Titan Souls – Hands On Preview

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Titan Souls is a very interesting game by three man team Acid Nerve and is being published by Devolver Digital. What started originally as a game jam project between friends has grown up somewhat and will make its debut on PC, PS Vita and PS4 in April. The premise is simple. Boss battles. The game is a series of boss battles against you, your spritey little adventurer. There’s the added bonus that you don’t have to do much either as all of the bosses have one hit point/health point. So one shot and they are dead! Excellent.

["No Salesmen Please"... Phew!]

[“No Salesmen Please”… Phew!]

The problem with this is that you only have one hit point too. So one shot and you’re dead, although you respawn outside the boss battle room to try again. It’s made slightly harder by the fact you only have one weapon, an arrow. You can charge up your shot to fire from distance and POW! Except you only have the one arrow so you have to go and get it back or press the recall button to magically pull it back to you.

The art of boss battles is one thing that hasn’t been lost in gaming. By that I mean that, unless you play everything on such an easy level you could accidentally sneeze and hit the shoot button in something’s face, you have to study, learn and adapt to beat a boss within a game. It’s one of the things that stories are made of, how you defeated the boss, how you did it differently, how quick you did it. Boss battles are a narrative part of the gaming experience.

Titan Souls is no different. Each boss is unique and you have to adapt your approach for each one. For example, a boss with a heart in a load of slime globules will divide into more globules and that makes for a tricky area to move around in. Some bosses need to have a bit of puzzle solving applied before you strike. It’s these little nuances in boss battles that makes Titan Souls quite enjoyable.

["Follow me, I'll take you back to your FarCry 4 DLC!"]

[“Follow me, I’ll take you back to your FarCry 4 DLC!”]

One hit point and one shot may sound masochistic but the sense of achievement for beating a boss in that way is a very rewarding feeling. It’s made even better when you’ve worked out a plan and pulled it off. Or even if you surprise yourself, like I did, by accidentally killing a boss with the arrow as it was being recalled and the boss was in the line of sight. And from this you’ll absorb that bosses soul, much in the way video game characters have absorbed spinning etherial particles and exploded ever since the movie Highlander’s Connor MacLeod said “There can be only one!”*

*Disclaimer: Sean may or may not have said this rather loudly while playing.

Titan Souls is also very well put together visually. The 16-bit inspired RPG look is pretty but also uncluttered. It doesn’t detract at all from the game, the battles or anything, yet it’s atheistically pleasing. You might feel it’s more of a Pokemon style look rather than an old top down RPG one, but the actual surroundings feel more like a Lara Croft-eqsue forgotten temple to these behemoth bosses. Vines and waterfalls over stone and tribal architecture, along with murals and ‘open sesame’ doors.

The bosses as well are all incredibly individual and look great, really putting the imagination to work in the artistic approach of the game. I faced the aforementioned Heart-Glob (if it doesn’t have a name yet then I’m coining that one), a laser cube that’s adorned like the Hellraiser puzzle box and a frozen pink thing stuck in a seemingly impenetrable ice cube. There’s 18 in all and you don’t need to kill all of them to complete the game so you can approach it however you want. The best thing is that you can’t even predict the bosses when you first play. They are all so different in look, style and attack that there’s a certain excitement at what you’re going to find next.

[The Return of Audrey II]

[The Return of Audrey II]

It’s a game that has a simple premise and a simple look (which is actually very hard to pull off). The gameplay itself is challenging and something that makes you think about how you approach a situation or a battle. Not just in the tactical sense but also how you react to your plan going south, as all plans normally do. It will certainly be one of those games where you have to beat everything just to feel like you’ve accomplished something, especially as it’s a game that’s happy to kill you repeatedly for your troubles.

The PS4 and PS Vita is getting this game along with PC but it has to be said that it really does suit the controller with its simple aim, shoot and dodge mechanics. It puts itself very nicely in to your hands. It may not keep you busy for a long time, but it has a lovely look, and an interesting charm to the idea of boss battles. It kind of makes you a little nostalgic to the way boss battles used to be in platform games, and how rewarding they were before a singular omnipresent antagonist. Enjoy it when it comes as it’s a nice example of a gaming staple being given a new and interesting life.

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TheIndieJar: Toast Time Review

toast time feat

There’s some really neat things about playing games on the iOS/Android platforms. It’s that they have the three things that consoles and PC’s can only dream of: An easy intuitive control system, mobility/accessibility and the ability to keep things wonderfully simple.

Toast Time, from Force of Habit is a proper game. By that I don’t mean that it’s an award winning story epic, a graphical wonder or a massively multiplayer game. I mean it’s a proper game that you can take anywhere, play by yourself, have fun and enjoy.

toast time 2Here’s the idea. You are a piece of toast named Terry and you must stop enemies from reaching your alarm clock that explodes if they touch it. Your weapons are pieces of bread related ammunition, which not only kills things but also propels you around the area over a multitude of different platform based levels. Simple and easy yet also sufficiently challenging.

One thing that sings to my heart is how it replicates the golden age of British game programming, the 1980s. In this age, Spectrums and Commodores ruled the living room. The home programming market and the rise of the independent developer out of a bedroom (something we are seeing a repeat of now arguably) was a treasure trove of brilliant ideas using not very much.

Toast time harks back to that with many different angles. Firstly: graphics. Graphically this is a very simple, mostly two tone affair. The 8-Bit reminiscing echoes throughout the game but it visually affects memories of games that it is actually better than. The quick and sometimes frantic nature of the game is complimented by how simple it is graphically. Colourful explosions are normally quite distracting and the 8-Bit nostalgia actually aids the gameplay. It’s smooth, quick and has one control, your finger. Simplicity at its best.

Secondly: music. Here is where I try to be as unbiased as possible as my love for 8-Bit music is quite well known. But the music is excellent and, again, arguably better than the games of the age. It is simple and changes with the different levels without ever feeling repetitive or over the top. It’s enjoyable, almost funfair like at times and it can’t help but allow you to enjoy the game your playing without ever patronising you if you’re having a tough time. I’m sure we’ve all had frustrating platformers where the music of a level we get stuck on slowly boils us with rage. This does not boil anything except the tea.

toast time 5Thirdly, and most importantly: Humour. One of the great things about the age this game is heavily inspired by is humour. You will probably find many people who developed AAA games, even GTA (especially the first two), that will cite the crazy humour of the Brit indie scene. This has some great little touches, from jokey forfeits if you die to many customisable Terry additions like the “Gamesmaster” monocle and a top hat – admittedly my favourite combo. Plus what isn’t to like about a baguette that fires off into multiple pieces and kills egg like enemies? There are enough of these to keep you occupied for a short while but if, like me you become addicted to this game, you could run out of levels quite quickly.

This game costs a few pounds and has the added bonus of all DLC being completely free. It supports indie gaming, in a market that’s quite dominated by big studio cash-ins and knock offs. Money aside you are probably going to be playing the most enjoyable casual game I’ve played on a mobile since Game Dev Story by Kairosoft, and that is an accolade you cannot ignore.

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Toast Time is an enjoyable game in its own right, even if you can’t disassociate it from the 8-Bit nostalgia it evokes. But with the simplest gameplay, easy visuals and infectious music, you’ll have a hard time putting this down.[/tab]

[tab title=”Good Points”]- Glorious 8-Bit nostalgia
– Enjoyable gameplay
– The epitome of a casual game[/tab]
[tab title=”Bad Points”]- Maybe slightly too short for how addictive it is
– It’s addictive[/tab]
[tab title=”Why a 9?”]Because it is a simple fun and encouraging game in a time where mobile markets seem to be completely missing the point. This game has found it perfectly.[/tab]
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Trailer

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Screenshots

toast time 1 toast time 5 toast time 4

toast time 3 toast time 2

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TheIndieJar: Starbound Preview

Look, it’s not Terraria, OK? Yes it looks a lot like Terraria, it feels like Terraria, it plays like Terraria and so on, but its not Terraria. We got that? Good! Let’s begin.

Starbound is a lot like Terraria. This early access Steam title has grown fond in the hearts of indie gamers and YouTubers a mere two weeks into its release. If there is one thing you can say about a game that is very close to an already successful game, it’s that you can jump right in and know what to do.

starbound 2In this case you can choose from a number of races and random options to explore the procedurally generated worlds below. Yes, worlds. Starbound has the potential to be absolutely huge. Your main aim of the game is crafting and surviving in this retro style 2D crafter/platformer that looks like the inside of Hunter S. Thompson’s head – very trippy environments, completely alien, all with their own quirks and monstrous horrors. You craft to survive and find fuel to power your spaceship so you can explore everything. It’s a bit like Spore in that sense, only hopefully without the need for a future add-on pack to make that game mode even remotely interesting.

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The closeness to Terraria does make the game feel quite repetitive by association. You yet again have to start a game with nothing and construct your way through painfully slow tools to then build things up for yourself. And an annoying quirk of the beta release is that updates to the game may delete the characters you’ve been playing with. You’ll also have to get used to a slightly different set of controls and after a while, remembering that it isn’t Terraria will eventually be pointless.

It does have some positives over its comparison sibling. Animations are better on some things (cutting down trees that actually fall down is very satisfying), the multi platform availability is a big bonus and, in the beta stage at least, constant updates will keep the game a bit more alive. Compared to Terraria’s long awaited but rather large patch, a consistent release of new material could help the fans to stay. There is one thing that these games and genre have really excelled at. Soundtracks. Starbound’s is a beautiful mix of compositions that accentuate how lonely and alien the game world is, and if anything the atmosphere that it creates helps separate it from the more childish one that Terraria provides. You can even listen to these on their website and I highly recommend that you do.

starbound 1

I want to play more and need to play more. There’s so much potential and possibility, especially with its almost infinite procedural generation, that you could really get lost in it. It is certainly worth getting and enjoying, even at the beta stage, but it is a game that you would probably only like if you were really in to the craft/platform idea and weren’t bored of it already. For any real longevity I’d feel that you’d have to be quite a hardcore gamer. But as far as introductions go, it’s incredibly smooth, incredibly easy, quite funny and very, very playable. All in all, it’s a very promising start for the beta but it does need something to just give it a bit more of its own identity.

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