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Demo – Umbrella Warriors

itch.io Page

This is a really short demo which, as you can see from the above video, can be finished in well under five minutes, but it shows plenty of promise for the future. This is a co-op sidescrolling action platformer where you take on the role of one of the ‘umbrella warriors’ tasked with saving sentient comets from scientists who have captured them in order to harvest their energy. It’s a weird setup, but it fits the comedic tone of the demo as you rampage through a city whose inhabitants consist of various types of dogs and small dragon people who come charging out from all sorts of places in the surrounding environment to attack you. There is clearly a lot of work left to do in the audio department as the only song in the game is a placeholder from Gradius III, but the graphics have a professional degree of quality to them. 3D environmental objects blend perfectly with the 2D character designs and the game makes great use of the environment surrounding the play area. A glass window in the background shatters to send shards of glass bouncing into the foreground, objects and streets can be seen far off in the distance, and an angry clock tower in the background attacks by spewing forth machine parts and extending its mallet-like fists into the play area. There is also a real sense of personality to the characters which reminds me of Alien Hominid as every enemy is quite expressive. In fact, even the piƱatas you shoot for weapon upgrades are expression and the healthbar has a face which becomes increasingly worried the lower it gets. As far as presentation goes, this demo knocks it out of the park and the only thing it lacks in this regard is an official soundtrack.

The aesthetics are great, but what about the gameplay itself? This area is also quite good and the gameplay differentiates itself from other action platformers with the inclusion of the umbrellas wielded by our protagonists, which I’ll discuss momentarily. By default you have access to a steady stream of rapid-fire bullets and you can take three hits per life, but the demo includes three other weapons. The first of these is the camera, which slightly modifies the normal attack and periodically takes pictures to create a short-range stunning cone in front of you; it’s a great weapon, though the constant clicking from the camera’s photos can become a bit annoying. The second weapon creates mid-range bouncing fireballs which deal a high amount of damage and, while I think the weapon is fine, I personally do not like using it and wish there was a way to simply discard unwanted upgrades. Lastly there is the boomerang, which is great for hitting enemies at odd angles or which are above and below you; it’s a pretty standard boomerang weapon, but that’s entirely fine and it’s my favorite of the three. The game explicitly states that it’s fine to make physical contact with enemies and only outright attacks, which are marked with circles, can hurt you and this lack of contact damage allows for the play area to frequently be filled with hordes of enemies pouring in from all directions.

As to the umbrellas, these are essentially shields which primarily serve to deflect enemy attacks at the cost of a portion of your gradually refilling SP gauge, but deploying them in the air slows your falling speed to allow for larger jumps and any enemies which make contact with them get bounced away. With this trinity of uses, the umbrellas add a considerable amount of depth to the mechanic and the ways in which these abilities might be combined can already be seen in the playground at the end of the demo where the slow falling speed makes it easier to jump across playground equipment while simultaneously fending off rocks thrown by children below you. As to improvements which I hope to see in future demos, it would be great to have a proper boss fight at the end as the clock is a rather easy miniboss and the demo currently ends rather abruptly upon jumping into a sewer. I also think the turrets which pop out of the sidewalk in some places could use more in the way of visual and/or auditory cues before they fire their bullets. Otherwise, this is a fantastic early demo which definitely hits the two more important objectives of any demo – immediately grabbing your attention from the moment you start playing and showing off many of the core mechanics and unique features the game has to offer within a short period of time.

Good Impression

itch.io Page

Now here’s a game about something most of us can relate to, though hopefully not to quite the same degree. Initially made as a Ludum Dare entry, Good Impression gives you a mere three minutes in which to clean up your impressively messy apartment before your mom arrives for an abruptly scheduled visit. Every plate must be washed, every stain must be rubbed clean, and every piece of trash must be disposed of as the clock continues to tick down and the music continues to escalate into a panicked frenzy. It may be tempting to toss a pile of unpaid bills into the closet or to shove an empty pizza box under the bed, but every inch of the apartment will be inspected and you can only make a truly good impression by putting everything where it properly belongs.

Good Impression excels at capturing the feeling of rushing to clean up for unexpected guests in a lot of little ways which makes the whole thing come together. Movement is slightly slippery and items are often far away from where they belong, which leads to fumbling around and running into furniture and pizza boxes while running around the room painfully aware of every wasted second. You need to mash X to clean up stains, but this also almost inevitably leads to temporarily dropping your improvised rag of choice after the stain is clean, wasting another second. Clothing is particularly tricky as the only way to tell clean and dirty clothes apart is to read the item names and even a single misplaced sock can tarnish your impression. The biggest factor of all in replicating the feeling of a hasty cleaning rush is the way storage works. First, items are removed from storage in the order in which they were put in, so if you realize that the last item placed in a storage container actually belongs somewhere else you’ll need to quickly pull out everything which came before it and scatter those items around the floor. Secondly, there isn’t a perfect amount of storage and what goes where isn’t always clear. Some hiding places have an excess amount of storage, others seem to have too little, and yet others just shouldn’t be used at all. Is there a way to toss all of the different types of pizza slices into a single box, just where can all the obvious trash go, and what can be shoved in the closet? These questions and more will race through your mind as you desperately tidy up your apartment and you’ll gradually gain a sense of accomplishment and pride at how clean the apartment begins to look, or at least you will until you realize that you left a dirty shirt on the floor behind the couch without a second to spare.

Derelict

itch.io Page
NOTE: A longer version of this game is currently in active development!

Derelict was made for Game Boy Jam 5 and takes full advantage of its setting. Taking place on a deserted space ship overrun by evil robots, Derelict requires players to gradually restore power in order to open doors and make their way deeper into the ship. The twist here is that power not only controls the doors, but also the artificial gravity. As a result, there is initially very low gravity in each new region and players will have to hold down the jump button to rapidly accelerate through the air, but fully restoring power allows for backtracking through previous rooms in a new way with a more standard jump which sacrifices raw freedom of mobility for much more accurate control. Shooting the gun also results in a fair bit of recoil while in low gravity conditions, especially if multiple shots are fired in quick succession, which can lead to being flung backwards out of a room or straight into some spikes. The two modes of travel feel wildly different with low gravity requiring more cautious play where the best course of action is often to find ways to avoid enemies and hazards while normal gravity encourages a much more aggressive playstyle.

Though there are some references to Metroid along the way, they don’t actually share much in common beyond the abandoned space station setting as there aren’t any upgrades here and progression is largely linear beyond some minor exploration for the sake of power cells. Difficulty is also well-balanced for the most part, though the first boss is far too easy to kill simply by spamming attacks and the third area can at times feel overly punishing as it is a large, low gravity region filled with spikes and bumping into a spike even once can start a chain reaction where the protagonist is mercilessly bounced between spikes until they die. Gun upgrades also feel underwhelming as they only occasionally drop from enemies and getting hit even once will knock down the gun’s level, so they tend to not stick around for very long. Otherwise, this is a remarkably polished and, relatively speaking, lengthy contest entry as the only updates post-contest as of this time have been bug fixes, few balance issues, and some very minor content updates.

I Dreamed Ocean ( IDO )

itch.io Page || Freem Page

I Dreamed Ocean is a short action platformer with keeps things simple. The game begins with its nameless protagonist jumping down a well strangely located in the middle of an almost entirely barren and very dry wasteland. From there it’s a matter of fighting off various demonic foes as you traverse the caverns below the well while seeking to plunge ever deeper. Movement has a methodical, smooth feel to it as the default walking speed is slower than in most platformers, but the protagonist can jump very high and quickly accelerates both on the way up and when falling back down. Your only normal form of attack is the traditional head stomp and the exact speed and height of the protagonist’s jump gives a very satisfying feeling of weight to this attack, especially since the rebound after stomping on an enemy is rather large. There is fall damage, so you can’t blindly jump everywhere, though you can fall from fairly high up before fall damage becomes a risk factor. Collectibles along the way include extra lives, full heals (which are especially important as you don’t heal between levels), keys for specific doors, and a temporary power boost which greatly increases your speed and allows you to kill enemies simply by walking into them. Enemy variety is fairly low, but it’s large enough for a game of this length and the enemies both look fantastic and are well-utilized.

The only downside to I Dreamed Ocean is parts of the level design could use some work, both aesthetically in in terms of layout. One level has a large, empty tunnel with a full heal and an extra life at the end which doesn’t make up for the fact that the tunnel itself is just boring and pointless while in another level you can take some time to go down a path only to arrive at a gate which requires a key found in a different path. Backgrounds are also bland to look at, which is a bit of a shame as the enemy and character design is consistently great and the calm soundtrack fits will with the more methodical pacing. These issues ultimately don’t detract too much from the overall experience though and, while it’s unlikely to blow anyone away, I Dreamed Ocean has a memorable sense of pacing and style which definitely makes it worth taking 15 or so minutes to play it through to the end.

Kruunu

Game Jolt

Sometimes all it takes for a platformer to be great is a solid sense of pacing and some smooth controls. Kruunu is one such game and the ascent up its impossibly tall, broken tower is thoroughly enjoyable. The protagonist’s movement speed feels just right, wall jumping and sliding is utterly painless, and the horizontally looping screen allows for clever visual puzzles and even more freeform platforming. The game also gets quite a bit of mileage out of its bee and worm enemies, both of which simply move horizontally and turn around when they hit a wall. Checkpoints are spread out fairly well with a few which feel a bit too far apart, though the fast pace of the platforming means even the larger segments don’t actually take all that long at all. Finishing the game is actually where the true challenge is revealed in the form of a literal Hell tower. This second tower is a massive jump up in difficulty from the first one, with pixel-perfect jumps, swarms of enemies, and hundreds of spikes. The difference between the two towers is such that I think the game could have benefited from a third, more moderately difficult tower between the two, but as it stands I am glad to see a game which offers both an easy, flowing platforming experience and a brutally hard one alongside top-tier platforming controls.