Posted tagged ‘Demo Review’

Sunday Demo: Winter Voices

January 10, 2011

WinterVoices

The name doesn’t make sense until you jump into this odd, episodic game.

I picked up Winter Voices for this weeks demo mainly because the cover art looked pretty. I’m not kidding here, but that’s the point. To randomly pick up demos and give them a try. When I picked up the game I didn’t realize that it was episodic and that the demo was just the first part of the prologue. Does this episodic game need to have it’s show cancelled, or is it destined to keep you coming back for each new episode?

Winter Voices starts out like an RPG, which I was kind of surprised about. You are a young woman in a very small village, with no option to change your sex. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but being a man it can sometimes be difficult for me to get behind a female avatar in an RPG. I’m sure the ladies in the audience understand.

WinterVoicesCharacter1

You must choose from one of three professions, and the game says that it will play out drastically different depending on your choice here. Sadly for the first time player there are really only two options, as the third is only for veterans. You might scoff at that, but until you’ve played the game you won’t really understand why it’s important to listen to the game when it tells you to pick on of the other two professions if it’s your first time.

WinterVoicesCharacter2

Next is the stat select screen. You’re allowed to allocate fifty points into any of six stats, but again until you play the game you won’t really understand what some of these options will do for you. Memory for example increases the XP you receive, but also increases the damage you take. When I first read that I was a little confused as to why having a better memory would cause you to get hurt more, but it all makes sense once you get into the game.

After that you’ll pick an avatar for your character ala Baldur’s Gate, then generate the 3D model your character will use. You don’t have a ton of options, with three or four outfits with different colors and a handful of hairstyles, but character creation is not what Winter Voices is about. The narrative is where Winter Voices things it’s strength lies, and it may later on in the game, but from my experience it is the combat sections that really made Winter Voices stand out.

Story wise you play a young woman whose aloof father has just died.

WinterVoicesDadDead

Right there. DED.

The art style is something to behold, the cutscenes done in a ‘painted’ comic book style and the main game in a unique, washed out style that really caught my eye. It controls a lot like Fallout with an isometric camera and a point and click interface. The resolutions leave something to be desired as there are only five or six. I had a large black border around the game world, like old Ultima Online, but it didn’t bother me as the game uses that space to hold the UI elements.

Once you enter the game world you’ll quickly get into your first combat situation, and you’ll realize how different this RPG is from other games in the genre. For instance your combat seems more focused on escaping, not fighting. You’ll gain abilities that will help you get away, or prevent damage, and I assume that eventually you’ll be able to fight back, but you couldn’t in the demo and I think the game is better for it.

WinterVoicesSkills

Winter Voices has a pretty crazy looking skill tree with tons of skills. Each one is pretty unique and it’s fun to figure out how you could use each one.

You won’t just be spamming a flee button either, you’ll be navigating the battlefield like in Fallout, with a certain amount of movement points per turn and a grid to walk on. Your job is to figure out how to use your skills and abilities, as well as the terrain, to get away from the enemies without taking enough damage to kill you. This includes both setting and avoiding traps as well. Luckily you get an ability early on that allows you to find traps, if you want to waste a turn to do so.

WinterVoicesTraps1

It’s important to realize that Winter Voices is not a traditional RPG. It feels more like an adventure survival horror game at times, and though it might not be unique it certainly was a new concept to me. The presentation is pretty amazing for the $5 price tag, though the dialog and spelling could have used a few more checks before it was released. At times it almost feels like a foreign title, which it is, but the translation is acceptable and can be intriguing at times.

One thing I wanted to touch on quickly was the save and loading system. Any RPG could learn a thing or two from it, especially the Western RPGs like The Elder Scrolls and Gothic. When you load a game, you are presented with a list of characters. You choose which character you want to load, then it will show you all of the saves that were made for that character. This would have been a life saver with Oblivion, and there were even entire programs developed to better organize Oblivions terrible save system.

WinterVoicesSaveScreen

In short this is one of the best demos I have tried since starting the Sunday Demo Review. I highly recommend at least giving it a download, and at $5 per episode I’m going to enjoy tearing through the interesting story and gameplay style for a while, and the episodic nature of the game means I won’t be getting tired of the mechanics by the time I finish, and I’ll be drooling for another go by the time the next episode drops.

Sunday Demo: Nimbus

January 2, 2011

It’s that time again. Time to dig through Steams demo section and bring you my opinions. So far we’ve had pretty good luck, but will it continue with this Sunday Demo? Let’s find out.

NimbusOpening1

The Nimbus demo doesn’t have much story, and I’m guessing it’s the same for the full game. The demo opens, Mario Bros style, with a big bad arriving and stealing your…purple ship companion thing… anyway, this gives you all the motivation you need to start rocking your little jet engines. Except you don’t have any, or any other way of propelling your ship through the levels except for what you find along the way.

Nimbus is an odd mix of racing the clock, puzzle solving, and high score coveting. You’ll try to beat the high scores of you, your friends, and worldwide leaderboards. There is a small amount of customization available in the demo, allowing you to pick a different look for your ship, or a different color contrail, but it’s pretty simple and shallow.

NimbusOverworld1

 

You’ll take your ship around an overworld much like Mario 3. Certain paths will be open or closed depending on whether you have completed a certain objective at a branching path world. The graphics of the overworld are charming, reminding me of old school platformers, and in particular Sonic The Hedgehog. This is pretty fitting, seeing as the sense of speed you can experience in Nimbus rivals anything in a Sonic game.

NimbusBounce1

The unique spin for Nimbus comes from your lack of propulsion. Unable to thrust yourself, you must ride currents, bounce off of certain platforms, or fire yourself out of cannons. It’s a fun concept, though it can get frustrating when you can’t figure out exactly what you’re supposed to do to complete a section.

You do have a break, but you’ll only use it on the one level that tells you to. Otherwise you’ll fly as fast as you can, bouncing off of everything you can while trying to reach the end of the map. Sometimes there will be a golden coin to collect, and it’ll be hidden or out of the way, forcing you to decide whether you want to go for it or just finish the level.

I’m not exactly sure why all of the indie games I’ve played recently are obsessed with puzzles, but Nimbus follows suit. You’ll spend more time trying to figure out the sequence of events that will send your ship flying through the level, than actually playing the level. That’s not to say it isn’t fun, it is. It’s just that I’m a little sick of puzzle games in general.

Overall I thought that the Nimbus demo was pretty enjoyable, and if Steam has another sale and I can find Nimbus for under $4 I’ll pick it up. It seems more suited to be an iPhone, PSP or DS game than a full fledged computer game, so I can’t really recommend it at the normal price of $9.99.

Give the demo a try if you’re bored, but it’s nothing special enough to warrant a download just to experience. With cute graphics, fun ethereal music, and an interesting take on the platforming puzzler, Nimbus is fun but ultimately nothing special, and it’d be more compelling on a handheld platform.

NimbusLevelClear1

The Sunday Demo

December 27, 2010

clonesdemo

 

Clones

I decided to pick up the clones demo without knowing anything about it other than the fact that the screenshots on Steam looked really cute. That doesn’t mean that the game is any good, but it’s been my experience that the better the art (not graphics) in a game the more likely it is that the developers aren’t just throwing out slop. It turns out that it’s a Lemmings style game where you have dozens of little guys that you need to try and get to an exit or finish line. You can’t control them outright most of the time, but they do have special moves allowing you to manipulate the environment. Does Clones rise about all the other Lemmings clones? Let’s get to the review.

From the minute I loaded up Clones I was having fun. The art style is excellent and the music is top notch. Not knowing what I was getting into, I was pretty pleasantly surprised to find a Lemmings clone. I started up the first level, a tutorial, and had a blast.

The level design for the tutorial levels is pretty simple. The idea is to teach you about the many abilities your clones have for altering the environment, such as a drill that can break through a floor, or blowing up your clone in order to destroy a part of the environment around it. There are many more abilities, and each of them have very specific situations in which they should be used.

I’m not a huge fan of puzzle games. It’s a sad truth that I don’t like to face. It’s made getting through Braid pretty difficult, and I completely gave up on World of Goo after nearly throwing my keyboard through my monitor. My problem is that I don’t like to fail. Oh I want it to be tough, but I want to just squeek by the first time. Once I start to fail I get more and more angry, and I have to quit for a while and come back later.

That said I had a blast with Clones throughout the entire tutorial. Once it booted me out, saying that I needed to complete more levels in order to continue with the tutorial on powers (What the hell is that?), I went and attempted the next area I had unlocked, a boss battle. The boss battles work like a head to head match, with the player trying to get more of their clones to the end than the computer is able to get. Instead of a side by side Tetris style view you get a full screen, and can see what the enemy is doing at any time by pressing a button.

It took me over a dozen tries to finally figure out what the hell I was doing (the tutorial levels didn’t really prepare me for this at all). Finally I managed to beat the boss by watching his screen the entire time and getting a better understanding of what I was supposed to be trying to do. Once I had completed the boss fight I discovered that the rest of that bosses levels were locked in the demo, so it was off to the next opened world where I feared I would meet another boss.

Instead of a boss this level greeted me with a platformer. You directly control a clone this time and the object is to use your abilities and power ups along the way to platform jump your way to the end of the level. Now I’ve been playing Super Meat Boy for the last few days and I have never played a better platformer. This made playing the platforming in Clones a terrible ordeal at first. The clone controls aren’t very good, and the levels, while well designed, require a much slower approach than I was initially ready for.

This entire time I had an odd feeling creeping up on me, and it was at this point that I realized exactly why. It may have over 150 single player levels (or so it claims), but the game seems like it was designed for competitive multiplayer. Head to head battles seem to be the order of the day, with the ability to use your clones to steal the enemies scoring clones, adding their total to yours. It sounds like a blast, unfortunately no one seemed to be online to play. I tried joining a random game and it told me it couldn’t find any, so I tried hosting my own game. After twenty minutes of searching for someone to play against I finally gave up.

clones_screenshot_0013

You’ll see this lonely screen for a very long time unless you have a friend trying the game with you

Overall I though Clones was a fun, if highly frustrating puzzle game that was very reminiscent of Lemmings, but with a few new twists. The art style is wonderful and fun, and the sound is very nice, except for the odd heavy german accent of the announcer saying the boss names. It just seemed out of place. I’d suggest anyone who is a fan of Lemmings, puzzle games or with a high frustration threshold at least download the demo and give it a try.

The game itself is $9.99, though it is 50% off right now so if you like it, pick it up while it’s on sale.

The Sunday Demo

December 20, 2010

I hate when games come out that don’t have demos. It really pissed me off and makes me feel like they are hiding a poor game, hoping for ignorant purchases instead of informed decisions to sell their games. Sadly I have to admit that I still don’t get around to playing all of the demos that are available, so I’ve recently decided to change that. This will hopefully be a weekly thing where I play a demo, and let you know what I thought of it. Here we go:

VVVVV

VVVVVV

VVVVVV has a terrible name. I’m sure that it’s actually kind of clever if you are the developer and understand exactly where it comes from, but I’m not and I don’t, and I think it sucks. Terrible name aside, I found the demo for this game to be pretty enjoyable.

The graphics, as you can see from the screenshot above, evoke an Atari feel as far as the platforms and the pixelized hero are concerned. The backgrounds however are vibrant and highly animated, though subtle enough not to distract from the exacting gameplay. I’ve also never felt so sorry just from a sad face. The emotion the main character expresses is surprisingly good.

The sound is also designed to remind you of old Atari or NES music, and for the most part it’s fine. There are times when the beeps and boops will hit a terrible pitch that made me want to mute the game, but other than those few instances the music was acceptable.

The gameplay is where VVVVVV really stands out. Like Bionic Commando back in the day VVVVVV removes your ability to jump. Unlike Bionic Commando, VVVVVV chooses to allow you to manipulate gravity instead of using a stupid little grappling hook. VVVVVV utilizes only three buttons, left, right and space. Space inverts gravity, allowing you to walk on the ceiling or floor depending on what you need. You’ll use these simple controls to navigate insane mazes of spikes. Luckily the developers included numerous save points, and you’ll instantly respawn just inches from where you died, allowing you to try, try again until you get it right without punishing you too badly for your mistakes.

The controls were sometimes unreponsive, either shooting your character much farther than you meant to go, or not changing gravity when you press space. The first issue might have to do with the game utilizing a keyboard for platforming. I love PC gaming, but a keyboard does not offer the precision necessary for most platformers. It’s acceptable, but not a great idea. Perhaps the full game will have gamepad support, but I seriously doubt it based on the very sparse menu and the utter lack of options in the demo.

Overall I thought the game was pretty fun, and at $4.99 on Steam it’s a game I’ll be picking up come payday. I highly recommend anyone who enjoys good platforming at least check out the demo. While it can be frustrating at times it’s a unique game that is a lot of fun.

Have you played VVVVVV? Let me know what you thought of it in the comment section.