Articles tagged with platformer

The Delusions of Von
Sottendorff and His Square Mind
Posted by Mark at 08:28

In a sort of bizarre rotation of the traditional First Play/Review/What We're Playing chronology, I've covered pretty much the size of Von Sottendorff already. It'd be like I was making some clever joke on the slide puzzle element of the game, had I not only just thought of it.

We will, however, quickly recap: Baron Von Sottendorff has gone a little bit cuckoo and retreated into his own mind. Said mind seems to be limited to imagining small worlds made of cubic rooms, most of which can be manipulated around one another in a manner similar to a slide puzzle. In order to escape his own imagination, he must re-arrange those rooms to make it easier to traverse them, collecting together various mementos- and presumably, his marbles- as he goes.

Like the inside of the Baron's bonce, the game is made up of a handful of small compartments, not all of which sit entirely comfortably next to one another.

Let's start with the core, puzzle element- this is nicely done. The sliding rooms need to be shifted around so that the doors at their edges match up and can be passed through, reaching otherwise inaccessible ledges. This is expanded upon with platforms which are invisible until triggered by- of all things- a quick blast on a horn, hatches on the floors and ceilings, and later more complex structural puzzles.

Of course, where there are platforms, there is platforming. As a mechanic, this lives and dies, as James has taught us when discussing Umihara Kawase, its physics. Von Sottendorff struggles with this. It's frequently difficult to judge exactly how far a jump will take you.

This rubs up awkwardly, as mentioned back in the WWP, against the game's mostly-fixed camera, and the level furniture's stubborn refusal to get out of its way, leaving you often not knowing where you are or where you're going. Coupled with the physics, this can often mean missing the generally small platforms. Missing a platform means manoeuvring all the rooms to get out of where you've fallen, in order to be able to re-manoeuvre them to get to where you'd fallen from. Or just giving up.

Another game which shares these three elements, also a 3DS eShop favourite, is Pullblox- while it also gets the physics a bit less wrong, the ability to rewind gameplay a short way helps to take the focus off the platforming and put it back onto the puzzling- meaning that when the game does risk frustrating, it frustrates for the right reasons.

The Delusions of Von Sottendorff and His Square Mind comes recommended, but with the above caveat. This is a good concept, well pitched for handheld, it's just that everything can come crashing down far too easily.
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Gunman Clive
HD Collection
Posted by Mark at 03:16

The Gunman Clive HD Collection, as its name suggests, collects together the Gunman Clive games- two enjoyable whistle-stop tours through platform game tropes released on 3DS and mobile in 2012 and 2015 and bumps them into Glorious High Definition.

We've visited these games before, scoring them seven and nine out of ten respectively, so I'll not waste too long covering the games on their own merits- we have already come to the conclusion that they're both well worth buying- it just comes down to whether you'd be wanting to do so in the HD collection, or just stick to the originals. Or double-dip, if you're so inclined.

As a straight port, there's not a lot to complain about- the Space Harrier level in GC2 feels like it loses something in no longer having 3D, but not so much that it affects gameplay. The levels, designed for handheld, do feel too short for console play, but it's not fair to criticize the original game design for that, especially not when it shares a platform with over sixty other handheld games on Virtual Console.

The higher resolution also improves the art style- the scratchy, sketchy outlines of the characters and platforms look much sharper and more like the hand-drawn linework they're meant to emulate, and as an analogy for a larger page, makes the fuzzy, inkwash colours make much more sense and look less like a conveniently-placed smear.

Less well-served by the four-and-a-half-times magnification are the designs of the platforms and the levels they make up- what had a chunky charm is now just sparse, and the floaty-feeling jump can often make falling short of a platform feel like a trick of the higher resolution rather than a misjudged button press. This is made much worse by the many times that you'll find yourself being shot in mid-air by an enemy which has only come on-screen half way, as Ben pointed out in his original reviews.

Gunman Clive HD Collection brings together two good games at a good price. However, it's very difficult to recommend this version over the 3DS originals. If you're able to get the 3DS games instead, get those. But if you're the one person who has a Wii U but no 3DS, then you're not going to go wrong getting this.
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Cast of the
Seven Godsends
Posted by Mark at 12:56

Cast of the Seven Godsends is a game which knows exactly what it wants to be.

Inspired very heavily by Ghouls 'n Ghosts and similar games of the late 1980's, the game sees you take your protagonist and run from one end of the game to the other, shooting at enemies and jumping over obstacles as you go. Unlike many of its retro-throwback peers, the developers at Raven Travel Studios have skipped the almost-obligatory pixel art in favour of hand drawn backgrounds, and the chiptunes in favour of slightly more modern synths.

The Seven Godsends of the title are a selection of powers, each sent from an individual god, which change the appearance of the player character and give him a element-themed attack.

There's no faulting the faithful approach the developers have taken to the games of the era- fast paced set pieces driving you across an ever-changing landscape populated by ever-changing monsters through one level into the next, dexterity-challenging bosses that beg you to try all the different Godsends in deipatching them, you name it.

However, there are times where it's been a little too faithful to its coin-op influences.

There's a lives-and-continues system, for a start, which hasn't been seen in original paid-for games for a long time, which kicks you back to the beginning when both have run out- and this is the main game mode, not some Hardcore or Score Attack mode.

There's no system where the two increase with extended play either, which tends to be the compromise home conversions of arcade games tend to go for, merely a fixed amount connected to the chosen difficulty level- although there is a God Mode in the options screen. Higher difficulty levels just make the enemies mire unrelenting, rather than smarter or better-placed.

In chasing that old-school level of challenge, the game also frequently mistakes 'unfairness' for 'difficulty', with enemies spawning on top of the player in the first two screens of the first level, and making another one almost entirely out of leaps of faith.

There is a lot of merit in how well the game imitates a lot of what made these games what they were, but in lacking certain concessions to modernity, it all gets lost.

Cast of the Seven Godsends is a game which knows exactly what it wants to be- it's just that it wants to be something that doesn't fit in today's gaming landscape.
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of Pip
Posted by Mark at 17:21

This is my third review in a row for a pixelly indie platform-ish game. I sense a theme developing.

But this one does it a bit differently. Rather than being a faux-retro tribute to another genre, The Adventures of Pip makes its retro style part of its gameplay. You see, in a fit of self-awareness, the title character lives in a world of pixel people- some single pixels, some medium-res, and some of a higher resolution than that. Pip, however, is able to switch between all three states.

Beginning as a single pixel, Pip sees the- naturally high-resolution- King and Queen of the land be de-rezzed and their daughter be kidnapped by local baddie Queen DeRezia. It's then time to go off and defeat the latter and rescue the one in the middle in the hope of restoring the former to their- ahem- former glory.

A more 'straight' platformer than the metroidvanias of Castle or Axiom, the levels are solved not by what items you've picked up, but what state you're in- Pixel Pip can fit through smaller gaps and weighs down pressure-sensitive platforms less, mid-res Pip is bigger, but can wall-jump, while in his highest resolution, he carries a sword at the expense of speed.

Puzzles are then built up on these differing abilities, up-rezzing when killing a certain class of enemy and re-rezzing at will. While a lot of these puzzles show some ingenuity in their use of Pip's ability to change state, in the later game the challenge seems to come less from well-laid traps and more from poorly-positioned hazards.

For a game that wears its retro-style influences on its sleeve as much as Pip does, it is also to its credit that it hasn't fallen totally into aping the limitations of games of old- rather than self-conciously limiting itself to building its world out of small tiles, the game's environments are designed with modern displays in mind- chunky, detailed sprite work makes up the platforms and backgrounds.

Save for a surprisingly charming hybrid theme which soundtracks the game's opening and closing cutscenes, the game also eschews a chiptune soundtrack in favour of over-the-top orchestral-sounding background music.

Another Kickstarter success, then- cheap and cheerful, and never quite outstaying its welcome. It's a little rough around the edges, but then, what isn't at low resolution?
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Castle In The
Posted by Mark at 12:18

Pixel art seems to be the go-to style for a lot of indie developers, and it's his past success doing just that on The Binding of Isaac which has lead Matt Kap to build an entire game, Castle In The Darkness.

Castle takes the form of a reasonably straightforward action platformer- troubling you with little more than movement, a jump button and an attack button, the latter of which can be held to charge a special attack.

However, it's the Metroidvanias of the world that CitD has its eyes set on more than anything- the resurgence in 2D platform games driven by indies tends towards superhard point-to-point traversal challenges, like Super Meat Boy, or puzzles and story, like Braid, but here it's about finding new powers in places that let you explore other, previously inaccessible places you've already been past.

This isn't to say that the game is devoid of challenge. Despite the inclusion of modern difficulty concessions such as save points and infinite lives, Castle has absolutely no qualms about murdering the player at every given opportunity.

Slow-moving early-game enemies soon give way to projectile-spewing plants and various things that explode into more enemies when they're killed, flanked by sheer drops and collapsing platforms over instadeath spikes (and the occasional switch puzzle)- and that's without including any of the bosses.

Likewise, level design itself soon turns from reasonably empty rooms to elaborate death traps- which themselves go from thoughtfully-navigated, delicate operations to almost muscle memory-driven twitch platformers after multiple plays.

The game's devotion to all things retro also comes at a price- the game can on occasion be a little too referential in its humour, and one boss appears to be almost entirely lifted from another game wholesale.

The game's world, for all its cleverly-hidden secrets and side areas, is also too simplistic and lacks the naturalistic shortcuts which arise from revisiting areas with different weapons and powers. This also has the effect of making the distance between some save points a greater challenge than any of the traps.

This shouldn't- and doesn't- detract from the overall package, however. As a game made by a small team, this would be impressive. For a near enough one-man show, it's even more so.
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Posted by Ben at 15:44

A lot of games do the retro thing, but few really get it right. Freedom Planet is one of those games that manages it, nailing the look whilst also playing like an old game.

Freedom Planet takes its cue from Sonic 3, with huge sprawling levels, multiple characters with their own routes through. Even small details like how a wall will smash apart. That's not to say it's simply a reskin on Sonic, it's a mistake I think a few will make, but it's actually more of an action game than that. If we take Lilac as an example, while she does have a spin attack of sorts, and is clearly the Sonic of the game, she's also got low kicks and an uppercut, with her most useful move being a hovering whirlwind attack.

There's a plot to the game too, and while it does kind of boil down to 'bad guy has stolen the giant powerful emerald' it's actually much bigger, involving empires and politics. It's also fully voiced, and while that isn't always a good thing, it does mean some of the lines are delivered with a deadpan humour. The script occasionally throws up some cracking lines too. It's a bit of a shame then that there's moments where it felt like I'd missed something, that I was playing the sequel to a popular game that doesn't exist, or that there was a cut scene that had been skipped.

That slight rough edge is apparent in the gameplay too. I'm going to preface this next bit by saying the reason there's so much of it is because Freedom Planet gets so close to nailing it. If you compare Sonic, or Rocket Knight, or even Gunstar Heroes to Freedom Planet the thing that sticks out is how simple the combat is in those classic games. To kill an enemy in Sonic you bounce on his head or spin in to them. With Sparkster you hit them with your sword, and Gunstar you shoot them. There's a very definite solid feel, a line where you've definitely connected and bounce off. In Freedom Planet you almost pass through, with even basic enemies taking multiple hits. Maybe that's deliberate, but I'd take damage from it, and from the ever so slightly floaty controls, and it's something I don't think the best of the 16bit era would have done.

That all being said I've absolutely loved my time with Freedom Planet. The highest compliment I can pay it is that it feels like an old game, even down to the slightly too hard late game boss fights. It's also nice to see someone tap the Sega side of retro, something that doesn't happen enough for the tastes of the Bitparade writers. There are a few rough edges, like the mouse cursor staying on the screen, but it really is a fantastic game, pacey and packed. If you fall on to the Sega side of the great divide, I wholeheartedly recommend it
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Posted by Mark at 15:09

Blimey O' Reilly, it's a Wednesday Game. Not seen one of those for ages!

This week, it's a deceptively simple Flash platformer, Tealy & Orangey- you control both characters at the same time, through variably different levels, with an eye to guiding them both to the finish line.

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Posted by Duane at 13:24

Another platformer this week. Here you simply just have to keep running and collecting metal cog like tokens, avoid the massive alien space ship like thing hanging around trying to vapourise you at all times.

Hunted Forever is a browser based title, which you can play here.

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Posted by Ben at 13:26

Recently named in ign's '20 Must Have Wii Games', but is it really worthy of such acclaim?

The Wii, aside from being home to various mini-game collections, is also the new home for family platformers (or at least it will be once the PS2 finally passes on). It also should be, although perhaps isn't, home to the quirky and original games. De Blob happily sits in both camps, it's bright colourful visuals, simple premise and entertaining cut scenes appealing across both demographics.

You play as the titular Blob who early on joins the resistance in the fight against the INKT. The joyless INKT have removed all the colour from the world and enslaved the Raydians to work in their factories. Itís up to you and the resistance to free the Raydians, take out the INKT and just generally spread some colour around.

Blob must smash paint capsules and collect the paint inside, with this he can take out enemies and paint the buildings by knocking into them. The paint pots only carry a certain amount of paint of which Blob can carry 100 in total, the pots themselves come in primary colours but can be mixed as required. Painting is a simple affair, by simply touching buildings and the like youíll decorate them whichever colour Blob is carrying.

The levels are quite large affairs and are made up of multiple stages. Within each stage is the overriding task of earning enough points to unlock the gate to the next area, but dotted around the levels are various themed missions. The missions are split between landmark saving (use a certain amount of paint to free a building), racing along a marked route, fighting enemies, and colouring buildings in set colours. When you complete a level youíll unlock 2 bonus missions and the Free Paint mode to play about it, which help to add a bit more to the game should you wish to hold off completing it, or return once you have.

The difficulty is pitched quite low, and once it reaches itís the 3rd level it doesnít seem to get any harder. So long as Blob is carrying pain the canít die, if he gets inked then the paint points heís carrying become a timer for how long youíve got to find water and clean yourself. As a rule whenever you take a hit thereís a means to recovery somewhere within the local area. Control for the most part is responsive and tight, with movement assigned to the nunchuckís analogue stick and jumping activated by flicking the remote. You target enemies by holding the Z button and swinging the remote, reminiscent of the Sonic games, and you have wall stick and wall roll moves also in your repertoire.

Right thatís all the functional stuff out of the way now the question of whether itís actually any good or not. For starters the game looks great, the aesthetic choices of simplistic characters and functional looking buildings works well, it never once shows the Wii up. From the second you enter a level it is already more colourful and cheery than most games around at the minute, once you splash some paint around and liberate some buildings you get the video game equivalent of an Opal Fruit (down with Starburst!).

The cut scenes are fantastic, while not all of them are laugh out loud funny, they are all entertaining and look superb. Based on the evidence of some of the better cut scenes the de Blob franchise could easily become a childrenís cartoon series. Both the peripheral characters and the enemy characters have bags of character, so much in fact that Blob looks dull in comparison. Worth mentioning is that this humour is displayed outside of cut scenes too with some wonderfully animated enemy soldiers.

Itís not all smooth sailing however, de Blob has a few niggles. Firstly while the controls are perfectly acceptable for the most part jumping in particular can be a bit sporadic, itís hard to say whether this is an issue with the remote or just a design flaw. The camera also has some questionable moments, spinning around at inopportune times and panicking whenever it gets close to a wall.

Thereís also the design choice where by as Blob fills up on paint he becomes more sluggish to control. Itís a nice idea in principle, but as you regularly need to be carrying around copious amounts of paint whilst traversing various platforms and buildings it makes things more frustrating than the need to be. The wall stick is also an issue, Blob sticks to everything and you will lose track of the amount of times you go hurtling off a building because you didnít notice you were stuck to it. The wall roll works well but is underused, aside from painting posters and traversing gaps on the final level it is hardly ever used in gameplay. The roll and wall jump could have been used far more effectively to expand on the games plat forming.

The in-stage missions can begin to grate around the midway point too. While freeing buildings from the grip of the INKT and taking on soldiers never gets old, the race missions feel like youíre being led by the hand to the next part of the level. The colouring missions are by far the most annoying, coupled with the slightly unreliable camera and the sometimes sluggish controls these will be the ones youíll be tempted to avoid and the ones youíll fail the most.

Itís good news then that failing missions just means you have to retry them, and more often than not parts youíre already completed will remain as you left them, making the whole thing easier. This works because itís not the difficulty that makes the game, itís really the compulsive OCD aspect of colouring everything, freeing everyone, and taking out all the soldiers. Helped by an end of level score chart of how many of these sub-tasks (posters painted, Raydians freed, etc), you will stay in levels far longer than you really need to, reaching the required score multiple times over.

At its best de Blob reminds me of Jet Set Radio, and with a bit more time been spent on the controls and making the most of dynamics and the wonderful level design then this could have been a truly stellar platform game. De Blob has enough compulsion to keep seasoned gamers hooked, and is simple, forgiving and colourful enough to appeal to younger gamers. This is perhaps its biggest downfall, it falls somewhere in between and as such is recommended with a Ďbutí.

With some work developing the ideas already in the game de Blob could have become a very good game, as it is it's already more than worth your time and likely destined to become a cult classic (or more likely an obscurity). A shame as it deserves better, it is instantly enjoyable, funny and packed with great ideas.
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Posted by Duane at 19:19

ast year, Tokobot was release on Sony's handheld, the PSP, and received some favourable reviews. It wasn't a groundbreaking quirky game in the way that Katamari is, but it was well worth playing, and it must of had some commercial success too as Tecmo and Take2 have seen fit to port it over to the PlayStation 2.

Tokobot Plus, plays pretty much like your standard platformer, albeit with one big difference to the gameplay, the introduction of the Tokobots, a group of small robots. These can be used as weapons and aid in solving platform and switch based puzzles by changing the formation that your group of robots are stood in. This is achieved by simply pressing one of the designated face buttons.

At times memories of Nintendo's Pikmin are evoked by how you use your Tokobot companions, despite the fact that they wont do tasks unless they're by your side. Tokobots can be used to help you press switches or move blocks, form ladders or bridges without having to find anything extra. As the game progresses you unlock new abilities and attacks. By finding items called Super Chips you unlock Tokobot Overdrives, these come in two forms, Battle Types which you have to equip and then activate via a press of the R2 button after collecting energy from defeated enemies. These can also be upgraded in the Analysis Room between missions. The other type of Overdrives are Assist Type. These are used to aid you in exploring ruins and can only be activated via special blocks that carry an icon on them that relates to a particular ability.

This leads to some inventive and interesting puzzles, that while aren't too taxing, they are fun and make the game enjoyable to play, and break up the exploring and battle action which suffers slightly due to the games slow controls. The controls are responsive for the most part and isn't where the games problem of feeling slow really lies The problem actually applies to Bolts (the main character) actual on screen movement, he runs like an asthmatic with arthritis which can feel extremely frustrating at times. Likewise, the camera suffers from a few problems especially in some area's where it is in a fixed position. Those particular camera positions really don't feel like they were well thought out, and make those areas of the gamer harder to navigate than they really need to be. Another small, and potentially amusing problem, is that the Tokobots follow your movements almost exactly, if you do a quick spin while running forwards, they will do so too, its very similar to what Squaresoft did in Final Fantasy VIII.

Story wise, Tokobot is fairly interesting, although not completely compelling, its well played out although its mainly let down by some below par voice acting, but this is something that the European market is seemingly beginning to get used to now.

As a whole package, Tokobot Plus: Mysteries of the Karakuri is a nce, cute little game, that unfortunately will go ignored by the vast majority of games players much in the same manner as titles such as Psychonauts, We Love Katamari and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Which is a huge crime as it deserves so much better as one of the last wave of enjoyable, but different to the norm, games on Sony's PlayStation 2.

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