Thursday, January 27, 2011

Devblog: Riot Grrrl Custom Art!

So, if you've been clicking on the tabs at the top of the page then you'll know I've been working on a game called Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl. The game's coming along really well and I'd like to think that it's being anticipated in the wider RM* community but... that's not really what this blog's about.

What this blog is about is some awesome custom art my friend James did for the project. Working from a single 16-bit sprite and this drunken instruction, "Dude, just draw whatever you want!", he managed to turn out this portrait of Sore Losers: Riot Grrrl's main character, Cheska...

... and it is basically amazing!

So, yeah, I'm pretty freakin' happy with it. Maybe I can coerce him into drawing more stuff with the promise of more beer (as I definitely owe him a couple of pints after this)! 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: Notrium

Title: Notrium
Developer: Instant Kingdom
Genre: Survival/Adventure
Program: Custom

Notrium is a game of survival. Having crash-landed on an alien planet, your character needs to scavenge for food, keep himself warm and find suitable shelter without being killed off by an array of savage, alien species. The eventual aim is to find the equipment required to repair your escape pod so that you can fly off the planet, but you're more likely to end up dead than end up back in space! Why are you going to be dying so much? Because the game pushes it's survival-based mechanisms really hard, giving your character no less than four different factors to worry about. 

The first of these is your hunger meter, which you need to keep topped up by scavenging for food from a variety of sources. Edible fungi will make up most of your diet and these quickly become a valuable resource, but you are also able to eat the meat of any aliens you kill. The hunger meter is eaten up (get it?) continuously, with consumption increasing whenever you walk, throw a punch etc. and is usually your primary concern as a result.

The second factor you need to worry about is your character's temperature. The environment around you will become both too cold (i.e. at night or when you stand in the rain without any cover) and too warm (walking through desert environments), forcing you to make campfires or use ice-packs to maintain a good temperature. Some terrains are impassable without these items available (try crossing a desert map without any ice packs, for instance), which adds a Zelda-esque items vs. passability element to proceedings. Although far from your primary concern, you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on your temperature gauge when entering a new area.

Another factor to consider is the amount of battery power you have, as this is used for devices ranging from torches to radios; these items are often incredibly useful (the radio will help you locate nearby items, for example, and you definitely don't wanna go exploring at night without a torch) so you're gonna want to keep that battery charged. 

The final factor is your health, which isn't just affected by taking damage as it is also affected by hunger and temperature; if you get too hungry or you get too hot/cold then you're going to start taking damage. Heat stroke is probably the worst of these as it makes walking, which you need to do in order to get into the shade, much harder.

The interface used in Notrium showing your temperature (purple), battery (blue), hunger (yellow) and health (red).

Overall, I thought that these factors were balanced really well. Being forced to keep a close eye on your item management, coupled with the fact that you know resources are finite, makes exploring the alien planet really taxing (in a good way, of course). Do you want to eat that fungi now or do you want to save it for later? Is it vital that you have your flashlight on or are you sure there's no aliens lurking around in those trees? Just exploring this alien planet is incredibly fun, so much so that it almost makes your end goal irrelevant (something I'd say it has in common with Fallout 3, another game where I spent more time exploring than I did trying to finish the actual game).

The only let down from a gameplay point of view is the combat. Seeing as this is a top-down game, the combat reminded me heavily of the combat in the early Grand Theft Auto games and I was never really impressed with the combat in those games either. There's a number of reasons for this, but the main two revolve around projectile weapons; they were always really hard to use because the bullets moved so slowly and being able to kite around the enemy's slow moving bullets turned their guns into an absolute joke. Both of these problems apply in Notrium and, although the game does make up for it in other ways, having supposedly scary enemies be far too easy to kill or avoid spoils some of the survival elements at play.

I can kite around this alien all day long and he's never gonna catch me!

From an artistic point of view, there isn't much wrong with this game, with the real strong-point being the atmosphere it sets via clever use of sound-effects. Take night-time, for instance; you can hear the rustling of aliens moving around in the trees, their howls and cries making you wonder whether or not one is about to jump out and start attacking you, forcing you to keep your flashlight on even though you know that you want to save the battery power for something else. The atmospherics work really well with the gameplay (you need to conserve resources, but you're constantly scared you're about to get torn to bits!), squeezing every bit of entertainment they can out of what is a relatively simple set of survival mechanisms.

This game takes a bunch of different elements and, with the exception of combat, executes them all brilliantly. Exploration is especially fun and, when combined with a wonderful selection of sound-effects, results in a very tense experience. Definitely worth a play. 7/10.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: Ammo Roar

Title: Ammo Roar
Developer: Zack
Homepage: Gamejolt Homepage
Genre: Shoot'Em Up/Arcade
Program: Custom

Ammo Roar is a shoot 'em up that takes gravity, slaps it about a bit and then forces it to do stuff it doesn't really want to. With graphics and music that mimic the spectacular Super Crate Box, the game is an instant aesthetic hit for me, but does it play anywhere near as good?

Dressed for success! This game looks amazing, even when you're dead!

The concept is simple; you have a gun and three lives, there are zombies and the zombies need to die. The twist is that shooting in any direction will force you to move in the opposite direction and that this is the only way you can move around the screen. Surrounded by two zombies? No problem, just shoot into the ground and fly away from them both! It sounds easy, but combining shooting and moving into a single control actually makes everything incredibly freakin' difficult. Did you ever play Cave Story? It's like having the machine gun that lets you fly around, only in a tighter space and with way more enemies!

Unfortunately for your character's already limited life-span, it's not just the zombies that are getting in your way. The levels are designed in such a way that traps like spikes will do some nasty damage to you if you happen fly into them and, if you ask me, just trying to get around some of the maps in a single, fluid motion is pretty difficult... yet alone doing so whilst avoiding and shooting zombies!

It's not all doom and gloom, though, as there are a bunch of power-ups to help you! Most of them do exactly what they say on the tin (double score makes your score go up twice as fast, go figure!) but what you need to watch out for are power-ups that are actually massive hindrances. Less gravity, for example, does nothing except make it even harder to move around the map gracefully! Still, most of the power-ups are really nice additions and trying to navigate your way towards them adds another level of complexity to what was already a challenging game!

All in all, it's an interesting concept and it's executed really well, the only problem being that it's possible for a dishonest player to exploit the physics and prevent the zombies from ever being able to reach them by pulling a stunt like this:

Der-derderder! Derder! Derder! Can't touch this!

This does kinda suck because it makes completing some levels pretty easy. However, later levels negate this effect by placing spikes or spawn spots in the corners, meaning that this becomes a much less viable strategy! Besides, this isn't really a game about completing levels; this is a game about high-scores. Why? Because, much like Super Crate Box, this game allows you to submit your high-scores online and we all know that high-scores are everything!

This game is amazing and the graphics/music are equally amazing. Sure, the concept is simple, but it has been implemented perfectly and I can't do anything but highly recommend this game. 9/10.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review: D10FP72HRGCE

Title: D10FP72HRGCE
Developer: Big Bang Attack Studios
Homepage: Gamejolt Homepage
Genre: Shoot'Em Up
Program: Flash/Custom

A very basic (and very pink) shoot-em up that is hindered by enemy AI that’s incredibly lacking. The enemies don’t shoot enough, they don’t make smart enough movement, they don’t dive down at the player enough and… well, they just don’t put any pressure on the player whatsoever. This is all typified by the fact that it’s possible to get through several levels of this game by holding down the shoot button and staying in the middle of the screen.

Ner, Ner, NerNerNer – You Can’t Hit Me!

The graphics also aren’t thought out too well. I like the style of the game, but only using one colour is a massive mistake. With how big the explosions are when enemies die and with there being a decent amount of fire (from you) on the screen at once, it is hard to spot enemy shots coming in (when they occasionally do). A bit of contrast between the enemy explosions, the enemy shots and your shots would make everything a little easier to see and wouldn’t detract from the style of the game all that much. The most important thing when it comes to graphics is making sure that the player knows exactly what is going on; this is far more important than flashy graphics or polygon counts or whatever. This game fails to achieve this aim.

It does contain some smart ideas, though. The currency system is a good idea, forcing the player to choose between repairing or upgrading their ship between levels (“I could repair, but if I can get through the next level then I can upgrade my weapons!”). I also liked the “trippy” mode of play, in which the game screen constantly rotates in an attempt to make the game even more difficult to play. Unfortunately, the lack of enemy difficulty scuppers both of these ideas, reducing to pointlessness what would be otherwise brilliant features to have.

Despite how dull the gameplay is, this game does show a lot of promise. It was made in just 60-hours and I think that, with a longer dev-time, the developers would’ve been able to do a lot more with the enemy AI than they have shown in this attempt. Fingers crossed for a sequel! 2/10.