Iconoclasts Review

Iconoclasts Review [PS4] – Enjoyable, Challenging and Varied

When reading about indie games it used to be that the bar was set a little bit lower for the small teams that made them. We used to be more forgiving if a title didn’t have quite the sheen that you’d see out of an ‘AAA’ studio. I mean, what do you expect when you’ve only got a team of 5 people working on a game?

Iconoclasts Review

This isn’t the case anymore. Nowadays smaller teams are measured on the same scale as anyone else. Still, it’s hard not to be impressed by Iconoclasts’ development story. This is because Iconoclasts is a smart, challenging and gorgeous ‘puzzle-action platformer’ that was made by one person. The music, the programming, the writing and the visuals – everything.

So maybe you’ve read the term ‘action-puzzle platformer’ before or maybe it’s a new term I’ve just made up. Who’s to say? In simple terms, Iconoclasts has you playing as Robin, who’s a mechanic with a spanner and a stun gun. This means you jump from platform to platform, using your wrench to fix things, move platforms around and solve puzzles. You’ll also use your stun gun to shoot at the numerous nasties that litter the levels too.

Iconoclasts Review

Yes, I could have said ‘this is a game similar to Metroid’ but that would be lazy of me, wouldn’t it? Also, whilst there is some backtracking to do, as you upgrade your moves, your wrench and your gun, there’s not as much as you’d find in a Metroid game.

The puzzles and platforming challenges are well-designed and leave you feeling clever rather than frustrated. The puzzle elements are smartly paced and placed. You’ll rarely encounter something that you ‘need to come back to’ and it’s often fairly clear what you need to do, with the challenge coming from figuring out how to do it. Some of the puzzles require a little too much controller dexterity, as you’ll need to be fairly quick on your feet to do what needs to be done.

Iconoclasts Review

What will also require some dexterous button pressing is the fighting and, particularly, the boss battles. Much like the puzzles, most of these are great and ask you to put into practice the skills that you’ve already honed throughout the last area you’ve just spent time in. Sadly, two or three aren’t that fun and introduce unique gameplay elements that don’t appear anywhere else in the game. One boss has you switching characters, which would be fun if you knew how the character controlled. Sadly, the first time you play as this new character and get to try out her entirely bespoke control scheme is during the middle of a hectic boss fight.

Another element that doesn’t always work is the story. I think the fact that I’m even going to talk about the story in a game of this type is pretty astounding, but Iconoclasts has a story that is worth talking about, is better developed than most ‘narrative-driven’ games and will engage mostly everyone.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it’s safe to say that Iconoclasts has a story that is full of character and covers some heavy topics. It’s a story about religion, challenging authority of any type and it wants you to question the things you’ve been told by your teachers, preachers and parents. It has a heavily atheist tone, which people that have strong religious beliefs may find off-putting, but it’s brave to see what looks like a simple platformer contain such a fleshed out story, setting and cast.

Iconoclasts Review

It’s not perfect though. Some of the dialogue goes into ‘anime’ territory for me. There are some overbearing monologues delivered throughout the game and there is a new vocabulary to learn along the way. You’ll have to pay attention and piece together just what the game is talking about when it drops in some of its unique jargon. Personally, I found it worth the effort as Iconoclasts delivered a tale that was much more dramatic and darker than its bright and breezy visuals would suggest.

Speaking of which, it’s time I address the well-drawn elephant in the room. Yes – Iconoclasts has some beautiful pixel art.

Everything you get to see throughout the game is brilliantly animated and I can think of no higher praise than to say that quality of the art reminds me of Metal Slug. Enemies bounce, sway and have a real kinetic energy to them that means you can’t keep your eyes off the screen. I may have mentioned how the varied locations are great because they’re well-designed areas to puzzle and platform through, but they’re also really nice to look at and visually varied.

Iconoclasts Review

What’s also incredibly wide-ranging is the music. From cheery upbeat numbers to dourer ambient pieces, it’s really impressive to think this was done by one person. Sure, it took this one person 8 years, but you can see where the time has gone and that none of it was wasted!

Steam Indie Games

5 Indie Steam Games For This Week – Feb 1st

There have been some solid Steam indie games released recently, so here’s a few we selected for this week:

In Death

In Death

In Death was created exclusively for the amazing immersion of VR – so you’ll need a HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Windows Mixed Reality headset to play it. The game is a roguelite shooter set in the afterlife.

  • Store Page
  • Price: £13.94
  • Developer: Sólfar Studios



Tangledeep combines 16-bit graphics from classic SNES-era RPGs with elements from roguelikes and dungeon crawlers to create an experience for players of every skill level.

  • Store Page
  • Price: £9.89 –  until Feb 8th
  • Developer: Impact Gameworks



Anchorhead is a text adventure game in the style of old Infocom games from the 1980s. That means no graphics, no menus, no point-and-click – you navigate a written story using typed commands, and read what happens next. Sound intriguing?

  • Store Page
  • Price: £7.19
  • Developer: Michael Gentry

Martial Arts Brutality

Martial Arts Brutality

The quite literally named Martial Arts Brutality is a F2P (Free-to-play) turn-based tactical card fighter. In the game, you will learn the secrets of Kung Fu while ensuring you maintain some good ‘Chi’ Energy.

Dust and Salt

Dust and Salt

Dust and Salt is a text-based narrative adventure which features turn-based tactical battles. It’s set in a medieval fantasy world, but one in which there’s sadly no Aragorn or Gandalf.

That’s your lot this time around. Have you been playing any new indie games on Steam this week? Let us know in the comments section below.

I Fell From Grace Developer Deep Taiga Talks Motivational Practices, More

I Fell From Grace released on December 20th, marking the debut release from indie developer, Deep Taiga. Placing players into a rhyming narrative mystery, I Fell From Grace brings a unique twist to the retro 2D genre.

D-pad Joy recently had the chance to speak with Deep Taiga on topics such as how to stay motivated throughout the long development process, key trends in the industry such as VR, and advice for young developers just starting out as part of our interview series.

What inspired you to get into game development?

Funnily enough, my grandmother said when she heard I was making a game that this is something I had proclaimed I would do back when I was 8. I don’t remember that, but I’ve always enjoyed creative outlets, be it graphic/web design, poetry, CGI animation etc. I love telling a story and making a game affords so much in terms of creating a world for others to get lost in.

What games have you created and which is your favourite?

I fell from Grace is my first creation, so I guess it’ll have to be my favourite!

What advice would you offer for those just starting out?

You can totally do it! But it takes a lot of discipline, time and patience. You’ll feel like walking away from the project numerous times, especially in the beginning (at least I did), but if you stick with it, you’ll get there.

What do you think is going to be a key trend in the games industry this year?

I’m not a guru of any sort when it comes to the gaming industry, so I really don’t know. VR will probably see continued growth in 2018 – which is pretty neat.

What’s your favourite platform to sell games on?

I love PC gaming which is why I chose to make I fell from Grace a PC title primarily.

What are your favourite tools for game development?

The internet! Boy howdy can you learn a lot.

How do you stay motivated to achieve your goals?

There’s a great vlog made by Burnie Burns where he talks about motivation – which I completely agree with. I don’t really believe in motivation. Or at least I don’t believe that motivation is what should be pushing you to do things. What you should focus on cultivating is discipline, which in turn, will often give rise to motivation as a byproduct. If I only worked on my game when I felt like it, it’d be nowhere near finished.

What do you think about VR?

Super cool! And it’ll probably be a major part of gaming going forward, but I don’t think there will be a time anytime soon where that’s the only way to game.

Games console of choice?

Can I only pick one? Goodness… I guess the SNES was pretty great. But then the PS1 had FF7. Maybe it doesn’t really matter… Can I pick two? I’ll pick two.


You can find Deep Taiga’s debut release – I Fell From Grace – available now on PC at the Steam store.

The Curious Expedition

Devs release The Curious Expedition’s game content on GitHub

The developers of indie game The Curious Expedition have released the game’s content for free on open-source platform GitHub.

The Curious Expedition – Pixel Art For All

This new release from developer Maschinen-Mensch includes all the image files of the game which has become noted for its dazzling pixel art style.

Maschinen-Mensch’s co-founder, Johannes Kristmann, said:

Johannes Kristmann

“We have been successful with the game beyond our hopes and now want to give something back to the creative game development community. This is why we have decided to release our game’s content as open-source.

We would like to encourage you to use the many image files for your own prototypes or gamejams. Your usage of our content can be completely unrelated to modding The Curious Expedition, as long as you adhere to the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 license”.

The release includes full modding support and Steam Workshop integration as well. With the available image and script files, remixing and creating new content for the game should prove to be an entertaining project.

In case you didn’t know, The Curious Expedition is a roguelike expedition simulation set in the late 19th century. Together with famous historical personalities, players venture out on expeditions to regions never explored before for fame, science and even some treasure. You can see it in action below:

My Eyes On You

Neon-noir action adventure My Eyes On You gets first gameplay trailer

My Eyes On You presents to us an alternative version of 80s Chicago and features a dynamic fighting system. Interested from that tidbit alone? Well, here goes.

You play as Jordan Adalien, a framed FBI agent in the neon-noir action adventure whose job is to hunt down the ‘Man in the Crimson Mask’ – a smooth operator that is shedding blood all over the city. That’s why his mask is crimson.

Here’s our first look at the gameplay beamed into your peepers:

The fighting looks impressive. As for the rest of the game, the clues you decide to follow will affect how the story evolves and adapts; will you think rationally, or look into occult elements, for example? There’s also an interesting mechanic at play here: when in stressful situations, Jordan’s anxiety will affect his abilities and provoke hallucinations. Sort of like real life, right?

It’s coming to PC, Xbox One and PS4 at some point, but we don’t know when. One to watch.

Fearful Symmetry and The Cursed Prince out now

Fearful Symmetry and The Cursed Prince out now

Puzzle title Fearful Symmetry and The Cursed Prince is out today for PC and Xbox One. It’s available on PC via Steam, Xbox Live and available as an Xbox Play Anywhere title.

Fearful Symmetry and The Cursed Prince Out Now – Boggling?

Players control two characters – the twist being that both are stuck in different dimensions and even worse, these characters have opposite controls. This, combined with different traps and obstacles in the two dimensions results in what we imagine is a tricky puzzle game. Here’s the trailer for your peepers:

Here’s what people are saying on Steam:

“For the price, and the time it will take for the average person to 100% this game, I would say they set it just right.”

Moving pictures:

“I am pleasently surprised by this game title. It is not the game I usually go for but gameplay is super fun. Looks are not always important. This game is a must have if you like challenging puzzle games. Moving pictures are better than words.”

Pixel art rocks:

“Very interesting puzzle game. I’ve never played one quite like it and it’s cool when something different comes along. The amazing pixel art is very nice to look at as well. I love the soft color’s (sic) used in this game’s art style, they are very easy on the eyes.”

There are over 30 levels in the game with multiple characters to unlock along the journey. We’ll hopefully have a review out for this one soon.

Star Ghost Review [Nintendo Switch] – A Unique And Challenging Space Shooter

With so many games hitting the Nintendo Switch lately, it’s easy to dismiss a title without giving it much of a chance. I’ll admit, when I first fired up Star Ghost by developer Rainy Frog, I instantly wrote it off as another in a seemingly vast pit of Switch indie games. This action game seemed unplayable and so radically different from your typical side-scrolling shooter, that I turned off the system and left it so for quite some time. Here’s the thing though: As reviewers, we are duty bound to give every title fair treatment, and to ensure we deliver an honest and accurate assessment. I reluctantly picked up my Switch once more, and after opening my eyes, I found myself quickly becoming obsessed with its simple yet unique style of gameplay.

The game starts immediately with an overview of the crisis at hand. The Metagon Empire has arrived and is threatening to annihilate the entire human race, and it’s your job to stop them. Aiding you in this peril-filled task is the “most advanced starfighter ever built!” It’s a simple story told repeatedly, but luckily, that’s where Star Ghost deviates from other titles in the genre.

Star Ghost Screenshot 8

The control scheme is excruciatingly simplistic. Your ship is constantly moving forward on its own, only pausing for a split second when taking on damage. Weapons all fire automatically without prompting. The player, which is you, can only control the vertical axis of the ship; by pressing the A button, your craft floats to the top of the screen and releasing it causes the ship to fall to the bottom. This is what threw me off at first; I had almost zero control over any aspect of the ship, and it was very frustrating.

Once I started to play more of the game, I realized that the very thing I found annoying became very freeing. As soon as you cease to worry about navigation and weapons control, you’re free to concentrate on everything else around you. It’s, for this reason, I am hesitant to call Star Ghost a cross-screen shooter. To me, this game has all the makings of an arcade platformer that has been dressed up like a shooter. It’s crucial to know exactly when to raise your ship up or lower it down due to incoming enemy fire and deadly flying objects. There are points in the game where you have to navigate through slim openings between two points, where crashing into a wall is guaranteed if you’re not guiding the ship in the exact right spot.

Star Ghost Screenshot 10

As I mentioned, players can’t control their weapons. You start with a single shot, fired off at regular intervals (about 1.5 seconds apart). You can control the angle of the blasts, but it’s very limited in range. As you destroy enemies and objects, your ship can pick up credits as well as ship and gun modifications. Eventually, your ship’s fire rate will increase exponentially, and the single shot can increase to five with instant upgrades. In later missions, my ship also became equipped with rockets, while in others, I acquired a spread of high-powered lasers. Players are also given the option to purchase upgrades at the completion of each mission, based on the number of credits acquired.

The only other thing you can control is a tractor beam, which radiates outward from the centre of the ship, pulling in all surrounding credits and weapon mods. The tractor beam can also be upgraded, increasing in size to allow the ship to pull in more of the good stuff. Players need to be mindful though, because all upgrades have a timer which will run out, causing a downgrade to the previous level; this cycle will continue to occur until you’re either back where you started, or the timer is extended by picking up more power-ups. Players beware; your ship can also pick up floating viruses that temporarily shut down all weapons and tractor beams. Pick this up at the wrong time, and you can find your ship flying through a haze of enemy fire with no way of defending yourself.

ghost 2

Star Ghost is an arcade game through and through; once you die, that’s it, end of story. As soon the game over sign hits, players must start all over again from the very beginning. This aspect of the game is another example of what I found infuriating and highly frustrating at first. It wasn’t until I collected enough credits that I realized you could in-fact continue from your current mission. It costs 50 credits to continue, which means players must carefully choose how they spend them at the end of each mission. I know some will find this aggravating, but I found it added a greater challenge to the overall game.

Composer David Wise has created all the original music for the game. For those who aren’t familiar, Mr. Wise was the mastermind behind the music from the famed Donkey Kong Country series (among others). Wise has found himself a cult following, and if you’re familiar with his work, it’s clear why people love him.

ghost 1

The game gives off a simplistic vibe but is actually quite beautifully drawn and animated. There is a myriad of enemies and space fairing debris, all of which utilize rich colours and fluid movements. One of the most interesting aspects of the game is the inclusion of dynamic level generation; every time you play a mission, it will be different. Players will ultimately have a unique experience each time they head into the unknown.


Wuppo now available on PS4 and Xbox One

Adventure platformer indie game Wuppo has finally been released on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live stores.

Wuppo – Yoshi’s Island Platforming

Originally released on PC via Steam, the title quickly gained a cult following that couldn’t get enough of its quirky and cute, Yoshi’s Island-esque platforming. It currently has a 97% positive rating on Steam.

Here’s the PS4 and Xbox One launch trailer for you:

The game was a two-man passion project, with hand-drawn visuals, a full soundtrack and an expansive world to explore. If you’re looking for hidden gems, then look no further than this.

Check it out on both PS4 and Xbox One, if you haven’t already…

Dustbowl Review [PC] – A Point-and-Click Apocalypse

Just as one should be careful of judging the contents of a book by the cover art, anyone who grew up in the early days of gaming knows it also isn’t wise to judge a game by its pixel count. Dustbowl, developed by The Pompous Pixel, might look like a blast from the past, but don’t let first appearances fool you. This post-apocalyptic RPG boasts a challenging quest for survival and surprisingly fleshed out gameplay along with the old-school overlay.

Aliens have invaded the Earth, leaving the surface a dust-covered wasteland filled with nightmarish mutants and anyone crazy or desperate enough to remain above ground. You are the son of one of the survivors who helped establish a colony under the earth known as the HUB. Your father is sent out on an important mission that might affect the future of your little, underground community. Not one to wait for your fate, you decide to join the militia and hopefully locate your father and help bring him safely home.

Navigating the world is as simple as clicking on the direction or location you’d like your character to go. Scrolling over a given item, container or location will let you know if you can interact with it. Clicking on a door will either move you in or out or inform you if entry is blocked. Though I was never a particular fan of point-and-click adventures, this works well, especially when investigating your surroundings. You can also toggle walking speed under settings to help make moving around the world map or strolling across rooms a little quicker.

Survival will be your highest priority and the greatest challenge you will face in Dustbowl. There are separate meters for water, food and health. Another meter keeps track of the day and night cycle, ensuring you remember to get enough rest or face the negative consequences. This, of course, means you will need to make certain you have enough supplies as you wander, including basic essentials, health items, armour repair kits, weapons, and tents so you can rest when not back at the HUB. Eventually, this becomes a balancing act between what you need and what you can carry.

You will have a limited number of items you can keep in your pack based on overall weight. Later in the game, this becomes the biggest challenge to your survival. Thankfully, you can buy and sell items when encountering a vendor, or craft certain items when at a workbench,

Crafting is simple and intuitive.

Crafting is simple and surprisingly robust. When you reach a workbench you will see a list of items that can be made and which items will be needed to complete the task. It actually feels quite a bit like something straight out of Fallout 1 and 2, an impression I carried with me throughout the game.

However, while the crafting system is intuitive, the only downside is, as with all the items you collect, scrolling over an item does not provide a description of what it does. For instance, you don’t really know how restorative one health item is over another except through trial and error. This means when crafting, especially initially, you have to make a best guess with some items rather than going off of stats or descriptions.

The only other complaint regarding items, aside from lack of descriptions, is an inability to sort items by function. Instead, all items are displayed in a way that does feel very much like digging through a backpack. The ability to sort items based on function would have helped me track what I had more efficiently, But, perhaps that is more a matter of preference than necessity.

Enemy encounters are randomly generated and combat is simple, but a challenge to perfect. Anyone who played PGA Tour for the SNES will be somewhat familiar with it. Choosing to attack sets off a line that scrolls quickly over a meter marked by three colours: grey (miss), blue (normal hit), and red (critical hit). You can select what body parts you would like to target. The three areas shrink or increase based on the body part you select for attack. For example, the head has a much smaller critical hit area than the torso.

Combat is turn-based and aside from using different types of weapons that allow for higher or lower hit points, it has little variety. That is not to say it necessarily gets old quickly, but the turn-based system does not work quite as well for this type of combat. Once you have the timing down, there is not much of a challenge left. Adding a more tactical approach or changing the combat style to quick turns and adding a block/parry function would add an additional challenge. Adding pros and cons to the weapons would also allow the player to make more informed decisions regarding which weapons to use, particularly if enemies displayed certain weaknesses based on type of assault.

Thankfully, the survival elements overshadow and outweigh anything the combat lacks. But, the major driving force behind your decision to take one more step into the dangerous unknown is the thrill of exploration which Dustbowl captures perfectly.

The world of Dustbowl is rather large considering the game’s engine and is divided into six different quadrants, each having their own style. Aside from the overarching story, you will also have the option to accept quests from NPCs throughout the world, some more outlandish than others. For instance, one of the first requests you are given is locating four stuffed bunnies misplaced by a small child. Complete the quests, and you will receive loot and experience points.

Becoming effective at combat means mastering the timing.

Due largely to the fact your character initially seems rather run-of-the-mill for an adventure title (and looks a bit old to be in his early 20s), it took me a little bit to be able to put myself into his shoes. The dialogue can sometimes fall a bit flat and occasionally suffers from spelling and grammatical errors. Nothing anywhere near as memorable as “All your base are belong to us,” but something that needs to be taken into account for future studio endeavours.

After spending a short time with the game, however, I found myself getting sucked in. Dustbowl manages to tap into the most basic instinct of any curious gamer: I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I wanted to see how far I could go, what new places there were to explore, and what new characters I could meet. Each new character seemed to have a backstory, even ones with whom I spent little time. I could tell the developers invested great amounts of time into considering how these people had lived in this world up until the moment we met, who they were, and what their motivations are.

The game also does a fantastic job of conveying a sense of isolation, particularly in the sound design. Most of the time, you hear only wind or white noise interrupted only by the sound of your own footsteps. Among the old, worn down structures and amid the dust-strewn landscape, the sense of loneliness is palpable.

From the numerous sci-fi easter eggs to the obvious inspiration from games like Fallout and Metro 2033, and the clear level of care put into making Dustbowl a robust and engaging survival/adventure experience, there is no doubt the developers know their audience and are themselves fans of the genre.

Sure, Dustbowl isn’t perfect. A world map would have been handy, but at least the game marks out places you have already explored. Adding item and weapon details, the ability to sort items in the inventory and perhaps greater use of the crafting system regarding weapons would be a welcome addition. A more robust combat system would add a great deal to the game’s overall enjoyment simply due to the fact that you have to engage in it so often. But, the areas Dustbowl gets right (story, a sense of exploration, interesting characters, and a complex survival system), adds up to an impressive entry into the RPG/survival genre.

Dustbowl is available on Steam.

Figment Review – A Beautiful Exploration Of The Mind [PC]

A music action-adventure set in the recesses of the human mind.

This is how Bedtime Digital Games describe their new game Figment: if you are familiar with Back to Bed, an adorable puzzle game about guiding a sleepwalking man safely back to his bed, you will quickly see the resemblance. (If the title of the game sounded familiar, you probably remember Chris’ preview here).

The first thing that hits you when entering the game is its gorgeous hand-drawn art style, which was one of the most prominent qualities of its predecessor as well. Starting with a pretty little house, we meet our protagonist Dusty, a careless and pessimistic character, who doesn’t care much for anybody or anything. His companion, the bird Piper, works as great opposition to him – cheery, optimistic, and creating bad puns all day long. Well, perhaps some of them are clever, I guess.

Dusty’s scrapbook is stolen by a dark, sullen creature – and we learn later it’s a manifestation of a nightmare. Dusty’s mind is set on getting it back, no matter the cost, and Piper chirps that “something is wrong with the mind,” and that we need to fix it; as a kind of foreboding to what this whole ordeal is about. And so the story begins, as we venture into the imaginations of the mind.

The puzzles are interesting, and luckily for me, not too hard.

The game uses some interesting terminology; some of which might seem familiar, but on a very different subject than video games; neurology. Collect endorphins so that the “brain will turn back into yourself again in no time,” pulling you out of whatever it is that’s holding you down. Killing nightmares are a way to release these endorphins – which makes perfect sense since endorphins are basically the stuff that makes you happy. One can also collect endurance neurons, which is basically health points. The game also creates new words such as the “remembrane” – which is a ball of light that represents forgotten memories. They can be collected throughout the game and are also a part of restoring your mind.

The terminology is there for a reason; as the game world itself is a manifestation of the brain, Dusty and Piper has to traverse through the different parts of the brain in order to fight the different nightmares. The right side of the brain is the creative side, and the scenery adjusts accordingly, with instruments decorated as flowers, creating an absurd yet playful atmosphere. The logical part of the brain, on the other hand, is filled with cogs and clocks, with darker colours. There are really interesting concepts concerning the brain that make it into the game, such as the “train of thoughts” which is an object used to solve some of the puzzles in the logical part of the brain. Very well done by the developers – very clever indeed!

Reminding me a little bit of Monument Valley in the way the structure is built.png
This specific puzzle… I was stuck on it for quite some time. *sigh*

The puzzles get more extensive as you proceed in the game, meaning you need to look around everywhere, backtracking and so on. Some of the puzzles that look dimensional like this remind me of the indie game Monument Valley. However, the puzzles are not too hard, which I liked. I am a fan of progress in games and appreciate not having to be stuck on a puzzle for a longer period of time.

The majority of the game is about solving puzzles, but there’s also a bit about battling enemies or so-called nightmares. In terms of gameplay, Figment shows how the hack ‘n’ slash element can be implemented into a relaxing game successfully. It is simple and straightforward – and patience is key when it comes to defeating your enemies. The nightmares come in the form of human fears, such as disease, spiders, etc, which is interesting, because they are both rational and irrational fears – applying to both parts of the brain!

Figment - map.png
The loading screen is a map of your progress, which is pretty handy. And it is gorgeous-looking too. The universe actually reminds me of the painter Salvador Dali and his painting “The Persistence of Memory.”
Do you see the resemblance?

It is clear that Figment is a game that focuses on its musical prowess. And with good reason, too. I loved the sound design in this title. The music changes depending on where you are in the brain and which nightmare you are fighting. The instruments that play in the soundtrack are blended into the scenery in a very beautiful way, and one can clearly see how essential music is to the ethos of this game. It gets better: during the boss encounters they sing songs to you – about what they are, and why they are frightening. The songs are catchy and fun – I really enjoyed them for this reason alone.

Figment offers a unique soundtrack, with specially designed songs – if there ever exists a vinyl of the music, be sure to send it my way, okay? Just sayin’.

Though the game doesn’t contain that much action, it sure is a fantastic adventure game. The levels are imaginative, and gorgeous in an absurd kind of way. Moreover, the way Figment chooses to deal with the distress of the mind is fascinating, and very well done.

As of this moment, the game is only available on Mac, PC, and Linux. Hopefully, it will be available on Xbox, PS4 and Switch soon, because more people definitely need to play this.

Joan Ginard From Indie Brain On Being An Indie Developer

We got the chance to sit down and speak to indie developer Joan Ginard from Indie Brain. It’s here we discussed indie game development, wider trends in the games industry and much more.

Joan Ginard is a passionate indie game developer and student. He makes video games in his free time – he’s been in love with them since he got his hands on a Game Boy when he was 3 years old.

What inspired you to get into game development?

One day, while having lunch, I saw on TV that they were making this coverage about people that worked making games and I was like: “WAIT WHAT!? You can actually work making games!?”. Prior to this, even though I had been playing games my entire life, I hadn’t thought about the idea. Next, in the coverage, they were announcing the release of a master’s degree right in my city (Barcelona)!

At that time I was in 11th grade (4 years from now so 2013) with 16 years on my back and couldn’t have any other dream. In fact, this idea of making games is what has kept me from not dropping off school nor college. Right now I’m in my 3rd year of a “special”, you could say, computer engineering bachelor’s degree. So, since I entered college I have been making plenty of games.

What games have you created and which is your favourite?

My favourite game I created was in a 4-day game jam called The Odyssey to School. It’s an endless runner about a boy trying to reach school on time with obstacles in his way and every time he gets hit he loses life which is his timer to reach school on time, haha. It’s very small and simple, you can beat it in 5-10min, but I worked hard on it, created my own little engine using Javascript and HTML.

Why not, you can find it here: https://joan-ginard.itch.io/theodysseytoschool

What advice would you offer for those just starting out?

My advice would start by telling the truth from the beginning. If you want to be a game developer and make big games that’s going to be a long-term goal (we are talking about 5-10 years) and it’s going to be extremely hard, making games is NOT playing them (like most people think).

This mentality comes from many AAA companies that have accustomed us to release a new Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Fifa, Battlefield every year, so we think it’s very easy to make games (from a gamer’s point of view), but the reality is that in these titles there are normally between 700-1,000 people working on it 12h/day during 1 full year. So, you got to be realistic about your capabilities and if you aim is making big titles like this you’ll need the skill only years can provide and a big team, not just yourself or a few friends! Although I feel like these companies never innovate so even if you make a small game, innovation yourself is better.

To begin, my advice would be start learning the programming language C++ from the beginning – it’s the language all other programs and languages have been created from, so even though it’s the most difficult one, once you learn it you can program in any language for any platform to make any game and you’ll have the most opportunities for jobs. At the beginning, because it’s all code you’ll get frustrated because you’ll only make text games or very simple games. So, once you understand at an amateur level how everything in C++ works, start making games with GameMaker Studio using only code and you’ll get to create amazing 2D games easily with the expertise you have accomplished programming in C++ (just like what I did, haha, even though I still consider myself a C++ noob).

From this point on, everything will be easy on you, you will just need to adapt your syntax for any other language, but because you already know how to program in C++ it will be so much easier. It’s like playing soccer with a tennis ball and then actually playing with a soccer ball – because you are so good with a tennis ball, with the soccer ball you’ll be awesome too.

Next, just try the game engines out there (programs to make games) or try to make your own and focus on the one you like the most. For me, I’m more of a creative profile so I prefer using already existing games because I like to make games, not make programs to make games, but that just depends on every person, just follow your path and keep working hard.

What do you think is going to be a key trend in the games industry this year?

I think lately survival and open-world games have been trending a lot, so it will follow this line. Apart, from indie titles especially on Steam. Every year that passes we see more variety in indie titles that are hits with completely different genres and audiences. You just got to take a look at how ARK: Survival Evolved, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds, The Forest, Rust, We Happy Few and other not so popular indie titles out there. I also feel that more on the indie side, specifically rogue-like titles are also a trend thanks to The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Enter the Gungeon or Crypt of the Necrodancer and other smaller ones.

In your opinion, which is the best platform to sell your game on?

Right now, as an indie developer, the most comfortable and beneficial one I would say is Steam. It has the most customers in the PC market and most importantly, the highest fan base of indie games.

Oh! And why not Switch! There are so few rival games that if you make a good one, you will get noticed.

What are your favourite tools for game development?

At the moment, they would be GameMaker as a game engine, Adobe Photoshop as an image editor and Adobe After Effects as a video editor. Although I’m enjoying a lot of Unreal Engine, which I’ll use for my next game!

How do you stay motivated to achieve your goals?

It’s not easy, you’ll eventually feel unmotivated. For me, it’s just the urge of making a name for myself in the industry, I’m just very ambitious I want to make the best game of all time! Apart from enjoying every last bit of it. I feel that’s the most important part of any goal. Normally I’ll be working for 10 hours look at the clock and say “What!? I just started working! It felt like 2 hours of work lol!”.

When I feel unmotivated I just keep working – you’ll thank yourself later. Also, one thing comes to mind that I heard Will Smith say in one of his interviews “While the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy’s eating, I’m working. While the other guy’s making love, I mean, I’m making love, too, but I’m working really hard at it!”

Which events do you recommend indie developers showcase their game at?

I would say start small in your city or nearby (just like I did), it will be cheaper and easier.

From this point on, move to more popular events, it all depends on how much you can pay for what you are willing to do. In an ideal case, I would recommend getting a booth at PAX, E3, Gamescom, Independent Games Festival, GDC and any other of the same type.

If you do it, even if your game is crap, you’ll get a decent fan base and exposure which is basically what sells your game and improves it. These type of events (even if small) are so important because you get plenty of people to test your game. This means you learn what people like and hate about your game, how to improve it, even gather new cool ideas, make friends, make contacts – I recommend it at any level – 10/10 – you need to get out there!

What do you think about VR?

For VR, the price is too high and since its launch, I feel like there are no “real” games yet, just prototypes. When have you heard about a release of any VR game apart from the VR release announcement? I haven’t – I have tried all of them and see plenty of potential, if everyone had one of these at home, people would stop going to work! The problem is that it’s too expensive, it makes you dizzy and there no games, so, for now, it’s just not worth it.

Games console of choice?

At the moment I feel that the PS4 is the best, mainly because of these games: Uncharted, The Last Guardian, Persona 5, The Last of Us, God of War. It’s a small box with little noise, many software functionalities, comfortable controllers, good PSN games overall, good servers, best exclusives.

I can understand people having another console as a favourite though – I respect that. After all, we’re not kids on a playground fighting over some plastic! I also own a PS3, a PC and a Switch.

Thanks for your time Joan. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you!

You can find our full review of Scarlett’s Dungeon here.

Kevin Giguere From Dragon Slumber On Being An Indie Developer

We got the chance to sit down and speak to indie developer Kevin Giguere from Dragon Slumber. It’s here we discussed indie game development, wider trends in the games industry and much more.

Kevin Giguere is a programmer with over 15 years of programming experience, and the founder of Dragon Slumber, an indie game development company set in Quebec, Canada. As an indie developer, he has created a retro JRPG called Arelite Core and a 3D runner racing game called Astral Traveler.

Kevin Giguere Indie Developer

What inspired you to get into game development?

I was always into video game creation, even as a young kid. My older cousins have multiple anecdotes of me drawing level maps and asking them to illustrate some aspects of them. As a teenager, I learned Basic and started making a few (terrible) games, as well as creating my own maps for Warcraft and Doom. I eventually went to college to get a programming degree, although anything gaming related I had to learn on my own.

What games have you created and which is your favourite?

I have worked on over a dozen commercial games over the course of my career. During the mid-2000s, I worked as a programmer for a flash game development company. We made weekly promotional games for brands like Spongebob Squarepants and Avatar, so very small in scope, usually only a few weeks of programming.

As an indie developer, I am publishing my second title Astral Traveler on September 13th, 2017, but my first game Arelite Core will always have a special place in my heart. I worked on that one for over four years and invested about 50k of my own money into it. It was a long, painful project, but it also taught me so much about the industry and bringing a project like this to its full completion.

What advice would you offer for those just starting out?

First of all, if you want to make a profit on your game, do your research. There are thousands upon thousands of games being released each year, so if your game doesn’t hit home, you’re likely to get lost in the shuffle. Everyone feels their idea is special, but really the right game at the right time, as well as a flawless execution, are the first steps that can lead the way to success.

Networking with other industry professionals is a key component as well. I think Arelite Core would have struggled a lot less in the market if I knew the people I do now who have helped me out on every aspect of development and promotion. It’s important to remember that everyone has a project they care about, so don’t just ask for help but actually, get invested in the community.

Finally, don’t wait until the last minute to put your game out there, start talking about it as early as possible. Communication is key and you need to talk with your audience, not at them. That means listening to what they’re saying and reacting accordingly.

What do you think is going to be a key trend in the games industry this year?

I think financial viability is becoming an issue for a lot of developers, both in the indie market as well as for AAA publishers. Gamer expectations are through the roof due to so much competition, so it costs more to produce games. However, game prices themselves aren’t going up that much, with bundles becoming the prevailing method to get new games for a lot of players. This is leading to more alternate ways of making money, from crazy premium bundles, to loot boxes, exclusive pre-order DLC, and so on.

On the indie side, I think outreach is being done a bit differently as well. For instance, I stream the development of my games on Twitch and I have a Patreon which greatly helps me out as well. I think for a lot of full-time developers, diversifying their approach is becoming necessary to be able to sustain themselves. For every success story, there are thousands of forgotten titles.

“I think financial viability is becoming an issue for a lot of developers, both in the indie market as well as for AAA publishers”.

What’s your favourite platform to sell games on?

Since I’ve only released PC games thus far, I’ll have to answer Steam. The ability to control your game and to update it at any moment makes a world of difference, I can put out a patch for a found bug within minutes, which I believe would be more difficult on other platforms.

Conversely, I think mobile is the most dangerous platform because it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle. I’ve seen people work on games for years, release for free and only see a few hundred downloads. I think there is money to be made, but unless you’re Flappy Bird levels of lucky, you absolutely need the right market strategy and that takes a lot of investment.

What are your favourite tools for game development?

I’m really enjoying Unity, I find it really easy to use as an engine and it lets me accomplish a lot in not too much time. It’s not without its inconveniences, such as code optimization issues and requiring a very specific structure, without which games end up lagging really fast, but overall I would recommend it to most developers out there with a good grasp on programming, whether your project is 2D or 3D. And it’s free, can’t beat that price.

However, the tool I am known to use the most is Open Office Calc (or Excel), which really came in handy on Arelite Core to create enemy stats, inventory items, story segments and so on. On Astral Traveler, I actually use it to create levels themselves, setting the elements up in the spreadsheet and then converting them to a json file which can be read by the engine. Sometimes tools really can do a lot more than expected with a few tweaks.

How do you stay motivated to achieve your goals?

When I officially became an indie developer in 2013, I decided to throw myself into them entirely, including whatever sacrifices would be needed. That includes 80 hour work weeks, reduced contact with friends and family, and investing tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket in the case of Arelite Core. Then, in January of this year, I quit my job to dedicate myself full time to my passion.

Because I invest so much into the creation of these games, I can’t really afford to not work on them and I think that really helps drive me forward, including in those stressful moments where nothing is working as planned. If I don’t release and sell games, I can’t afford a home and food, simple as that. I also think having realistic expectations can help motivate me, knowing what I can expect in terms of sales and reception, and learning to create better games moving forward.

Being an indie game developer is about making sacrifices, and I think a lot of people are not ready for that. But if you know what you’re getting into, I think it makes the process a bit more tolerable.

Which events do you recommend indie developers showcase their game at?

Depending on the scope of the game, events can be cost prohibitive. I went to PAX East 2016 to showcase Arelite Core, which ended up costing around four thousand dollars over all. I can honestly say that it didn’t drive enough sales to warrant the expense, at least not directly.

However, I did get to meet with numerous game industry people through the indie megabooth initiative, and I signed a distribution deal for my game as well. For me, that event was an opportunity to network and plan long term beyond the launch of Arelite Core.

I think the important thing is to understand what your goal is when attending an event. You can use them to test your game and get feedback or meet people, you can even make a few direct sales.

What do you think about VR?

I recently got an Oculus Rift and for the little time I’ve had to play it, I absolutely love it. I think the ability to use your hands in a 3D space provides a lot of opportunities, but like any other control scheme, the games need to be built around that. Robo Recall does a fantastic job at that, it’s a first-person shooter where you hold your guns and can throw them around, as well as grab robot enemies in front of you to tear them up. It makes the player feel like an action hero in a way that holding a controller couldn’t accomplish.

I’m glad that the costs are going down, and am really hopeful that within a few years, VR will be in more households, in a more customer friendly way. I don’t think it’ll replace the platforms already out, but I’m definitely looking forward to more high-quality VR titles.

Games console of choice?

The SNES by far my favourite console and it has definitely influenced me a great deal as many will have gathered from the look of Arelite Core. Games from that generation are so well focused, building upon the NES era into longer and more in-depth experiences without being any less approachable.

I also love that the time between powering up your console up to playing the game is almost instantaneous, as opposed to consoles nowadays which take forever both from the console booting and the games preloading so much information.

Thanks for your time Kevin. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you!

Our review of Astral Traveler will be up on the site shortly.