[Early Access] Erwin’s Timewarp

 

Data Break Up
Game: Erwin’s Timewarp
Genre: Adventure, Indie, Strategy
Developer: Jayanam
Publisher: Jayanam
Release Date: Sep 21, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  4/10
Graphics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 3/10
Sound: 2/10
Story: 2/10
Replay Value: 1/10 (at current state)
Community: N/A

 

Erwin’s Timewarp is an adventure game. You play as the pet dog of some scientist who built a time machine and sent you to the past, and you’re tasked with finding various pieces of this machine in order to return to the present.

Starting the game you’re able to put it in various resolutions of window mode, and you can also choose to play at full screen; this is something I usually really appreciate as I don’t always like to play certain games in full screen. However, there’s little else in the form of proper menu and options. The only sounds to be found in the game at its current stage were also only in this menu, and unfortunately, the music was completely awful to me. I could not click out of the menu fast enough.

Visually the game is kind of cartoony. It’s relatively good looking and the textures are nice, as well as the details on the areas; for an indie unity game in 3D/top-down/isometric view it ran surprisingly well on my computer, so kudos to the dev for that accomplishment. I usually have a lot of optimization issues with indie games on unity.

As I mentioned before, there’s little in the way of sounds or music outside the menu, and that is almost a blessing considering my dislike for the meny music.

You’re also tossed into the game with little in the form of tutorial, explanation, or back story. In fact you’re only told a couple times about what’s going on and what you’re supposed to do and find. If you didn’t read the description on the steam page, you’d have no idea what you’re supposed to do until you encounter that alien – which btw, I’m still wondering why there’s an alien there.

The puzzles are fairly easy to follow on what you need to get in order to do what, but the way of interacting with things is a bit uncomfortable. Sometimes objects will highlight but not pop up hints, the icons offered as menu aren’t clear on what they do until you click them and find out, and they won’t appear until you’re in some particular range and angle from the item. Still, the rest of the controls (mostly movement wise) are fairly good despite this.

What makes the game a bit harder is that you have to spend quite a bit of time trying to figure out what to do at the start, and you CAN die (and you can save, too, so be sure to save): some characters will hurt you, and you must also keep yourself fed through the game, which I guess is an interesting twist for an adventure/puzzle game, but frankly I’m still unsure if it works.

The character animations for the dog and companions are fairly good, but the human animations leave much to be desired. There were also some bugs in which, for instance, you’d get stuck against certain things.

All in all it seems like an ok game, and I can see some potential in it which is why I would recommend to keep a watch on it if it sounds interesting; but it really needs a proper introduction and a brief tutorial. I understand Early Access is expected to not be completely functional, but there’s “we’re still testing out things”  and then there’s “this shouldn’t really be open for sale and/or the public as a whole yet”.

If you like adventure games and want to support the dev, I’d recommend it, it’s an ok game with what it has so far. I can see potential in it, but currently it’s not something I’d recommend to just about everyone.

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[Early Access] Ninja Pizza Girl

 

Data
Break Up
Game: Ninja Pizza Girl
Genre: Action, Indie, Early Access
Developer: Disparity Games
Publisher: Disparity Games
Release Date: Sept 30, 2015
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 9/10
Sound: 9/10
Story: 8/10
Replay Value: 8/10
Community: N/A

 

Review

Disparity games brings us Ninja Pizza Girl, a platformer about Gemma, a teenager working as delivery girl at her father’s pizzeria. In between the story deals a little with self esteem, depressive moods, bullying, et all.

I was pleasantly surprised by this platformer; the graphics were actually really good (the art not quite as good, but it wasn’t bad for a cartoony style), and the performance on my lower-end PC was excellent (until you went into first person mode, more on that later). The controls were simple and comfortable, and I could pick to use either my keyboard or controller.
The music was really, really good. It was almost relaxing, and when it picked up pace it pumped up your energy enough to match, but didn’t make you nervous or stressed as some of the ‘speed’ platformers do.

The game basically consists of Gemma running and parkour/jumping through the many areas that make up this city. Along the way, and in later levels (each upping the difficulty a bit as they require more jumping and climbing) you will encounter opponent ninja delivery kids that will try to stop her and mock her. You will also be gathering various collectibles as you go (salvage, QR codes, etc) that will allow you to unlock outfits, extra goodies, and funny game modes.
The game also has a mood system (since it goes with the subject they’re going for); the worse you do on the different levels, the worse your mood gets. The worse your mood gets, the easier it is for you to collapse/fall/be unable to take the bullying. In order to improve your mood you must either buy pick-me-up items from the shop with the collectibles (games, chocolate, baths, teas… ) or new outfits (also bought with collectibles). I’m not entirely sure the message sent is right (“feel down? buy (something)!” is what it seems to say, and while it is a good way to lift your mood, it might lead to addictive behaviors on certain people, not that I actually think the average person will go out and do this obsessively, mind you), but I like the idea of the system nonetheless.

The game offers plenty of options, allowing for a highly customizable game. You can change the difficulty from really easy to really hard (by default it’s midway), the behavior of jumps, the length of time you have to finish the levels (I would have really, really loved a “timeless” option for those days I want a 0-pressure game, though) and so on. You can also use presets too if you’d rather not mess with things individually.
You can even customize how harsh you want the taunts/bullying to be, though I’m not sure why you would need this, but there you have it.

Going back to the menus, I mentioned earlier you can buy some extras. These consist of interviews, game art, and so on. It also includes “game craziness” goodies, one of which includes “first person mode”. While I loved the little option (even if I’m not a fan of first person), I do have a few things to remark about it: The drop in performance speed when playing in that mode for me was remarkable. It’s also not ‘really’ first person, since you still see the character’s head/body. (You’re basically right behind her head).In addition, the fact that the controls don’t change (you still are expected to use the left/right or a/d keys for moving forwards and changing directions) make it highly confusing and uncomfortable.
Still, I’m well aware you’re not -really- meant to play the entire game like that, so…

About the outfits you can buy, a few are repeats in color variations, and while they aren’t bad, I wasn’t overly thrilled with most of them. It would’ve been nice to see more outfit variations and either allow for a color slider to color it yourself, or simply make default colors and a wider variety.

The ambient of the city is nice, and I actually found myself liking it better when it was darker (the moodier Gemma got) than when it was brighter; not sure that was the expected outcome. It does get a little weird and slightly repetitive from time to time, but it’s not necessarily something that fully distracted me from the game itself.

There’s a last mode you can play in, “speedrun”, which includes leaderboards for those that like comparing their scores with others.

Overall I was very pleased with my playthrough of Ninja Pizza Girl, and it’s a definite recommendation from me if you like platformers.

Also, the Devs are active, supportive and helpful, which is always a plus!

Recommended:

[Early Access] Of Guards And Thieves


Thieves view

 

Data
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Game: Of Guards And Thieves
Genre: Action, Indie, Early Access
Developer: Subvert Games
Publisher: Subvert Games
Release Date: Jul 16, 2014
Platform: PC / Windows 7
Overall rating:  9/10
Graphics: 8/10
Controls: 9/10
Level/Puzzle Design: 9/10
Sound: 7/10
Story: N/A
Replay Value: 10/10
Community: 9/10

 

Review

Subvert games are really on the road to greatness with this top-down, action/stealth game. I’m not really a “capture the flag” type of player and I’m usually not fond of games that pit players against players (I prefer true co-op against AI), but Of Guards and Thieves captured my heart.

As the title indicates, Of Guards and Thieves’ first and basic premise is a game of cop/burglar. Because it’s in early access they only have multiplayer available (but they will add single player in the future); so you make a quick account, you either host or join a game, pick either side (or you are assigned it, depending if you host the game yourself or someone else has hosted it), and you’re in and playing.

The maps, which are fairly nice and big, have more than one item to steal. At the start of the round, thieves are given ONE of those items as target to steal.You can steal more than just that, but you won’t win the round unless you steal that particular thing. Thieves have the ability to see in the dark, making it easier to find your way, as well as to sneak through vents and a few other similar things. To balance it out, thieves are very easy to kill.

Guards are not told what the thieves have to steal, so they must guard everything. They can’t sneak through vents, and they can’t see in the dark at all; they do make the make really, really dark for you, to add complexity. To balance it out, guards are harder to kill.

Both can interact with lights (turn them on/off), and turn on/off flashlights, which for thieves can serve as camouflage from other guards.
For each of them you have some 3-4 type of guards and thieves to pick from, each wth their own stat set (some have more health, some less, etc).

I’m quite happy with the way they’ve balanced out the classes so that they can play off each other’s advantages and disadvantages in that sense, with the darkness for the guards and the ease to kill the thieves…

The rounds never last very long, but they are insanely fun to play with friends as much as with strangers. If Guards and Thieves aren’t your thing, or if you get bored of it, the game offers variety, not only different maps for you to select from, but also of game modes. Most of the game modes are all based on teams, though. You have capture the flag mode, zombie horde mode (in which you can be human or zombie), and a quasi-slender in which you can be slender going after the human or a human trying to find x pieces of something in the map… each one with their own particular skillset.

Although all those modes are fairly similar, they’re all fun to play. The game also offers one more mode, a soccer game, as well as a massive multiplayer map that is a bit RPG-like in that you even get an inventory and things like that (even if you’re basically pitted against one another). My experience with that one was fun, but of terrible lag when trying to move, so I ended up dying easily.

At some points I had some connectivity issues (it wouldn’t let me join official servers), but for the most the game ran smoothly.

All in all, I think although it has a very basic premise, is very fun to play, and for an early access it has quite a bit of maps and modes, with more added often. With the upcoming multiplayer and map editor, I think Of Guards and Thieves can be a real blast!

 


Guards view

First Impressions: Reflections (Early Access)

Data
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Game: Reflections
Genre: Adventure, Indie
Developer: Broken Window Studios
Publisher: Broken Window Studios
Release Date: Jun 26, 2015
Platform: PC / Played on Windows 7
Overall rating:  Promising
Graphics: 7/10
Controls: 8/10
Level/Puzzle Design:7/10
Sound: 5/10
Story: 3/10
Replay Value: 5/10
Community: N/A
Review

As far as early access games Reflections is still, in very, very early access. While it does have a handful of endings and actions to be made, there is a whole lot of content lacking still. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Let’s see here…

Reflections is one of those experimental type of games, it’s purposefully made in a way where you don’t know who exactly you are and what you look like, for it is your actions within the game that decide what ending you will get.
There isn’t that much of a story to be told, I suppose because you’re meant to make most of the story with what you do. You basically start as a teenager who is preparing to leave the family home to head to college, who may or may not have a girl/boyfriend, had a girl/boyfriend, or have a girl/boyfriend and cheat on them (when you start the game it gives you choices on who you’re currently dating, a boy, a girl, or neither; and who you had been dating in the past, and that’s about it). You can move, you can interact with objects by opening/closing doors and drawers, turning on switches, using keys, throwing stuff, etc; and you can walk or run around (though running seems to be a bit sloppy when it comes to turning while you do). For now (it’s unclear if it will remain like this or they will make it faster/slower) you have until nightfall (20 to 30 minutes) to get your affairs in order, and then you’re on your way to act 2, which is a different setting depending on what you chose to do or not do on the first act. Your actions also affect your relationship status and who you will be dating when you advance to the next act.

The game menu has fairly decent options for an early access game, so you can switch around video settings and a couple other things, which you will need to if you’re in lesser computers as the game can lag quite a bit. Unfortunately, I found that for some reason some of my options didn’t save, so every time I restarted the game I had to re-set half of them (I’m looking at you, screen resolution!).
The game has no music or sound on the menu, but it does have sounds when you’re in game; they’re fairly decent soundbites so far. The only music to be found is through records which you can find and put on a record player. The music isn’t very fitting to the peaceful, almost melancholic initial looks of the game, but since every record is quite different from the others, it’s actually quite a nice change of pace, and it gives you an ok choice of music to listen to – or none at all.
The models for the characters are decent, I actually rather liked most (but not all) of the ones I saw. In low settings, however, you lose the detail of something very important: the portrait with your significant other’s picture is just a bunch of blurred pixels.

Also, you can’t manually save your game, but it does save automatically between levels/acts.

Your trip through Reflections starts in black and white, and the actions you take in your world slowly color it, shaping your future. I won’t spoil what gets you what ending or anything, since the early access is rather short and has only a handful (3) of them.


Low settings graphics

So, without further ado, let’s jump right into what I liked and disliked about it so far, and how I think it could be improved.

Likes!

  • The setting is very nice. I like being able to explore and do things, just immerse myself in the game.
  • The idea that actions you take, as opposed to just choices in text, shape your destiny.
  • The way the house colors up when you accomplish things (though some of the colors are a tad bright and weird choices lol)
  • The developers are very active, nice, and listen to suggestions.
  • The “mini games” (mainly try and get darts on a board, skipping rocks, etc).

Dislikes! (or things that still need improvement/didn’t resonate with me)

  • The use of glow, particularly in the menu, but also in other areas, seemed to be a bit too liberal.
  • The loading times seem a bit long on my toaster of a computer.
  • You don’t have time to fully explore everything. I know this was done intentionally, because they want the actions on a time constraint to be meaningful, and I appreciate and understand the choice, but I would personally have liked best to have free time to look around, do everything, maybe trigger leaving to each ending by doing different actions as well instead of by an arbitrary time limit…
  • Painting the house. On the one-day time constraint there’s no way you can do it. Also, while I appreciated their attempt at realism, it makes me terribly dizzy to have to move the thing all over just to paint one bit of one wall. While it’d be unrealistic, I think just doing most of the wall and it automatically painting itself would be better in the long run.
  • There’s currently NO interaction with the boyfriend/girlfriend besides standing by them and listen to them go on and on at their own pace. Skipping dialogue via click would be nice. Being able to talk to them, make choices on what to say, etc, would also be nice (I read part of this is on the works). Would also be nice if the boyfriend/girlfriend would at least PRETEND to help you out with moving and such as opposed to just standing there.
  • The subtitles for the boyfriend were a bit hard to read.
  • Right now, the content completely skips college. I wish we could have some time to make more choices there. It seems like an important time in life to just skip.

Another thing I would have liked seeing would have been a choice of character on the start. Now, I know this was also intentional, as I read the developers wanted you to imagine whomever you wanted in the role, but being a role-player myself, I can’t help but think I’d still like to choose gender and some character customization, and make up my own character in game (and maybe get an actual reflection when I look into a mirror). But I suppose it’s also good as it is right now.

All in all, I feel like Reflections has a very good idea for an immersive game that could become quite interesting, but right now I don’t feel like it’s in a good enough state to be fully recommended for purchase, even as early access, unless you get it for very, very cheap (or free). I think once they add more content it might be worth a purchase if you’re into this kind of games, and it’s definitely worth keeping track on to see what they come up with in the future, but otherwise, I’d wait until it was more polished before trying this one out.

TL;DR
It’s a very interesting idea for a game with lots of potential, but it’s very unfinished in it’s current state and hence, not recommended for now.

Only recommended to get if: You truly believe this game will become awesome or love the type of games, it’s very cheap in a bundle or free, you wish to support the developers and give them their opinions to help shape the game, or the game has gotten a lot more content since this review, thus making it closer to worth the price tag.