Gremlins Inc – Preview



I have sunk what probably seems like a unworldly amount of time in to the mobile game versions of Ticket to Ride and Small World, and probably quite a lot of time playing the board games themselves as well. So when I was asked to go and check out a card game at Gamescom, I was a little bit reticent because I already had my perfect games and I probably knew that, if it was good, I’d lose a lot of my time to yet another game. What happened a was that I lost a lot of my time to the video game version of the game. About half an hour more than I was supposed to… Oops.

Gremlins, Inc. is the brain child of Lithuanian studio Charlie Oscar. Much like the drive to bring the games industry to the UK with tax breaks, Vilnius in Lithuania is trying to become the Eastern European regional hub for the video games industry. Charlie Oscar is a great example of this, boasting programming talent from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and even Spain. Charlie Oscar enlisted the help of Alexey Bokulev, creator of Eador. Genesis (a turn based strategy game that hasn’t done too badly itself) to create a new original world for the game. So what is it all about?


It’s steampunk, steampunk, money-grabbing gremlins, some more steampunk and then a final bit of steampunk to add on top of that. The world of Gremlins, Inc. is populated by gremlins. Not your normal gremlins though with the aversion to water after midnight, these guys are immortal and immortality will always breed corruption, greed and power. Described as “immoral capitalist gremlins”, the idea is that you go around the board and get enough points to win the game. You do this must lie, cheat and steal the wealth of your fellow players to put yourself in the position to earn the most points, either by becoming the local governor or underhandedly keeping everybody else down. You select one of ten playable gremlins that all have their own benefits and attributes. If you imagine the robber from Settlers of Catan, well thats how you feel with every turn in Gremlins, Inc. It’s evil and it’s glorious.

You start the game with a hand of six cards. These cards have a dual function. Firstly, they act as your die for moving around the board. The board itself is a counter clockwise path with an occasional shortcut here and there for the big buildings of the world like a bank, a casino, a jail, a court and fun places like “The Inferno” and “The Astral Plane”. The first move you make is your movement so you expel the card you want to in order to move. This is where you have to think tactically because the second phase of the game is an action.

Your cards will have certain actions that can either benefit you by giving you extra gold, extra power or points, or can ruin the plans of your opponent by stealing points, sending them to jail, or utterly destroying the political gain they’ve just spent ages earning. These actions are also limited as to where you play them on the board. So if you have a card like the “Everybody Dance” card with the casino symbol on it, you can only play it while you are at the casino. This is where the strategy comes in of having to regularly change and use cards, even if they look cool, just for movement as the game can, and will, quickly turn against you.


Of course you have this issue, as do all of the other players. This is then made even more treacherous by the board itself. There are several places across the board where you will be fleeced for bribes, be at risk of arrest for your corruption, or even have some misfortune (which could also affect other players as well as you). The good thing about this game, regardless of how high you put the points and how hard you make it to achieve a win, is that something is always happening. You’re always thinking about how you’re going to win the next round of turns and are even thinking or planning three or four turns ahead. The board is small and manoeuvrable enough to get to where you’re hoping to go in a few turns, as long as someone doesn’t ruin it for you.

This constant going back and forth in my game with production assistant Monika Dauntye was only halted when we were told how long we’d been going and that people needed to go home. It was utterly captivating and I’m really excited to play more of it with my friends when it comes to Early Access in September. There is also a board-less card game being created in conjunction with the video game version, which is easily transportable and follows the same concept (minus the die movement). Even talking with other journalists later in the day, we were all surprised how much we enjoyed it. Keep your eyes open on Steam for when it comes.

You can find more information on Gremlins, Inc. over at



Titan Souls – Review



We covered the mechanics of Titan Souls and the history of its conception in our preview back in March. At that point, we were able to play the introductory levels and get a feel for the art style in the game, the simplicity in its controls and also a great sense of the inspirations behind it. This was also the demo that was released to play so you have all probably played it by now.

A brief reminder, Titan Souls is an independent game by new studio Acidnerve, a collection of three programmers who rose to the challenge Ludum Dare game jam with the theme “You Only Get One.” As such both you, and the bosses have only one hit. You must attack and kill a series of different bosses across the world using your one and only weapon – A bow and arrow. Keeping with the theme, you only get one arrow, which can be magically recalled back to you or you can pick it up. One you’ve tackled a Titan, you earn his soul through some awesome floating spirit absorption.

tsr2Now I’ve played the whole thing, I’ve accrued over 200 deaths in the mission to collect all of the Titan Souls and there are things I love and things that frustrate me. But firstly, a few disclaimers:

Whilst I possess a working knowledge of games like Shadow of the Colossus, I haven’t actually played the game. The game will of course feel like Shadow of the Colossus at times because it’s inspired by it, but I cannot make those connections like other reviews have. I was also playing this on a Mac with a PS4 controller. There were also things that irritated me that I couldn’t put my finger on until I saw a YouTuber play it and nail exactly what I was thinking so credit will be due.

We’ve covered the control method quite extensively in that there are three controls that all work very well and are suitably challenging to the boss battles. I have to say that the PS4 controller feels pretty natural but I also kept using different buttons for my arrow because I could. I’d have quite like a singular trigger button for the arrow so I always knew where it was. But that’s probably more due to my calamitous fingers failing to hold the PS4 pad between multiple deaths.

Death is something that obviously occurs often and as such, re-spawning also occurs often but rather frustratingly distant from the battle you just had. This is something that YouTuber PyroPuncher pointed out in his playthrough and I completely agree. The sizes of the areas are pretty huge and it can take a while to get back to the boss. I mean, yes it’s only about 10-20 seconds but when you are in the zone and building up a rhythm of playing and fighting, even that gap can remove you from it.


The size of the world is something that I’m a tiny bit critical of. I love it for reasons that I will come on to but sometimes it can be quite empty and long especially if you’ve already explored and want to have a change of pace between areas. It can take a long time and sometimes the world feels like it could have done with a little more refinement. There are some gorgeous chasms and excellent abandoned ruins littered across the lands but sometimes you do get to bits with repetitive rock textures and you just wonder what else would have looked really cool there. With that you then get the issue of the lack of direction. Nothing is telling you what to do or where to go. This is, for me, an excellent thing for such a small game because you end up discovering things as if you were discovering them in reality. But I know that some people would have loved a map, or a little arrow pointing you in a general area and that so much unfettered freedom can irk gamers that just want to get on with it.

On the flip side, the massive world does two things: 1) It looks absolutely beautiful. Titan Souls have five areas or biomes if you will. You have your beginning ancient civilization ruin, you then get a fantastically expansive plaza of that civilization, with a few buildings still standing for Titan’s but everywhere else succumbed to entropy and overgrowth. You have a firey chasm, an underworld of lava and volcanic rock, which also seems to have been conquered by the previous occupants. You have a mystical forest that is bent on confusing your sense of direction and you have my favourite, the magnificent snow biome with glaciers, big snow boulders, bridges over gaping chasms and the occasional torch flame that burns longer than the life that used it. All of this is beautifully realised in the 16-bit art style and, save using photorealism and AAA RPG graphics, it is the prefect style for the game and for the atheistic it conveys. We’ve mentioned the links to Pokemon, Zelda and others in our preview and it does take inspiration from all the best parts of those franchise’s world designs.

2) It is chillingly empty. Games like this are exquisitely designed in a conservative way. It’s not minimalist or lazy but it is purposefully and effectively constructed to evoke the sense of lonliness. It is stark to the point of melancholy, reflecting those that have died before you in their attempt to take the souls and that have left nothing. There are points that, as I’ve said, could be refined to make the gameplay a little bit more of a smoother experience but overall it projects the immortality that guards the world exactly for what it is… A curse.

One thing that really helps this lonliness is the music, which is quite simply wonderful. It is strict in its usage, hyping up for battles with added distorted guitar and rhythmic beats. But for the rest of the map it can be very stark but evocative when it hits. A gust of wind blows and a sad flute melody plays. It reminds me a lot of some of the more solitary moments of The Wind Waker, but it is gorgeous with its Asian inspired sounds and instruments. I highly recommend that you check out Devolver Digital’s SoundCloud page anyway but you’ll find some of Titan Souls music there.


Then there are the Titans themselves. Some range from the incredibly to the absolutely crazy. They all have proper names, unlike the “Heart-Glob” I dubbed previously, but they also have a very unique personality. Everything from the Treasure Chest that is “Avarice – The Manifestation of Greed” to the rolling ball of lava that is “Rol-Qayin – The Forged Creation of Gol-Qayin” is beautifully realised and enjoyably independent of other Titans in looks and strategy. Yes you’ll get annoyed with many deaths but that does not dampen the enjoyment.

However, you get the feeling that something isn’t right with what you are doing. It isn’t anywhere near what Shadow of the Colossus does in the destruction of beauty but there is something that feels like a trap. Like theses were all once adventurers like yourself and you’re killing something ancient and beautiful. There is one particular Titan that I didn’t want to kill. It is not often that games do this but this certain part of the game made me very sad. Not to the level of sad that I got when Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons began to reach its climax but it made me question everything I was doing in the game and why.

This to me is the greatest achievement of Titan Souls because it has absolutely no right to make you feel that way. There’s no story laid on for you to discover. You only get the indecipherable text for each Titan. You don’t know the reason why your character is doing it. But you don’t really care because its an independent game without the big budget, it looks quaint and it doesn’t cost a lot so it’ll be a challenging little thing to play. Then the game hits you like that and you realise that whilst this was originally a game made overnight by three incredibly talented individuals, it definitely transcends its origin story to become a very personal game to you.


[tab title =”Summary”]

Titan Souls is an amazing product of a few things that make gaming great. It has that wonderful element of fantasy and interactive quality that no other medium can give in making you feel alone in a big dangerous world. It showcases what talent this country has in programming and what people can do in such a small amount of time. But mostly, it is an enjoyable game with simple controls and an interesting challenge to players and people like me who overthink about things.


[tab title =”Good Points”]

– Wonderful bosses with excellent unique designs/personalities

– Gripping musical cues and brilliant atmosphere

– The art and world design is expertly crafted to be evocative


[tab title =”Bad Points”]

– Distances between bosses and repsawning points can be a bit long

– World is sometimes too big, especially if you’re exploring.

– Lack of direction may frustrate some.


[tab title =”Why an 8?”]

I rate any game that can cut through my steely hardened shell of emotion that 31 years of being alive, being a gamer and being a creative person who is unafraid to share his work, has built up. The game is a beautifully solitary experience that provides enough of a challenge despite its simple premise and controls, its music is perfect for the art style and the loneliness the game brings to your character and there is a point that it cut through me right to the little bit of phantom sad muscle just above your diaphragm. It may be a bit hard for some but its so easily accessible and endearing, so stick with it.





Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Let’s Play


Yesterday, we previewed Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, the early access Steam game by author Christopher Brookmyre and RedBedlam. Today we bring you something a little extra.

Sean has recorded a whole first level play through of Bedlam on his Mac… That’s right, Mac. So regardless of your computing choice, you can play!  There are two levels in the early access and there will be more coming so keep checking back on it. It’s currently available on Steam for £12.99.

For those who don’t know what it is, Bedlam is a independently produced UK game involving several generations of first person shooter inspirations. It’s funny, great to play and… Well we won’t spoil the entire video for you. Suffice to say that the video does contain some colourful language from the story. So people, you have been warned, this video is not safe for work.

If you enjoy this, Sean will also record the second level too, which you’ll see a glimpse of at the end of the video.

So settle back and relax. It’s time to enjoy Bedlam.

P.S. Sean takes no responsibility in how bad he is at playing video games. Feel free to comment and tell him so.





Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Preview

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I had heard about Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam before I went to Gamescom. I am a writer, I write and as such I end up following the printed prose form and its news. So to hear that a book and a game had been created by the Scottish author, I was naturally intrigued. I’d also been hankering for something for a while. I wanted a game that was like Quake. I’ve been missing the fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of my youth in the mid to late 90s. I know there’s Quake Live but I’m sure you can guess what I mean.

Meeting Christopher at Gamescom along with Nick Witcher from RedBedlam who has made the game put a whole new perspective in to which for me to wax lyrical over. Normally books about video games come in the form of tie-ins or licensed works, with the exception of Ready Player One. Bedlam however is very different. What’s clear about the game is how much the two entities, prose and code, are in tandem. Whilst not necessitating having to read the book before you play or visa versa. But you can of course do both.


The story behind it is that Nick, a fan of Brookmyre’s work, noticed something in his novel Pandemonium that hinted at Christopher’s history as an appreciator of video games that was the way his characters were organised in to clans, much like first person shooter gaming clans. Nick himself was quite the Counterstrike player so it was quite easy for him to spot. This led to Nick emailing Christopher to ask if he wanted to make a video game. Lots of communications later (and apparently a few ‘creative’ binges between Glasgow and Brighton) an idea was forged.

Christopher’s gaming love came from playing lots of games but this focus was on his first person appreciation of Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and the like. Those fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of his time in the mid to late 90s… You sense a theme here. The staff at RedBedlam grew up playing games like Doom and Wolfenstein. So you can see where this is heading.

So enough about the history? What about the game? Well it is currently on Steam Early Access with the first two levels available. The first of which you can see on our special preview video coming shortly. It plays like a Quake or an Unreal game. But that is only the first part of this game. The game itself, along with the book has become a homage to the first person shooter genre and especially its history. Whilst you’ll see the first level has the element of that futuristic space shooter it is a lot deeper than that. Plus it is very important to point that this isn’t a port or a clone so to completely create not only a game that can replicate the mid 90s FPS genre but others as well in the same engine and controls, it is incredibly impressive. You can tell the research that went in to playing the games they are inspired by to recapture that feeling was well spent.

There will be many ages of games seen from the first person perspective in Bedlam. Inspired by the likes of Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty and even Pac-Man, the game successfully makes you feel like you are in the games of a certain era. The has to go down to the incredible art direction of the game. The level design and the style of the detail both in the textures and in the weaponry (which is interchangeable between each era) are excellent and really evoke that nostalgia whilst making you enjoy what you are currently playing just as much as any of the games it takes inspiration from.

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Speaking of inspiration, we have to discuss the writing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and the dialogue, voiced by BBC comedy Burnistoun’s Kirsty Strain and Robert Florence (along with some extra from Christopher Brookmyre) takes its inspiration from Science Fiction comedy legends such a Doug Naylor and Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide stories. There is a very traditional and stoic British humour about it which not only adds to the aura of the game and the tropes of the time they were made, but also adds a great and entertaining story element.

To dismiss Bedlam as a clone of the 90s FPS genre would be a terrible disservice. There is a lot of love that has been put in to creating this game from people that love gaming of all ages and times. It isn’t just a jog down memory lane but a new and welcome addition to the history of the genre that has transported itself across mediums. I can’t wait until it’s finished.


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