Lunatic War

Freem Page

Lunatic War is a game consisting entirely of 12 boss fights separated by brief dialogue skits (all in Japanese) and it makes the most of the content it has to offer. Every boss has a unique and often creative design and, more importantly, each fight is memorable with some fights consisting of two or more phases. Though there are not multiple difficulties, you have access to both a Mega Man buster and a Kirby-ish magic glove and your choice between the two dramatically alters how you approach nearly every fight.
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Cylor vs The Bullets From Hell

itch.io Page || Official Site

The boss fights are often the best parts of bullet hell shmups, so Cylor vs The Bullets From Hell cuts right to the chase by focusing entirely upon a single, ever-evolving boss. Over half a dozen difficulties gives this game plenty of replayability and the fight itself has many memorable twists both aesthetically and in terms of gameplay.
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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.

Escape Goat 2

Steam Page || Official Site

Escape Goat 2 makes some significant improvements over its predecessor in terms of aesthetics and content, but wisely doesn’t shy too far away from the original formula. With over 100 rooms in the main campaign alone and a perfect blend of action, puzzle solving, and a humorously serious tone wrapped around its ridiculous premise, Escape Goat 2 is a significant improvement over its already rather good predecessor and it is sure to please newcomers to the action puzzle genre and veterans alike.
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