It’s time for the second part of our round up of Rezzed’s indie goodies. Last time I took a look at some simply fantastic games, but there were just too many to fit into one post, so I’m back with even more. This time around there’s a turn based ninja game, a detective title with birds, a game entirely about keeping your starship together and one about exploring a crime via video tapes. It’s an odd mix, but I think that describes Rezzed rather well.
Before we get on to my stuff – starting with Ronin – here’s a little bit from deputy editor Stefan on Super Dungeon Bros.
Super Dungeon Bros | PS4, Xbox One, PC & Mac | 2015
Though it has plenty of other tricks up its sleeves, perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Super Dungeon Bros is it’s aiming to be as cross platform as it possibly can. With co-op isometric dungeon crawling at its core, that you can play games with people on both Xbox One and Windows 10 at the same time – thanks to the integration of Xbox Live – or with PS4, PC and Mac together opens the door to more play time with a wider variety of players.
Playing co-op with your friends always adds a certain je nes sais quoi to whatever game it is you’re with, and this game looks to make the most of that. Along with the silly and over-the-top use of the “Bro-cabulary” it plays with fond memories you might have of Castle Crashers – though this game is in 3D – with a quad of garishly coloured knights heading down into the procedurally generated dungeons to do battle with an array of monsters and avoid traps.
Co-op play is a lot more integral here though, with the difficulty and puzzles scaling up and down to suit. Though you can hack and slash your way through the cutesy skeletons and fantasy baddies while doing your own thing, the addition of special combo attacks like the “Bro-nado” encourages you to work together and take different weapons into the fray.
As the game’s cheesy tagline invites you to do, it’s time to put Bros before Foes.
Ronin | PC, Mac & Linux | May 2015
If you’ve ever played Gunpoint then Ronin will be instantly familiar to you. In fact Tomasz Waclawek, the game’s developer, described the game as a Gunpoint ripoff, although Tom Francis, the man behind Gunpoint, disputes that, and is evidently a big fan of Ronin.
While Ronin is clearly borrowing some elements from the way movement in Gunpoint works, notably the jump, it’s obviously a very different game when considered as a whole. The whole ninja element of the game leaves it feeling quite different tonally, as does the frankly wonderful way combat works.
Combat is the centrepiece of the game, following the “I move, you move” style of turn based play. Interestingly, long jumps can take two turns, allowing you to swing with a grappling hook if you want to change your direction.
However, unlike most games, the grappling hook doesn’t completely change where you’re going. Instead it redirects your momentum onto a new trajectory. At first it feels a little unintuitive, but eventually you realise that pretty much every other handling model for this kind of grappling hook is wrong, while Ronin gets it right.
It’s worth pointing out that combat will require real thought and skill. Given that a single hit will kill you, it really is worth taking the time to think through what you want to do next, otherwise all that will await you is death. While Ronin does borrow some elements from Gunpoint, it does more than enough to define itself as something unique. The combat may be unforgiving, but that just makes it all the sweeter when a plan finally comes together.
Aviary Attorney | PC & Mac | June 2015
Games that can be described as “It’s just like X but…” are often concerning. If the only way of describing a game is directly comparing it to another game then there’s probably trouble on the way. Aviary Attorney absolutely smashes this rule by the sheer weight of its ridiculousness.
You see Aviary Attorney can best be described as being like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, but with anthropomorphic animals in the place of the humans that normally investigate crimes. If that isn’t enough to grab your interest, it’s also set in 19th century Paris amidst the rumblings of another revolution, includes art from 19th century caricaturist J. J. Grandville, and features some wonderfully funny dialogue. What’s not to like?
To put it simply, I loved every moment I had with Aviary Attorney, more than happily playing through the full demo on show. The bumbling lead character, Monsieur Jayjay Falcon, is incredibly endearing, even if he may not be the best lawyer in Paris. There’s even more to like about Sparrowson, his young assistant who, despite being French, speaks in a Cockney accent in my head.
Gameplay wise you probably know what to expect. You investigate the crime, interviewing witnesses and collecting evidence, before heading to court to use the information you’ve gathered to try and free your client. You’re left to work out what information is relevant for yourself, and it seems like the possibility of failure is very real.
The best possible praise I can give this game is that I am absolutely dying to spend more time with it. It’s silly, fun and just a little bit brilliant. What more can you ask for?
Starship Mechanic | PC | 2015
When you think about huge space battles you imagine fighter pilots strafing their targets or admirals commanding entire fleets. What you don’t tend to think about are the people who actually keep everything going, the mechanics and engineers. While the chief engineer has been an important role in the various incarnations of Star Trek, games seem to largely overlook this character and rarely let you take on any of their responsibilities.
Starship Mechanic is aiming to fix this by having you play as an engineering Ensign. Orders from the bridge will tell you what system’s are down, and it’s your job to get them back up.
Things start simply as you repair the comms system, but you’ll quickly find yourself having to get the right set of shields up or put out a fire as your take damage. Things rapidly become extremely stressful as the pressure mounts, and despite your lack of agency you rarely feel removed from the heat of battle.
Unfortunately, where the current version of Starship Mechanic falls down is the sheer size of the engineering department. You have to trek through a large, sparsely populated room to move from system to system, with key elements like the ship’s generator being oddly tucked up in a corner. Shrinking the room and rearranging it would up the pace and make things feel a lot tighter.
I was, however, told by the developer’s showing the game that this was still a very early build, and the first time they showed it in public. For an early version it handles itself well, and you can really see what they’re aiming for. If the gameplay is refined then I could easily see Starship Mechanic bringing something fresh to the sci-fi genre.
Her Story | PC, Mac & iOS | Early 2015
Her Story is a bit of an oddity, in much the same way that SALT is. While they are both certainly games, it makes more sense to talk about them as interactive fiction.
Rather than the social network that SALT is based around, Her Story gives you access to a police database of interview footage shot on VHS and eventually digitised. This footage is all live action, and stars Viva Seifert as the accused.
Your aim is to build up a picture of the crime, although you’re not hoping to get a conviction or anything like that. In fact if you so wish you can skip to the final interview and find out the truth of what happened, although you’ll need to hit on the right search term to get there.
Searching and watching videos is all there really is to Her Story, but it’s incredibly compelling. The videos have all been transcribed so you can search for any phrase easily, or you can give them your own tags should you wish.
Each video returned by the search is relatively short, leaving you to not only piece together the game’s story but also the interviews themselves. Presenting snippets of information out of their broader context really helps to get you guessing as to what everything means, forcing you to build up your knowledge in a patchwork manner.
The most interesting element of Her Story is there isn’t a goal that’s forced on you mechanically. You’re free to explore and research whatever elements interest you. If you’d rather build up a picture of this woman’s life then you’re free to do so, or you can focus in on very specific elements of her testimony, trying to find contradictions. The former is what really interested me, but you really can approach this however you want.
This free exploration idea is one that really works, as does pretty much every element of the game’s presentation. When we still have many games that struggle to convey a story well, Her Story stands out as a game that is entirely about story, and I can easily see people becoming obsessed with uncovering every nugget of information the interviews offer.