EGX 2015 – Indie Games Part 1: Shadow Puppeteer, RPG Tycoon & Star Command Galaxies

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

For our second day at EGX 2015 we decided to focus mostly on the indie games sections, hugely represented over three areas: Rezzed, the Indie Mega Booth and the Leftfield Collection, along with some inclusion in the main console areas like Nintendo’s Nindies. Kii and I will be covering the games we got the chance to check out over the next few days, starting with Shadow Puppeteer, RPG Tycoon and Star Command Galaxies.

Shadow Puppeteer (Nintendo Wii U)

shadow puppeteer

One of the first games we had a look at was Shadow Puppeteer from Sarepta Studio, in the Nintendo section as it is coming out soon on Wii U (though it’s already been out for a while on Steam). It’s a single player or local co-op game, where you control a young boy and his shadow, playing through a series of puzzles that involve manipulating light and shadows to find a path through various levels. I can’t speak for how the relationship works in the single player game, but with Kii controlling the boy and me playing as his shadow we found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. Initially it seemed like it was largely the boy helping the shadow through the world, but after a bit I got the chance to solve a few puzzles myself.

Screenshot_02

Shadow Puppeteer has a really rich atmosphere. It’s doesn’t seem to be a particularly difficult but the puzzles are very inventive, with some really interested manipulation of light to stretch out the shadows for the boy’s shadow to walk on. In particular, unless the storyline gets incredibly dark later on, this would be a perfect game for a parent and child to play together.

 

RPG Tycoon (PC/Mac)

capsule_lg

We eventually split up and headed to different games to cover as much ground as possible. In the Rezzed section I went straight for RPG Tycoon from Skatanic Studios. This was a classic tycoon style game, starting off with a new RPG kingdom that you build from the ground up, recruiting heroes and expanding your area to take on quests in nearby settlements, attract adventurers and fight villains. I started small and played for about half an hour, so I didn’t real make a huge amount of progress. I did have to drag myself away to make sure I could play other games, because RPG Tycoon has the potential to be incredibly addictive, and is exactly the sort of game I can see myself playing until 3am before realising I actually have work in the morning.

Screenshot

Anyone that has every enjoyed a tycoon style game (so anyone that ever played one in their youth) should check this game out. It just came out on Steam Early Access, with the developer aiming for early 2016 for the final build.

 

Star Command Galaxies (PC/Mac)

SCG_3

In the Indie Mega Booth I had a go at Star Command Galaxies from Warballoon, a star ship simulator in which you, as captain of a ship, pick a crew and explore a randomly generated universe, fighting alien ships and upgrading as you go. In the demo I played, every time I jumped into hyperspace it drew the attention of another enemy ship, and I had a long and drawn out side by side battle as I tried to balance my power usage against my machine guns and missiles, shuffling my crew around frantically for the best configuration.

SCG_2

In the end something similar to the above happened, only it was my captain that took a hit and effectively exploded, ending my game. The developer watching said that he’d been impressed at my efforts, but I suspect he was just being nice. This was a tricky game but very cool, and I’d really like to check it out from the start to get the chance to build up my ship before it gets blown apart by alien space ships. Star Command Galaxies is out now on Steam Early Access.

 

We’ll be having more content over the next few days about all the other indie titles we played over the EGX weekend!

Video Game Review – Yoshi’s Woolly World

Our pal Kit writes and reviews stuff sometimes! This is one of those times.

So… Incredibly… Cute…

Lately I’ve been keeping myself busy with Yoshi’s Woolly World. I played the earlier Yoshi games when I was younger and thought it’d be fun to give the latest one a crack. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a green dinosaur that consumes nearly every living being in its path, digest them and then throws the waste product at its enemies? Oh, and it can also defy gravity, transform into vehicles, a giant Godzilla-like version of itself and there’s two of them at any one time in this game. Yeah, Yoshi sounds pretty terrifying on paper, but this is still very much a family game, aimed at everyone from kids to their parents, and even nostalgic 20-somethings happy to run around a bright and colourful world to take a break from the gritty realism or hyper violence that so many games offer (yes, this is me, still a 20-something for two more years and desperately trying to ignore the passage of time!).

Anyway, I’ll run through this review in the same way I have other games before! I won’t be including things like plot as I’m still just a couple of worlds in so can’t judge on that front.

 

External Bits!

Packaging/Design: This really sets the tone for the game, it’s bright and colourful and oh so damn cute. Get used to that word; it’ll appear a lot in the rest of this review. I picked the special edition with a woolly Amiibo. The game looks fun, but there’s nothing truly outstanding about this I’d argue, it wasn’t a box I thought was worth keeping. 7/10.

woolly world 3

Woolly Amiibo: This, I like. I have a couple of the normal plastic Amiibos and I love what they’ve done with this woolly one. It’s basically a little soft toy, it added £10 to the cost of the game for the special edition, considering most Amiibos are £11+ I’d call that a pretty good deal. There is no base to the Amiibo and the data chip is in its butt. It works perfectly well with other games such as Smash Bros. as well and in this game gives a single player a duplicate helper who runs around after them, so if you’re a single child or have no friends you get to pretend you have your very own sibling or best buddy now! 8/10.

woolly world 2

Overall: 7.5/10.

 

Game!

Graphics: Cute. So. Damn. Cute. The game starts with an image of Yoshi and Poochie the dog holding hands. EVERYTHING is yarn… and cute… yeah… this will either make you love or hate the game I think, some people are put off by the cute graphics, they are clearly designed to engage kids more than anything, but as an adult I still kinda like them. They do lose a couple of marks though as some people won’t pick the game up thanks to its overly cutsie feel. 8.5/10.

Sound: Cute sounds too, songs that blend into the background as such but seem to be stuck in your head hours later, they’re fine but nothing special. 7.5/10.

Gameplay: There are a few things to take into account here, as this is a two player game I’ve been playing this game with my (much) better half, who’s still fairly new to video games and hasn’t played a platformer like this before.

I picked the game up very easily, I’ve completed the previous Yoshi games so this wasn’t much new to get the hang of, I find it fun and I like the fact there is a more challenging element to the game. True, you can run through the levels in five minutes, you can’t really die as you have infinite lives and literally a kid with some practice could do this. But, if you want to pick up everything on the way, all the hidden bits it’s a bit harder, so far it’s still fairly easy to do, but I can see this being tricky in later levels. When I asked her how she found it, she said it did take her a little while to get used to if you have zero experience with this sort of game, but she’s picked it up and enjoys playing it.

I’ve also given this game a go in its one player form. Same levels and challenges, but if you scan a Yoshi Amiibo you get a buddy! He stands behind you and you control both at once, press right they both go right, jump and they both jump. I like this mechanic, it takes a moment to get used to and it’s easy to get one of them hurt or killed by accident sometimes, but it gives you an interesting way to solve puzzles and be in two places at once.

Still, once I’m done with this game I’m not sure it’ll have much replay value and I don’t see it as something everyone will engage with. 8/10.

Overall: 8.5/10.

If you want a cute, fun game this is pretty much perfect.

Overall-Overall: 8.0/10

Kit

 

The Lost Lighthouse: The Weekly Rapture 41 – Pretty Rad (E3 2015 Spectacular!)

Welcome back to The Weekly Rapture, brought to you by The Lost Lighthouse.

This week we mostly chat about everything we thought looked particularly good at this year’s impressive E3 conferences, and we go through what our favourites were in the Xbox, Sony, Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft, Square Enix and Bethesda conferences from this year’s show, while Gary hates on Kingdom Hearts, Adam thinks a lot of games look ‘rad’ (because he is some sort of vampire surfer-bro now) and we really earn that explicit warning with a particularly high volume of swearing.

Here is all the footage we talk about!

Xbox

Halo 5 gameplay, RecoreRise of the Tomb Raider gameplay, Gears of War 4Hololens with Minecraft

Sony

The Last Guardian gameplay, Final Fantasy VII remake reveal, Uncharted 4 gameplay, Horizon Zero Dawn, Star Wars Battlefront gameplay (1 & 2), No Man’s Sky

Nintendo

Star Fox ZeroXenoblade Chronicles X Yoshi’s Woolly World

EA

Mass Effect AndromedaUnravel

Square Enix

NierDeus Ex: Humanity Divided

Ubisoft

South Park: The Fractured But HoleFor HonorTom Clancy’s The Division

Bethesda

Doom gameplay, Fallout 4 gameplay, Dishonoured 2

Let us know what you liked and didn’t like from E3 this year!


Download this episode (right click and save)

If you have any thoughts. questions or opinions on anything this week you can as always get in touch through Facebook or on Twitter @lost_lighthouse, email us at thelostlighthouse@live.co.uk or sound off in the ‘leave a reply’ box at the bottom of the podcast page on the website.

The (Not So) Weekly Argument: Does a Video Game’s Length Affect Whether You’ll Buy at Launch?

6

There has been a lot of discussion about the length of video games recently and how short is too short for a full retail price game. If the game experiences is relatively brief, and under 10 hours long, what do you think? Does it bother you?

Let us know what you think (with some more slightly constructed answers), and give us your actual opinions and reasons for voting that way in the comments below!

Why the Hell Haven’t You Played Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones Yet?

Nath sits back and judges people for not playing some of what he considers to be absolutely essential games.

If you have played this game then you will know exactly what I am talking about. Released in November 2005 for GBA, it is tactical role-playing game where you play Eirika and Ephraim, brothers and sisters from the Kingdom of Renais, which has come under attack from the very powerful nation of Grado, as well as a large undead horde.

Pretty standard really, so each level you and your army have to wipeout the opposition or capture various strategic points. All sounds pretty simple really, however there is one massive catch. If one of your characters dies in battle, no matter if its a storyline battle or a training battle, that character is dead for real real not just for play play. This means your entire strategy for playing this game has immediately changed before you’ve even started. You can’t go in all guns blazing because you will lose someone valuable. If Eirika or Ephraim die, that is it, game over. Honestly prepare yourself accordingly.

The gameplay is simple yet fun. There is very good rock, paper, scissors type gameplay for the weapons and magic in the game. Sword beats axe, axe beats lance and lance beat sword. Also light magic beats dark magic, dark magic beats elemental magic and elemental magic beats light magic. There are some other types of weapons in the game but they are not important.

There are a lot of characters in this game too, 31 in total I believe. A complete mixture of ability, weaponry and class. Each party can be adapted at the start of a battle depending on what you are fighting. You can view the map before a battle in order to get the upper hand almost immediately.

The class system in this game is absolutely fantastic. You can cover all grounds with the characters you have and it is worth training up the lower level people as they will eventually become your greatest assets in the game. There are a lot of classes to experiment with as well, and if you pick your team carefully, you can be unbeatable.

It is a truly great handheld strategy game and I would implore everyone to give it a go. And good news – it has recently become available on the Wii U as of this year. Give the game a try, I would rate it higher than Advance Wars, which is big call, but I truly believe it.

Nath

Toys to Life: It’s Aliiiiive!

Kii talks about the joys of playing with toys and videogames AT THE SAME TIME!

Today I’m going to discuss with you one of the newest genres of game. Yes, it’s for children. No, I do not have any children and yes, I have spent a significant portion of my adult earnings on it. I present to you ‘Toys to Life’.

Toys to life means just that, you have a toy and via the wonders of technology that toy can be animated and move around all of its own accord. The catch being, that it needs to happen via a videogame system that usually has an added ‘portal’ attachment (handily sold alongside the games). When I was a child the idea of my toys being able to frolic and converse was the stuff of dreams but for the children of today, you can almost expect them to do it.

Let’s take the newest venture into this field, Nintendo’s Amiibos. Amiibos are small models of your favourite Nintendo characters which work with a variety of games. You can get your Pikachu and teach him how to murder everyone swiftly in Smash Bros and his little programmable AI will remember. You can then pop him into your pocket, go over to your friend’s house and watch them cry as your adorable electric mouse cuts them a new one. Link can unlock new weapons in Hyrule Warriors and the Mario crew will all have their own game boards for the upcoming Mario Party 10.

01Amiibos

Samus, Link and Pikachu

What surprised me most was not the vast game coverage that one Amiibo can give you but the advanced planning that Nintendo themselves have had. With the Amiibos there are no portals or stands, the NFC (Near Field Communication) reader needed to port your long-loved friends into your system is already built into the Wii-U. They built the tech into the console in 2012 for stuff that they weren’t releasing until 2014. They sat on that announcement for two years and in a tech industry that’s a helluva long time.

02DisneyInfinity

Stitch, Elsa, Gamora and Vanellope

Our next big hitter in the Toys to Life category is Disney Infinity. DI heavily pushes the ‘Toy Box’ aspect of their game where players can build their own environments for their hoard of characters to run around in. Because of this, the core game itself doesn’t really have much in the way of gameplay without purchasing a character that comes with its own stage and it was this marketing style that initially put me off the franchise. However, since playing Disney Infinity I feel that it definitely wants to be more ‘Minecraft’ about its experience. In the instructional early game, I played a mini game where I was taught some basic coding via the use of a Disney ‘Magic Wand’ which made the concept of different parts of the stage I was building ‘talking’ to each other much more accessible. Anything that teaches you how to code in an easy way always wins some brownie points no matter what age it’s aimed at.

Trap Shadow, Eye Brawl, Rattle Shake, Stealth Elf and Hot Dog

Trap Shadow, Eye Brawl, Rattle Shake, Stealth Elf and Hot Dog

Then we have the game series that arguably created the genre and in my opinion a shining example of what to do with a licence acquisition, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. Skylanders has the widest variety of models and the most games under its belt with currently four incarnations. Each evolution of the series adds a new type of model, so there are even more to collect, but thankfully all of the older models will still function in the newer games. Something which I’m sure made some parent/child arguments much easier. The following is a re-enactment.

“But you already have lots of Skylanders, dear”

“Yeah, but I can use all the ones I already have in this shiny new game which gives me something new to play with whilst not incurring further costs AND it means I won’t abandon the old toys, thus wasting your previous expenses”

“Oh well that makes perfect sense, here’s my credit card”

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what kids talk like. Though, it’s really a lie because you have to have all of them. The game design in itself is very clever in making sure that you have more models than you need. For example, the second game is called ‘Giants’ hence the new models were much larger than the standard ones. In the third game ‘Swap Force’ there are areas within the levels that are only accessible by Giant Skylanders and so you can never sell your previous collection for the new one just in case you need it. The story of the Skylanders games follows a traditional action/adventure style like the original Spyro and so you want to 100% every damn level to make sure that you have every damn piece of treasure and magical ship part there is. Hence, you need every single model in case of a mystical ‘limited access’ door emergency.

04SwapForce

As you may have gathered, the gimmick for 'Swap Force' in that they can swap. Pictured are Trap Shadow and Rattle Shake who swap to become Trap Shake and Rattle Shadow.

As you may have gathered, the gimmick for ‘Swap Force’ in that they can swap. Pictured are Trap Shadow and Rattle Shake who swap to become Trap Shake and Rattle Shadow.

So, is there a superior game? I don’t think so. Nintendo and Disney have their lineage to back them up and Skylanders pretty much invented the concept. If you ask a child if they want a Pikachu, Elsa from Frozen and a molten puppy they (And I) will say ‘Of course I do, gimme!’

06Gimme

Ok, but why does this appeal to adults so hard? Well, a gripe that I have with many children’s games is when they’re designed as ‘Children’s games’ as opposed to ‘Games that happen to be fine for children’ by which I mean, when developers put in less effort because they patronise their audience in assuming that being a child means being an idiot. This is something that these three franchises don’t do and instead they focus on making their games actually enjoyable, thus they have gained an additional adult audience. This is something the developers obviously want and encourage because lets be serious, you need a damn good wage to be able to buy all this shit.

If you need me, I’ll be with my toys.

Kii

Would You Kindly Get Me Into the Gaming Industry – Resurrection

 

Our contributor Nathan continues his journey into games design.

Now it’s been an awful long time since I have written an article on my journey into the gaming industry and it’s because of 2 reasons. Reason the first, I have moved house and I have spent a lot of time sorting, unpacking and throwing out stuff. Reason the second is applying and obtaining a new job. In case you don’t know, I am a communication engineer, I won’t go into detail, but I have to make ends meet somehow, I decided to leave my old work in search of of better pay and opportunities so I had to dedicate some time into applying, interviews and eventually learning the ropes of the new job, so unfortunately the Train2Game stuff has had to take a bit of a back seat. However it is the new year so it is about time I started working again.

So I have to pick up from the decision you guys made last year on what game I should design. Before I carry on I want to say a huge thank you to all that took part in looking at my ideas and voting for them. I was shocked that the hacking action adventure game won seeing as Watch Dogs was out and I believed that everyone would vote the survival horror purely for that reason. However, I am happy with the result and I believe I can take this game a long way if things go well, especially as I have knowledge within the IT industry through working in it for almost 5 years. I have even given the game a name, X: initiate. The idea behind this came from work where you use certain commands to perform certain tests. I chose X: as a back door way into computers and networks and initiate as in to initiate commands.

There are still a lot of things to consider, especially as my brief has to between 15-20 pages including sketches, story bible, storylines, character creation, gameplay controls etc. There is still a lot to do but at least I have a name and a basic idea of the game.

The background is slightly futuristic, you play a computer hacker with a very unique set of skills. He/she (haven’t decided yet) has an implant in their brain to control and monitor their epileptic fits (a bit weird and probably can;t be done in real life, but this is video games). Through the years of being interested in computers and hacking, the player has managed to hack their own brain and plant themselves in the computer and network world. The players main aim is to get recognised by a well known hacking group in order to fully unlock his potential and safeguard his future as a hacker.

I have some ideas for missions too which are as follows, some inspired by real life events:

  • Hacking a record company for a rival company so they lose money by leaking a new album
  • Planting yourself on a USB drive to access a highly secured technology firm to ruin a launch party of their latest product
  • Bringing down a firewall for a local council to expose their secrets
  • Hacking a bank account of a celebrity and donating money to a charity due to slanderous things they said
  • Hacking a video website and playing a music video instead of the video they searched for (this will be known as Black Bettying after the song Black Betty)

These are a few ideas I have, there are more that need tweaking but hopefully there will be some progress with the storyline through the next couple of months. I will keep you guys updated with any thoughts and ideas I have, also if you don’t like any of my ideas or think you can improve on some, please let me know and if the game gets created, I will make sure you are rewarded (highly unlikely but a man can dream).

In terms of the work for Train2game, this has also taken a back seat as I realised that I need to start doing the portfolio work before I proceed any further. I will have to go over everything I’ve learnt, hopefully the portfolio will help me out a little bit in recapping but we shall see. In conclusion, I am very excited for my year ahead with Train2Game, there is also another Game Jam taking place later this year. I am unsure whether I will attend, but we shall see. Hopefully it will be better than last years experience.

Nath