Super Dungeon Bros – Preview

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Super Dungeon Bros is a four-player game that brings some of the best elements of some of our favourite multiplayer indie games. You can see the inspiration of games like Castle Crashers. Dungeon raid, rouge-like, co-op smashing games have been a regular staple on people’s top console indie games lists although not many have done them too well. The aforementioned Castle Crashers is probably the best example.

Super Dungeon Bros takes this action into a top down, slightly isometric 3D view. The aim is to beat traps and puzzles along with occasional enemies to raid the dungeon with your three other compatriots. This is both on and offline, so you can all share a screen in your house or your own screens online. The game also allows you to craft weapons so that you can customise how you play, as well as use each other as weapons. There’s quite a nice set of weapons too from ranged crossbows to swords, hammers and even some mad co-op attacks. But the main joy is the constant trolling that will come.

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[Spectral ghost boss… Far more interesting than the title it’s spoofing.]

You can pick your fellow Dungeon Bro up and throw him as a weapon. Which also means you can throw him across chasms, much like dwarf tossing. You can also just descend the game in to constant madness by lobbing your friends off the map and endlessly kill them instead. You go from having great fun, to experiencing great annoyance and eventually end with uncontrollable laughter… a staple of multiplayer gaming if there ever was one. All of this ends with boss battles and then carries on continuously.

Each level is procedurally generated. That’s right, 2014’s buzz word returns and in this case, you get the fun of different levels every time. Although they do follow a basic rule set across the three different worlds of the game, set to some fairly heavy rock music. The game’s story is that it’s set in Rökheim, which is described as “a giant scar of godforsaken earth where wars are waged in underground crypts built by the gods themselves”… *Insert generic town insult here* But they are all yours to loot, pillage and get coin! Dungeons are awesome like that.

Whilst we were at EGX Rezzed we got to have a look at the game at the ID@Xbox stand. It was interesting to see the dynamic of four friends sat down and slowly realise that they can play the game and at the same time, screw each other over. It’s something this writer remembers very fondly, that communal sense of hating someone for ruining the experience of a game, but it was so frequent and often that much laughter was had. That particular experience was on Halo 3, but we can see ourselves having similar experiences with Super Dungeon Bros.

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures - Avoid.]

[Rule One: Where there are skull and monk like creatures – Avoid.]

Do not fear though, as despite it being on the Xbox stand, it isn’t an exclusive. As we watched a group of people try hard to throw each other off of a floating tower, the developers told me that the game will also come to Windows 10 and will benefit from the same cross platform play as Fable Legends is going to have between that operating system and Xbox One. Although the game is also coming out on PS4, PC (older versions of Windows) and Mac and is also cross-platform on those formats as well. Which led us to presume that there will be some Steam integration for this cross platform support.

The game we saw was the first every playable version of the game and we were quite impressed with how stable it was (given that we have seen some games lately that aren’t at all). The game is due to be released sometime towards the end of this year by US developer, React Games and Watford based Wired Productions. The game is being developed in the Unity engine too so it should be rather pretty without being too strenuous on a system.

It is early days yet for this game and there’s a lot that is sure to come over the coming months, especially with more game shows and the ID@Xbox banner behind them. The self-publishing vehicle already has a lot of great games that have been released or will be released shortly. This certainly looks like one game that will be an entertaining party choice for those of us inclined to troll our friends.

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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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Interview – War For The Overworld

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War For The Overworld is a new isometric, real time dungeon strategy game by Subterranean Games. A Kickstarter funded project, the game may seem like a very familiar one but this group of super fans are working to make a new game that is better than the one that drew them towards the project in the first place. Sean spoke with Josh Bishop, the CEO and Creative Director of Subterranean Games in Shoreditch, London to find out more.

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How hard is it going to be for people not to call it Dungeon Keeper HD? You’ve got a lot of inspiration from a lot previous games that are very good and you seem to have brought that well in to this game. How have you come about that?

To be perfectly honest, that’s what we set out to do. We started as a group of fans of Dungeon Keeper on a Dungeon Keeper fan site and there hadn’t been a Dungeon Keeper game released in 10 or so years when we first wanted to do this. We liked it so we thought let’s do this.

[It's hard to tell if it's a dungeon or a night club. They're the same thing though... Right?]

[It’s hard to tell if it’s a dungeon or a night club. They’re the same thing though… Right?]

A lot of people say things like “holes in the market” but there hasn’t really been any dungeon games or building games in this vein for a while. That must have been quite an attractive proposition for the community when you started your Kickstarter and getting everything together.

Kickstarter certainly has seen a big surge in games like this. In the past two or three years there’s been a lot in those genres that hasn’t really existed for the past ten years and suddenly it’s all come back. Which is cool because we love those games. So we’re happy.

And you’re managing to do it on a PC platform rather than having to bastardise it for any kind of mobile platform or anything else. Which must be quite good as a programmer.

Yes. It is nice. PC first always. PC, Mac and Linux.

How did you go in to the design process for this because obviously you had a pretty good inspirational template?

We’ve all been playing Dungeon Keeper for a very long time. We know what we like about it and what we don’t like about it. We’ve played plenty of other games that are similar to it, other God games and other RTS games. So for the longest time we’ve thought” Dungeon Keeper would be so much better if… this.” And that’s where we started. We use that as our ground work and we went through and anything we felt could be improved upon, we improved upon it. We didn’t start somewhere else, we started there and we didn’t want to change things for the sake of changing things. We wanted to improve.

It’s going to be very hard for people to disassociate the two games as they are very similar, despite the time difference, but this is a very different that’s almost an homage. You’ve got Richard Ridings for the voice narrator, you’ve got the stylistic choices in the way the game operates and in the humour… How difficult was it for you to separate and create your game?

It wasn’t too difficult. We wanted to build on the gameplay that had been laid out. We weren’t really looking to copy from a stylistic standpoint, legally and because it’s dated. From an artistic standpoint we started with the gameplay and followed from there from the ground up. So the visuals more than anything is where we differentiate at face value. The deeper you go, there are quite a few mechanical differences like the tech tree.

[Excuse me, Dungeon Master, but I didn't order the "Flaming Prince"]

[Excuse me, Dungeon Master, but I didn’t order the “Flaming Prince”]

A lot of God games can give you those kind of options on a plate, so the tech tree allows more strategy to be involved.

That’s because we wanted it to work in multiplayer. Traditionally God games aren’t multiplayer things so it’s kind of ok to just give people everything in a sandbox. But we wanted to bring that RTS angle in to it so there’s some sort of strategic choice and so it can work in multiplayer.

Quick fire questions. Favourite Minion:

The Chunder

Favourite room:

The Arena, that’s pretty cool. The Crypt also looks pretty cool.

I just saw The Archive and that looked cool. Especially close up when you’ve possessed someone, looking at the book and the writing on it. How much attention to detail do you pay to the little quirks and humours touches that people may not necessarily notice?

Quite a lot, the thing with this over other RTS and other top down games, is that they don’t have a first person view. We do. So we have to design everything from a birds eye and a first person perspective. We’ve had to keep things relatively efficient so the character models aren’t as high poly as you might see in other things but we scale that quite a lot. But the texture are made at a high resolution so if your PC can handle that then you can go and look at how cool it is. We did have a play with an Oculous Rift just to try it. It isn’t in the game and isn’t supported, but it did look really nice when we played around with it.

So when you’re in your remote offices, what do you do to get to your inner evil designing mode? Do you put on some thrash metal and sacrifice goats at an alter?

We all have cats on spinning chairs so we can turn around with crazy laughter.

[In the Tavern you'll find your minions getting hilariously drunk, talking about the time they were extras in Labyrinth.]

[In the Tavern you’ll find your minions getting hilariously drunk, talking about the time they were extras in Labyrinth.]

You have to have a sense of humour to work on a game like this though, right?

I guess it’s different from person to person. I know our writer can zone out for days before he comes back. Sometimes people communicate a lot, it’s quite a varied bunch of people we have. I don’t know if there are any teams that operate entirely remotely that are our size. There’s 15 of us from Australia, Hong Kong, Russia, to Europe and the US, all the way around the world.

So that goes to show that there is a worldwide desire and demand for games like these?

Especially in Germany. Germany is such a huge market for this type of game.

Where do you see yourself post-release with the game, as you’re all community based so you know what kind of things the community would expect?

There’s a couple of things we’re already planning. Firstly there’s the early adopter bonus so anyone who buys it in the first month of release will get the first DLC for free. We’re doing that as an alternative to pre-order bonuses as we still want people to buy the game early and at full price but we don’t want people to commit to it without seeing a review or whatever. And we don’t want to feel like there’s content being held back for people who don’t pre-order the game. We’re hoping that’ll be out in June but we aren’t great with deadlines. The second is the flex goal content. So during the Kickstarter campaign we had our milestones and for every one after our main goals, we were going to allow our backers to vote on what content they wanted. That vote is still going so we’ll see what content will be next.

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War For The Overworld is due to be released on April 2nd 2015 for PC, Mac and Linux.

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The Real BAFTA Winners

Last week, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts bestowed some its bronze-faced trophies to the gaming industry and the people behind some of the best selling games of the past year. Namely Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Last of Us.

But in my purely observational opinion, whilst they won the trophies, they weren’t the only winners or at least the best winners. I’m talking about the people who were nominated and, more importantly I suppose from the selfish point of view, the gamers… Us.

the last of us review 2This year was the tenth BAFTA Video Game Awards and you could say that the winners and nominees have been pretty focused towards the AAA producers of the gaming industries. The franchise players like Halo, God of War, EA, Microsoft, Activision, et al. But this year I think is the first year where I’ve felt that games were not just stuck in the best sellers wins category but also that there was those more independent and smaller game producers that we’ve all been glued to for the past eighteen months.

This is why I think the gamers are the real winners here. Over the past couple of years the market for creating your own video game and being as creative and enjoyable as any other games that you have ever played in your life has boomed.

Journey won some well-deserved awards for the 2012 ceremony, before that Notch of Minecraft fame won an award. This year, Papers, Please took away an award and was nominated for many more. Gone Home also took away an award and was nominated for more. The Stanley Parable was placed in the same categories as The Last of Us and Grand Theft Auto 5.

Now I’m not saying that they all should have won more. Let’s face it, the competition this year were shoe-ins for awards as the pinnacles of the video game as an art form, which they truly are. But the fact that these games have co-existed with them goes to show how much our beloved video game has come along.

If you’ve not played any of the three recent indie titles I’ve mentioned then you should. Put down that controller, step on to your laptop (it can play them all pretty well) and just enjoy what you have at your fingertips.

Papers-Please-Entry-Denied featWhen you’re a small independent producer, you’ve probably done this as a labour of love and when things are so well received as they have been, it’s because your creativity and imagination with what you have to hand is beyond the measure of expectations. If Papers, Please, Gone Home and The Stanley Parable aren’t amazing examples of that, I don’t know what is.

I’m sure we’ll see Titanfall up for the Multiplayer award next year and Watch Dogs, Dying Light and Destiny duke it out for top dog. But as the industry slowly moves to its new generation of consoles, the amount of independent gaming being released is increasing vastly.

I’m excited to play the games that will win awards for sure in the 11th British Academy Video Games Awards. But I’m more excited to play the imaginative, out-of-the-box creations that will give them a run for their money. So really… I’ve won, right? Just send that Bronze-faced bad boy to my PO Box and I’ll see you in smug-land.

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TheIndieJar: Toast Time Review

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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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