Tag Archives: themes

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince – Episode 1 (PC) ~ Rhyming For A Cake

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Quite often I get indie developers requesting me to take a look to their game. Today I want to talk about a game called “The Pepper Prince” which is an episodic adventure fully created in ASCII art. At the moment, there are 5 episodes planned and only the first episode has been released. Full disclosure, the developers provided me with a press key for this review. And as usual, in this article you will find my 100% honest opinion. So, let’s get backing and rhyming for a wedding cake of two princes. Yes, princes. And also as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

The positives

pp-7The story in this game is very quirky. It’s completely written in rhyme and it’s enjoyable to read through. The humor, charm and pacing is just on point.

The only minor thing is that the story was over before I knew it, it was that well-crafted, it drew me in that much that I forgot that each episode contains only one hour of gameplay. I’m now even more excited to play the following parts of the story.

The gameplay of this game is quite enjoyable. It’s a great point-and-click game where you need to look for items to help other characters that in turn help you to progress your quest. The “TO DO” list in the journal was a great help when I didn’t know what my next steps would be.

The visual presentation isn’t for everybody. I can totally imagine some players looking at the ASCII art and skipping this game. But not for this retro gamer, oh no! While playing this game, I felt like I looked up my old-school retro gaming PC and I was playing those old DOS games during those winter-y nights with a cup of hot chocolate and an a warm blanket wrapped around me. This game leaves a lot up to the imagination and I love it when games pull this off well.

The music in this game adds to the old school charm. The only thing I would recommend to the developers is that there is an option to have more MIDI music playing. It would just make the whole experience that more perfect.

The difficulty in this game is just right. Thanks to the journal, you have a great list of all the things you have to do. You can always ask about various tasks to all the characters that often point you in the right direction. While this game doesn’t have a mini-map screen, the characters point you in the right direction by saying things like: “I have seen him go west.” and things like that. Now, this game isn’t too challenging. In a matter of fact, it’s quite easy and relaxing actually.

The negatives

pp-2Now, this game is very well created. But, there are some things I would change in a future update or for the following episodes.

I’m quite happy to see an achievement for speedrunners. You get an achievement when you are able to finish the first episode in 15 minutes. Now, I totally miss one option that would make this even more helpful. A timer. Yes, a timer so speedrunners can keep track of the time and know when they need to restart when they aren’t going to make the 15 minute mark.

Something I would personally change is the color of either the items you can pick up and the characters. At the moment, they use the same color. This confused me a few times, thinking that an item was a character I could interact with. In addition to that, a small sound effect when you get something in your inventory would be a great addition.

This whole game is controlled by the mouse. Something that would add quite a lot to the charm of this game is if you were able to use the keyboard to control this game to some extent. Since a lot of old school DOS games don’t support the mouse. But that might be just my preference.

Conclusion

This game nailed the charm of an old school DOS game perfectly. The game is enjoyable and great to play through.

The game also has a lot of potential and with a few changes, the game can become even better.

If you are into point-and-click games and or into old school DOS games, I highly recommend this game. Like I said earlier in my article, I was pulled into the charm and story of this game so much, I forgot that the game is quite short. It made me even more excited to play the upcoming episodes of this game. I want to see how the story will continue and where it takes me next.

The game is also quite cheap on Steam, so I think you have no excuse to give this game a go. I enjoyed the relaxing gameplay. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the amount of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt myself too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of my games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing worked. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this story time about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too much plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPG’s use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beaten the first three levels of a top down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat the certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and theme is this. A big open world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Across The Moment (PC) ~ Let’s Go On A Journey!

Across the moment logo

Official Steam Page

Today, I want to take you on a journey. The journey that the game “Across The Moment” tell you. Currently, the first episode is out. There will be 4 episodes in total. The three other episodes will come as an update in the future. To write this review, I got a review code from the developer. The developer also gave me full control in what I could write in my article. So, this is completely my opinion. In any case, enough introduction. Time to get reviewing this moment. Well, “Across The Moment”. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Note: While I have almost finished the first episode, I’m not going to make this a review since not all episodes are out.

Artstyle tells it all

Across The Moment (2)When you look at the promotional screenshots of this game, one thing is quite clear. This game doesn’t look like your run of the mill adventure game. And it is, this game is trying to tell a grim story about somebody falling into a depression and doing something. I won’t talk about it since it would spoil the game a bit in my opinion. But believe me, this game talks about some heavy subject matter. It also has some social commentary that really made me think about how our lives currently work.

The story gets more power from the voice acting. While the voice acting didn’t click with me at first, after the story started to get more and more clear, I started to understand and appreciate the voice acting and the direction it got.  The only thing I shall say is, imagine it’s somebody telling his life story about he fell into a depression and how defeated he felt. It really comes through in the pacing and voice acting.

Apart from the dialogue, the story is also told by the journal. Whenever something happens, it gets written down in the journal. From story bits to observations of the world you are in. I really like how this game is written. It clearly shows a passion for the story that the creator wants to tell with his game.

Everything is documented from the game, so when you take a break from the game for a while or when you need a refresher on what happened in a certain place or world, you can look it up in the journal. It’s an extremely handy tool.

Thanks to the dark artstyle with bright colors, the story gets even more meaning. The only issue I have with the art style is that sometimes the game is a bit too dark and you barely see where a wall is.

Visually, the game succeeds in setting the required atmosphere. I really liked the world building and the story is told through symbolism. The animations are great too. The use of color really helps to guide the player to where to go next. If I may change one thing in terms of visuals is that more items you can pick up like the screwdriver or the belt are in a different color, even a different shade of grey. Since it’s not always clear if there is an important item you missed or not.

Let’s Go On A Journey

Across The Moment (3)The first episode takes about 1 and half hours to complete if you really know what you are doing. If the other chapters are this long, I think you have a 12-hour game on your hands. But, let’s keep our focus on the current released episode.

This game is a 3D adventure game. It’s more of a walking simulator with a lot of puzzles and exploration. So, basically, it isn’t a walking simulator at all. In this game, you have to solve puzzles to be able to open doors and progress to the next area. Here is where some issues are with the game. My biggest complaint is the inventory. In my honest opinion, the inventory system is decent, apart from one thing. The system that is used to combine items is just annoying to use. Perhaps it’s a limitation of the Unreal 4 Engine being used, but it’s annoying to use. You must click on the ying-yang symbol, drag one item in the left box and the other item in the right box and click on the misaligned “yes” to try and combine them. You don’t even get any feedback if you can’t combine the items. It makes controlling the game annoying.

Which is a shame, since the controls for this game work fine for the most part. I wish that the controls were rebindable. Since, just like various other indie titles, they don’t know that “AZERTY” exists and now I must put my fingers weird again.

Just for you QWERTY-users, a reference. To move forward, I must use the Z key. And to move backward, the Q-key. The S & D-keys do their job fine. Anyways, let’s get back to reviewing this game.

There are two other things I want to point out about the controls. One is there is something odd you can do while you open your inventory. You can still duck, stand up and jump. Also, when you hold any of the movement keys, you hear the walking sound effect.

The second thing I want to talk about in terms on the controls is the jump. Besides having a great jump arc, the jumping is stiff in my opinion. I noticed that when you jump first and then press the move forward key, you don’t reach as far as you jump after you have moved forward a bit.

The jumping mechanic needs some polishing up. I found it frustrating and unreliable to use, especially in the platforming segments of the game. There was one segment in the game that took way too long to make. It would be great too if there were some checkpoints between the jumping segments. There is nothing more frustrating than being almost at the end of a jumping segment and falling all the way down for just one minor mistake.

Symbols

Across The Moment (1)In terms of the music, the soundtrack is good. The style of the soundtrack isn’t 100% my thing, but I love how it adds to the atmosphere of the game. The sound design is decent. While I wish there were a bit more sound effects for when you jump or when you land, I think the sound design is like I said: decent.

The difficulty in this game really depends if you can see the solution or not. Sometimes, the solution isn’t that clear and you are overlooking one thing. Really experiment with your environment and your inventory if you are stuck. Try the “everything on anything and combine everything with everything” tactic if you are stuck.

This game is also available in Chinese and Russian. It’s still a mystery to me why this option isn’t in the options menu but in the main menu. I think it would be more helpful if you move this option in the options menu, to be honest.

I do have to say, this game is only 3€ on Steam. I think that you get more value for your money when you buy this game. If you are interested in this game, I think you should buy this game.

There are also Steam Achievements and trading cards for people who are interested in that. There are 4 card drops for 6 cards to create a badge. Good luck.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I can’t wait to see the second episode of this game since I really want to know where the story goes next. Thank you so much to the developer for giving me a key to try out this game. I really enjoyed my time with this game. I hope you also enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.