Five Anticipated Indie Titles From Kinda Funny Game’s 2019 Showcase

Alisa Hail takes a look at some intriguing indies showcased at E3 —

Indie games are becoming a more important part of the gaming industry, certainly, as AAA titles become ever more expensive to make, and as studios have had to trim down staff, and therefore, the number of top tier titles they produce in a given cycle.

E3 has always been a stronghold for the powerhouse players in the industry, with little room for independent developers simply due to the cost of a booth on the show floor.

However, thanks to content creators and presenters such as Kinda Funny Games, indie developers have started breaking into gaming’s biggest and most anticipated show over the past couple of years.

This year Kinda Funny showcased 60 games during their online showcase, with some selected for demonstration on the showroom floor.

You can watch the showcase in its entirety by clicking on the video at the bottom of this article. But here are five we personally anticipate.

UnderMine

Everyone knows the best parts of any action adventure, Zelda-like game is making your way through the dungeons. UnderMine is a roguelike that lets you delve deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the mines all while gathering gold, unlocking secrets, and maybe even meeting a few friends along the way.

You will discover potions, curses, and other relics to assist you in making the perfect run and finally defeating the boss. UnderMine is slated for release this summer on PC and is currently in Steam Early Access.

Stone Shard

Stone Shard is a procedurally-generated turn-based RPG with modern RPG elements. You can combine your hero’s skills to create your individual play style. Align yourself with powerful factions to decide the fate of the kingdom, or gain a god’s favour and with it some of their divine power. Of course, as a leader, you aren’t the only person for which you will be responsible.

Protect yourself and your selected caravan from disease and even the onset of insanity. In the medieval landscapes of Iron Shard, death comes easily. But, no matter. You simply build a new hero and carry on. Stone Shard is slated for release this year for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and will arrive soon in Steam Early Access.

Lucifer Within Us

As humans spend more and more time in the digital world, one has to question what might happen if the human soul and technology were ever to actually become intertwined. Lucifer Within Us by Kitfox posits this very premise, presenting a tale of A.I. daemons and digital exorcism all housed within an alternative existence wherein the technological is smoothly incorporated into a religious worldview.

As a digital exorcist, it is your job to interview suspects and discover their past or psychological state. Only then can you uncover what form of malicious A.I. is currently sharing their body so it can be cast out. Lucifer Within Us is slated for release this year for PC. You can find out more on the official site.

Superliminal

Nothing is ever as it seems, or so the saying goes. While that certainly applies to many things it life, it is apt advice for playing though developer Pillow Castle’s puzzle game Superliminal. Each challenge will test your perception using optical illusions to create fascinating brainteasers. Check out the video to see exactly what we mean.

Superliminal is slated to launch soon. You can sign up for the mailing list for more info.

Lost Ember

Have you ever imaged finding yourself in a forgotten world wherein you have the freedom to wander as you please learning about its past and taking in all the beauty of its sights and sounds?

Lost Ember allows you to take the form of different animals as you embark on a journey guided by a former resident of the culture that inhabited a now fallen civilization. Uncover the mystery behind the downfall and how your guide played into that unhappy piece of history.

Lost Ember will release on July 19, 2019, on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One.

Kinda Funny Games shined the limelight on several exciting and unique titles making it difficult to pick only a few.

You can find everything from gravity-defying puzzle platformers like Etherborn to games like After Party wherein you must out drink the devil to escape from Hell. From Metroidvania types to multiplayer battles, you can find something in the showcase for you. This is why we love indie games and why we look forward to seeing more at E3 next year.

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Atom RPG Review

Atom RPG Review [PC] – Welcome To The Soviet Wastelands

Welcome to the Wastelands. No, no. We aren’t talking about Las Vegas or West Virginia. Welcome to the post-nuclear fallout badlands of Russia.

Set in 2005, Atom RPG places you directly in the boots of a Soviet special forces cadet tasked with assisting in the restoration of the Soviet Union after the Cold War ends in mutual nuclear destruction in 1986.

Made by indie developer AtomTeam in the style of Wasteland and Fallout 1 and 2, Atom RPG promises the best of classic RPGs, but is this adventure worth the time?

Much of the game operates similar to your standard classic RPG, and this is not a knock. Though nothing groundbreaking, everything from combat to character creation and the subsequent effect on the gameplay is well-designed.

Combat is grid-based with movement and attacks dictated by how many action points you possess. You will have two forms of attack costing more or less AP depending on which you choose. This can either be bare hand and feet attacks, long or short range weapons, or some combo of either. Thankfully, you will generally have more attack points to begin with than your early opponents.

Unfortunately, as I will explain shortly, you will discover rather quickly just how ill-equipped you are for the realities of the wastes almost immediately.

The best-laid plans of mutants and men often go awry in the wastelands. The skills and stats you choose during character creation will heavily affect your game, especially in the early stages. You can choose from the usual range of stats such as strength, endurance, and intelligence.

Your skill sets include weapons specialties such as Martial Arts for bare-handed knuckle-busting, long and short range weapons, gambling, survival, and lock picking. You also have the option to choose a “Distinction” which will auto-allocate your skill and stats points to create a very specified type of character for you.

These can be both a blessing and a curse. In fact, the downsides that come along with the “perks” of these distinctions might be worth avoiding altogether unless you already have a set strategy for the game.

For instance, you can choose to be a “Savage Hunter” which will drastically increase your damage to animals. However, no one will like you (you lose Personality points) and you will have trouble carrying all those animal skins with a significantly reduced carry weight. Some Distinctions like “Diplomat” which heavily focus on Speechcraft might not be a bad choice, but you have to make certain you deal with the fact your weapons skills will suffer significantly.

I chose to bypass the “Distinctions” and ended up making three separate characters throughout my time with Atom RPG. My third character was lower in Speechcraft and personality than the two previous, and I noticed how helpful being able to smooth talk my way through the world was from the get-go.

People easily volunteered additional information, and in one instance I was allowed through without proper papers. My other two characters were given a much harder time of things. Lockpicking came into handy right off the bat as well. It is amazing just how many locked containers I came across early on. But, I suppose that makes sense in a savage post-apocalyptic landscape.

Intelligence and mechanical skills will also come in handy during the first hour or so.

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Though I prefer a character more heavily skilled in the gift of gab, I gave my final character a heavy focus on Strength and Martial Arts. This is because of how high the difficulty can be during random encounters.

When you leave a specific area such as a town or a bunker, you will appear on the world map. Using map scrolling with WASD you will locate a destination and then click on it, sending your character on their way.

During your journey, you will encounter events that range from meeting a friendly caravan to running into bandits. Even as prepared as you are regarding attack power and resistance to enemy attacks, running into four bandits, two of which are armed, within the first 30 minutes of the game almost guarantees your death. At one point, I admittedly only made it to a nearby bunker on luck. Instead of running into armed bandits that could kill me in a few shots, I ran into some giant ants instead. Giant ants are much more easily dealt with, largely because they cannot carry guns.

The game seems to be designed to push the player to heavily allocate points to only a couple of skills and stats, slowing down later progress in others.

For example, though you get a few guns early on, unless you heavily allocate skill points to their use from the beginning, they won’t do you much good. On my first run, I gave my character high personality and Speechcraft skills, allocating an average or below average amount of points to most of the other skills and stats save for intelligence. Lockpicking, and technology. All was going fairly well until the one time I could not talk my way out of a bandit encounter and then I was dead.

In fact, even with my reasonably high Speechcraft, I didn’t succeed in talking my way out of very many bandit encounters early on, thus leading me to a frustrating familiarity with the death screen.

The storyline might be your standard post-apocalyptic RPG fair, but being in another country is an exciting change. I found the writing to be enjoyable. Though you will have many standard interactions with NPCs in towns and cities and other areas, you will also run into some interesting characters.

I appreciated that the creators did attempt to create unique personalities for the people that populate the world, and you will see that come through, sometimes in fairly amusing ways.

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Aside from the high difficulty, particularly in the beginning where it seems nigh on unfair, Atom RPG is very well designed. Though punishing, it feels satisfying to know your character design choices do make a significant impact on your progress and that playing the game again with different stats and skill selections will significantly change your gameplay experience, even if it does not have a huge impact on the overall story.

Atom RPG demonstrates well precisely why classic RPGs maintain a healthy audience even to this day.

My Big Sister Review [PC] – A Dark Comedy About The Love Between Siblings

Alisa Hail reviews My Big Sister…

Dealing with your siblings is a chore sometimes. More so for some than others. But, what if your sibling was turned into an undead ghoul with a ravenous appetite for raw flesh? Would you still be willing to help them out? More importantly, perhaps, are you still going to argue about those annoying sounds they make when they eat? My Big Sister is a story that explores the more mundane aspects of sibling love and rivalry, juxtaposed against an unsettling atmosphere of death, curses, and the invisible things we suspect late at night stalk us unseen in the dark.

Luzia is not your average little girl. Her jaded personality seems a bit beyond her age. Her regular annoyance with her older sister, Sombria, however, is easily relatable. Following an unplanned and ill-fated trip to a bathhouse, Sombria falls victim to a curse. Her form overly stretched and her skin too pale, she is clearly no longer human. Sombria’s salvation, if possible, lands on the young shoulders of Luzia. Thankfully, Luzia is perfectly suited to the task.

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It is not often I have described a game with plenty of blood, and gore, and a few alarming instances as delightful, but that is the most accurate description I can give My Big Sister. Luzia’s childlike embrace of the strange world around her feels akin to Alice trapped in Wonderland. It is almost as if the dangers always at her heels can never quite touch her due to her innocence. For instance, early on Luzia runs across a demon in need of a face. The demon, surprised by Luzia’s unexpected desire to help, takes a liking to her, even giving her a candy bar as a reward after she delivers. But, therein also lies the persistent feeling of dread. When will her curiosity press her too far and the darkness finally closes in?

But, Luzia never loses her sense of humour despite everything. In fact, it is both Luzia and Sombria’s casual wit juxtaposed against the sinister reality of their plight that makes for most of the humour in the game. For example, Sombria loses herself to her new raging hunger and ends up devouring a deer. When Luzia arrives to find the gruesome scene she makes a Bambi joke. It is this type of banter that kept a smile on my face the whole time.

Gameplay is simple. Exclamation marks appear whenever there is an area that can be explored or an item that can be examined. Inventory requires you to scroll from left to right to look at and select items, but since you are never carrying more than four or five items at a time, this works very well. The developers have added save points throughout, but unfortunately you only have one save file. However, since there is no real combat in the game, so the possibility of death is rare.

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The world of My Big Sister is so well crafted, particularly because the relationship between Sombria and Luzia feels so natural and heartfelt, that it is easy to feel comfortable in the world yourself.

Run across a noodle house for the spirits nestled in the woods? Of course. Why wouldn’t that be there? It is at once absurd, and terrifying, and yet familiar. In some ways, the childlike whimsy mixed with the darkness and danger makes me think of a classic Studio Ghibli film. It is a reminder of the curiosity of the childhood, the fear of the dark, and the relationships that make life worth the journey.

Hello Neighbor: Hide And Seek Review

Hello Neighbor: Hide And Seek Review [Switch] – A Welcome Visit

Alisa Hail reviews Hello Neighbor: Hide And Seek on Nintendo Switch.

The premise of Dynamic Pixels’ original Hello Neighbor played on our curiosity. Who hasn’t, at least in passing, considered how tempting it would be to sneak into your creepy neighbor’s house and find out what sort of sinister deeds he’s been hiding behind his walls?

Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek serves as a prequel to the original story, explaining how our neighbor, Mr Theodore Peterson, came to be the way he is. It is also an improvement on its predecessor, even though it fails to escape a few shortcomings of its own.

The story opens on a pleasant, sunny morning with Mr Peterson’s son and daughter playing a friendly game of hide-and-seek. You take over the role of the little girl, trying to outwit her brother. Through the lens of her imagination, the familiar home transforms into an Alice in Wonderland-like domain. Furniture stretches to preposterous proportions. The ceiling and walls now absurdly high above and the ground now taking on the look of a wild grassland. Each level has a unique look, adding a childlike whimsy to the already surreal art style of the game.

Each stage comes with a set of objectives that need to be fulfilled before moving on to the next. For example, the first level requires you to retrieve several stuffed animals scattered about by your brother and delivering them to a certain location. Achieving these objectives requires solving environmental puzzles or using items you will find scattered around the stage. All the while, your brother is roaming about and if he catches you, he sends you back to the start of the level.

Hello Neighbor: Hide And Seek Review

Hello Neighbor suffered from two major flaws: a glitchy gameplay experience and puzzles that were so out-of-the-box as to defy reason. Dynamic Pixels, clearly having learned from criticisms of their original title, did a worthy job of avoiding both of these shortcomings in Hide and Seek. The game played smoothly enough and I did not notice or come across any particular glitches during my play. There is also a handy feature that allows you to warp back to the starting point if you get stuck somewhere, like say perhaps within a giant bucket you hopped in without any clear plans as to how to get back out.

The game did carry over two issues that Dynamic Pixels has left untouched. Jumping frequently feels too airy and imprecise. Though the jump controls are certainly workable, I had hoped the developer would have tightened the controls as it does require platforming quite often. I also wish stackable objects clicked together when stacked to avoid the issue of objects falling over if you land on them incorrectly or accidentally get too close.

The puzzles in this prequel do a much better job of walking the line between creative reasoning and tying together clearly logically connected elements. Part of the original’s success was the community element needed to solve many of the puzzles without either dumb luck or spending more time than most people have or want to use in order to find the solution.

The puzzles in Hide and Seek are challenging and leave the player with a sense of satisfaction for having solved them without the frustration of trying to figure out something that was clearly not built to be discovered through reasoning alone.

You will need to collect multiple items during each stage and carry them with you in order to solve some of the puzzles. However, you can only hold four items at a time. If you find a new item while travelling around and your stash is full, you have no way to house the new item or switch it out with the one you are already carrying — without simply throwing another item down and hoping you can find it later. While doable, this certainly isn’t the most efficient way to handle item storage and becomes an unnecessary hindrance to progress.

Hello Neighbor: Hide And Seek Review

Though the puzzle solving is fun, there is a downside to the central concept of Hide and Seek. While hiding from your neighbor in the original added an element to the game that gave it a sense of danger necessary for a stealth title, the heavy emphasis on puzzle solving and seek and find in the prequel can make having to stop what you are doing and run feel like more of a nuisance than anything else. It doesn’t help that your brother can see you from quite a distance.

Many times I thought I was in the clear and had lost myself in testing out a puzzle-solving hypothesis when I hear the telltale sound alerting me I am being pursued. I’d have to drop what I was doing and run to the nearest rock or something I can climb. This will often cause the brother’s AI to reset, forgetting where you are and you can watch him wander off into the distance before heading back to where you were. While the hide and seek component does sometimes add to the difficulty, it too often felt unnecessary given the more interesting puzzle element.

Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek is much tighter than the original in both gameplay and puzzle design. It is clear that Dynamic Pixels has learned from past experience and implemented that into their newest title. I found myself having much more fun with this newest iteration. The puzzle-solving is the most rewarding part of Hide and Seek and in a way, I wish the hide and seek element had been left out entirely. But, when it works well, it at least adds some tension.

It is not, perhaps, the best we will see from Dynamic Pixels, but it is fun and it gives me hope the quirky developer has more up their sleeves than we know.

GRIP: Combat Racing Review [PS4] – Defying Gravity With A Blast From The Past

Going back to some of our favourite games sometimes yields a nice, cool shot of nostalgia. Other times, it reminds us just how far we have come as an industry over even just the last 20 years.

When Rollcage released in 1999 its unique physics made it stand out from the crowd of other racing titles. Drive fast enough and you can defy the laws of gravity by speeding up walls and upside-down snake-like tunnels. GRIP: Combat Racing is a spiritual successor to Rollcage that attempts to revive that original thrill.

In some ways, GRIP does an excellent job of recreating everything that made Rollcage a standout. In other ways, at least on the PS4 version I played, it reminded me how far we have come in the racing genre and why we rarely look back.

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GRIP: Combat Racing has a good variety of over 20 tracks ranging from futuristic cities to snow-covered wastelands.

GRIP offers a nice array of over 20 tracks covering a wide variety of landscapes ranging from futuristic cities to snow-covered mountains, and desolate wastelands. Tracks spiral and wind as players fly through at break-neck speeds. When executed well, it feels far more like being jettisoned down a warp tunnel as you spiral over and under the terrain and passageways, blasting your opponents with rockets and other weapons along the way.

However, as fun as GRIP can be, it suffers from some rather unintuitive track design. Especially in the beginning before you learn the tracks, you will likely find yourself slipping and sliding into an unexpected barrier or falling off the stage. While there are signs designating directions, some of the stages are just open enough to be confusing, especially when driving at high rates of speed. Multiple times I missed an indicator and found myself travelling down what I thought might be a path only for the game to reset me back on the track, thus costing me several seconds. Sure, this will dissipate with time and familiarization, but it makes getting into the game a bit of a frustration for first-time players. It also instantly kills the otherwise smooth action.

GRIP has only a small array of cars, but each handled fairly well. Controls were smooth and the cars maintained a solid hold on the track along turns for the most part. The only time I had my frustration with the controls is when airborne.

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Blasing your opponents out of your way, particularly when playing with friends, is always glorious.

You will, whether from being blasted by an opponent, slipping off the side of the road, or making an unfortunate collision with a barrier, at some point find yourself helplessly tossed into the air where you will notice you lose any real control over your vehicle. Sure, this might be more realistic, but not being able to adjust your direction means you will either just have to watch while you barely miss the side of the track, or end up back on the track facing the wrong direction.

In a combat racing game where being flung about is a major part of the experience, having no control over your direction when airborne seems like a rather unfortunate oversight. Not to mention GRIP’s difficulty levels fluctuate quite a bit and so while falling off the track might not cost you too much in one race, landing the wrong direction just one time might move you from first to fifth almost instantly in another.

The tracks, though varied, lack the lustre and sheen one might have expected from a 2018 racing title. Textures can often look muddy and aside from the neon signs demarcating turns and barriers, the tracks and surrounding areas feel sparse and surprisingly dreary. That is not to say GRIP needs the cartoonishly bright colours of Mario Kart or the ultra-realism of Forza. But, the game’s visual design often looks too much like a throwback and less like a modern-day homage.

Speaking of Mario Kart, three out of four of GRIP’s race modes operate basically like Nintendo’s top racer with a twist or two, including choosing whether winning means reaching the finish line first, or whoever has the fastest trigger finger. You pick up weapons as you drive that you can use to blast your opponents out of your way, along with using green panels on the ground to increase your speed. There is also an arena battle mode that pits you against your friends or online opponents within a limited area.

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When at its best GRIP offers an invigorating battle for victory that feels more like flying than driving.

Though uneven difficulty and unintuitive track design can cause difficulty for players just getting into the game, part of GRIP’s call-back to it’s older inspiration is a solid focus on the individual player’s ability to compete against themselves. The individual campaign mode is appropriately story-free, leaving you to quickly run through three multi-tiered tournaments. The “Carkour” mode allows players to practice their tricks, turns and other aerial acrobatics.

Of course, online leaderboards for race modes add that extra level of motivation. But, I found whether playing with a friend locally or strangers online, GRIP was just as fun and just as challenging.

Though GRIP isn’t as polished as it might have been, and new players will find themselves faced with a steep learning curve, it’s gravity-defying action is both a nice slice of nostalgia and something a little different than your standard racer. It is also always satisfying to watch the car in front of you explode in a bright and brilliant billow of fire, or hammering your opponent with a wave of tiny rockets.

GRIP: Combat Racing is now available on Steam, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Lust For Darkness Review PC

Lust For Darkness Review [PC] – A Flaccid Attempt At Erotic, Lovecraftian Horror

From 50 Shades of Gray all the way back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to the biblical story of Samson and Delilah, humans have always been intrigued with sex, attraction, and the social boundaries around the delights of the flesh.

Lust For Darkness Review PC

Lust for Darkness, developed by Movie Games Lunarium, attempts to combine erotic fiction with themes reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft. Unfortunately, Lust for Darkness takes hold of some of the more sordid tropes of the erotic fiction genre, without taking advantage of the Lovecraftian themes, or even the gaming medium itself. Thus, leaving the experience feeling flat.

Your wife is kidnapped by a sex cult bent on opening a portal to a world of eternal pleasure named, wait for it, Lusst’ghaa. To be fair, the game explains the word “Lust” comes from the experiences of that world, not the other way around. But, this alone speaks volumes about the quality of the in-game storytelling, which, unfortunately, never fares any better than your typical discounted bodice ripper.

Without giving much away, you end up with a woman is kidnapped, the woman is then raped, and she then develops what appears to be an extraordinary example of Stockholm’s Syndrome. I am not one to feign offence, so I realize this is a standard trope in erotic fiction, but the story never really progresses above this, nor is there really much story to speak of in general.

There are sections of background info you can find throughout the game that give more details on the cult itself, which were actually quite interesting. These extra bits of story told through text were never quite enough to make up for the lack of story in a playthrough, but it did demonstrate to me that the developer put far more thought into the tale than the player ever gets to experience directly. I hope if the developer chooses to move forward with another title, they can add in more of this type of storytelling as a part of the game experience rather than in the form of side collectables.

Gameplay was similarly thin. Most of your time is spent simply wandering about, which would have been fine had there been a more detailed experience or plot. But, as it is, you find yourself only in a handful of run-ins with the baddies of Lusst’ghaa. These are very short run sequences reminiscent of Amnesia. However, these are so few and fleeting, the game rarely engenders a true sense of dread or terror. I was able to make it through each one without much trouble. Similarly, the puzzles are also few and far between, and so simple that can be solved in a matter of minutes.

To the developer’s credit, however, the game looks gorgeous and it is clear much time and thought were invested in everything from the numerous nick-knacks and items of decoration scattered across the extravagant mansion, to the purple-hued caverns of Lusst’ghaa, to the various masks you will see the cult members donning prior to their upcoming ceremony.

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It is the clear attention to visual detail, along with some of the interesting background info you can discover along the journey, that makes me think Movie Games Lunarium has potential to develop an interesting title. But, Lust for Darkness is not that title. The game comes in at around three hours in length, but the short experience still feels hollow and offers little to nothing to encourage a second run-through unless you feel compelled to locate all the little snippets of extra story detail.

Accessibility In Indie Games

Infernium Developer Highlights Importance Of Accessibility In Indie Games

The need for accessibility in games is not exactly a new discussion. AAA titles regularly implement basic accessibility features such as contrast controls, subtitles, and multiple control scheme settings.

However, the need for further improvement in the industry has recently come to the forefront.

Everything from the need for exhibitors at conferences to take accessibility into account when setting up booths, to the need for controllers that can be used by gamers of varying abilities has demonstrated that while efforts are being made, the industry still has a ways to go.

This is especially true for indie developers. As indie titles become more important for the long-term future of the gaming industry, accessibility will become something indie developers will need to begin to take into account.

Of course, with all the financial and time constraints on small developers, this is not an easy task.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Carlos Coronado, developer of recently released indie survival horror, Infernium.

Carlos Coronado
Carlos Coronado

Carlos currently teaches at the University of Barcelona. He began his journey into the gaming industry by making the Warcelona mod for Left 4 Dead 2. He dove into indie game development in 2014 with his award-winning MIND: Path to Thalamus. After that, he developed Annie Amber for Gear VR and then started Infernium. He is also a scuba diving and sailing enthusiast.

Following the recent accessibility update for the Nintendo Switch version of Infernium, we decided to ask Carlos about his interest in accessibility in games: what made him interested in accessibility and what challenges it posed or benefits it brought as an independent developer.

We also got a brief description of what his next project will be after Infernium.

First off, before we get into the topic of accessibility, I have to ask you how you came up with the concept for Infernium? A PAC-Man inspired survival horror is definitely a unique premise.

What caused you to bring those two ideas together?

Well, I had always wanted to make a horror game but none of the ideas I had “clicked” with me. However, while doing my first-night dive in Apo Island (Philippines) I was amazed by how beautiful, calm, and at the same time scary the experience was!

I remember going out to the water and, even before putting on my scuba gear, I said to my diving buddy, “I know my next game is going to be a beautiful horror game where you see the enemies from a mile away!” So yeah, it was then when I had the idea, and the Pac-Man element came naturally while developing it.

The setting and concept of Hell are central to Infernium’s story, though it is certainly a version of Hell which has an element of beauty not commonly associated with purgatorial or eternal punishment.

Why did you choose Hell as a setting, and why did you decide upon this particular imagining of it as opposed to a more traditional, Dante’s Inferno version?

As I said, that diving experience was key. Aside from that, gameplay always comes first in my games, and I always try to think about settings that allow me to be very creative while generating cool gameplay mechanics. Hell was like a big sandbox for me, and the twist of making that Hell beautiful allowed for a greater level of creativity. The beautiful environments add an interesting psychological element. The game teaches you that the more beautiful an environment is, the more dangerous it is! This creates a contrast between what you see and what you feel that really drives players crazy, and I love that.

It is entertaining watching YouTubers and Streamers playing Infernium and witnessing them totally distrust the beautiful environments!

Now, onto accessibility, something you have been very vocal about. I have seen you discuss it with fans on your Twitter account and you have highlighted Infernium’s accessibility features on the game’s Steam page.

Even before your last accessibility update, Infernium offered not only sound but visual cues indicating a nearby enemy, as well as from which direction that enemy was approaching; a feature that is not incredibly common.

With the update, you have allowed more intermediate accessibility settings, including slowing game speed by decelerating enemies, or removing them altogether.

What made accessibility so important to you as an independent developer?

Yes! I must say I had no idea about video game accessibility before meeting Kait Paschall. She moved to Catalonia with her husband and while they were searching for a place to live they stayed in mine. During those months she got really interested in the development of Infernium and she introduced me to accessibility for video games.

She made me see that with a little effort on my part the player base would be much wider, and therefore I could sell more copies! For example, she explained the game would be 100% playable for deaf gamers by simply adding the red screen visual alarm when you start getting chased. This was the first one but the list goes on and on.

After the release of the game, I also experienced something that made me change my mind again and introduce even more accessibility features. For example, I saw my girlfriend (she is not a gamer) playing the game with the PC Mod “No Enemies” downloaded, and she was constantly telling me how great the experience was for her. She didn’t care about the challenge, but just walking in the game and seeing how everything was connected was a huge experience for her.

I also noticed the most downloaded mods for PC were all mods that made the experience more accessible for people, so I thought it was a good idea to make those options available to everyone, and that’s what I did with the accessibility menu. It basically adds 4 new options you can enable and disable anytime: No Enemies, Slower Enemies, More Tutorials, and No “Perma Death”.

Obviously, it is not how I intended players to enjoy the game but, hey, who the f*** am I to tell people how they have to play or enjoy!

After looking more into accessibility in games, I realise I took for granted how many features were already being implemented by AAA titles, such as allowing contrast controls, the ability to remap control schemes, subtitles, and making intractable objects obvious.

Do you think smaller, independent developers have a certain disadvantage when it comes to implanting these types of features?

In the AAA market, everything in terms of game-feel is sorted out. I mean, those are titles developed for really, really wide audiences! That’s why accessibility is taken for granted.

On the other hand, indie titles are more experimental and willing to risk more. I think that’s why most indies don’t think about accessibility features.

However I don’t really think introducing accessibility features is going to make your game ‘less indie’ or worse, and that’s something we all need to work on and spread. If indie devs realise accessibility features = money, more and more indie titles will introduce accessibility features.

Do you think smaller developers have an obligation to make certain their games offer at least basic accessibility features? This would entail at least some of the guidelines outlined here.

I think there is a thin red line between accessibility features and good game design. I think when you are designing good games and mechanics you don’t realise most of the time you are introducing accessibility features without even knowing!

That’s great, but we should work so that aside from good design, game devs also take accessibility into consideration.

What are some elements of Infernium that perhaps have not been mentioned specifically that you implemented to help make the game more accessible for players?

The in-game maps! I love those and no one is talking about them! Every time you visit a new area of the game you can search for a map sketched by someone in the past and if you take your time to read the map you can literally gather all the useful info: where the enemies are, where the light is, where the next map entrance is… It is super helpful if you are willing to invest the time to read the maps. Here is a guide made by a user showing all the maps.

Another “feature” I am really proud of is the crowdsourced Wiki! It’s literally filled with info, including a guide, tips, secrets and even the complete lore story in order. It is a way of getting yourself in the world of Infernium without even buying the game.

Where do you see yourself improving on accessibility in Infernium, or in future titles?

I’d say reducing the number of buttons/controls the player needs to interact with the game.

I’ve already been prototyping my next project. It is going to be a 2D sidescroller game about revitalising corals underwater. Think about Flower but in 2D with Limbo’s art style and controlled with only one joystick!

Where do you think the gaming industry as a whole stands regarding accessibility? Do you think improvements still need to be made and, if so, where do you see a need or needs that have not yet been met?

I see day by day more and more positive messages about accessibility are being spread.

I can say: “Hey! Put accessibility features on your game!” but few will listen. Instead, if I say: “Hey, In the first weekend after the accessibility update on Switch the game has sold as many copies as in all it’s life on sale”. Then more devs will listen.

In the future, I see accessibility features as something being taught at universities and eventually becoming common enough that it will be taken for granted in every game.

Final question: What advice do you have for aspiring independent game developers in general, and then regarding how they might make their games more accessible given the challenges indie developers often face?

My advice is that if they want to implement accessibility features, they need to do so early on in the development. It is easier and more elegant. It is way more complicated to introduce accessibility features once all the design is done and maybe even not worth it depending on the kind of game you are making.

In general, I would advise them to try to have short development cycles and never spend more than one year working on a single project. It makes you go nuts!

Indie Developers At The Forefront

While the gaming industry continues to evolve, concerns over making certain all gamers of all abilities will be able to learn from, play and experience more and more of what the industry has to offer will continue to rise to the forefront. There is always room for change and room to make things better.

If Carlos is any indication, indie developers may once again be at the forefront of the gaming revolution, just as more and more unique and clever content arises not from AAA titles, but from small developers with a passion to make great games that everyone can play.

Juicy Realm Review

Juicy Realm Review [PC] – The Saltiest Fruit You’ll Ever Fight

Humans, despite our lack of brute strength, when compared to other predators in the animal kingdom, have managed to stay on top of the food chain due to our innovation, particularly when it comes to the creation of weapons.

But, what if another species suddenly developed weapons as well and decided our time as king of the jungle had come to an end? And, no, I am not talking about Charlton Heston against a band of royally perturbed, highly intelligent apes.

I am talking about an enemy that seems far less likely to arise, but if they ever did, man would find they have a bone to pick with us: sentient fruit.

Juicy Realm Review

Juicy Realm is a roguelike in which you’re taking part in an ongoing war against cognizant crops of various berries, pomes, and melons.

Notes left behind by a brave, or foolish, observer provide some context for the world in which you now find yourself. However, it doesn’t take more than a few seconds of gameplay to figure out regardless of why or how these once docile and delicious eatables are out to kill.

Equipped with weapons ranging from dual-wielded swords to portable Gatling guns, the fruit prove to be formidable foes.

You have the choice to stand in the shoes of four different character types who come with varying stats and starting weapons: the Boxer, the Botanist, the Mercenary, and the Ninja.

All, except the Ninja, begin with a gun. The Ninja is the only one who begins with a melee weapon in the form of a giant sword. Between playthroughs, you can choose to switch out characters by going back to camp, but not during a play session.

Each character also comes with a unique item/secondary weapon classified as “gear” that cannot be dropped or replaced during combat. The Botanist comes with a grenade launcher type weapon. The Ninja has a tiny, mobile companion that can be dispatched to electrocute enemies. The Mercenary can set up a turret that sends single blasts toward approaching enemies. And, finally, the Boxer can use a life potion that refills portions of her HP as long as she stands within the glowing, green circle.

Once a character deploys their gear, a meter on the bottom of the screen empties and then slowly refills, indicating when the gear can be used again. the time between uses is long enough that you don’t depend too heavily on them as a sort of trump card during combat.

However, they do give some characters more advantage over others.

Juicy Realm Review

For example, the Boxer’s life potion and high beginning HP do make her easier to use than, say, the Ninja who’s beginning weapon, as badass as it may seem, make him far more vulnerable to attack since he must engage enemies at close range.

His companion, however, being mobile is far more useful than the Mercenary’s turret which requires you to lure enemies close to it before it becomes useful.

In this way, the developers of Juicy Realm have done a decent job of establishing a simple balance between characters and requiring you to use each character slightly differently during combat.

I do wish the game allowed you to compare the stats of each character’s starting weapons along with their other stats. Without this information, I had no way of knowing whether there was a specific advantage to any of the guns over the others, or even how the Ninja’s sword stacked up against other melee weapons I found throughout my journey.

The game does give you some simple stats for new weapons you find but unfortunately does not offer a way to compare them to weapons you are currently carrying.

A recent update improved the attack power of melee weapons, thus making their use feel a bit less like an unfair disadvantage during combat. This is especially important since weapons are dropped or discovered randomly.

So, if you end up running out of ammo and need to use the baguette you just found to defend yourself (yes, a baguette), you are not at the disadvantage you once would have been before this was corrected.

In fact, I often noticed certain melee weapons could take out enemies in two hits when the gun I was using took at least four or five shots. The advantage of the gun, obviously, is that I can keep moving and stay much farther away from enemies during a firefight.

The only issue, however, with the game giving you melee weapons is as effective as they may be, you are literally bringing a knife (or, rather, a wrench) to a gunfight. Some of the enemies can shoot three shots in quick succession. Others can fire multiple rounds one after another.

When there is a cluster of enemies, this makes using melee weapons quite difficult and made me wonder a few times why melee was available at all, or at least as common as it is, within what is clearly a dual-stick shooter type game, along with its roguelike elements.

In order to help players maintain use of their guns longer, the same update that increased melee attack power also added random enemy ammo drops. This means that while you can indeed run out of ammo, I rarely did. I was quite thankful I did not have to battle a boss with the baguette.

Plus, blasting away your equally equipped fruity foes was far more fast paced and enjoyable than the comparably slow melee attacks.

Juicy Realm Review

Aside from locating weapons and ammo at random, you can also break open boxes to reveal food which will restore your health.

Coins that you can either find or collect from fallen enemies can be used to purchase randomly generated items from vending machines you will find also at random throughout your run.

Keep your eyes open because “hidden” areas will appear that, though not hard to figure out how to get to, can offer extra coin or food or ammo. The game’s controls are smooth and straightforward. On the keyboard, you use the mouse to aim and WASD to move about. You click left to fire and clicking right on the mouse allows you to dash a short distance in the direction your mouse is pointed.

This works especially well when in close combat with an enemy that can fire several shots in succession, but I found I rarely needed it when using a firearm because all I needed to do was keep moving about.

Just like with the gear, there is a meter that depletes each time you use your dash ability which will need to refill after a certain number of uses before you can use the dash again.

The game also has controller support, though I found aiming with the mouse much simpler than the dual-stick controls on the controller. There is no way to customize the controls using either, but with such simple design, I didn’t feel the need to do so.

Boss battles have a traditional Zelda-like feel, requiring you to learn a series of attack patterns in order to achieve victory.

For instance, the first boss I fought, a giant melon, had four basic attacks: a dash, a ground pound, shooting several rows of wooden spikes, and setting loose a gaggle of tiny watermelon slices that are surprisingly aggressive despite their tiny appearance.

I quickly learned I could not do any damage unless the boss was momentarily incapacitated. So, I had to learn how to make that happen.

Of course, this means you will likely die at least once or twice before reaching your goal.

Punishment for death means going back to camp and starting over again. This might seem likely a heavy price, but due to the constantly changing level layouts, I never felt like I was making the same run twice.

Juicy Realm Review

On the downside, though, without any real way to upgrade or customize your weapons or characters, the multiple run-throughs begin to lose a sense of reward aside from hopefully making it all the way through.

The game is rather short, at least, so I never got to the point where I lost interest entirely. But, if I could customize my weapons or my character so that each run-through at least rewarded me with something that would make tearing through the same levels much faster and with more satisfying violence, it might raise the replay value quite a bit.

As it is, you can play against your own time once you finish the game, but there isn’t much else to keep you coming back. Unless that is, you want to play through with a friend using the local two-player mode.

Despite its tendency to perhaps be a bit overly simplistic, Juicy Realm boasts gorgeous visuals and a handful of different level designs. From dense jungle to desert sands, the vibrant, stimulating colour palette paired with the jovial soundtrack adds a level of excitement and wonder.

Death Road To Canada Review

Death Road To Canada Review [PS4] – Dying To Get There, But Enjoying The Journey

I remember playing Oregon Trail in the library of my middle school back in the day. Even with the best planning, hunting, and river rafting skills, you died often enough on your journey that the ability to leave witty messages on your tombstone for a future passerby to read became a regular ritual.

Bandits stealing all your supplies and dying of dysentery became part of the expedition. Luck played in almost as much as skill, but we kept playing, again and again, determined to get a bit further this time and, eventually, make it all the way to Oregon.

Death Road To Canada Review

Death Road to Canada, a rogue-like title set during the zombie apocalypse, takes a lot of the simple concepts from earlier adventure titles such as Oregon Trail and sets you on a fun, addictive, and often hilarious journey. Like that childhood trip to Oregon long ago, death comes often in this game, but you will almost instantly find yourself ready to get back on the road.

Your goal in Death Road to Canada is clear and likely self-explanatory. You must guide a ragtag group of survivors to Canada, the only allegedly safe place after the world has been ravaged by the ravenous undead. Everything you have you must scavenge from locations you visit along the way. Food, medical supplies, gasoline, weapons, and any other items you need must be obtained at the risk of life and limb. And, as if fending off hordes of the undead wasn’t difficult enough, you also have to keep up morale.

The Caretaker

Along with ensuring everyone is fed and rested, you must also keep characters happy and loyal and, obviously, keep them from getting murdered. The events in the game are randomized, so you don’t always know how your choices will turn out. Sometimes, your choices appear fairly straightforward.

We chose not to accept an overnight invitation from a creepy-looking caretaker (and, yes, the game explicitly told us the caretaker was incredibly creepy). Of course, perhaps we shouldn’t judge by appearances, but as we have learned from TV shows like The Walking Dead, trust doesn’t come easy and is rarely rewarded during the zombie apocalypse.

Other times, choices seem more capricious. Once, I had a character shoot a deer that was standing in front of our car, blocking our path. One of my other members became angry I hadn’t chosen him instead, thus dropping his morale. After losing our car later due to an unfortunate encounter with a man wearing heavy body armour standing in the road, this member’s morale dropped so low he became despondent and wandered off into the woods to an unknown fate.

Oh, and I also learned not to tell bandits to “Cool it.” They don’t appreciate it and can become surprisingly violent as one of my former teammates tragically discovered. On second thought, perhaps that really isn’t so surprising.

Zombie Forecast

What you do have more control over during the game is how you handle your inventory. Weapons range from rifles and shotguns to blunt weapons such as wrenches, hammers, and even femurs. There are also less common weapons such as grenades, and you might even get the chance to buy a turret.

You can easily swap weapons between team members during missions by pulling up the menu, as long as you are within range of that teammate. Some characters can hold more weapons than others, but most can hold three. You are able to drop weapons if you find one during the scavenging event you would like to keep, rather than one you came with. You can also easily switch between the weapons you are carrying during a battle with the press of a single button.

Death Road To Canada Review

There is no crafting in Death Road to Canada, so weapon management is simply a matter of distributing weapons thoughtfully, and only keeping the ones you think you will need. You have a total of 14 slots that can be used for storing weapons not currently being carried by characters. Before each mission, you can select which weapons you would like to take. Things like medical supplies are used automatically by team members after certain events and do not need to be managed.

In fact, one of the best aspects of the game is how it keeps it simple while offering just the right amount of customization. For example, each character comes with a certain set of skills and attributes which includes things like Medical, Shooting, Strength, and Mechanical ability. It might also include personality traits like a low morale, or low loyalty.

Boosting Characters

In the regular game mode where you will encounter random characters, you can increase some of their skills and attributes through certain activities or choices. For instance, you may get the opportunity to take shooting lessons, thus increasing everyone’s shooting skill. Or, you might have a certain character tinker overnight while at a rest stop, increasing their mechanical skill.

You also have the option of building your own custom characters. Each character comes with a certain set of traits. Traits can both positively and negatively affect skill sets and attributes. For instance, the “Inventive” trait will add two points to your mechanical skill, which might help you fix your car eventually if it breaks down.

I say eventually because on the negative side it might take a little practice. Sometimes the negative effects are comical. The “Nurturing” trait says it adds two points to your medical skill and gives you a great attitude. On the negative side, your positivity “may be an act.” For the risk taker, you can choose more extreme traits like “BESERK!” This boosts the character’s strength, fitness, and shooting ability by four points, but they can also be killed in one bite.

Being Surrounded On All Sides

You earn Zombo Points throughout the game that can be traded for perks. For instance, “Phoenix” resurrects a character upon death to full health, though it can also be used once per game. There are also more bizarre perks such as “Anime Fan”, which gives the player an overpowered Katana that cannot be dropped upon death. Just what every anime fan needs.

Death Road To Canada Review

Combat is super simple, but fun. Cracking zombie skulls never seems to get old, and the splat they make when defeated is always satisfying. Using guns is also super simple and doesn’t require careful aiming, only that you are facing in the right direction.

But, be careful. Don’t be too overzealous with your zombie slaying. Your weapons break, and bullets, though not particularly scarce, are valuable, particularly when you find yourself in a siege event. What is a siege event, you ask? Only your worst nightmare, if your worst nightmare involves being surrounded on all sides by zombies.

There are five different game options available aside from the regular mode. Familiar Characters mode increases your chances of running into your custom characters. Rare Characters Mode increases your chances of coming across special characters, some with incredibly useful abilities, and some that look a lot like well-known characters such as Link from the Legend of Zelda series.

Deadlier Road Mode makes the game, well, more deadly than usual. The two remaining options either significantly shorten or elongate your road trip.

Best of all, the game never takes itself too seriously. The music, a 16-bit style techno and rock mix, is exhilarating and sometimes even quite catchy.

Quirky And Weird

The characters themselves are quirky and weird. My first character was using his time at the end of humanity to write a comic book about his life. I also ran across a man in a horse mask who, for all intents and purposes, considered himself an actual horse. I found him running along the highway, perhaps trying to locate his four-legged compadres, before my team forcibly pulled him into the car and made him join us.

Then, we all went to Y’all-Mart (you read that correctly). While at Y’all-Mart, I located a treadmill I had the horseman use despite the game’s warning against using a treadmill while surrounded by zombies. It all turned out for the best, however, as using the treadmill increased the horse man’s strength. Which was all well and good until I died some ten minutes later in a blaze of glory, mobbed by ravenous corpses. And, thus, the cycle began anew. The circle of life.

Infernium Review PS4

Infernium Review [PS4] – A Beautiful Journey Through Hell

Questions about what happens after death and, more importantly, how the decisions we make during life might affect our personal outcome have haunted humanity for ages.

Infernium Review [PS4]

Infernium thrusts you into a unique iteration of the darker side of the afterlife that is as punishing as it is lovely to behold. Both open world puzzle and survival horror, the experience runs the gamut from anxiety-inducing to awe-inspiring. In the end, whether you enjoy Infernium will have quite a bit to do with your own level of patience. Though, as we shall see later in this review, a few new additions to the game’s options might open up the experience to those who find themselves prone to rage quitting and would prefer not to break yet another TV.

You play as a wanderer who finds themselves lost inside an unknown realm of surreal beauty. The sky is tinted with the warm oranges and fading blues of an evening sunset. Below, towering cliffs and small pillars of land jut out of blue waters. Later on, you will encounter lands of ice, a realm akin to the surface of the sun, dilapidated towers and towering catacombs. But, be wary. As beautiful as Infernium appears, this realm is anything but friendly. Enemies lurk in dark corners ready to begin a relentless pursuit should you get too close.

Most of the enemies you encounter cannot be damaged or killed. This means that the main difficulty with Infernium is attempting to make calm decisions while being pursued by relentless baddies. Sure, they are slower than you, but only just, sometimes leaving only a few seconds to decide where to go next. Since the world itself is a puzzle, this also means death will likely come often unless you are lucky or highly skilled. There are hand-drawn maps you can find throughout your journey, but I found that trying (and failing) was the only way I became familiar enough with a new area for the map to become meaningful or particularly useful. I don’t think this is a bad thing. The point of Infernium is to discover the world organically. However, you do have limited chances before you reach “permadeath,” and that can add to the overall frustration. Particularly when death and the re-entrance into the game take you through a couple of long loading screens that makes the wait feel even more agonizing.

If you play the game’s normal mode, you have exactly 25 chances to complete the game before you reach a form of permadeath. Reaching permadeath doesn’t exactly mean the game is over, however. You can refill your chances. Your remaining number of attempts are manifested as large, glowing spheres contained in glass that fill the hallway of Purgatory, the area you go each time you die in the game. With each death, a sphere is deprived of its light. But, there are areas around Infernium that can be used to refill these orbs.

The gathering of light plays a major role in Infernium. The landscapes are scattered with small, glowing orbs that can be harvested for various uses. Opening illuminated gates will require a certain amount of gathered light. Stored light appears as a t-shaped symbol on your fingers, beginning with only one, and then earning additional storage as you progress. In the beginning, you can also use this light, as mentioned above, to restore lost chances. You will come across a swirling t-shaped symbol surrounded by a circle of candles. Restoring a candle restores one chance. But be careful, everything you do in Infernium is permanent, including light collection, so be certain not to be overzealous.

Infernium Review PS4
Infernium Review PS4

Movement in Infernium is simple. From a first-person perspective, you can move about by either walking or warping to a nearby destination. You first begin with a short-distance warp, but can obtain a warp later on that allows you to jump longer distances. You use another button to collect light, use stored light, or interact with objects such as levers used to open certain doors and gates. As you progress further, you will obtain new abilities such as a flashlight that helps you see better in the dark corridors. It can also assist in gameplay, but I won’t spoil that for you.

The story of Infernium is told mostly through notes you will find scrawled across the landscape. You learn more about the lore of the world itself, the meaning of the 25 chances, and why you found yourself there in the first place. Even the not-so-permanent permadeath has a meaning.

It is clear from the get-go that the world and its symbology was well-thought-out by the developer. Even the bare sound effects, the crackling of a fire, the whistling of the wind, and the sudden and stark sound of an enemy encounter fill the world with both beauty and despair, with fear and wonder. But, Infernium is not without its shortcomings.

Infernium Review PS4
Infernium Review PS4

Infernium never poses what I can describe as unfair challenges, but some of the difficulties stem from lack of direction. The game is indeed non-linear, so wandering about and finding your next location is a part of the overall trial. However, discovering how the different realms connect often feels more like an Easter egg hunt than it does solving a puzzle. You just happen to look in the right direction or turn the correct corner out of many other options. When paired with being pursued by enemies only a few steps behind you, taking that wrong turn only to realize it after the fact can lead to deaths that soon feel more punishing than the exploration feels rewarding.

You will also, on occasion, run across solutions that the game did not prepare you for logically. When you are instructed on how to use your warp ability, you are told it can only be used if the warp indicator touches the ground from what appears to be a certain angle. Nonetheless, early on I had to gain access to an upper level of a tower by what appears to be warping directly through an overhang from underneath. There was no reason to assume this would work. I tried it merely out of lack of any better ideas. Other times, you will be able to warp to higher areas that appear as if they would be set at the wrong angle. Then, other times you discover you cannot warp to places it seems as if you should be able to reach.

Infernium Review PS4
Infernium Review PS4

Perhaps my only other qualm with Infernium is the text used for the notes you find scrawled across different areas of the scenery. The typeface is difficult to read, even when standing quite close to the screen. I had a friend with me read it to me as I played. He had no issue, but I wear glasses for a reason. I think the other issue is the contrast between the text and the background is sometimes not high enough, making it more difficult to read, at least for me. I am certain I am not the only one. I hope the developer adds a feature where you can read the notes separately after they are located. This would also help because the notes are out of order. While they are short and not terribly difficult to remember, it would be nice to read them sequentially.

I mentioned in the beginning that the developer has taken some steps to remedy the frustration caused by creating a game that requires exploration and often death, but at a high risk and with so few chances. A recent update gives players four additional options: no permadeath, no enemies, slower enemies, and more tutorials. More tutorials will explain things like the light system and how it works. The slower enemies option slows pursuers by 25 percent, allowing you to take more time to make important decisions such as where to go next or how to escape. At the time of writing, these options are only available on Steam, but will soon be available on all platforms.

Infernium Review PS4
Infernium Review PS4

My time in Infernium can be described as a sort of love/hate relationship. I fell in love with the scenery, with the sound and feel. I hated dying like an idiot only to realize I still didn’t know where to go and I have to try yet again in hopes of using those few seconds a bit more wisely this time. But, overall I found myself addicted to Infernium like an explorer in a new world.

Its darkness and dangers, even the anxiety and frustration that comes along with the feeling of being lost and helpless, was never enough to deter me for long. And I think, if I might venture a guess, that is exactly what the developer was going for. You are in Hell after all; a lovely and dangerous place that beckons to your soul even as it devours you. That is ultimately the nature of real evil, both alluring and consuming. You are in Infernium for a reason, and as the player, you will feel the punishment that is made all the more appropriately perverse by the fact you can’t help but want to keep coming back.

Infernium is developed and published by Carlos Coronado and is currently available on Steam, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review [Nintendo Switch] – Embrace The Madness

Science and the spiritual realm are often considered opposites within our modern cultural milieu. So, what happens when the two clash together as very real yet polar counterparts? More specifically, what happens when the realms of madness come into contact with the methodical clockwork of the scientific method? Tesla vs. Lovecraft poses one answer to this: absolute and glorious chaos.

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review
Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

We recently did a full review of Tesla vs. Lovecraft for the PC, but as a bit of a refresher, the game centres on an ominous interaction between famous horror author H. P. Lovecraft and well-known electric guru Nikola Tesla. After ignoring Lovecraft’s pleas not to continue with his work on electricity, Tesla finds his laboratory raided by minions of the sinister Cthulhu. Tesla must now take back his inventions and castigate the forces of darkness using his scientific knowledge, and enough firepower to take out any collection of onerous elder gods.

The battle has finally made its way onto the Nintendo Switch and thankfully none of the monster exploding mayhem has been lost in the transition. The neon blue of Tesla’s teleportation ability, the brilliant green of underworld portals, and the bright purple tones of a devastating blast translates just as well whether on full screen or in tablet mode. The monstrous hordes are just as crisp and clear on my TV as they are on the small tablet screen aside from the obvious reduction in size. At no point did I feel at a disadvantage using the tablet over the TV mode.

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review
Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

In fact, I actually preferred using the tablet over playing in TV mode despite the smaller screen and decreased speaker output. I used a pro-controller to play on my TV and felt the larger screen combined with the more fluid, slightly raised analogue sticks made the movement feel less precise. The slighter, tighter movement of the Joy-Con controls matched with the smaller screen felt far more precise and made the action flow more fluidly for me. Of course, this will be a matter of preference and hand size, but I do think the game feels more natural on the tablet.

Plus, the visuals will still feel crisp and clear and the audio on the tablet, though not a match for TV speakers, handles the techno jive and bass output of the soundtrack quite well.

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review
Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

The Switch version brings with it all of the quick gun action and screen-filling hordes that keep the pace pumping along at breakneck speeds. You will find numerous weapons of varying effectiveness lying about and will quickly learn which is best for dispatching enemies in the swiftest and most visceral fashion. Tesla can also collect certain perks that can be added at the start of each level. You will also acquire a mech that will increase Tesla’s firepower and shield for a few seconds before exploding. You can then begin collecting the parts from around the level in order to regain the power of the mech for a few seconds before the cycle begins again.

Tesla VS Lovecraft Review
Tesla VS Lovecraft Review

Tesla can momentarily escape being consumed by the throngs by using a teleportation ability. This becomes extremely useful and often keeps you from feeling overwhelmed. But, be careful. It does take some seconds to recharge after a few uses. Once you get the hang of the dual-stick combat, you will find yourself dancing around and through the monstrous masses like some badass ballerina equipped with weapons that would make the Terminator jealous.

Later On Review

Later On Review [PC] – The Broken Psyche

Even the best of us have something hidden within ourselves or our past we prefer to keep buried. The monsters of self-pity, jealousy, bitterness, and anger are always battling with our better self. For some, these inner demons can be just as dark as any denizens of Hell. Later On focuses on what it might be like if the murky recesses of the mind found their way out into a reality of their own.

Later On Review [PC]

You play as David, an individual who clearly has a less than lacklustre view of the world and the people in it. David often refers to people as “trash” as he makes his way around the neighbourhood. It is clear from the get-go that something is a little off about the town of Later On, and David seems a little too calm about it. For example, your daily routine involves disappearing into the back of a . . . research facility? Lab? Whatever it is, it has something to do with David’s “job”, and whatever that might involve doesn’t sound good based on the noises coming from the back area. Of course, David shows no sign that any of this is bizarre or out of place.

After “work” David runs into a friend, Nico, an ally complaining he needs David’s help because he just developed a tail. David isn’t quite certain how to assist, so he decides to do nothing and walk away. This decision to abandon his friend in a time of need sets off the game’s events as David attempts to make things right with Nico. But, this is only the beginning of David’s deep dive into his own motives. What kind of person is he? And if the world around is any clue, David has some skeletons in his closet that are going to be something much worse than that time you got drunk at Christmas no one prefers to talk about.

Later On Review

Later On does well in sustaining a sense of unsettling anticipation. In part, this is accomplished by well-placed and well-orchestrated sound effects and music. Another way is through an unpredictable narrative. Whether you are tasked with finding a mermaid or encouraging a sentient towel to allow you to pull it off the wrack, you never know what might come around the corner. When the game takes its darker turns, this unpredictability feels even more disquieting because it appears to be a normal aspect of David’s life. Environments take on a bloody hue at times and monsters present themselves as if they are a natural part of the everyday. Dreamlike conversations with fellow residents who seem totally at home in nightmarish situations only add to the unease.

Puzzles are usually simple and equally as surreal, requiring you to think about objects around you in a way that is contrary to their natural use. For example, you might have to utilize a painting as if it were a certain appliance, or figure out how to awaken a sleeping manhole cover so you can move it. In these instances, some trial and error along with just a little ingenuity are enough to find the solution. But, there are also instances where the game sends you on a hunt for an object without any clue where to locate it. In one case, I needed to find something to cut down some bushes that were blocking my progress. I wandered around town until I found it in a location that felt random rather than a natural place to seek them out. These situations made the puzzles feel a bit inconsistent.

There are only a couple of what might be called “boss battles” in Later On, and though these were clearly meant to serve as emotional epiphanies for David, I found them the least enjoyable interactions in the game. You are confronted by a monster that represents an aspect of David’s past or character that he wishes not to face. You are challenged with accusations to which David must respond accordingly by choosing from a set of replies.

For example, you will run into a monster of self-pity who can only be defeated if David responds in ways contrary to that emotion. However, there were times when the exact meaning of a sentence is not quite clear, so I had to guess which one would cause a blow to my enemy. If you guess wrong, you still have to complete the interaction only to fail and go through the whole thing once more. It also felt lacklustre as a tool for making me empathize with David. From the world around him and some of the later story elements, I began to understand just how disturbed David was, but I never felt close to David. This made having to try to answer questions as him a rote effort, particularly at the very beginning.

Later On Review

The characters around David feel charming and full of life. In fact, it is everything around David that gives the world both its vibrancy and horror. David himself is simply a vessel often removed and unaffected, which is fine and fitting, except when we are asked to get into his head and pretend to be him. It is for this reason that Later On doesn’t quite hit its mark as an emotional narrative that wants the player to connect with David in a rather visceral fashion. The horror is conveyed just the same, and perhaps natural empathy can help bridge the disconnect between David’s story and the player, but I left without ever feeling a strong sense of attachment when it seems clear the game intended that I should.

David’s story isn’t quite original. A number of indie horror titles have dealt with taking on the role of a protagonist whose mind has seriously affected their perceptions of the world around them. Home does this quite well and far more subtly.

Later On is available now on Steam.