasn’t a chore like it is in most games. In fact, after a death, I would have a hard time NOT going back in for another round.

rogue action

Now, 69 hours, 22/28 achievements, and 45 screenshots later, I’ve beat the game THREE times. I’ve maxed out every point in my skill tree, found and purchased every blueprint for every piece of equipment, and found and purchased every rune. After game, game+, and game+2, game+3 didn’t prove to be any more difficult, and I was forced to give up playing this fabulous gem. All I have left are 6 achievements that are insanely tough, if not impossible for me to earn.

Here’s the premise. You play offspring of your previous hero, fighting evil in a procedurally-generated map. That child dies in battle, then you choose between three of their offspring to take into the next battle. This is an RPG, but you don’t buff up one character- you upgrade the entire available set of skills and equipment. Carefully choosing your child each run is important. They will be one of several hero types (assassin, barbarian, etc) and come with none to a few traits. These traits are hilarious in some instances. Your child might have IBS (farting while jumping) or corprolalia (cussing after being hit), for example. Other traits are helpful, like better knockback, or no foot-pulse, which prevents floor spikes from being triggered. Some make your life difficult, like vertigo (the screen is flipped) or ectomorph (you’re skinny and enemies knock you back far).

rogue

The map is divided into four main areas- castle, forest, tower, and darkness. Rooms can be empty or full of enemies. They might contain chicken drumsticks (health) or mana potions.  They might have coins, treasure boxes, containing runes, blueprints, or character upgrades.  You might run into special challenges, games or mini bosses. There’s even a room where you can change the game music. Each main area has a boss. Survive each area and defeat the boss, and the main door at the entrance of the map will light up, signifying that you beat that boss.  Defeat all four bosses and the main door will open. This will allow you to beat the two-part game boss.

Another way to beat bosses, which I haven’t been able to do yet, is in remix mode. After you beat an area boss, you can go back into that room and attempt to battle with a character the game has chosen for you. This is insanely difficult and despite how well I did otherwise in the game, I don’t last more than a few seconds with these guys. If I could, I might be able to get the rest of the achievements.

The game is simple to learn, but you will die, over and over and over again. But it’s ok- each upgrade will inspire you to try again. It’s insanely addicting. After you die, a screen will show up with all of the enemies you killed lined up. It’s fun to try and make the number more than last time.

rogue-graphics

The graphics are cute, retro, and colorful. The music never gets old- I even downloaded the soundtrack. This game has full controller support and game play was very satisfying. The RPG aspect of this was extremely fair and even. The platforming is challenging but not something that will make you pull out your hair.  Replay value is great, and even at full price ($14.99), this game is worth the buy.  And guess what!  It’s also available on PS4 and Xbox One!

Tl;dr – This humorous, retro-style RPG rogue-like platformer is addicting and SO satisfying, with great replay value and a great price point, even at full price.  I can’t recommend it enough and can only hope that the developers might consider a sequel.

Rating – 10/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

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.

boss level 3

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.

ma 4

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!

decorate town

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 talk about … – Steam Refunds

Getting a refund on Steam used to be tough to say the least. Unless you had exceptional circumstances you were pissing into the wind. Yesterday however, Steam updated its refund policy to allow refund requests for any reason! A total 180 on the policy, and it’s quite rightfully got people very excited. No longer can games cash in on exciting trailers without delivering, or release broken product only to have Steam protect their revenue.

A bit late to the party, other distributors have refund policies already in place, it’s a great move from Valve and will no doubt restore some confidence after the paid MODs scenario. There are a few simple stipulations to the refund policy which are as follows:

  • The refund request needs to be placed within 14 days of purchase
  • The title has been played for less than 2 hours

They also state “even if you fall outside of the refund rules we’ve described, you can ask for a refund anyway and we’ll take a look.”, more good news.

If you don’t watch or follow Boogie2988 you should. He posted a video today covering this and it’s a worth a watch.

So great news for all Steam users. We received a big upgrade in our consumer rights today, so go ahead, but that game that you weren’t sure about. If it’s not for you a refund is waiting. Click here to read Steam’s full statement on the policy change.

Tl:dr – Steam now offer refunds if you bought the game in the last 2 weeks and have under 2 hours game time. For any reason. Huzzah.

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.

singleplayerzombies

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.

multiplayerflamethrower

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.

bloodsplatter

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.

multiplayer

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 … – Convoy

Convoy is a squad based, tactical combat roguelike-like from the small team at Convoy Games. Development originally started in 2013, saw a successful Kickstarter campaign towards the back end of 2014 and is arriving on Steam today for £9.99 or your regional equivalent. Let’s take a look.

The goal of Convoy is to find various spare parts required to repair your broken ship. They are scattered throughout a dynamic world, filled with random encounters and events, and it’s your task to safely make your way through and complete your objective. To help achieve this you have a convoy of vehicles at your command, and it’s through them that you will complete the task at hand.

convoy-store

Your Convoy consists of a main vehicle, MCV (Main Convoy Vehicle), and a number of supporting units. You only get one MCV, and you need to make sure it doesn’t die or it’s game over: I’ll touch on this a little later. Supporting units however can be picked up throughput the game as you build up a bad-ass convoy, capable of surviving the harsh world around you.

The vehicles in your convoy can be upgraded, with better weapons and stat upgrades available from the various camps found scattered throughout the world. These can be found on the game map, where the majority of gameplay takes place. Through interacting with, and taking part in, the random events you’ll encounter whilst travelling you unlock bolts and loot. Bolts are the game’s currency and will be used to purchase your upgrades.

convoy-map

The game map is where the bulk of the decisions are made, and your game’s direction is decided. Here you move your convoy around the map, manage your objectives and can see information on your cargo, currency and fuel. When moving around the map you will run into random events that prompts a text dialog in which you have to choose how to respond to the situation. These text-based interactions have multiple outcomes, and your choices in them are crucial.

Respond to a passing convey incorrectly and they’ll spin-around and fire at your ass. Each encounter can lead to a beat-down, and given they are random you are constantly on edge. You also don’t have the ability to view the map without moving to that location, there no free-view. If you want to explorer an area you have to go there and play to hell you don’t run into anything that could overwhelm you.

convoy-convey

The other major component to convoy is the vehicle fights. If negotiations with an enemy fall short, or you’re just in the mood for a fight, you move away from the map, and get right down into the action. With direct control over each vehicle in your convoy, you have to fight off the attacking enemies. This is a nice system, and adds some real action to the generally decision-based gameplay, but is not without its flaws.

Your main MCV is centred, with your supporting units surrounding. Enemies approach from all sides, and you have to fend them off while keeping your MCV alive. You can move each vehicle individually, and they move in a very nice, smooth way to the target location over a period of time. There is a tutorial available that shows how to use this system, and in there the smooth movement of your units feels great. In the fast-pace of combat however I thought it felt sloppy and unresponsive at times. Sometime you want to get your unit out of the way fast, or to the other side of your MCV in a hurry and often that doesn’t happen and you find yourself waiting for the unit to gradually move into position.

convoy-fight

In these fight scenes you are driving constantly to the east, and various obstacles come at you which you have to avoid such as terrain. If you don’t get out the way in time your unit is instantly destroyed, and it’s in these situation where the slower movement really becomes apparent. Sometime you just can’t get out of the way and it makes the death feel a little … unfair.

There is a tactical mode available when in combat that allows you to pause the action, whilst still being able to command your units. This gives you some breathing room when things get a little manic and you need a moment to strategize.

Convoy isn’t a forgiving game. With a death resulting in the end of your game, and resources such as gas been precious, you have to plan each move carefully and think about all possible repercussions. I get why this is fun, and it does put you on edge at all times knowing failure is a wrong answer away, but I feel it’s a bit too much. I feel it’s at a point where it’s to its own detriment and it gets in the way of some gamplay.

With gas been a precious resource, and the fact that random encounters happen often, I felt like exploration was too risky to enjoy. There is a whole world around you but it’s just too dangerous to head into it and see what’s going on. You have to stick to the objectives and get the job done. You can’t view the map without moving your convoy, so you have to just wander aimlessly. If the game promoted exploration then this would be fine, but it doesn’t; you seem to be punished for exploring.

I think the risk vs reward is off. For example, you see a mission so head over there. It takes you a short distance away from the nearest camp. You end up in a fight which you couldn’t avoid. Afterwards you try to head back to camp to repair, but end up in another unavoidable fight and that’s game over. You can’t afford to take chances and explore, which for me is where the fun would lie in this. It’s incredibly punishing, and that was on the easiest difficulty!

convey-camp

I see what convoy is, and I understand why it’s punishing as it wants your decisions to be calculated and deliberate, but I felt the risk vs reward and heavy punishment gets in the way.

On my first attempt, on easy, I died within 10 minutes. A couple more runs and I started to understand that exploring and taking risks seems to be the wrong way to play, but for me that’s the fun way to play. In order to stay alive for any amount of time I had to play so conservatively that I wasn’t having much fun. More just making sure I was making the right moves.

What it wants to do, it does well. So if you’re a fan of this genre you’ll most certainly enjoy the challenge. For me however, it was a bit too much and made me feel too restricted.

Tl:dr – Convoy is a punishing roguelike-like strategy game where each move has to be calculated and deliberate or it will most probably lead to your downfall. What it wants to do it does well, so existing fans of the genre will relish the challenge. For me, I found the punishing gameplay forced me to play conservatively and restricted what I wanted to do.
Rating – 6.8/10
Purchase – Steam £9.99 or your regional equivalent