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If you don't already know, Waiting for the Greenlight is a new series that focuses on games currently attempting to enter Steam by way of its Greenlight service. Similar to impressions, I give my overall thoughts on a game, and end with a simple rating (Green = Good to go, Yellow = Needs some work, Red = Too far gone to salvage). I hope you enjoy, and if you have any suggestions or games you want me to check out, don't hesitate to mention them! For the most part, platformers have traditionally tasked you with jumping up higher and higher, scaling seemingly never ending staircases toward whatever your ultimate goal may be. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, but it is very uncommon to see a game built in complete opposition to such a tried and true formula. Penned as a down-scrolling platformer, Stirfire Studio's Freedom Fall has you attempting to escape a boobytrap infested tower by descending its many floors whilst dodging saw blades, lasers, giant mechanical sharks, and other deadly creations. On your journey you learn more about who you are and why you've been imprisoned, by way of messages scrawled on the prison wall. Who's telling you these things? A demented little girl of course, and one with some serious parent problems no less. While attempting to cover some rather unpleasant subject matter in this way could have easily gone awry, they actually come across as rather darkly humorous thanks to the fantastic writing. The writer almost seems to channel the soul of Portal's equally demented GLaDOS, striking a near perfect balance between ridiculing you and giving some less than subtle hints about what's next to come. I wasn't expecting much from the narrative, but it only became more engaging the further I got and was surprisingly well planned for a genre not particularly known for telling memorable stories. Although falling down might sound a pretty simple proposition on paper, it isn't nearly so easy in practice. As previously mentioned you'll encounter hundreds of instruments of torture as you get further from your cell, and was it not for the ample checkpoints this would have been an excruciatingly difficult game. As it stands, it's still completely satisfying and never got too hard to put me into controller breaking frustration. Complementing this challenge are some stellar controls. They have a great weight to them that made it feel much more like I was controlling a person (albeit a very floaty one) than a mesh of pixels on the screen, and I was also happy to discover that it works with a controller right out of the box (though using a keyboard also worked surprisingly well). The upgrade system is one area that could use a little work, as right now it feels a somewhat tacked on. You collect bolts as you go and periodically come across workbenches that allow you to purchase different gliders to make traversal a bit easier. The problem is that I wound up collecting more than enough for all three well before the end, leaving me with little reason to seek out secret bolts or try the harder paths. Either more upgrades need to be added, or perhaps scrapping the bolt system as a whole and just giving you the gliders at specific points in the game would be a better option. The artstyle is very pleasing to look at, falling somewhere between american cartoons and japanese anime. The half frame animations are a tad jarring at first, but it didn't take long for me to become accustomed to the effect. The music was the biggest surprise though, with an awesome assortment of guitar riffs, exotic rhythms, and subdued experimentation that is incredibly catchy and matches the overall feel of the world. The only thing I'd like to see improved are the death animations, or lack thereof. The extremely basic "splat" image that pops up just seems odd amidst the otherwise great graphics, and is also a bit uneventful and anticlimactic feeling. I'm not asking for something disgustingly gory, but I would have prefered something that is a bit more in line with the rest of the game and that doesn't make my character seem like a suddenly popped balloon. Freedom Fall isn't particularly long taking only around 2-3 hours to get through, so many might scoff at the $7.99 cost of admission, but price not considered I can easily recommend it. It does something I feel is unique in the realm of platformers, and manages to tell a simple but well written story to boot. The art style really appealed to me, and the music was an equal driving force toward what I hoped was my freedom. It has a couple rough edges, but even in its current state I think it has more than earned a place on steam, and is just a lot of fun to play. The Light is: Green Well designed and polished, there is ample reason to check this game out. There might be a handful of things to knickpick, but by and large it is ready to go on Steam. Definitely worth a look and your support in getting released!
If you don't already know, Waiting for the Greenlight is a new series that focuses on games currently attempting to enter Steam by way of its Greenlight service. Similar to impressions, I give my overall thoughts on a game, and end with a simple rating (Green = Good to go, Yellow = Needs some work, Red = Too far gone to salvage). I hope you enjoy, and if you have any suggestions or games you want me to check out, don't hesitate to mention them! If you happened to watch the trailer for indie puzzle game Overlight and are now sitting back scratching your head what exactly this game is all about, you are not alone. Going in I really had no clue what the actual gameplay was like, but thankfully things turned out to be much easier to understand than I expected. Your goal is simple: two lasers shoot across the screen from opposite sides, and it's up to you to cause them to cross paths (don't worry Egon, everything will be fine). To do this you need to form paths by guiding to laser through Tetris inspired blocks, which act similarly to mirrors forcing the laser to change paths. When the two collide, the blocks disappear and you earn points. Rinse and repeat and you've got the gist of how to play (and you're still a little confused the in game tutorial does a much better job explaining everything). As of its current build you only have two modes to choose from: arcade and time attack. Arcade as you might expect, asks you to gain points to advance through a series of levels. The problem here is twofold: first, all of the levels feel rather similar to each other. I didn't notice much of any difference in either difficulty or overall block design in the six that I played (there are ten total). Second, I had very little motivation to keep playing due to the fact that there doesn't appear to be any way to lose. You might get stuck for a bit on a stage because you can't earn points quite as fast as you lose them for clearing blocks, but otherwise you can go on more or less indefinitely. For me, I like my puzzle games quick and simple to jump in and out of, and Overlight doesn't allow me to do that. It took almost half an hour just to complete the first six levels, and by that point I was rather sick of the playing. Having an option to save and quit is greatly needed, as I don't expect many will have the patience to actually play for such long periods of time. Luckily, Time Attack fairs much better. It's a no frills 5-minute dash to get as many points as you can, and much more inline with what I was hoping for. Still, the absence of a countdown timer or even a warning sound is a bit annoying and it also makes the ending of the round feel abrupt, taking away from that last minute adrenalin rush puzzle games so easily induce. Simple things such as this are ultimately the only real problems I have with the game. Additional modes are currently in the works as well, so it's good to see the developer is devoted to updating and improving the game. It's also worth noting that what I played is an alpha build, so likely many of the rough edges will be sanded down by the time the full release comes around. One area that needs very little work though is the presentation. The graphics are extremely bright and colorful, and it wouldn't be unfair to label it an epileptic nightmare. They look gorgeous, and animations are extremely smooth, and everything looks surprisingly polished for a Unity game. Complementing the graphics is an upbeat electronica soundtrack which perfectly matches the look and feel of the game. Sound effects are used surprisingly well to enhance the gameplay, getting louder and more intense the bigger the combo you get and adding a lot to the overall experience. All together it looks and sounds good enough to easily stand alongside its contemporaries in the genre, and is a huge plus to counter the negatives previously mentioned. In the end Overlight definitely has potential. The basic mechanics are solid, the presentation is fantastic, and there is ample room for it to grow, but right now it still needs some work. Neither of the two modes offer much reason to go back, and it didn't take long for the lack of a possibility for failure to cause me to burn out. I'm very eager to see what happens in future updates, and really hope the developer can manage to fix these issues, but taken for what it currently is I'm not sure it's worth your time. The Light is: Yellow The basic foundation is solid, but either a lack of polish, bugs, and/or compelling gameplay hold it back from being truly great. Needs a little more time in the oven before getting on Steam.
Roger Ebert once said that video games could never be art. While Ebert meant games that are considered "fun to play" are unartful, it was a gross underestimation of how the gaming industry would develop over the next decade. In the past 5 years alone, the independent development scene has become the place for experimentation in game design and the shifting of games to art. One of the more intriguing titles to buck the Ebert generalization is Ed Key and David Kanaga's Proteus, a weird, whimsical, and wonderful experience. Describing Proteus is a challenge. I can tell you it's an exploration game in the vein of Dear Esther. You walk around as an unnamed avatar on a mysterious, beautiful island. But Proteus is a very different animal than the melancholic, lonely experience Esther provides. Proteus is all about instilling joy, tranquility, and wonder in players. It's not unlike lying up on a roof and staring at the stars above saying, "Wow, that's amazing!" The first thing you'll notice is the distinct visual style. It looks like an Atari 2600 game modeled in 3D. The island is bathed in pastel colors and looks as if someone deconstructed a real island and remade it from squares and basic shapes. It's a work of art in motion as the trees rustle, leaves glide gently to the ground, and small creatures jump to and fro. Walking around, you can chase animals and take in the wonderful vistas from (what I assume are) mountain peaks. In the background, David Kanaga's soundtrack steadily pulses. As you interact with animals, the noises they make wonderfully build on the music. It's a symphony that you create, and each animal has its own unique sound as it shies away from you. The soundtrack and audio design combine with the visuals to create an enrapturing experience. Even though Proteus is still in beta, it's a fantastic taster of what's to come from Ed and David. If you're still not convinced that Proteus is for you, check out the Youtube trailer below. It gives you an idea of the basic experience while saving the hidden secrets for when you actually play. If you do take a bite of the good fruit, be prepared for a journey that's as directed and straight-forward as you want it to be. It's best if you explore and see what the island has to offer. You never know what Proteus will unveil for you next!