Bleed 2 is going to be released in less than a week (February 8), so now seems like a pretty good time to look at the original game in this series. For those unfamiliar with Bleed , it is a brutally hard game focused mostly on its many boss fights which are spread out between seven short and rather varied levels. It shows its age a bit in spots, but the crisp combat and the incredibly smooth controls hold up as well as ever. (more…)
Long ago, I stumbled upon the demo for cloudphobia and expected to never be able to access the full game as it was only available in Japan, so seeing an official Steam release for this game was a massive, nostalgia-fueled surprise to say the least. Setting itself apart from every other shmup I can remember, cloudphobia incorporates a strict time limit into each of its levels and players must make use of a speed boost ability to complete each stage before running out of time while also watching their own health as well as the health of the unseen mothership. If you ever thought the shmup genre could benefit from some added complexity, then this is definitely a game you won’t want to pass up! (more…)
Pinkman is a fast, stylish platform where you run, jump, and fart (yes, really) your way through 100 short levels. Between the focus on rocket launchers, the laser turrets, the sleek, minimalistic graphics, and the ultimate goal of flipping switches to open exit doors there seems to be a fair amount of influence from the N series at work here, but Pinkman goes beyond being a clone by taking these elements and combining them with new mechanics (like farting) with the end result being a game which can stand on its own merits. (more…)
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 piñatas 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.
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.