Fun and Games: A Brief Look at Three Indie Games

It seems like it’s been some time since I did an in depth review of a game I’ve been playing. The only problem is that I don’t feel I’ve played any game thoroughly enough to do a proper review (Translation: I’m still trying to get used to the new work schedule and just haven’t had the energy to do a proper playthrough).

So instead, I’ve decided to take a quick look at a few games that have held my attention lately. I may revisit them for a proper review later, but I hope that for now, this will have piqued a few interested minds.

Amazing Princess Sarah

“Sure, I’m burning the flesh off my hands holding her, but don’t I look awesome.”
Source Indie DB

You would think that a game where the focus is on an impossibly well-endowed female protagonist would set off my knee-jerk feminist alarms. But I had to play this when I heard that the main gameplay mechanic involved using the bodies of your defeated enemies as slapstick weapons.

Surprisingly, for a game predominantly occupied by ridiculously proportioned ladies, Amazing Princess Sarah is quite forward thinking. It subverts the classic Knight/Princess/Knave story by making the “damsel in distress” a man (your father the king, no less) and making both the hero and villain female, showing how women are just as equally capable of great good and terrible evil as men. It’s a rare example of true gender equality.

Gender politics aside, I love the mechanic of using fallen enemies and environmental objects as thrown weapons – each with different effects that encourage you to plan how you use them lest you be forced to rely on your painfully weak sword.

Sadly, the game feels unfinished. The character sprites are roughly animated, movement controls feel stiff, the music cuts out at odd moments, and the difficulty curve climbs at an almost unfair pace.

Still, it might be worth playing just to say that you role-played as a medieval European cousin of Wonder Woman who can toss a fire elemental away like a dirty Kleenex.

Robocraft

Wait, are you sure that’s a ‘robot’ and not a mobile docking station.
Source: Robocraftgame.com

If you ever wondered what the Gummi Ship sequences in Kingdom Hearts would be like with multi-player, this might be the game for you.

Robocraft is one part territory control themed shooter and one part creativity toy. Fighting against other players online will earn you various types of currency to build better robots and research new parts for them. There are plenty of choices for robots that roll like tanks or fly like drones.

One interesting mechanic was the choice to have localized damage on the robots. You can chip away at chunks of an enemy’s armored chassis, knock out its turrets, or disable its propulsion to make it an easy target. This was an unexpected breath of strategy in what could have been a standard shooter.

The only trouble is trying to build a robot that works exactly like you want it to. You’ll likely spend hours tinkering with designs and going back and forth between building and testing until you have a tank that doesn’t roll over when you turn or an aircraft that doesn’t filp around uncontrollably.

I still think this game has loads of potential and I look forward to playing it some more in the future.

Mark of the Ninja

It may not be the focus, but it wouldn’t be a ninja simulator without the occasional assassination.
Source: ingame.de

The problem with ninjas in video games is that they rarely act like the masters of stealth that history made them famous for being. Thank goodness then for the nameless hero in Mark of the Ninja.

This game is based entirely around stealth, subterfuge, and infiltration. In fact, the game rewards you for not going on a Stallone/Schwarzenegger murder spree by giving huge point bonuses for not killing enemies (this is a rare game where the points actually matter) and punishes you for leaving bodies behind to give away your presence.

The animated cut-scenes are beautifully done. One of my corespondents called it’s smoothness and grittiness reminiscent of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack.

Unfortunately – as is the case with many stealth-centric games – if you get spotted, you may as well just reset from the last checkpoint because you wont survive. And even if you do survive, you’ll wish you hadn’t since you just ruined your score.

This is probably my favorite of the listed games here and possibly one of the best stealth games ever made.

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The Agent Reviews a (Fan-Made) Game: Mega Man: 8-Bit Deathmatch

Looks like Dr. Wily finally got the robot war he wanted.
Source: Cutstuff.net

At the time of writing this article, a few close friends and I are hammering out ideas for a new game. This got me to thinking about the community of indie game designers; specifically, it got me to reminisce on my early Op/Ed journalist days back to the first time I ever wrote a game review.

I mentioned in previous articles that my first game review was a fan-made first-person shooter called Mega Man: 8-Bit Deathmatch. I figured, as version 4 was just recently released to the public, now would be a good time to replay it and see if it still held up.

The Story

This game follows the events of the classic Mega Man storyline; specifically, it takes place one year after the events of “Mega Man 6.” After thwarting the evil Dr. Wily’s attempts to sabotage the 1st annual Robot Master Tournament, the 2nd tournament is dedicated to the heroic Mega Man by retro-fitting all participating robots with his weapon systems so that the contest is more about design and programming rather than firepower.

Wily contacts Mega Man and his creator Dr. Light to challenge them to match his skill in the tournament. Knowing that Wily most likely has some sort of scheme in mind, Light sends you, a recently activated creation of his, to work with Mega Man and others to monitor the contest while competing to ensure that everything runs smoothly and ensure the safety of the competitors and the people alike.

The story, admittedly, is meant to take back seat to the gameplay. It’s meant to be a call back to the old methods of game design where the game itself was suppose to be the primary entertaining factor and the blank spaces in the story were to be filled in by the player’s imagination. This is in stark contrast to most modern games that play more like interactive movies that traditional games.

The Graphics

This game combines the old school, 8-Bit aesthetic of the original games with first-person shooter gameplay. It does this primarily by use of Zandronum; a multiplayer engine for the game Doom that was based on the original Skulltag engine.

Since it’s based of of the original Doom and Doom 2, one can expect the game to play and look very similarly. MM:8BDM takes advantage of this mixed media use of sprite art and 3D texel graphics by calling on the art design of the classic Mega Man games.

All of the characters (even those introduced after the 8-bit era) are lovingly re-rendered in NES-style sprite art. Not an easy task as this meant having to completely recreate some characters and having to add new poses for all of them to allow for full 360 degree rotation as the player moves around them. Even the over 50 different maps have been made to acuratle recreate the feel of classic Mega Man stages.

The Gameplay

The goal of each round of play in single player (I have yet to be able to join with friends in multi-player, sadly) is simple; reach a specified frag count in each stage before your opponents do. That seems almost insultingly easy until you actually try to do it.

Each stage has it’s own unique deathtraps and level specific weapons. This means that you have to constantly re-adapt to your environment and use the resources available to best your opponents. Imagine, if you will, if some made fighting robots to compete in The Hunger Games and you get the idea of the life or death struggle at hand.

What’s more, the death battle/free-for-all gameplay is occasionally broken up by some of Wily’s more notorious creations such as the Doc Robots. These one-on-one boss fights are intense and fast paced. If you thought fighting the Yellow Devil was rough, try jumping over his attacks in first-person as they literally fly at your face. Or how about trying to slalom through Mets while trying to outrun the massive Gutsdozer?

At no point did the game ever feel boring or repetitive even though the task was the same every time. It does just enough to make you want to see what else is in store for you time.

The Problems

As much fun as it is to play, this is one of those games that can wear on you after a while. Despite the stages never feeling repetitive, you can really only take so many arena style fights before you need a break. That said, I still found myself going back to try again after a quick breather.

Also, the boss fights can be infuriating. Not only are they outrageously powerful and difficult to beat, but if you fail, you have to start the whole match from the beginning. This makes sense for some fights, but others like the aforementioned Doc Robots that assail you one at a time can be rage inducing when you die half way through and have to fight them all over again. These fights are also made more difficult by the first person angle that makes it an ordeal to gauge jump arcs and dodge incoming attacks as you can’t see yourself in relation to the environment.

Still, these are both minor hiccups in an otherwise solid game. As stated, I still came back to play everytime.

Wrapping Up

Supporting fan games like this is important. By using the formula of an already established series, it allows the creator to focus their energy towards other aspects of the game that really shine.

This game is a lot of fun and can turn addictive quickly. On top of that, it’s use of the doom engine makes it easy to mod with your own sprites and maps.

You can download the game for free and find other projects of creator Cutman Mike’s at Cutstuff.net. You can also learn strategies and how to customize your game at the MM:8BDM Wiki and you won’t have wasted your time.