Nuclear Throne

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about Nuclear Throne for like two weeks now, and each time I think that I’ll be able to figure it out if I play more of it. Then I go play more Nuclear Throne, and I don’t generate anything new to say about it.

Okay, so let’s talk about why I don’t think Nuclear Throne is perfect, and why I still think you should play it even though I’m about to complain about it a bunch.

To make a long story short, Nuclear Throne is so fun and I played it so much that I was able to make a list of the things that annoy me about the game. So let’s talk about the parts of this good game that drive me nuts.

  1. The Ammo System
    Nuclear throne has a bunch of fantastic guns that all feel super fun to use and handle in the game’s twitchy, fast paced environment. Unfortunately, the guns have a low ammo cap for how hectic the game can become. And I hate that. Often, instead of playing the game like a dodging run-n-gun, I found myself peaking out from behind corners, popping off a shot, and then hiding behind a corner again to conserve ammo. I just want to shoot things.
  2. HP and Damage
    This is a bit of a weird gripe, but here it is: The game does not telegraph at all how much damage various attacks from enemies do. This can become quite frustrating because it’s entirely possible to have a reasonable amount of health (say, 4 HP), and just die in one shot or by blowing yourself up by a surprise high damage attack. I just… find this very annoying. I feel like if I have 4 health left, I shouldn’t just die in one hit.

The end result is that Nuclear Throne ends up feeling like two different games: one where you run-n-gun-n-dodge, and one where you peak around corners with a crossbow, taking potshots and hoping nothing actually rushes you.

So yeah, I generally like Nuclear Throne. I think it’s pretty good. I don’t think it’s perfect. If you bought the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle, you already own it, so you can just download it from there. It’s also just on itch.io for $11, and that feels like about what it’s worth.

Didn’t Make the Cut

Some more things I was not impressed by or didn’t like much.

At one point, these posts were gonna be weekly or something. In any case, it’s time for another “Didn’t Make the Cut” AKA “Here’s all the things I either didn’t enjoy, or didn’t think were interesting.” So with minor further ado, let’s get into it shall we?

Ado: Social Justice Warriors and Kids were in the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle, so if those two seem neat, you can check them out there.

Social Justice Warriors

In Social Justice Warriors, you play as someone arguing with other people online. Each time you finally defeat someone, you move on to arguing with a new person. Regardless of how many trolls you defeat, nothing actually changes, and you just waste your time.

It’s almost as if there’s some sort of message in the gameplay or something, but I don’t have anything else to say on this one. Also the combat is pretty boring. Next!

Kids

Kids describes itself as an interactive animation. If you want to buy it, it’s $3. Had I bought it for $3, I would regret not using that to buy a cinnamon roll instead. I guess a lot of other people find that it speaks to them, though? I dunno. I just don’t get it. Unlike….

Void Bastards

I do get Void Bastards, and what I get is that I don’t like it very much. Void Bastards is in theory a procedurally generated rogue-lite shooter, with a comic book graphic aesthetic. I would say that the “Shooter” part of that description is debatable, given that you never seem to have any fucking bullets. I’ve played 5 hours, and I have no desire to play anymore. The game’s mechanics just did not feel good, to the extent that they made everything else about the game more annoying.

Side Note: Void Bastards wins some sort of prize for single worst rogue-lite mechanic I’ve seen: Space Whales. You just die, because you clicked on the wrong node on the map? Why? Why would you ever add this?

That’s all for the moment. Planning to do some writeups on a bunch of Switch games in the future, including the somewhat difficultly named new “New Pokemon Snap,” so we’ll see how that goes.

Wheels of Aurelia

An interesting attempt at combing visual novels and other mechanics, but I didn’t like it.

I have mixed feelings on Wheels of Aurelia. On the one hand, I don’t like the game enough to play more of it. On the other hand, I keep thinking about it. It was going to get a section in “Didn’t Make the Cut,” except I think I have more to say about it than any of the other games that didn’t make the cut, so it gets its own article.

So what is it? Wheels of Aurelia describes itself as a racing game set in Italy in the 1980’s. I’d describe it as a visual novel with a light driving element set in Italy in the 1980’s.

Potayto, potahto.

For those of you with busy lives, here’s the five second summary: I think it’s very interesting, but I did not like it very much.

There are some really strong parts to Wheels of Aurelia, but these parts (usually the writing and the setting) feel somewhat disconnected.

The big one is the setting of 1980’s Italy. One thing the game has made abundantly clear to me is that I don’t know shit about 1980’s Italy. And while the game does link to some sections of text from Wikipedia, this wasn’t enough for me to understand a lot of what was being referred to in the writing. Which brings us to the second problem.

The writing shifts tone rapidly to the extent that it feels almost non-sequitur, with the result being that parts of the story just don’t make any sense whatsoever because of this tonal shift. For example, characters that have barely been named suddenly become relevant.

The main character goes from losing their car in a race to a molesty creep (and being understandably fucking pissed), to buying a 3 wheeled tractor cheerfully from a farmer, to chasing fascists for some reason. The end result was that I had a harder and harder time following the plot as it went on.

However, this doesn’t characterize the entire game. There’s a well-written and interesting dialogue with a hitchhiker about a football club. And sub-sections of the game are fine. It’s how they connect that sucks. At first, I thought this might be related to the game’s localization or translation, but the game’s credits don’t actually list an English translation. So I’m honestly not sure what happened with the writing. Sub-sections of it are fine, the but the overall arc feels janky.

In either case, enough ragging on. Let’s talk about what the game does have going for it:

  1. A solid soundtrack. I actually kind of want to re-listen to a few of these. (Wait until 1:00 minute in for it to go crazy.)
  2. Strong art design. Both the characters and environments are well done. They’re fairly minimal, but I’d consider that to be a good thing.
  3. A solid attempt at combining standard game mechanics with a visual novel. I wouldn’t say it succeeds 100%, but it’s interesting, and trying to drive while also deciding how to respond to prompts is neat.

And yeah, that’s about it. Wheels of Aurelia is $10 on Steam, Epic or itch.io. And it’s also in the itch.io racial justice bundle, so if you purchased that, you already own it.

It wasn’t for me, but maybe it will be for you?

Micro Mages

Small. Fun. And I was going to say short, but then world 4 and the world 4 boss happened. So calling the game short would be a lie.

There are a lot of interesting things that can be said about Micro Mages. For example, it came out for the NES… in 2018, which is at least a little bit after that particular console stopped being manufactured. There’s some cool stuff about the game being able to support four players via some trickery and other stuff. It also got physical cartridges manufactured, again, years after the discontinuation of said cartridges.

Of course, having zero appreciation for impressive technical achievements as I do, I don’t really care about any of those things. I’m here to answer a different question: “Is Micro Mages fun?” My answer is “Yes, now, can I go back to bed?” I’m told this is apparently not a sufficient enough answer to count as an entire article.

Okay, so what is Micro Mages? Well, it’s a fairly small vertical platformer. The game has four areas, with three levels each, and a boss at the end. (And two bosses, sorta, at the end of fourth area.) You control one of the titular miniature magi in their quest to get through all the levels, via wall jumping, shooting projectiles, and trying not to die. You die in one hit (if you haven’t picked up any powerups), making avoiding death a bit more difficult than you would think. Once you beat the game the first time around, there is also a hard mode, in which you replay the same worlds, but the enemies get additional behaviors/attacks, and the rate at which the game auto-scrolls up gets faster.

Why yes, I did just take all of my images from their press kit. Except the last one of course.

This is all just so much fluff in describing the game, and the reality is that while Micro Mages is really simple, it’s also quite fun. Everything about how it controls and plays feels well thought-out. A few things of note for me were how fluid and accurate the wall jumping felt, along with the fact that projectiles could be fired in all of the compass directions, and almost always went where I wanted them to go. In addition, the range on said projectiles was generous, avoiding the classic “The projectile despawned right before hitting the enemy and now you’re dead” moment.

The powerups are fairly plain, but they do what was intended. The game only really had one instance of mechanics screw/death is the best teacher. (Looking at you, giant floating skull that speeds up if you hit it with a projectile and can’t be killed.)

I remember there being a really cool article about how the game saved space by using mirrored images to construct the mages and the bosses, but I can’t find. If I track it down, I’ll link it here.

Outside of the final world and final world’s final boss, I would say the game isn’t too difficult, and it’s also short enough to be worth playing. And, like many other things I write about, if you purchased the itch.io racial justice bundle, you already own it!

Did I beat it from world 1 to 4? No. But did I clear the whole game? Technically still also no; I didn’t beat hard mode. But I did beat it in normal, and that’s what really matters.

If you didn’t, it’s $10 on Steam, the same on itch.io, and 45 European Monetary Units for the physical cartridge, complete with game manual, and all that other good stuff. I have no idea if they ship worldwide or anything though.

Ed Note: I was planning on having this article be very short, as part of a meta joke about how small Micro Mages is. Except then the final level absolutely kicked my ass for quite a bit, and I had to abandon that plan.

Ed Note 2: You have no idea how incredibly pleased I am with the phrase “Miniature Magi,” and even though it’s not as clever as I think it is, it fucking kills me that no one will see it.

Beglitched

A really good puzzle game with some twists on match 3 gameplay I’ve never seen before.

Ed Note: I did my best to take screenshots that don’t give anything about the game away, but some of the screenshots below might give small peeks at things that aren’t immediately obvious. If you want to avoid spoilers at all costs, just know that Beglitched is good, you can buy it here on Steam, or here on itch.io, and you should play it.

Beglitched might be the first real piece of gold I’ve personally found in the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. The bundle has a ton of other great stuff in it as well, like Celeste, or Quadrilateral Cowboy. And there’s others as well. But it’s the first really good one that no one else had mentioned to me or told me about beforehand, which at least to me makes it the first real “Find” in the bundle of games. So let’s boot up our OS/HEX and talk about why that is.

Does anyone else miss the adorable little bootup faces on really old macs? Or is that just me?
Beglitched’s Level Select screen. And sorta inventory management screen. And other things.

So why do I like Beglitched so much? The game is a really unique sort of puzzler. While I’ve seen some of the game mechanics before, Beglitched uses those mechanics to do something pretty different by breaking a few of the key rules about how those mechanics usually play out. We’ll talk about that more in a second, but first let’s talk about how playing through a level in Beglitched works.

The little egg icons, for example, indicate that there are 3 small scramblers connected to the block our little cat is on.

There are two main sections to most Beglitched levels, or as the game calls them, “networks.” Each section of a network consists of a bunch of linked machines, as seen above, and plays out like a combo of Minesweeper and RPG exploration. Each computer displays a set of symbols which tells you what is in the computers next to it. Your goal in most cases is to make it to the end of the network by finding the computer with the exit doors, and logging in. However, you can log into the other computers too. They can give you extra resources, like money or health, or also just blow you up a bit, a la Minesweeper. And sometimes, they’re hiding extra enemies. So what happens when you run into these enemies? Well, then it’s time for combat.

I don’t know if the elephants are some sort of elaborate computer pun or something. I don’t think they are? They’re like… the most basic enemy in the game.

Combat in Beglitched is done via a match 3 style grid. Unlike many other match 3 games, however, every single type of shape on your grid has a different property. Some are fairly obvious, like the green cubes that give money, or batteries that give you energy. Where things get interesting is how you actually damage an opponent.

Most enemy hackers have fairly low HP, and only take one or two hits to defeat. The issue is that unlike many other match 3 games that use the size of your combos to do damage, in Beglitched you do damage by detonating bomb squares. The enemy hacker hides somewhere on your board, and you have to activate the compass squares and pink cycle squares to get information about where they’re hiding. So not only do you have to find your enemy, you then need to actually get a bomb sector over, and to detonate it. And each move you make takes cycles, and when that hits zero, the enemy gets to take an action. Most attack you and do something else, but some have their own specialties.

The one other big thing about Beglitched that I haven’t previously seen in a match 3 game is how it handles your board state at the end of a fight. When you defeat an enemy, your board doesn’t reset. Instead, the location of any tiles remain, and can be used in the next fight. It’s also worth noting that some of the better combo pieces, like blue compass sectors, are actually re-usable.

And the game plays into this. It actively encourages you to use weaker enemies to set up to beat tougher enemies by prepping compasses, bomb sectors, and farming money. It’s a fairly unique twist that can mean beating an enemy as fast as possible may not actually be the best move.

In addition, Beglitched is more than happy to subvert and play with these mechanics, and does so through almost every single one of its levels. Every time I thought I had the game solved, Beglitched pulled out another clever twist or trick for me to contend with.

I think this is one of the things it does best, and the reason I’m not talking more about it here is that these moments are best experienced fresh. I don’t want to spoil them.

Beyond the mechanics, Beglitched does almost everything incredibly well. It has a unique and interesting narrative that I actually ended up fairly curious about, and presentation and art is great. The only big gripe I have with the game is the audio, and it’s not even the audio itself. My problem lies in the lack of any sort of audio/options menu. The default audio is incredibly loud, and as such I ended up playing most of the game with it muted.

Beglitched is really good, and on occasion, really hard. It’s a puzzle game with excellent mechanics, and willingness to subvert them and tweak them into interesting challenges, without ever really going too far, or asking you to do the impossible. Other than my minor gripe about the lack of audio settings and sound, it has virtually no flaws. If you bought the itch.io racial justice bundle, you should play it. If you didn’t buy the bundle and like puzzle games or a challenge, you should pick it up anyway.

Didn’t Make The Cut – 12.25.2020

I spent part of this weekend in what I have come to think of as a public service, pruning and hacking my way through through the massive glut of games that is itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. While some might devote this time of year to giving to the needy, feeding the hungry, and other such charitable pursuits, I stayed home and played video games.

Phrased like that, it seems slightly less heroic doesn’t it? Hmm. In any case, here are 3 of the things I played this weekend, and links to the incredibly high quality stream in which I played them. These are all games that didn’t grab me enough for me to really want to continue playing them past around an hour, and I also don’t have enough to say about them to write a full article. So here we gooooo.

Catlateral Damage

In Catlateral Damage, you are a cat, and you must destroy as much stuff as possible within the time limit. You can jump, and you can bat things left and right. And that’s it. That’s the entire game. It’s a cute concept, but it doesn’t feel super well executed. The controls are fairly floaty, and the things you whack around don’t feel like they have much weight to them. Personally, I also really dislike the art. I think these cats are incredibly ugly… and yeah. The game just didn’t feel great, or look good, so I did a single run playthrough and then called it a day for this one. It’s short and chaotic, but I didn’t find it particularly satisfying or fun to play.

From Orbit

If you told me that From Orbit was an early access game, I would believe you. In fact, after writing that sentence, I went and checked to see if it was on Steam, and it is, but it isn’t early access. Where Catlateral Damage has an interesting premise, From Orbit feels like it got to the next stage of making a good game, which was having interesting mechanics. But it kind of falls apart there because then they didn’t really make anymore game. For example, the idea of having your workers being able to shift form based on what you want to use them for is cool! But then it sorta falls apart.

My biggest gripe, though, has to be that you can only have 4 units (5 if you count the spaceship which you can’t actually control), which is strange for a game that bills itself as an RTS. By this standard, playing as Meepo is an RTS.

My other big gripe is that the resources you gather on a given planet are also the resources you use to buy upgrades to improve your dudes, ship, and unlock abilities. So yeah, you could build a auto-miner, if you’re willing to lose 60% of the haul from a planet, or you could just do the whole thing manually. Oh, and the enemies you face are dumb as bricks. (I do like the flashing red outline you get for your units letting you know they’ve pulled agro.)

Everything else I can gripe about with the game is pretty small. The game doesn’t follow standard RTS controls schemes, you can’t queue commands, you can’t make control groups, attempting to select a unit automatically centers the camera on it, even if what you wanted to do was move it where you were looking BEFORE you selected it.

The stream is here, and the itch.io page is here.

Quiet As A Stone

I have a link to the stream of playing Quiet As A Stone here. I say “Playing” but honestly, “interacting with” might be a more accurate summary. My notes for the game have the following:

  • Experimental Photography Simulator
  • Rather Pretty
  • More like playing with actual rocks thana game

Here are some screenshots of Cragthor the Mountain Titan, the only thing I really did in the game before getting bored and quitting it.

Behold his majesty.

I have a few more games I’d like to do writeups for before the end of the year, so keep an eye out for those. One of them might be Depth of Extinction, which is this neat procedural XCOM/FTL style thing.

I’ve linked the names of the games up above, so if one of these looks like your cup of tea, you should go take a look. At the time of writing, I think From Orbit is actually free.

Middle of the Pack

While looking for gold, I found silver. Better than finding lead, worse than finding gold.

Editor’s Note: this article was mostly written during the week of the 2020 elections. Then it wasn’t posted. Whoops.

Writing about games this week felt a bit like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so instead of any big full reviews, I have bunch of thoughts on some things I’ve been playing, even if none of them really stuck with me.

Just think of this article as the digital equivalent of a list of abandoned animals looking for a loving home. Except in this case, I’m the one who abandoned them.

Okay, that fell apart pretty fast, but the core takeaway is just because I don’t like a game doesn’t mean you won’t. If you like the look of a game, clicking the name will bring you to the itch.io page.

Airships : Conquer the Skies

Of the games on this list, I think I liked Airships the most. Like the name suggests, it’s a game about building 2D airships and commanding them around.

Much like with other vehicle construction games I’ve played though, after a bit, I kinda just got bored/stuck. There are a bunch of single player missions and an auto-generated campaign with customizable difficulty to play through, but they didn’t grab me. I suspect a large part of the loop of construction games like this is either making small improvements and testing upgraded ships, or trying to build ships and ideas around a gimmick or trick.

Maybe it’ll be the game for you, though?

Midboss

If Airships was the game I liked the most, Midboss was the one I wanted to like the most. The pitch is simple: an isometric, turn-based roguelike where you can process the bodies of enemies you kill, learning and absorbing their skills. It just never really grabbed me, though, and after maybe 7-10 runs, I put it down and picked up something else. The body snatch mechanic is cool, but often runs turned into more tedious chains of trying to build myself back up after losing a valuable body, and being kicked out.

WitchWay

From what I played of WitchWay, it’s a puzzle platformer. You are a witch. You have a magic wand, and you can use it move blocks. Blocks have their own rules and twists on how they can be moved. And then I stopped playing. There wasn’t really a special reason for it or anything, I was just… done.

Haque

It’s a roguelike, in the classic sense. In both classic senses. Like, in the sense that the entire UI looks like it’s projected onto a CRTV, and also in that it’s a fairly standard procedurally generated dungeon crawler. Unlike everything else on this list, which I would say is the game equivalent of “Just Not For Me Thanks,” Haque’s graphics actively made playing the game harder for me (although they are incredibly on theme). There are sliders to turn off various effects and such, but even with those, reading and understanding the UI annoyed me too much.

IN CONCLUSION

I’d say they’re worth checking out if they sound like your cup of tea. I wanna stress that none of these were bad, so much as they never grabbed me. They’re good, well made games, just not for me.

Loot Rascals

Good polish, neat mechanics, and some flaws that make it quite frustrating at times.

Ed Note: The game looks way better these screenshots might imply. Everything has a very nice vector art feel, a feeling that was absolutely destroyed by my image compression. Whoops.

I think you should play Loot Rascals. Generally, I’d say I like the game.

Has the lede been unburied? Am I now free to waddle forward and backward between comparisons to other games and ramble about dissonance? I am? Fantastic. Let’s roll.

First, a bit of context, and some info on Loot Rascals: it’s another game I grabbed from the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle. It’s a roguelike, but as far as I can tell, without any between run progression systems. A run consists of five or so levels (I’ve only ever gotten up to 3 before, so there might be more), consisting of randomly generated maps on a hex grid. You control a spacelady or spaceman that you choose at the start (same stats, different sprites), to get through these levels by fighting monsters. You have three stats, Attack, Defense, and HP, and monsters have one stat, Attack/HP.

I know what you’re thinking. No, it’s not a typo.

When you and an enemy occupy the same square you fight, with the time of day determining who gets to hit first. There’s a day/night system and manipulating this system and trying to land the first hit is a big part of the game. The math for combat works something like this:

If the player is attacking, they deal damage to the monster equal to the player’s attack. Player attacks deal damage equal to the player’s attack stat. Monster attacks deal damage to the player equal to the Monsters attack/HP stat divided by the players defense. If the result is less than 1, that value is the chance for the attack to still go through and hit. If an attack hits, it deals 1 damage.

The big takeaway I want you to make is the following: Any attack that hits has a CHANCE to inflict damage, even if the chance is very low. This is going to be important in a bit.

Okay, so we’ve talked about stats. We’ve talked about how they work. But how do you get them?

The answer, of course, is cards. Or card blocks. Your inventory looks like this.

Yes, I know, the Boot Helmet and the Orbital Bowls should be switched, but I wasn’t thinking about that at the time.

Cards in the main section give you stats. Cards in your stockpile on the right do not. There are a few other different types of cards, like the Chronoflange one, that don’t give any stats, but change rules about how the game works, and also elemental cards, that give access to special abilities, like setting things on fire, teleporting, or creating decoys.

So with all of this said, I have two big problems with Loot Rascals, and they have to do with randomness and telegraphing. Lets talk about the randomness first.

A lot of roguelike games use procedurally generated or random-esqe levels in order to increase replayability. Spelunky, Slay the Spire, and Binding of Issac are a few that come to mind. However, none of these are really random. Instead, they tend to follow certain patterns or rules regarding how they function, and those rules can be learned and exploited. Spelunky will always have a dog in the level. Each floor of Binding of Issac will always have a treasure room to find. Each floor of Slay the Spire ends in a boss fight. The levels for Loot Rascals though, appear to be almost entirely random, and occasionally this means you end up in starting locations that are simply bad, forcing you to take early hits and lose health just to access the rest of the map.

In addition, since card drops are almost completely random (certain enemies will always drop certain elemental cards, but I haven’t found anything of the sort for normal stat cards), you can spend a lot of time trying to farm card drops and get nothing, or you can get one or two good drops early, and use them to clean up an entire level. It’s frustrating, because it just ends up feeling like straight luck.

This feeling of randomness is also present in the damage calculation. Because of the way hit chances work, if you end up in a fight, and the enemy gets to attack you, there is ALWAYS a chance that they deal damage. It’s frustrating, because parts of the game can end up feeling very “Push your luck” as opposed to tactical decision making.

The second big gripe I have is with how the actions that enemies will take are telegraphed, and I’ll just be referring to as telegraphing from now on. Every enemy in the game has some form of movement pattern. The Ratmen will run away, Ogre will move every other turn, the half-horse/half-seahorse Horse Bro will flip combat sides… and I can’t think of any more to list, because I haven’t been able to actually figure out how they work. I have no idea how Bola aliens work, just that they go in circles. The game doesn’t give you any information about where Bounty Hunters will aim their next shot, or how a Webbers’ webbing actually works.

The thing is, because of the situations the game puts you into, it often feels like you’re supposed to have this information, and then make the best choice based on the information.

A few other minor quibbles: you can’t save in the middle of game. There are a bunch of disconnected social components that just don’t seem to work. I wish it didn’t feel like there was an optimal build for any given situation. It would also be cool if you had some ability to choose cards for your build.

Outside of all this gameplay stuff, the art is really solid, if a bit cute, and the voice acting was enjoyable enough for me to mostly not skip it. I liked Loot Rascals enough for it to get it’s own whole little writeup, and like I said at the top, I think it’s worth playing. But there were also quite a few mechanics that mostly just frustrated me.

Loot Rascals is $15 on Steam or itch.io.

Didn’t Make the Cut – itch.io Racial Justice Bundle

All filler, no killer.

Another week, another set of games from the itch.io racial justice bundle. These are primarily games that simply didn’t get their own full article about them, either because there wasn’t really a lot to say (LAZAKNITEZ), I couldn’t play them (Troika), because I refuse to do so out of spite and dislike for the game (Oikospiel). Having said that, let’s get to the games

LAZAKNITEZ – PC/Multiplayer/Singleplayer
LAZAKNITEZ almost works for starting a trend of games with names that are nonsense words, until you boot up the game and realize that it’s just a very 90’s spelling of Laser Knights. And that’s exactly what the game is. You slide around a 2D plain, jousting on the back of your laser horse, and firing from your laser lance. I played this one for a few rounds and then put it down. It’s not bad. Just very light on things to do/see. Once I’d played a bit, and felt like I had seen most of the powerups, I was done.

Oikospiel Book 1 – PC/Singleplayer
I don’t like Oikospiel. I think that it’s stupid. It plays and looks like a fever dream made by someone who just imported every 3D model they could get their hands on into Unity and it should also probably come with an epilepsy warning.

Oikospiel is what you would get if you took Timecube and made it into a video game instead of a website. I have some questions for whoever made this game, and primarily they’re things like: “Are you okay?” and “Do you need help?”

TroikaPen and Pencil RPG
Mechanically, I didn’t see much in Troika that impressed me, but I also didn’t actually run a game. The initiative system seems neat, in which you randomly draw tiles from a bag and then whoever’s tile you drew takes a turn.

The flavor though, is incredible, and I honestly wish there was more of it. It has a very old-timey science fiction sort of vibe, and the closest thing I can think to compare it to is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore, or perhaps the sorta of weird science-magic of The Wizard of Oz.

For example: the book has stats for a sort of snake that doesn’t sneak up on you, but instead offers reassurances and a well placed “It’s alright, I’m here now” in order to get you between its coils so that it might crush and eat you. The starter adventure in the book involves convincing a sentient gas in the elevator with you that you would really like it if it could take up a bit less of the elevator, on account of the fact that it’s drowning you. The stat block for a “Tea Set” gives you a bonus on etiquette checks as long as you have time to prepare tea for the person you’re trying to impress.

The reason that Troika doesn’t get a larger section to itself is primarily that since this is a website for reviewing games, and I haven’t run a game of it yet, I can’t review it. But definitely worth a read.

Wrap-Up

Nothing this week that really jumped out at me. I loathe Oikospiel, LAZAKNITEZ reminds me of the sorts of things I’d play for 20 minutes before switching to something else on sites like Newgrounds. Troika is a fun read, but I feel like it would be tricky to pull off without a party that was really willing to lean into the weird-wonderness. If playing these games is the art of separating wheat from chaff, this week was all chaff, no wheat. Take care, and I’ll put more stuff up as events warrant.

Minit

Minit doesn’t utilize its unique mechanic effectively, and with that stripped away, it isn’t anything special.

Minit is well made, but I didn’t actually have fun playing it. The art and music is good, but the actual gameplay never delivers on the presumptive core mechanic. There. With that out of the way, I can now make a random introductory paragraph that only serves to set up the rest of the article.

After all the chaos that has been the last few weeks, I’ve finally returned to the itch.io racial bundle in search of gems and weird experimental stuff. And so I downloaded Minit, played it, and now I’m going to write this article. Like I mentioned above, I didn’t really enjoy Minit, but I need to describe the game’s core mechanic first in order to explain why.

Minit itself feels like it’s 2D Zelda inspired. You pick up a sword, venture around looking for treasure, and slowly get upgrades and equipment that allow you to progress further around the world. Oh, and you can pick up hearts to increase the number of hearts you have.

The unique mechanic, though, is that the game is played in one minute increments. At the end of 60 seconds, your character dies, and you spawn in again at your starting point. However, any progress you made in the world remains.

The minimalistic art style is neat though.

And this is my biggest problem with Minit: it barely ever uses this 60 second loop to do anything interesting. Instead, it just forces you to go fast, and to restart over and over again. There were three instances in the game that I saw where the loop was actually relevant. One is a character that doesn’t show up until the last 10 seconds of the loop that you need to talk to, one is plant that you water to grow between loops, and one is an NPC that talks slowly, so you need to talk to him at the very start of a run to see his full message. And that’s it. Not the most exciting things in the world.

Everything else in the game works completely independent of this 60 second loop, and it can turn things into a bit of a slog. While the loop does help by resetting puzzles that you can accidentally make unsolvable, it means that when you start wanting to explore or search for things, you’re on a timer. When you try to fight anything, you’re on a timer. There was one point where I spent several lives just walking around and dying because I missed a small set of stairs that were visible in the wall, and as such, I wasn’t sure what to do next.

I can’t recommend Minit, and I especially can’t recommend it at its $10 price tag. The game is very short, taking me just about 2 hours to beat. It doesn’t do anything interesting with its unique mechanic, and with that mechanic stripped away, it’s a very simple Zelda-esque title. If for some reason you still wanna buy it, here’s the link to itch.io, and it’s also available on Steam.