Category Archives: Video Game Reviews

I am Scouse Gamer 88; an amateur Liverpudlian game reviewer making his opinion heard about as many video games as possible. Scroll through and read all my video game reviews from A to Z. All my thoughts and opinions on some of the very best and very worst games released!

Throughout my career, I have reviewed a great of games; be that AAA mainstream titles or independently developed indie hits. In my 30+ years, I have had extensive experience playing every kind of game. Ranging from critically acclaimed beloved titles to forgotten flops.

I take great pride and put great care into what I do, and I hope you enjoy reading my reviews as much as I writing them!

Zapling Bygone (PC)

Developer(s) – 9 Finger Games

Publisher(s) – 9 Finger Games

Director(s) – Stevis Andrea

PEGI – Not Yet Rated (some violence and dark themes)

Released following an immensely successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2021, Zapling Bygone is a Metroidvania programmed by Stevis Andrea with heavy sci-fi elements along with an extraordinary amount of variety in gameplay. Following my first impressions article and my interview with Stevis in 2021:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/05/29/zapling-bygone-qa-with-9-finger-gameszapling-bygon/

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/05/10/zapling-bygone-first-impressions/

I had high hopes for this game from the get-go. Having been impressed with its uniquely testing boss fights (even at that early stage of development) and outlandish conceptual design. And after having played the game from start to finish, I was not disappointed with the final game.

Graphics – 9/10

Making use of 8-BIT visuals similar to other indie Metroidvania titles, such as Alwa’s Awakening, Axiom Verge and Xeodrifter, the world of Zapling Bygone takes place on an alien planet with a particularly dark atmosphere; it reminded me of the original Metroid, but the element of grittiness and suspense is even more pronounced in this title. Every location in the game makes players feel as if danger is just around the corner, and for the most part, it is. 

Gameplay – 8/10

As a traditional Metroidvania, the game has a heavy emphasis on exploration and combat; though the combat system is quite unique. The player finds relics throughout the game that give them a massive variety of different abilities and combat options that can be combined and used to adapt to different situations and to help explore more efficiently as well. This system can also be used to strategize in preparation for the good amount of insane boss fights the game throws at the player. Nothing is self-explanatory, relying heavily on a player’s individual skill to progress; it’s challenging, but not to the point of being inaccessible. 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls not only present problems or unnecessary complications, but they also provide a new way of playing a Metroidvania title that I hadn’t truly seen previous to this, and I was particularly impressed with it. There are a few Metroidvania games that have provided unique control mechanics such as The Swapper and Blasphemous, and this game falls under the same category.

Lifespan – 5/10

The game, sadly, can be completed to 100% in around 6 hours, which for a Metroidvania, falls fairly short in comparison with the likes of the Ori games and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. However, since this was a solo effort, I can’t fault it too much for that. On the flip side, if Stevis Andrea does decide to make a sequel to this, the ideas perpetuated in the first game could easily be expanded upon for a second game. There is definitely potential for a future franchise of sci-fi Metroidvanias in Zapling Bygone, and given the right amount of time and resources, a sequel could be made to last far longer.

Storyline – 7.5/10

The story of Zapling Bygone has the player in the shoes of an alien hive mind, known as a Zapling, who has been sent to investigate a strange alien planet to find something that can end an intergalactic war with an infectious parasite. The game has a small introductory cutscene, but after that, everything is left for the players to piece together themselves, similar to Metroid Prime. It’s not the first Metroidvania to do this, with the likes of Teslagrad and World To The West relying heavily on the backstory to advance the current story, but the dark nature of the game’s backstory will have players particularly engaged.

Originality – 8.5/10

With its unique amount of variety in gameplay, story elements, and wonderfully twisted atmosphere, this game does well to stand out within a genre that has been taking more and more precedent over the last decade. I grow ever more impressed when I can find a Metroidvania that stands out to as much of an extent as this one does, and gives testament to the vast amount of imagination displayed by developers within the indie community. It’s always exciting to see what new upcoming developers have to offer, and this game certainly delivers in terms of excitement. 

Happii

To summarize, Zapling Bygone, though short, is an incredible game for the time it lasts, and certainly worth investing the time in from start to finish. Given that this is Stevis Andrea and 9 Finger Games’ first full release, it is one hell of a first attempt.

Score

48/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Below (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Capybara Games

Publisher(s) – Capybara Games

Director(s) – Kris Piotrowski

Producer(s) – Nathan Vella

PEGI – 12

 

Released in 2018 following a lengthy development cycle, and with much hype surrounding it at the time, Below is a roguelike action-adventure game with a top-down perspective set in a mysterious world with hidden secrets. When I first saw trailers for this game, I was quite excited about it myself; for first impressions, it looked like one of those games that players could sink their teeth in for hours on end. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to find out just how minimalistic this game really is; in many respects.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The one aspect in which Below doesn’t seem minimalistic, however, is the graphics. Though relatively simplistic on the technical level, especially for an eighth-generation game, it more than makes up for this in its conceptual design, soundtrack, and overall atmosphere. The build-ups of tension throughout each area in anticipation of enemies attacking and uncovering traps that cause instant death (or failure to do so) are very well executed. The game can go from weirdly serene to incredibly tense very regularly throughout, and it can put players on edge and keep them on their toes in that respect.

 

Gameplay – 5/10

The game involves combat, exploration, and crafting to survive. There is a survival mode for the more avant-garde player, and an exploration mode for those not looking for the same level of challenge. But either which mode I played, I found the gameplay to be one of the minimalistic elements to it. Combat is intermittent, regardless of the fact that each room is randomly generated, and in my opinion, there isn’t enough incentive to explore as much of the world as possible like there is in a lot of open-world, or even semi-open world, adventure games. More definitely could’ve been added to this game. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme presents no problems, however. The combat system is easy to get to grips with, and basic things like movement and camera angles also pose no unnecessary complications either. It reminded me a lot of Titan Souls in its basic layout, but it has that little bit more functionality. It’s just a shame the full potential of such functionality wasn’t used with how little there is in the way of gameplay.

 

Lifespan – 2/10

The lifespan of the game also disappointed me greatly. The game can last an average of around 4 hours, which for a game that supposedly encourages exploration, is nothing. It’s most definitely a far shorter game than what I was led to believe it would be after having seen the first trailers and experiencing all the hype surrounding it. 

 

Storyline – 4/10

The story of Below is even more minimalistic than the gameplay. It follows a warrior of unknown origins having landed via ship on a mysterious island, and is left to explore. That’s it. Something abstract happens in the end, but it’s one of those story endings that is supposedly open to interpretation, but because everything is left to the imagination, there’s no real basis on how to interpret it. Some may say that this, in and of itself is what may make it a good story, but offering no means of emotional investment of any kind was not the way to go about it; and that’s the case here.

 

Originality – 6/10

I have to give praise where it’s due, however. The game’s overall atmosphere and conceptual design do make it stand out to a certain extent. There is indeed an element of players wondering exactly what the purpose of the setting was, what it was before the player character arrived, and the backstory behind it all, a lot like Shadow of the Colossus in that respect. But by comparison, Shadow of the Colossus did offer a lot of things for the player to become emotionally invested in; much more so than in this game. 

 

Angrii

Overall, Below was a bitterly disappointing experience, and the ending definitely left me thinking not to ever pick this game up again. Producer Nathan Vella described it as a “super video game-y video game.” In all honestly, when even the developers are struggling to give it even a semi-cohesive description, it should be taken as a red flag. 

Score

35/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Phantasmagoria (PC, MS-DOS & Sega Saturn)

Developer(s) – Sierra On-Line

Publisher(s) – Sierra On-Line

Director(s) – Peter Maris

Producer(s) – Mark Seibert, J Mark Hood & Roberta Williams 

ESRB – M for Mature

 

Released in 1995 to resound commercial success, in fact going on to become Sierra On-Line’s best-selling game overall, Phantasmagoria is a point-and-click adventure horror game making use of digitized character sprites, similar to Night Trap, and sold as well as it did despite a mixed reaction from critics at the time. Roberta Williams even went on record to call it the greatest achievement throughout her career, despite her work on the King’s Quest series along with her husband Ken Williams. 

This is a game that had piqued my interest for a long time, and one that I’d wanted to play and review ever since, given the lasting impression that it’s had on the industry ever since its release. While it’s certainly not a great game (nor even a good one), and I ultimately cite its shock factor as the reason why it sold so well, it does have one or two positive points, and it wasn’t quite as bad as what I was led to believe.

 

Graphics – 5/10

The first thing that gamers will be drawn to is the game’s graphics. It uses digitally imposed actors and actresses as character sprites, and everything else, including objects and settings, are conventionally rendered to around early sixth-generation quality. So the problems I have with it can be summed up in that last sentence ostensibly; because of the disparity between the graphical quality of the character sprites and the settings, it renders the entire thing very hard to either look at or take seriously; especially nowadays. Back then it would have simply looked inconsistent, but now, it looks inconsistent and horribly dated. The conceptual design, like many other things about this game, ranges from average to passable, being set in an isolated haunted house. There’s not much else I can say about it apart from that, since the haunted house has been the setting for many horror films and games that came before this, and there’s not a great deal that separates this setting from the many others it’s kind that came before it.

 

Gameplay – 5/10

Phantasmagoria relies on finding interactive items and solving puzzles in order to progress, typical of most point-and-click adventure titles. The issue is that nowhere near as much thought went into the gameplay as what went into many other great games of the genre, such as Broken Sword and Grim Fandango; and I put this down to the fact that most emphases seemed to go on storytelling and artistic direction; despite the fact that not much went into it in that respect either. The best thing about the gameplay is that sometimes, particularly toward the end, the player is challenged to think on their toes in order to progress as fast as possible in order to prevent death; this adds a welcome bit of tension to the experience. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls work just as well as any other point-and-click adventure game, and this is one aspect the developers mercifully got right. The HUD is straightforward to interact with, and nothing is made overly complicated.

 

Lifespan – 5/10

The lifespan of Phantasmagoria can range between around 3 to 4 hours, which as is documented, is far longer than the average lifespan of a film, which in truth this game was mainly marketed as, it was nowhere near the average lifespan of a blockbuster game, even for the time, and certainly doesn’t hold up today. A point that I frequently raise whilst writing reviews is that if more depth was added to the gameplay, they could’ve made it last longer than the time it already does having used up the budget on making it last as long as it does through other means, such as extended scripts and screenplays.

 

Storyline – 6/10

The story of Phantasmagoria follows mystery novelist Adrienne Delaney and her husband, photographer Don Gordon, as they purchase a remote mansion previously owned by a famous magician known as Carno. Adrienne gradually learns of the mansion’s sadistic past, as she learns of an evil demon that possesses the house’s residents, and drives them insane making them do evil and twisted things. The story was heavily inspired by the novels of Stephen King down to the main character being a writer, but the quality of story-telling, however, doesn’t even come close to being on the same level as King. Many plot elements are not particularly distinguishable from the stories that it drew inspiration from, and the only thing the plot has going for it are the few shocking moments there are in it (one scene, in particular, going much too far for my liking). In terms of the acting, if looking at this as a film, it again ranges from average to passable. I think the only actor who put in a passable performance was Robert Miano, who played the magician Carno. He definitely brought the right amount of maniacal zeal to the character without overdoing it. Everyone else either overacts or underacts as far as I’m concerned.

 

Originality – 3/10

As I’ve alluded to several times throughout this review, there is very little going for this game in terms of uniqueness. Its influences are far too evident, and where it does stand out, it stands out for the wrong reasons, including how inconsistent the graphics and the acting are. The developers clearly neglected the gameplay as well, which should’ve been the main focus, and as a consequence of that, it makes it stand out even less.

 

Angrii

Phantasmagoria, whilst having those few little plus points, is a fairly disappointing experience in my opinion. The areas in which the developers concentrated most were not handled particularly well, and the areas they chose not to concentrate on, were handled even more haphazardly, making it ultimately a regrettably bad gaming experience. 

Score

34/60

5.5/10 (Below Average)

Mira’s Brush: First Impressions

Last year, whilst scouting social media platforms and crowdfunding sites for new indie game prospects, I came across a unique-looking 8-BIT title on Kickstarter that was subsequently funded and is due for release in the near future. Mira’s Brush, developed by Duckbill ProDucktions and published by Angel Star Studios, is an 8-BIT 2D side scroller with puzzle elements whereby players must platform and paint their way through levels in order to advance through the game; the best way I can describe the game’s premise is if Super Mario Bros had mechanics similar to Okami. 

I had an interview with the game’s lead designer last year, Blake Speers:

 

https://scousegamer88.com/2020/02/11/qa-with-blake-speers-miras-brush/

 

Who explained to me where the inspiration for this title came from and described in-depth the arduous development cycle that game has had in order to get it to where it was at the time and to get it to the point of which the game was finally put on Kickstarter, where it was then successfully funded. The game is now available via Steam Early Access:

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1493880/Miras_Brush/

 

And so I decided to write about my first impressions of the game, about its finer points, and where I feel it could indeed need some improvement before its full release in the not too distant future. Here are my thoughts on the current build of Mira’s Brush

 

 

Graphics

First of all, the world of Chromaland is as wonderfully varied as any other well-established video game universe with a lot of wonderfully outlandish enemies and locations ranging from tropical summer landscapes to icy snow worlds to outer space. In many respects, this game looks to be the labor of love that Blake talked about in our interview, and the conceptual design certainly promises this. However, in its current build, I did find a few inconsistencies with certain textures in certain locations, and a lot of the text around the game giving players instructions still looks quite basic compared to the dialogue text, so that would be something else that would need sprucing up before the game releases, otherwise, it would end up looking fairly unprofessional compared to other games. Regardless, the visual design of the game overall holds great promise for this game.

 

Gameplay

What holds greater promise than that, however, is the gameplay premise. The game involves both precise platforming to advance between each level and backtracking through said levels in order to find hidden items throughout. It has potentially more gameplay value than the average 2D side scroller, as well as providing a higher sense of challenge compared to others with elaborate strategies needed to defeat bosses and solve puzzles. The puzzle-solving element, in particular, reminds me somewhat of Fez, in that the game doesn’t hold the player’s hand throughout, and there is a certain degree of lateral thinking involved in uncovering hidden areas and even advancing through the game normally. 

 

 

Controls

The only problem I found with the game’s control scheme is that it can be tricky jumping on and off of certain types of platforms, namely the huge stars in the second level, due to their changing dimensions, and it can seem unfair to those playing who should have a well-timed jump, but end up falling due to unforeseen inconsistency in the trajectory of their jump as a result. Again, this is something that would need to be addressed before release, but otherwise, the control scheme is as fluent as what is needed. 

 

Lifespan

With a multitude of levels and areas to explore throughout the game, it also has the potential to last far longer than the average 2D side scroller, depending on how much there is to do and how much there is to explore overall. Given the types of games that went on to influence this title and the number of side quests I’ve seen so far, I’m looking forward to finding out exactly how long a game can be made to last.

 

 

Storyline

The story of Mira’s Brush follows the story of Mira, a painter who is hired to save Chromaland from the evil Colonel Blump and his minions, who has arrived to invade the land and sap it of all its color. The basic premise of the game is quite typical of many video games, but what keeps this interesting is that there is a quite strong comedic element to it in the personalities of each quirky character to find along the way, as well as the game is littered with cultural references, namely to classic painters of the renaissance era and more modern contemporaries such as Bob Ross. 

 

Originality

Even at first glance, the game’s level of uniqueness is quite prevalent. It plays out like very few side scrollers I’ve ever played, and the world of Chromaland has its own sense of charm, mystery, and unique design that was everything I was hoping it would be when I first discovered it for myself. With a lot of the basics having been ironed out before release, it does have the potential to make waves throughout the indie community, and I’m very much looking forward to the game’s full release.

 

 

Overall, Mira’s Brush promises an immersing and wonderful gaming experience, and a lot of the hallmarks to be expected are here; it looks great, it plays out great, and the indication is that the final product will be truly something special.

Fur Fighters (PC, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 & iOS)

Developer(s) – Bizarre Creations

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Games

Designer(s) – Jeff Lewis

Producer(s) – Brian Woodhouse

ELSPA – 11+

 

Released originally on the Sega Dreamcast, and subsequently re-released on the PlayStation 2 as the Viggo’s Revenge edition, Fur Fighters is a third-person shooter 3D platformer hybrid brought to consoles by Liverpool-based developer Bizarre Creations, and whilst not performing particularly well financially, was universally praised by critics at the time of it’s released and has since gained somewhat of a cult following as one of the most overlooked games of the sixth generation. In my opinion, the praise was well-deserved. I remember watching video reviews of the game at the time, but I never got round to picking up a copy at the time of its release. But after finally getting my hands on it and finishing it in full, I wasn’t disappointed. 

 

Graphics – 7.5/10

The game makes use of cel-shading, which was still in relevant infancy at the time with games such as Jet Set Radio, XIII, and the original Sly Cooper making waves in the early 2000s. The environments are quite varied and the character design is just as so to match. In terms of technical quality, it is about on par with most of what players can come to expect from a late fifth generation or early sixth generation game. Being cel-shaded, it didn’t stand out in terms of a technical marvel, but it comes with its own unique conceptual design, which brings a strong sense of charm to the title. 

 

Gameplay – 8/10

A third-person shooting 3D platformer, the objective is to traverse through various different levels and hub worlds shooting enemies and procuring collectibles scattered throughout the game, including tokens and rescuable baby animals. It has an element of Donkey Kong 64 to it, in that the player can take control of several different playable characters, whose abilities must be utilized to progress through certain areas of the game; for example, the dragon character Tweek can glide to reach otherwise impassable ledges, and the penguin character Rico can swim through bodies of water to reach different areas. There is a fair amount of variety to be had in this game, and whilst it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the best 3D platformers ever released, such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, does relatively well to stand on its own two feet. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s control scheme is faultless, provided the player picks the right control scheme; particularly in the Viggo’s Revenge edition. The default control scheme almost makes the game unplayable, however, with the movement controls being nigh-on impossible to get to grips with. It made me thankful that there was mercifully an auto-aim system for when enemies attack. In my opinion, the best control scheme to go with is the Beginner 2 control scheme; it makes life ten times easier whilst playing. I found it confusing, however, that the developers chose to associate the control scheme with the game’s difficulty because to me, a bad control scheme shouldn’t exist for the sake of adding to the difficulty, simply because it doesn’t; it just adds to the game’s frustration. 

 

Lifespan – 8/10

Lasting around 30 hours, more intrepid players looking to collect everything within the game will not be disappointed. There is plenty on offer for players who want to make the experience last as long as possible, and I was pleasantly surprised myself that there was more to play for in this game than meets the eye. I went in expecting this to be a much more generic gaming experience than what I eventually got, and the game’s surprisingly long lifespan is the main reason why. 

 

Storyline – 6/10

What isn’t so great about this game is that the plot is pretty typical. The evil General Viggo has kidnapped the families of the Fur Fighters and the team resolves to defeat Viggo and get them back. Given that each of the Fur Fighters has his/her own personalities and traits, I would’ve thought the developers would’ve found a lot more room for characterization and plot than what was ultimately included, but I was unfortunately wrong. Luckily, the added voice acting in Viggo’s revenge edition and the fact in and of itself that the different characters do have outstanding personalities and traits keep the story from being overly terrible, but there was definitely room for elaboration in this respect. 

 

Originality – 7/10

The game stands out to a fair enough extent, but the main reason why it doesn’t stand with the best of the best 3D platformers is that it doesn’t do enough to stand out; maybe this is the main thing that hurt sales of the game at the time since it’s easy to make the assumption that this game is a lot less than what it actually is. It’s unfortunate, but to play devil’s advocate, there are also reasons why this game remains a beloved diamond in the rough in the eyes of many other gamers. It’s not a completely generic game, but there are a fair few things that could’ve been worked on to give the extra push it needed at the time in my opinion. 

 

Happii

However, that being said, Fur Fighters is still a very worthwhile title. It has great gameplay elements, it’s conceptual design is just about better than good, and I would recommend at least one playthrough of it. 

 

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Dont Die Mr Robot (PS Vita, PS4, iOS & Switch)

Developer(s) – Infinite State Games

Publisher(s) – Sony Interactive Entertainment, Infinite State Games & Digerati

Designer(s) –  Charlie Scott-Skinner & Barry Island

PEGI – 3

 

Developed by small indie outfit Infinite State Games based in Bristol back in 2014, Dont Die Mr Robot is an arcade game similar to the classic titles of the late 70s and most of the 80s, which is straightforward to learn, but exceedingly difficult to master. I’ve sunk a ridiculous amount of hours in this game, and for good reason; it’s just as addicting and as fun to play like the arcade games of old that it was inspired by.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The game takes place in a world known as the electro-abyss, where flashing lights and darkness go hand-in-hand with one another. The settings are most reminiscent of Pac-Man complete with fruit and a yellow-colored main character. Where this game stands out, however, is in its surprisingly diverse variety of enemy designs. The variety gets a lot more apparent the more the player progresses as well, with different types of robots with different kinds of attack patterns designed to throw the player at every turn.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The concept of Dont Die Mr Robot is simple, as is what is outlined at the beginning of every game by the announcer; get the fruit, avoid the enemies. Fruit blows up when collected, killing almost any type of enemy within the blast radius. Bonus points can be attained by collecting the coins that enemies drop when killed, or by merely brushing up lightly against enemies. There are several different game modes to perpetuate even more variety, including a time trial and even a mission mode. What a lot of indie developers have done whilst having made games of the same ilk as the classic arcade titles of old is to add more than what can be expected in order to keep things fresh and give players more to play for past the satisfaction of exceeding a high score, and Don’t Die, Mr. Robot is no different; that’s part of why I like this game so much. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The control scheme is perfect, presenting no problems to players with its simplicity in basic design. But at the same time, it also leaves a great deal of scope for players to hone their abilities and become as proficient at the game as possible, as more time will be spent trying to master the game as opposed to learning how it’s played. The learning curve involves finding out how to approach each game type and trying to develop specific strategies in order to take each stage as it comes; it’s especially hard, as in arcade mode, everything is procedurally generated and each playthrough presents a new challenge each time. 

 

Originality – 7/10

An arcade game with as much variety in gameplay as Dont Die Mr Robot cannot be overlooked in terms of originality. It does indeed have its influences where its basic premise is concerned, but it’s just as wonderfully varied as most of every other modern arcade game I’ve played over the last few years, including Titan Attacks, Ultratron, Curses N’ Chaos, Pix the Cat, and Resogun. It’s always refreshing to see developers keep the classic way of playing video games alive, whilst at the same time, giving old and new players a new challenge. 

 

Happii

Overall, Dont Die Mr Robot is an innovative, addicting and exceedingly tense, and fun game to play. I highly recommend it to either old-school gamers looking for a new challenge, or to newer-generation players looking to get a glimpse into how we used to play games back in the day. 

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Live Wire & AdGlobe

Publisher(s) – Binary Haze Interactive

Director(s) – Keisuke Okabe

Producer(s) – Junichi Asame

PEGI – 12

 

Released last month to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a Metroidvania title, unlike most others. Combining dark fantasy with Japanese anime, it presents players with challenging gameplay reminiscent of the Dark Souls series and incorporates beautifully twisted mythology that results in a roller coaster of emotion from beginning to end. Some time ago, I had written a first impressions article on this game:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/02/01/ender-lilies-quietus-of-the-knights-first-impressions/

And I summarized my astonishment at just how good a game the developers seemed to be promising players. After finally finishing this game, I was anything but disappointed.

 

Graphics – 10/10

The game’s visuals make use of 2D sprites and environments similar to many modern-day Metroidvania classics such as the Ori games and Dust: An Elysian Tail. Albeit, Ender Lilies has a much darker atmosphere than either of the aforementioned games combined. Taking place in the sorrowful environments of Land’s End, the world had been ravaged by an evil entity known as the Blight, causing death and destruction throughout the world. Each location across the game is suitably scary and ominous, but at the same time, the game presents players with a feel of simultaneous beauty and melancholy in elements such as the soundtrack and certain other environmental designs. It’s rare that I’ve played a game that has such a stark contrast between eloquence and darkness as Ender Lilies does.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is a 2D Metroidvania with RPG elements. Throughout the game, the player acquires more abilities to advance to otherwise impassable areas, in lieu of Metroidvania tradition, but new abilities in combat can also be learned throughout in the form of defeating both the main bosses and a series of sub-bosses that offer lesser, but strategically valuable abilities that can be used in accordance with either each situation in combat or for the purposes of exploration, and there’s certainly a lot of exploration to be had in this game. Backtracking is an important feature of this game, with players being able to discover many new and even secret areas within the game. But most prominent of all is the level of challenge that it presents players with. It’s not quite on the same level as Blasphemous in this respect, but it’s most definitely not a game for the faint of heart. Oftentimes, I found myself wondering whether or not I was in a more advanced area of the game than what I ought to have been, only to realize that I was completely on course to finishing it at almost all times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As is needed in a game like this, the controls also pose no problems thankfully. If there had been any issues, it would’ve caused bigger problems than what it would in a game of reasonable difficulty, since Ender Lilies is a lot more demanding than the average Metroidvania. But any slip-ups where this game is concerned will be down to the player. It takes a great deal of skill and experience to advance through this game, but thankfully, the controls will not slow players down. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last a total of 22 hours, give or take, which for a Metroidvania is a reasonable amount of time to last. It’s nowhere near on the level as what Hollow Knight can be made to last, but this puts it on par with the average 2D open-world title at least. With any luck, the developers did leave scope for expansion in the form of either a sequel or DLC because this is a series that is most definitely worth continuing after one game, but only time will tell on that one, unfortunately. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Ender Lilies focuses on a young white priestess named Lily, who after waking up in a derelict church, discovers that the world has been ravaged by entities such as the evil Blighted creatures and the Rain of Death. Aided by numerous incorporeal allies, who are the last remaining remnants of individuals who were affected by the Rain of Death, Lily resolves to put an end to the curse and thus restore Land’s end to its former glory. As I commented in my first impressions article, I noticed similarities early on between this game and Shadow of the Colossus on the thematic level, as the game seemed to perpetuate the same feeling of bittersweetness throughout. Having played through it in its entirety, I stick by my initial assessment. The game takes the player through a whirlwind of emotion that will have them on the edge of their seats as they discover the backstory of each ally acquired throughout the game and ultimately discovering the fates of Lily and Land’s End

 

Originality – 7.5/10

Although the idea of a Metroidvania RPG had been perpetuated before on numerous occasions, the elements that make this game stand out among most other Metroidvanias, as well as other games in general, is in the atmosphere that it presents throughout, as well as it’s beautifully distorted mythology. Eldritch horrors litter Land’s End throughout, the game provides players with a wonderful contrast between beauty and horror, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game, making it truly an unforgettable experience that players will savor for a long time. 

 

Happii

Overall, Ender Lilies is most definitely one of the best games I’ve played of 2021; it’s a weird and elegant game that will give players a stern challenge and along with that an immense sense of satisfaction, but at the same time, leave them with a profound sense of wonder after experiencing the story. It’s exactly the game that those in the Momodora series should’ve been.

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Q&A With Happy Eagle Games

Whilst browsing social media platforms for new video game prospects, I was approached by yet another indie developer looking to bring their game to a wider audience. Mages Defense, under development at Happy Eagle Games based in Brazil, is an action-strategy game with tower defense elements set in a fantasy world reminiscent of the works of Tolkein. The main objective of the game is to protect a crystal from dark creatures bent on destroying the world. Enemies attack in waves and to defend the crystal, players must place traps in increasingly strategic ways and use the magic of the mages to beat each wave. 

Wanting to know even more about this exciting and addictive-looking title, I proposed to the game’s project leader Felix Tedesco about the possibility of conducting a Q&A for the site to ask him some questions about the direction in which development has gone, and my go, and what players can come to expect with this game ahead of the launch of a Kickstarter campaign planned for October. Here’s what Felix Tedesco of Happy Eagle Games had to say about Mages Defense:

 

Mages Defence 1

What were the influences behind your game?

One of our first influences was that Orcs Must Die. Orcs Must Die is a 3rd person tower defense and we got a lot of elements from there and definitely this game shapes ours. The other game that inspired us was kingdom rush, another tower defense game that gave us a lot of new ideas…

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The process has been fun and positive. We committed so many mistakes, more than we can count, but all mistakes we made became part of us and we learned from them. Of course, we are going to commit a lot more, but we know that is part of the plan.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

We intend to make a Kickstarter campaign in October to gather some money and finish our product. Depending on how the game goes on Kickstarter, we are planning to develop some new and unique levels and release the game early next year. Probably February or March…

 

Mages Defence 2

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

We think it was the fact that we are creating our own technique because it’s our first big game. We made a lot of mistakes in the process that made us much more ready for the next one. For the next game, we know how to avoid the mistakes we’ve made and that makes us stronger. We learn how to work as a team and to overcome problems.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The mechanics were the most challenging part of development. At the beginning of the project, we had some trouble making it fun, simple, and functional and even after making a lot of the game, we still needed to adapt and change some parts of it.

 

There was limited information on the Internet about Happy Eagle. Can you give a rundown of the history of the company, where you’re based and what prior developmental experiences you have?

We were acting in some game jams, especially here in Brazil. We made some small games and prototypes to train our abilities and gain some experience. The name came because we are focused on creating happy, fun, and positive games especially because of the world’s problems we had. We think the main goal of life is being happy and that’s why we are focused on creating a fun and colorful game. The eagle means that we want to fly as high as possible and we are going to do everything in our control to make it happen.

 

Mages Defence 3

How well has the game been received so far?

We just showed the game to a local community at the moment… The feedback is being pretty cool and helped us to build a new perspective of the game. Because of the feedback, we think it has a lot of potential, and we are making the best product we can! We are working on a great Demo that will be ready in October for our Kickstarter campaign.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

We just have plans to bring it for PC right now. But we are open to new possibilities.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

We are reworking on the Boss fights. We planned something that we were pretty cool with in the beginning but when we build it, it wasn’t good enough. So we are making the fight with the bosses again. The initial idea was that the bosses would fight against the player 1 x 1. but now we are bringing the boss along the waves of enemies.

 

Mages Defence 4

Are you planning to make Mages Defense into a series, or are you and the development team looking to try something new following the release of Mages Defense?

Probably. We are going to try something new. At least this is our thought at the moment. Of course, if the game reaches great success, we are going to make Mages Defense 2 and grow our team.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

It was the most important thing! Their feedback made us change a lot of aspects of the game, including some parts of the mechanics making it more simple and easy to master. I think one of our difficulties right now is balance the game and the maps and the players are the keys to that.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Rockstar is my favorite company by far. I just love the idea of an open-world game where you can do everything and if I had the opportunity, I’d make a partnership with them.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Follow your dreams. Work with whatever makes you happy… Of course, that is not a possibility for everybody but go for passion instead of just money. Money needs to be the consequence, not the goal. If you are really committed to something, the money will come. Be Hunger!

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

We are working on our other media. You can find us right now on Twitter:

 

https://twitter.com/CreativeFelix

You also can WISHLIST Mages Defense now On STEAM!

 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1528330/Mages_Defense/

Do you have anything else to add?

We just want to thank you for the opportunity to spread our game and thanks to everyone who is helping us to make the project more and more attractive! You are awesome!!!

 

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Felix for reaching out to me and bringing this game to my attention, as well as agreeing to our interview. Mages Defense looks like a game that can potentially make for ours of addicting gameplay, and as a fan of the conventional medieval fantasy genre myself, I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the mythology behind it. In recent months, I’ve interviewed a number of indie developers originating from Brazil, including 2ndBoss Studios, Statera Studios, and Orube Studios, and the indie scene in the country is looking very exciting at the moment, and Happy Eagle is set to be another prominent example of which. I hope you guys are looking forward to the game’s Kickstarter campaign in October, and hope that you’re looking forward to playing this game as much as I am

 

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

 

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like its own game in and of itself. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive versions. But both versions capture well the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as well. And I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence plagued by night creatures that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance. Characters bear striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

The Addams Family is not quite a traditional 2D side scroller. The player has the option to come and go as they please, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area. And challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller. And therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone. It made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the film quite closely. Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members. And Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is present, as he has amnesia and is cured once released. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film. But it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was quite easy for me to take it for granted back then since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time. But as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 

 

Happii

Overall The Addams Family remains every bit of a joy to play today as it was when it was released. I recommend this to anyone looking for a challenge or looking for an original game that fell through the cracks. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck (Sega Genesis/Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – SEGA AM7

Publisher(s) – SEGA

Director(s) – Emiko Yamamoto

Producer(s) – Patrick Gilmore

PEGI – 3

 

Released as a Sega Genesis exclusive, unlike its predecessors Castle of Illusion and Land Illusion, World of Illusion is the third game in the series, which puts players in the shoes of not only Mickey Mouse but also his companion Donald Duck, offering two different experiences depending on which character the player chooses at the start. It was released to rave reviews back in 1992 with critics praising the graphics and multiplayer, but it also had one or two detractors in addition, with some labeling the single-player mode as dull or bland. 

Growing up, World of Illusion was the Illusion game I spent the most time on, and as a prerequisite, I enjoyed it very much back in the day. Nostalgia aside, I still enjoy playing it. In terms of quality, I put it in between the original two; it’s not quite as good as Land of Illusion, but it’s slightly better than Castle of Illusion in my opinion.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The first thing to notice right off the bat compared to the other two Illusion games is that the graphics outstrip both of them on the technical side. Everything from the environments to the characters looks better than they ever had done before, showcasing in spectacular fashion what the Sega Mega Drive was capable of as the fourth generation was well and truly established. On the conceptual level, it still impresses, having been influenced by a number of Disney films such as Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, and Sleeping Beauty to name but a few; similar to how Castle of Illusion was put together, but on a greater scale.

 

Gameplay – 9/10

The gameplay also follows a very similar formula to that of Castle of Illusion, being a traditional 2D sidescroller offering two different adventures; one as Mickey Mouse and the other as Donald Duck. It’s nowhere near as open-ended as Land of Illusion is, but both playthroughs offer a very different experience to one another, as Donald Duck is forced to find alternative paths across each level due to him having different capabilities to Mickey Mouse. The multiplayer is also an outstanding experience to indulge in as it requires slightly more cooperation to progress through than in other side scrollers of the time. 

 

Controls – 9.5/10

The only minor fault I found with the controls, as I discussed in my review of Castle of Illusion, was the crawling mechanics. Whenever the player character crawls, it seems way too dragged on and nowhere near as fluent as a normal movement. But as I said, it’s only a nitpick; it doesn’t hinder gameplay to the point of it being unplayable, and regular movement is as fluent as it is in any of the best platformers released at the time. 

 

Lifespan – 7.5/10

Clocking in at around an hour, World of Illusion lasts about the same time as Land of Illusion despite its linearity, which for the time is pretty impressive in all fairness, especially compared to what is essentially a Metroidvania. It racks up around the average lifespan of a game back in its time, so it may seem like nothing compared to what gamers will be used to in this day and age, but for the time, it’s impossible to complain about too much. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of World of Illusion is almost identical to that of Land of Illusion. It involves Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck being swept away on yet another adventure, as they are taken by an evil magician in the form of Mickey’s long-standing arch-nemesis Pete. Again, like in the previous Illusion games, the cutscenes do as good a job as what could’ve been expected to tell the story as effectively as possible, but in the respect of the game’s story, it falls a little short in terms of uniqueness.

 

Originality – 7.5/10

The aspects in which this game doesn’t fall short of in terms of uniqueness, however, are in both the graphics and the gameplay. The conceptual design, despite the fact they were inspired by several different Disney films, still feels like it’s its own cohesive idea as opposed to it feeling like a mish-mash of different previously conceived elements. And although the game isn’t quite on par with Land of Illusion in terms of gameplay, it’s necessary to appreciate the fact that the developers tried something new instead of simply giving the players the same experience all over again.

 

Happii

In summation, World of Illusion holds a lot of nostalgic value to me personally, but in the grander scheme of things, it’s still a great game to play. The multiplayer is immersing, the graphics look great, and whilst the story isn’t very original, especially by Disney’s own lofty standards, there’s more than enough here on offer to make up for it.

Score

48.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)