PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 3 of 6

The wheel of fate is turning.

Round 3! Ready? FIGHT!

Format is as follows:

GameName of the Game
Demo LengthHow Long it Took me to Finish the Demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameRangok Skies
Demo Length8 Minutes/48 Minutes (More on this below)
GenreShoot Em Up
Quick ThoughtsI have two lists of times up above, because 8 minutes is how long it took me to clear the demo, and 48 minutes is how long it took me to clear the demo on one credit. SHMUPs are not a huge part of my gaming diet, so I’d be curious to see someone more familiar with the genre play this. Regardless, I liked it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo – You may need to set your refresh rate to 60hz for the demo to work properly. The publisher has confirmed the devs are working on a fix for this that is expected to be released in the full game.
GameNeurodeck
Demo Length1 Hour
GenreDeckbuilder Rougelike
Quick ThoughtsI am really conflicted on Neurodeck. Right now, it feels like playing a prototype more then playing a demo. The mechanics are interesting, but currently feel untuned, and the enemy scaling is ridiculous. It doesn’t feel like the mental illness tone of the game was built with those mechanics in mind, more that the theme was added after mechanics had been decided on. There are also some bugs.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameUragun
Demo Length15 Minutes – Only one level, but it took a few tries
GenreTop Down/Twinstick Run and Gun
Quick ThoughtsUragun is neat. The demo is pretty short, but it’s fun. Twinsticks aren’t really my cup of tea, but you lose nothing by grabbing the demo and seeing if it’s something you want to keep an eye on. It has some really neat enemies, like these little dudes that form blocker walls.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 2 of 6

Part 2 of what is starting to look like a substantial haul of demos. I was trying to come up with something interesting to say like “Grab your pickaxe as we go into the game mines,” but honestly, this is the easiest convention experience ever in terms of reviewing stuff. This is more “Click install on Steam and just play stuff.” So here we go.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the game
Demo LengthHow long it took me to finish the demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameOperation Tango
Demo Length20 Minutes
GenreAsymmetric Real Time Co-op Puzzler
Quick ThoughtsMy standout game of the show so far. A really cool puzzler, with one person playing the Hacker, and one playing the Agent. Neat puzzles, really nice art style. You will need a friend to play with, so find that person, and keep an eye on this one.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameBlack Skylands
Demo Length1 Hour (including some messing about)
GenreTop Down Run and Gun/Town Builder
Quick ThoughtsLots of potential here. Developers describe the demo as a “Vertical Slice” which in my experience means “Held together with tape and prayers”, so it will be interesting to see how this ends up maturing. I generally enjoyed playing it, and I’ll keep an eye on it.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameMayhem In Single Valley: Confessions
Demo Length1 Hour
GenrePuzzle?
Quick ThoughtsI did not have fun with this demo. Outside of some nice art and music, I have no praise for it. The demo was buggy, inconsistent, and exceedingly confusing and janky. Disagree with me? Go play it yourself. I can’t tell if it’s just not for me, or what, but this didn’t sell me on the game at all.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

PAX Online 2020 – GAME DEMOS – PART 1 of 6

Overloop, Hell Architect, and Nongunz. What do these games have in common? Well, mostly the fact that we finished downloading them first.

The misery that is 2020 continues, and one of the casualties has been in-person events, and actual conventions. However, PAX Online is here, and with a whole bunch of Steam demos. This article consists of the first part of Gametrodon’s ongoing coverage of PAX Online.

Format is as follows:

GameName of the game
Demo LengthHow long it took me to finish the demo
GenreType of game, based on my impressions
Quick Thoughts3-4 sentences based on what I thought of the game
Play It HereLink to the demo
GameOverloop
Demo Length16 Minutes
GenrePuzzle Platformer
Quick ThoughtsYou have a gun to make copies of yourself. Solve puzzles with it. There’s a story, but the tone is… eh. Nothing special, but seems competently made. Pixel graphics.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameHell Architect
Demo Length31 Minutes
GenreSimulation/Management
Quick ThoughtsSeems like a grimier version of Oxygen Not Included. A bit neat. Not really the sort of thing I’d usually play, but it held my interest long enough for me to finish out the demo.
Play It HereLink to the Demo
GameNongunz : Doppelganger Edition
Demo Length??? – (I quit after a few deaths.)
Genre??? – I think it’s a roguelite
Quick ThoughtsReally neat unique art style. Gameplay feels bad, but I’m not sure if that’s because I’m really struggling with the controls, or what. I’m gonna give this one another go with a controller. No actual in-game explanations given without text on how things actually work.
Play It HereLink to the Demo

Max Seidman, Resonym – Post Surrealist Kickstarter Interview

A Post Kickstarter Interview

I recently got a chance to chat with Max Seidman from Resonym about their recently completed Kickstarter for the board game Surrealist Dinner Party. Max is a game designer and manager at Resonym, and has worked on several released games, including Mechanica, Monarch, and Visitor in Blackwood grove. Resonym’s Surrealist Dinner Party Kickstarter finished with just over $30,000 in pledges.

The discussion mostly centered around board games and Kickstarter, with a few questions about Surrealist Dinner Party. Some of this interview may seem a bit scattershot, but the general categories of questions and info can be found below.

  1. Production of Board Games, and various costs
  2. Some Interesting things about Surrealist Dinner Party
  3. The Changing Meta of Kickstarter

1. Producing Board Games

F(Fritz Wallace): So, this is more general, but just to start off, let’s talk about scams and failures on Kickstarter. There have been a lot of projects that don’t get finished in the game sphere, mostly video games. And even in the board game space, we have things like Glory to Rome which just imploded. Do you think these have impacted use of Kickstarter as a platform for board game projects, and for people pledging?

M(Max Seidman): From my standpoint, no. Games in general is the single biggest category on Kickstarter, and board games are a much bigger than video games. Failures in video games don’t really impact board games.

F: Let’s talk about cost. I was kinda shocked when I looked at what KS takes in terms of cut. Using Kickstarter ends up costing about 10% of money raised on the service, 5% in Kickstarters fees, and between 3-5% in payment processing fees. How high does that end up feeling?

M: So from our standpoint, this is not bad at all. One thing to keep in mind is the standard supply chain for a board game works something like this:

You take your game, and you sell it to a distributor at 40% of MSRP. The Distributor then sells it to stores at 50% MSRP. Then your local game store or Amazon or whoever it is sells the game at MSRP. So, let’s say you make a game that retails at $50. This means the local game store most likely bought it at $25. They purchased it from the distributor who bought it from us for $20.

So, for a game being sold to stores, this means that if we want to make money, the cost of production and shipping the game has to be about $10 per copy, for us to even stand a chance of making money on a MSRP $50 game.

Now let’s consider a Kickstarted game, from the same lens. Let’s say you pledge $50. Well, Kickstarter and fees take their 10%, leaving us with $45. And now that $45 is the combination of what we can use
to both make money, and to actually produce the game. So let’s say manufacturing and shipping ends up costing $35, because we can now afford to throw in more components, more pieces, nicer print runs, etc.
We now have three times as much we can spend per copy manufactured, relative if we were to go with the traditional supply chain, and we’re still netting the same amount of money profit. For some creators, this is what
Kickstarter lets them do.

Now, we don’t do that at Resonym. We want to make games that can be enjoyed by a wide audience, and as such, we want to be able to sell them at mass market prices, which means they end up going through the supply chain mentioned above. But this is why with Kickstarter versions of a game, you might see nicer tokens, extra addons, or other things that make the game better, but might be cost prohibitive otherwise.

The other reason to do Kickstarter is that we simply do not have the money to do these print runs otherwise.

ED Note: The TLDR here is that direct sales (like through Kickstarter) are much more profitable to the publisher than retail sales, which I found fascinating.

2. Some Interesting Things About Surrealist Dinner Party

F: You’ve made games before, including Mechanica. Whats been the hardest thing about making Surrealist Dinner Party?

M:
One of the longest parts of Surrealist Dinner Party has been getting the right to the actual Surrealists in the game themselves, specifically the right to use them in a board game. It’s a complicated process, and none of us are lawyers.
My understanding is that state of the rights to use their likeness and name can depend on where they lived, where they died, and bunch of other factors.
We got a lot of help from the Artists Rights Society in figuring things out.
While there are some artists who we might have been able to use without asking permission, we didn’t want to do that.

In addition, getting the rights to use them in a game was tricky, and was different on an artist by artist basis. For example, even once you got in contact with the rights holder (which itself was challenging; many estates or families never got back to us), what they would ask for was somewhat unpredictable. Some would let us use the artist’s name in the game for a reasonable sum, or a similar donation to charity. Others thought it was neat that this person would be in the game, and let us use them for free.

Some weren’t as enthusiastic, as they didn’t want the person they were representing, often a relative, in a game at all.

(Personal Opinion of Gametrodon Editor Here: This seems incredibly stupid to me, but what do I know about art.)

There were also some that asked for licensing fees that were simply so high we couldn’t include them.

F: Okay, so quick question. Since you now have all the rights to these artists for games, when can we expect the Resonym published Smash Bros, but with Surrealists?

M: Well, we don’t have the rights to use them unequivocally forever. We have the rights to use them for this game.

F: Bummer. Alright, so one last question about production before we get into the meta of Kickstarter itself. It would be silly not to mention COVID-19 and the year’s pandemic. Do you currently see that as
impacting your ability to deliver Surrealist?

M: We have some concerns about COVID-19, but they may not be the ones people would expect. Right now, I’m not worried about the manufacturing itself, as China seems to have COVID under control but I am worried about what happens when we get to shipping it out.
I’m really hoping this whole thing will mostly be under control by the time the games arrive in the US. If anything, I’m more worried about tariffs. They can have a large impact on our cost of production. I can say that COVID-19 did impact the process of getting rights to the artists in the game, which is understandable.

Ed Note: I wanted to find a good statistic for the current state of coronavirus in China, but I was unable to find a trusted source that I felt comfortable linking to as a source of truth. If anyone reading this article has good info, and I mean CDC/WHO sorta stuff that can be trusted, toss it over.

F: It wouldn’t be cheaper to produce the game in the US, or in a non-China country?

M: Absolutely not. The difference in manufacturing in the US vs China is massive at this point. There are only a small handful of factories in the US that can actually do everything that is currently done in China, and they effectively only work with big companies like Hasbro. The print run minimums are so high, that we simply couldn’t use them even if we wanted to. Of the remaining factories, a majority of them actually do a lot of their manufacturing in China anyway, or can only do specific parts of games in the US, like cards.

A lot of the infrastructure to make board games just doesn’t exist in the US.

Ed Note: Max gave an example of Meeples, the little wooden people you get with a bunch of different games, and pointed out that if you pay to get a game with Meeples “manufactured” by a US company, the Meeples will still get made in China, and then shipped to the US.

3. The Changing Meta of Kickstarter

F: Okay, so finally, let’s talk about Kickstarter, goals, early bird rewards, and all the other stuff that has changed. For me, one of the most visible ones has been the disappearance of rewards that involve putting a backer in the game. Why do you think this happened?

M: Obviously it doesn’t quite make sense to put a random backer in the game in Surrealist Dinner Party. More generally, I can think of at least three reasons that you wouldn’t do that if you’re running a Kickstarter these days.

First, there is a crew of folks who just irrationally hate it, and they tend be part of the more vocal crowd on places like Board Game Geek.

Second, because of the current demographics of Kickstarter and the board game community, there is a exceedingly high chance that you will end up with all white men. In Monarch, the only reason we were comfortable with doing the unwanted guest stretch goal this way was because the rest of the characters in the game are already women.

And finally, production times. We fulfill our Kickstarters relatively fast. For Mechanica, the Kickstarter was in February, and we fulfilled our pledges by November. But getting custom art done and approved can have a turnaround time that can end up impacting the timeline of the entire project.

F: On the subject of art, and I know this is something we’ve actually discussed (Ed Note: read as “Argued about”) in the past, your games like Monarch and Surrealist have some pretty great art. At the same time, Resonym doesn’t really do anything like selling prints or little pins, or other merchandising. Why not?

M: There are a bunch of small reasons, like having to figure out how to ship merch internationally, and somewhat limited appeal. But personally, I would rather work on things that improve the game.

For example, the wooden tokens for Surrealist. I feel that they actively improve the gameplay experience. They’re tactile, they’re fun to place, and they just make the game feel better. And while art prints would be pretty, they’re not important to the game experience.

We would rather provide items that improve gameplay feel, like the tokens, or extend gameplay, like the mini expansion for Mechanica. Does this mean that we wouldn’t merchandise if we had a big hit? No. But at Resonym, we want to make games.

Time spent on making prints, stickers, or other merchandising is time spent not making the best games and game experiences we can for our backers and our fans. We want make games, not prints.

F: Alright. Thanks for your time. Before we end this, is there anything you’d like to say to your backers?

M: First of all, I’d like to thank them for their support. And second of all: FILL OUT YOUR SURVEYS! We just had someone fill out a survey for Mechanica, approximately 1 year late. This is a problem because we actually may not have any copies left in our European warehouse to send them. You gave us money for a copy of the game, and I want to make sure you get the game. We actually had an extremely generous backer for Monarch who backed at the custom art pledge tier who we were never able to get in contact with. They still gave us the money, and we’re grateful for the support, but we want to send you your games! So please, fill out the backer surveys!

F: Thanks, and hopefully they will!

Dead By Daylight

I’ve played a shit ton of Dead by Daylight over the last few weeks, and I really like it. If you’re familiar with the game, but haven’t really given it a chance because of the horror theme, I’d encourage you to check it out.

So what is Dead by Daylight? Well, it’s a 4v1 asymmetric hunt. If you don’t know the genre, that’s fine, because I can’t come up with one either. Maybe I’ll come up with a better descriptor by the time I finish writing this article. Maybe not. The point is, it’s one of very few games I’ve chosen to play instead of Dota 2. It’s sorta perpetually competitive, and also a game I’d like to get better at.

Before we dive into the game itself, I do wanna get my two main gripes with it out of the way. First of all, the game has a shit ton of DLC. Buying the base game at $20 gives you five out of the twenty one playable killer characters, and six or so of the twenty-three survivors. I’m mostly just going to look at killers for the sake of simplicity here, but of the remaining sixteen killers currently in the game, seven are permanently pay walled, as they are licensed characters from other horror franchises. The others can theoretically be unlocked by grinding. At about 90 hours played, I think I’ve earned enough currency to unlock… 2 other killers. So yeah. The time to unlock ratio ain’t great. Also, on their own, killers and survivors are $5 each, and you can buy packs of specific ones for $7.

Editors Note: I’m pretty sure I counted right for the killers here, but I may have miscounted the survivors. Point is, there’s a lot of DLC if you actually want to play all the characters.

Second main gripe would be this: The game can be buggy as all hell. When I mentioned bugs in my last review for OddRealm, I mentioned them because while they were rare, they were game breaking. In Dead By Daylight, the reverse is kinda true. I’ve seen only one bug that actually ruins games (a piece of level geometry that you can clip into, and get stuck in). With that said, 7/10 times, your pre-made animations will clip the camera into a wall. You will hook survivors onto empty air. Mostly stuff like this.

So now that those two things are out of the way, lets talk about the actual gameplay. Like I mentioned, it’s a 4v1 hunt. One player plays the killer, and four players play survivors. (You do get to pick which role you want to queue for before starting a game.)

The games take place in semi-randomly generated maps, with each side having a different set of goals. Survivors have to repair five generators, and then open an escape door in order to get out. They do this by interacting with the generators, and completing quick time events to continue the repairs. Killers need to (surprise, surprise) kill the survivors, which they do by inflicting damage until the survivors are downed, and then hanging the survivors on giant meat hooks so a spider god can try to eat them. Survivors can still save their friends from hooks, but it’s always possible the killer is nearby.

While this sounds simple, it’s made markedly more complex by the variety of game mechanics, perks, items and other factors in play, as well as the fact that regardless of which role you choose to play, you will be facing off against other humans. If you trick someone, it’s because you outsmarted them, not because the game let you.

Here’s just one example of a mechanic in the game that’s quite interesting, and it’s also why I wouldn’t consider the game to be a horror game: The Terror Radius. You know how in horror movies, the tense music plays as the murderer gets closer to our unsuspecting victim? Well, Dead By Daylight has something similar. You can actually hear the killer approaching, which means while they mostly can’t sneak up on you. Of course, they do have perks and options to lessen, or even temporarily hide their radius, so you’ll still have to pay attention.

And there are a bunch of mechanics like this. Killers have a first person point of view, but survivors have third person, and can use it to see around corners and over walls. At the same time, Killers move faster then Survivors, so without careful play, Killers will always win chases.

I could go on, and just list out mechanics, but I’m not sure it would sell anyone on the game, or it would help explain why the game is so compelling. What I will say is that Dead By Daylight has one of the best ratios of money/time spent in game of anything I’ve played this year.




Odd Realm

Odd Realm has promise, but just isn’t finished yet.

I really like Odd Realm. I’ve played a bunch of it prior to writing this review, most likely 10-15 hours and I want to be able to recommend it… Right now, I have two big reasons I can’t, and a few small ones. If you already own the game from the itch.io racial justice bundle, or some other event, you should play it. But if you don’t own it yet, you may want to wait until a full release.

Odd Realm is a colony builder, and has the most in common with Dwarf Fortress. You pick a starting race, pick a place to start, and then proceed to try to keep your settlers alive. Doing so requires making sure they have water and food if you picked humans. Or they might require chambers in which keep their animate bodies forever functional, if you picked the immortal skeleton race. Y’know. Normal stuff.

I mentioned two big reasons I can’t recommend Odd Realm just yet, and they are the following: First, the game is buggy. And second, it feels fairly content-lite compared to its obvious inspiration of Dwarf Fortress.

Let’s talk about the bugs first. 95% of the time, the game runs smoothly. I’ve had no crashes, or straight failures, even if I have had points where stuff gets a bit laggy for a moment.

5% of the time, something weird will happen and the game will just die. I’ve listed a few examples below.

  1. Settlers decide that the most fascinating thing to do is to all simultaneously move back and forth onto a resource deposit zone, instead of doing anything else you might want them to do.
  2. Settlers get stuck in the move action, and refuse to actually move.
  3. Settlers move jerkily and refuse to take any additional actions.
  4. Settlers don’t move resources to appropriate resource deposit zones.
  5. Production queue of items, and information just absolutely dies.
  6. If you make the mistake of digging underwater, prepare to watch as your game slows to an absolute crawl.

The problem isn’t that these bugs are common. They really aren’t. The problem is that they absolutely destroy the game when they occur. I was having a hard time writing this review, so I fired up the game to try to figure out what I wanted to say about it, only to spend more time trying to figure out why I could no longer manufacture glass panes, and spend an hour or so trying to fix the issue.

To the developers’ credit, they seem to be aware of this issue, and fairly active on their Discord in requesting sessions and save states to try to patch the problems, but right now, having your entire fortress just blow up because of of a stupid bug feels real bad.

The second big issue is that the game feels very content-lite at the moment. There are only 4-5 types of ore, and they all function more or less the same, but with better stats. The same thing feels true of most of the plants you can grow. There are only a few pieces of gear, a few spell books, etc. Some types of stone can be used for making roofs, but not for anything else. Right now, once you have rooms set up, there just isn’t a lot to do.

There are a bunch of other little things that I find annoying, like not being able to tell settlers things like “Stay in here, don’t go outside” and the number of random events being exceedingly limited. But these are all minor.

This is why I think if you don’t already own the game, but find it interesting, you should wait until release. Many of the bugs and glitches will hopefully be ironed out. And hopefully they’ll also be a lot more to do. But right now, Odd Realm is a bit buggy, a bit frustrating, and still unfinished.

P.S. If you do have Odd Realm, play the Ancients race instead of humans. They are way more fun.

Didn’t Make the Cut #2

Another week or two, another set of games that just didn’t hold my interest long enough for me to give them their own full article.

Welcome to Didn’t Make the Cut #2, where we continue our way through all the games in the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle that just didn’t want to make me play them. The ordering here doesn’t reflect anything other than how interesting I thought they were. These are all the things that just didn’t keep my interest long enough to warrant a full article.

Extreme Meatpunks Forever

I can’t write an entire article about Extreme Meatpunks Forever because I didn’t play the game for longer than like 20 minutes. I feel like this was a fair shake, but I really wasn’t feeling it.

Like, here is the summary of the game from its itch.io page.

A visual novel/mech brawler about gay disasters beating up neonazis in giant robots made of meat.

Heather

Which is. I dunno. I think you can probably read that and decide if the game is for you or not.

My one sentence review of the game would be this: the game feels like a playable Zine. The game feels very cobbled together. The backgrounds are ASCII, the characters are single images, and the writing wobbles between really neat sci-fi and dialogue that doesn’t include things like capitalization and punctuation.

This one just wasn’t for me.

Music was fucking banging though.

Walden

I can’t find my notes for Walden, but more or less, it feels like a very light survival simulator.

There’s a type of game that exists which is biblical or religious, and they tend to exist in order to try to get you interested whatever religion or such they’re selling. The problem is, they tend to be made by people who are religious first, and game designers second. The intended result is usually to use the game like the lure on the end of those deep sea fish, where the fish’s jaws metaphorically represent joining whatever cult made the thing in the first place.

Usually they’re not very successful, because the other fish (game companies) have far more exciting lures, and those fish jaws only represent things like microtransactions and loot boxes. And I guess the risk of becoming a pathological gambler is better than becoming a member of the Mason family?

Regardless, Walden feels like a game made by that sort of person. Except instead of trying to convince you to give them your life savings and move to a commune in Pripyat to be one with the Everglow the Light Mother, the designers of Walden seem to want you to read the book that inspired them to make the game. If this was their goal, I think they kinda succeeded.

I’m actually fairly curious about reading Walden (the book) now. Maybe avoid it if you’re afraid of “transcendentalist philosophy.” (Apparently that’s what the book’s about. I just stole this from Wikipedia, so I hope it’s right.) Still not gonna play any more of the game though.

If you’re still interested in Walden, you can find it here.

Art Sqool

In Art Sqool, you walk around a weird world and draw things, given instructions and graded by what I assume is Microsoft’s mascot Clippy’s brother who got into hard drugs instead of software development. You can pick up more brushes and colors in this world, but that’s it. It’s not really a platformer in any typical sense. It’s mostly just exploration across the “Campus,” which gives the impression of what a wasting illness called “Clipart” would look like on skin.

Whenever I’m playing through these games, I like to take some brief notes that I can review later in order to give thoughtful, detailed opinions. For example, this is what I wrote about Extreme Meatpunks Forever.

-At least it’s a game
-Not a very interesting one
-Seems like it’s mostly visual novel
-I do not care about these characters
-Some aspects of the worldbuilding seem cool
-Rad Music

My Dumb Review Notes for Meatpunks

“Now wait”, you think. Isn’t this bit supposed to be about Art Sqool? Well yes, dear reader, it is. But I present those notes as an example. Let’s now look at the notes for Art Sqool.

-This ain’t a game
-Why does this exist
-Remember kids, when making games, don’t forget to include gameplay
-I hate this

My Dumb Review Notes for Art Sqool

Now, given that all interactive visual media can be more or less considered a game, and after discussion with someone else, I’d like to present the following quote.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a definition for art that wasn’t stupid. Generally speaking, when a person constructs a thought-machine of this kind, what they’re actually trying to do is determine what isn’t art.

Jerry Holkins

And to be fair the same is true of games. Saying that something is or isn’t a game is arbitrary, and as such, I’m willing to concede that the first line of my notes is wrong.

In a secondary non-concession to the fact that this is still my article to write, I’m not linking the game here. I think it’s stupid, bad, and I loathe it. Fuck Art Sqool.

That’s all I got for today. Until next time.

Beacon

You can pass on Beacon. You will not miss anything. This entire article is just me being grumpy about every aspect of this poorly designed and carefully made exercise in frustration.

I wanted to like Beacon. I really did. But overall right now, given that the game isn’t even finished, I can’t recommend it. So what is Beacon, why might you want to play it, and why should you avoid it?

Beacon is a top down real time isometric roguelike. It’s interesting if nothing else for actually not being 2D, despite the fact that the player doesn’t have a jump, and the whole game takes place in 3D environments. Interesting isn’t the same as good though, so we’ll come back to that later.

So why shouldn’t you play Beacon? Well, for starters, the game isn’t actually finished. Currently you can play through about six stages, and then the game just kills you at the end, because there isn’t anything else there. Secondly, it seems somewhat unstable. It took me less than 10 runs to get to the end of the current final area in the game. The only reason it isn’t a lower number is because the game crashed on a very good run early on, and forced me to restart.

Let’s say you don’t care about these reasons. Well, Beacon does very little that’s actually new. The game plays like a Frankenstein of mechanics. Each run starts by selecting the DNA you’re going to use for the run. This includes things health, stamina (yes, they’re two different things), armor, crit, luck, and I stopped caring because there are too many of them. This is followed by the DNA being sequenced, at which point any DNA mods you got are applied, and DNA has a chance to mutate, which permanently changes functionality of your character during the run. You arm might split open and replace your melee attack with a sonic projectile. You might get the ability to…. lifesteal while set on fire. Or maybe your legs just become pus-filled blobs that leave a trail of slime whenever you dash. It doesn’t really matter though, because:

1. Most of these end up playing the same, and

2. You’ll get multiple runs with those pieces of DNA, after which they die, and you can’t use them anymore.

I couldn’t see a pattern in which specific mutations actually occur, so I couldn’t, for example, use DNA to build a fire-based build, or anything. Also, some mutations are just boring. I had one that just massively decreased crit, on DNA that I had picked to increase crit.

Cool. So, since that’s done, let’s actually play. Each level is randomly generated, but ends up following a pretty similar pattern. Throughout your run, you’ll pick up DNA to use for future runs, guns, side equipment, sidearms and grenades.

Taking a step back for a minute, weapons are one of the few things that feel like they’re done correctly. Many of them are quite interesting (bone boomerang gun) and extra weapons can be recycled for ammo mods, which give a permanent boost for the rest of the run to your remaining weapons.

Grenades are worthless. I don’t know why they’re in the game, and I don’t know why you’d use them. They’re boring, pointless, and hard to aim.

Okay, now let’s talk about pickups and auxiliary. I don’t know which one is which, and I do not care. All you need to know is that the game lets you have one of each, and the grouping of items in these slots makes no sense.

For example: an item that gives you a chance to fully reload your magazines on kill, as a passive. Or a 5-use boost jump. An item that caps your health at 75, but gives you permanent health regeneration. Or a 10-use of a set of daggers that lifesteal if you hit with them.

There is literally no reason to ever pick up the consumables instead of the passive boost ones, the passive are just that much better. Also, unlike guns, these can’t be recycled for ammo mods. You can destroy them to get a single extra grenade. Hooooorayyy.

This brings me to my biggest gripe with the game overall: the art.

Beacon has beautiful art, but it’s almost entirely counter productive to the actual gameplay, i.e. being a fast-paced run and gun roguelike. The readability of the screen is garbage. Everything is done in a sort of low poly style, but instead of making it easier to tell whats going on, it’s messed up with tons of unnecessary detail, lighting, and other graphical crap. My favorite example of this would be the fact that slime and acid look almost exactly the same, but one is simply an armor reducing debuff, and the other is a DOT that can kill you.

Oh, and speaking of death, the game has insta-deaths. Falling off a ledge won’t kill you, but if you make the unfortunate error of somehow ending up on top of a bunch of spikes, that’s it. Run over.

There are good moments in Beacon: the dodging can feel nice, the weapons are cool. But the game feels like a bloated Frankenstein monster. It tries to do too much all at once, and ends up a playing like someone tried to make an ice-cream shake by going to a variety of fast food joints, ordering a small milkshake at each, then taking them home, shoving them into a blender, straw, cup, lid and all, and then just lighting the thing up. Drinking this shake means that sometimes you’ll get strawberries and chocolate, and sometimes you’ll get strawberries and small shards of plastic.

Also, the game is cakewalk fucking easy. You’ll spend more time being annoyed at trying to figure out where you need to go than you will in interesting fights.

I feel bad about tearing things to shit.

A Mortician’s Tale

Short, interesting content, more akin to a visual novel. Very little gameplay or player agency.

I picked up the Racial Justice Bundle at least in part because I wanted to expose myself to a bunch of stuff I wouldn’t otherwise play. I also started this blog mostly to recommend games to other people. (And to like, pretend to be a game journalist, but same difference.)

This puts me in a bit of a bind regarding A Mortician’s Tale. Aspects of the writing for the game seem extremely strong and well thought out, but as a game, I’d say it’s far closer to a visual novel. The gameplay, at least as far as it’s present, has almost no player agency. I’ll talk about why I feel this way in a moment, but my overall verdict on the game would be this:

A Mortician’s Tale as a game is likely to appeal to individuals who like short, experimental things. The game took about 45 minutes to an hour for me to complete, and that was while reading most of the in-game emails from NPC’s. It has very little replay value outside re-reading text. Unless you have an curiosity for the subject matter (death and funerals) or experimental indie projects, I don’t think you’ll enjoy it.

Despite all that, it’s worth noting that I didn’t put the game into a “Didn’t Make The Cut” article because I did find it fairly interesting and thought-provoking. Let’s talk about that, and also, a brief warning: this article is about to sorta reach that point that most online recipes do, where it says very little about the actual thing you came to the article for (game stuff) and a lot more about the author of the article.

There are three main sections to the game: Preparing Bodies, Attending a Funeral, and Reading Emails. I’m just gonna go through em real quick in that order.

Preparing Bodies is the majority of the “gameplay”-like aspect of A Morticians Tale, and it’s pretty similar in execution to something like Trauma Center: Under the Knife or maybe Cooking Mama. You have a variety of tools that you use in order to accomplish things, but the main kicker is that you actually cannot screw this up. Like, the game will not let you use a tool incorrectly, or at the wrong point in time.

On the one hand, I get it. If you make a death-positive game about the importance of what happens with people after they die, letting the player poke a smiley face into the body of a teenager who killed himself might not fit the tone.

On the other hand, it means that the extent of actual gameplay in the game is limited/non-existent. While being guided through the actions of preparing a body is interesting, the fact that there is no real need to focus or learn anything. After the first body, I more or less just clicked and went as fast as possible, because you don’t actually have to learn anything, and the game doesn’t let you screw up. Anything interesting in this section of the game is limited to learning about the process that is used to prepare a body to be displayed.

Next we have Attending the Funeral. I found this to be a weaker part of the game, as it mostly consists of listening to 4-5 people talk in discussions that are less than a paragraph, and then leaving. Here’s why I’d consider it weaker.

I’ve been to maybe five or six funerals, most of them before I was 18. Almost all have been generally Christian as far as funerals go, but the people in them are fairly different. Off the top of my head, here’s a short list:

  1. Grandparents
  2. Classmate
  3. Family Friend
  4. Tutor/Neighbor
  5. Family Friend Relative

I mention this because the reasons for these deaths widely varied. Some of these people were very old. One had a long term fatal illness. One was a suicide. Another was in great shape, went for a run, and was killed by a heart attack.

My point would be this: regardless of the death, or the expectation and preparedness for it, funerals are incredibly emotional. A Mortician’s Tale never captured any of that emotion for me. Regardless of who has died, it’s hard to not end up overwhelmed at least a bit, whether it be from loss, or from empathy for those who have lost of a loved one.

This brings us to the last part of the game, reading emails. I would say that this is one of the strongest parts of the game in terms of writing, but again, it doesn’t actually allow any interaction or choices. It’s more like a neat sort of creative writing.

There’s a bunch of interesting stuff here regarding the death business, the up-sell of funeral packages, and the whole concept of as death as an industry. But none of it is actual gameplay.

I already gave my verdict on it up above, but while I wouldn’t recommend the game to people who are solely looking for a game, it’s still interesting as an experience. Also, I’m pretty sure it took me longer to write this article than it did for me to beat the game. So, yknow. Not sure what that means.

Until next time.

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout

Because Mario Party isn’t rage inducing enough on it’s own.

If you’ve seen Twitch at all recently, you’ve probably seen Fall Guys. If you haven’t, allow me to summarize it for you: imagine a battle royale game, but instead shooting each other death as teenagers, you’re all happy jelly bean blobs competing in Mario Party style mini-games to be the last person standing.

It’s simple, cute, and amusing, even if it isn’t particularly deep. Some of the mini-games are fun. Some of the mini-games are not as fun (looking at you Perfect Match). Some look like complete bullshit, but actually have some strategy like Tip Tap Toe.

Most the games are at least enjoyable, and the fun primarily comes from watching other players be launched, whacked, and otherwise smacked around, and also by being a winner. There are a few game modes that are legitimately great, like Hex-A-Gone, a multi level Tron style mode, where the last person to fall all the way to the bottom wins. Most of the team mini-games, like Soccer, Egg Collection, and Ball Rolling are also enjoyable.

When I was first writing this post, I actually had a bit where I was going to go into the worse game modes, and tear them apart a bit, but then a funny thing happened: see, with the exception of Perfect Match, most of the game modes are pretty good when the servers aren’t massively lagging. One particularly awful game, Tail Tag, is actually really fun when things like hit detection and stuff actually work.

I think Fall Guys is a ton of fun, and worth playing, but I have a few caveats to that statement. First off, I suspect there is a large section of individuals who just won’t have a good time. If you already hate stuff like Mario Party, or WarioWare, or just battle royale style games in general, you might wanna pass on this one.

Secondly, Fall Guys is a lot more fun with a friend. If you can get even one other person to play with, each game becomes less of a solo deathmatch, and more of a fun mess as you work against and root for each other. I had a lot of fun with the game on my own, but it’s undeniable that the joy of the game is dampened when every other character you beat or get beaten by is anonymous.

Fall Guys is $20 on Steam, and while it does have micros, they’re purely cosmetic, and not for anything you can’t get anyway.

Fall Guys will not cause you to look inward. It will not grant you peace, or force you to confront deep seated fears. But it’s fun. And when you are launched into space, or toppled into the void right as you jump because some rando grabbed you for absolutely no good fucking reason, it will give you something to be angry about other then the unmitigated nightmare that has been 2020.