An update and a bit of a different review: Poor Pandemic Studios

https://i1.wp.com/philip.greenspun.com/images/200206-michigan/sorry-no-internet-today-1.jpg

Post-writing edit: This came out to be a really long one. But damn, do I ever love Pandemic.

Hello again all! It’s been quite some time, both TD and I have been quite busy over the past couple of months, but hopefully we’ll start picking this up again now. Since around the start of March, I’ve had some major computer issues and also moved to a new home in a different part of the country, so I’ve been unable to both play games and get onto the internet for some time now. But, that said, a new motherboard, graphics card, removal of a RAM stick, finally getting the internet up, and I’m good to go again!

But, I’ve come back with something slightly different to talk about, until I’m able to hop back onto some new computer games I think you’d all like to hear about.

https://i0.wp.com/www.dcclothesline.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Pandemic_101.jpg
Who doesn’t remember this being the intro screen to Mercenaries?

So, I got a chance to play some console games given my lack of internet and poorly performing PC. I’ve not been a console gamer for years but, now and then, there are games you have on console that either aren’t available for PC or you just feel would be better on a console. In my case, it was a bit of both. But, that said, I got a chance to play through and finish a few games I’ve had for years but never completed: Way of the Samurai, Metal Gear Rising and The Saboteur. Heck, I even went back and had a play on Red Dead Redemption and Star Wars: Battlefront II.

A very keen gamer might notice something about two of those games; they’re by Pandemic Studios. The Saboteur, a game I’ve been playing bit by bit for five years, and Star Wars: Battlefront (both I and II), potentially one of the greatest game series to date. They are games that keep pulling you back. And when I noticed this, I decided to investigate, what exactly have Pandemic done?

In order of release, and ones I consider of note, Star Wars: The Clone Wars (perhaps not as popular as it could have been, the multiplayer was fantastically fun and could be considered MOBA style), Full Spectrum Warrior, Star Wars: Battlefront I, then II (just one year later!), Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Destroy All Humans!, Full Spectrum Warrior: Ten Hammers, Destroy All Humans! 2 (just one year after the last one, again!), Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, Lord of the Rings: Conquest, and finally, The Saboteur. There are exactly four games on that list, the very first four they made, that I consider to not be noteworthy, but there are some other interesting things to note. Star Wars: BF II, Mercenaries: PoD, and Destroy All Humans! were all released in the same year. All very, very notable games.

https://i0.wp.com/s3.amazonaws.com/gameplay-production/virtual_controllers/meta_images/000/010/302/original/starWarsBF2.jpeg
This is still a fun game to play to this very day. It looks dated, but is just as fun as ever. But… Why?

All these games are truly great in some way, and all are truly innovative. To this day, I still find it amazing that they could have such a wide array of different ideas in Battlefront. You had your standard infantry, but then you had actual star fighters in ground battles (in BF I, anyway), huge space battles, and droidekas that genuinely rolled up and deployed! And Destroy All Humans! might not have been the most mature game, but it was truly unique, I don’t think anyone else has come close to making a game where you fly a saucer, can literally destroy a city, abduct cattle, and probe humans. Mercenaries was a revolution due to the huge level of destructability of the environment, unheard of in a game at the time. I can’t speak for Full Spectrum Warrior, since I never played (but heard a lot about) those games, and we’ll come on to the other notable games shortly.

But from the ones I’ve noted above, a few things stand out. Firstly, they are all truly innovative. There are mechanics in each game that drove both the industry, and technical limitations. The strange thing about Pandemic is, their games have always felt they’ve been made under a tight budget, yet still come out great. Battlefront was never the prettiest of games, but it sure was engaging and they thought of everything, from the speed and precision of AT-ATs walking, to the droidekas, through to individual hero units. Mercenaries lead the way for destructable envrionments and sandbox gameplay. Destroy All Humans! was… Well… Quirky, that’s for sure. But undeniably, unique, to this very day. I can’t think of any game like it.

But there’s one other feature I’ve skimmed over. I want to go back and play all of them. They still feel appealing right now. Why?

https://i2.wp.com/www.gogaminggiant.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/destroy-all-humans-path-of-the-furon-20080514034826742.jpg
You could fly your saucer around, abduct people, then park up and wander round the streets using a disintegration ray. It really was something special.

If I’m blunt, I don’t know. They have a recurring appeal. Star Wars: Battlefront is slightly different, in that it has that first person shooter skirmish aspect, so every game is a different game. But Mercenaries? Destroy All Humans? The Saboteur? Why are they so appealing, when they’re purely story driven, single player games?

I’ll use my experience with The Saboteur as an example. About five or six years ago, I traded one of my PS3 games (might have been Mercenaries 2, actually!) with my friend for The Saboteur. It seemed great. Running around Paris fighting the Nazis, blowing things up and generally getting involved in the free roaming experience it was.

But I quickly got bored. After a few story missions and blowing up a few of the freeplay objectives (which are literally just scattered around Paris and require you to blow them up with dynamite), I got bored and stopped playing. A few months (or years) later, I’d pick it up again, do a few more missions, blow up a few more freeplay points, then stop. Finally, last week, I completed the stories, had blown up around 50% of the freeplay objectives, and have roughly called it quits now. So, why did I keep going back?

https://i0.wp.com/web-vassets.ea.com/Assets/Richmedia/Image/Screenshots/11_the_saboteur_aug09_wm.jpg
It also had a cool style feature; fighting for the Paris resistance, every area you liberated became colourful, whilst areas still under Nazi control were greyscale, with only the red of nazis and explosions coming up in colour.

The story was lacklustre at best. You are an Irish race car driver in Paris trying to get revenge for your friend who a competitive Nazi driver killed. Or something. It’s been a long time, I don’t really remember the story. But the gameplay was engaging and felt different, if a bit repetitive. Blow things up and shoot Nazis in different situations, that’s about it. The whole thing had an arcadey feel, and you were left with relatively open paths in missions; you could be sneaky and use silenced weapons and distraction explosions, or you could go in guns blazing. It felt very arcadey.

That’s not really got us anywhere. OK, so why do I love Mercenaries? Again, the story was relatively poor an uninteresting, for both games. But it was chock full of free play things to destroy and do, with fun ways to do it; you could call in air strikes, vehicles, back up, loads of crazy things. The end mission of the second game sees you using a nuclear bunker buster. It’s exciting. But, repetitive. At the end of the day, a huge chunk of the game is similar free play objectives in different parts of the world. Yet it’s still fun, because that means you have to go about them all in different ways. There was an aspect of resource management, too; you could use that carpet bomb, but could you save it for later for a better use? This was both a blessing and a curse to gameplay, where the destruction aspect was one of the best parts, but you were limited as to when you got to use the best ones. The point is, you can run around in Mercenaries and accomplish nothing towards the story, but still have tonnes of destructive fun.

https://i2.wp.com/www.thebuzzmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/mercenaries-2-world-in-flames-screenshot-4.jpg
Mercenaries: Need to sweep and clear a palace interior? No problem, bring in the tank!

So what really was it? What really made these games so fun after so long, despite the clunky graphics and the feeling of a relatively low production cost?

Well… They were simply fun. None of them took themselves seriously, there was a focus on raw, arcadey fun. You want that person’s tank in Mercenaries? Open the hatch, drop a grenade in, drive and shoot around happily. You don’t like the Nazis on Notre Dame? You’re The Saboteur, go kill one, steal his outfit, then sneak round the place dynamiting all their installations. You don’t think anyone wearing a white T-shirt should live? Adbuct them, disintegrate them, Destroy All Humans!! Even in Battlefront (and Lord of the Rings: Conquest), the overall game is the same but the actual combat is fun and just arcadey enough to be something you never get annoyed over, with a wide range of different things available for you; if I’m playing republic, I love playing as the jetpack trooper, but sometimes I’ll play as regular infantry, or a sniper. If I’m CIS, the droideka is a hell of a lot of fun, the magna guard has some awesome weaponry, and the super battle droid is just stupidly fun. Even LotR: Conquest had various classes and gigantic olifants to deal with!

https://christiangamer.files.wordpress.com/2008/05/the-lord-of-the-rings-pandemic-project-untitled-screenshot.jpg?w=1280&h=720
Not my favourite game, but I never owned it. Like Battlefront, this was a hell of a lot of fun with friends.

Maybe it’s just me, but you don’t get this much any more. Games are relatively serious, meant to be played to be the best. Perhaps it’s just the games I frequently play: Counter strike, Men of War, Red Orchestra 2… They’re not arcadey, they’re intense. The msot recent review we’ve posted regarding Magicka is an example of a game like what we’d expect from Pandemic: Insane fun, with little care to the actual story, that you can keep going back to for the raw experience of the gameplay itself. There are very few games that come close to that level of raw fun nowadays. Hell, the next most recent review that even comes close is King Arthur’s Gold, and that still feels like a relatively serious game! It’s not something you can just have pure, raw fun at. It’s not carefree run and gun, blow things up. It doesn’t make it a bad game, it just makes it less replayable, even for a game where multiplayer is all it really has.

Alas, Pandemic Studios are no more, so it is unlikely we’ll see such gloriously crafted games as frequently. Few games nowadays value gameplay so much over the initial appearance, with a keen eye to buck the trend. Pandemic knew graphics weren’t everything, and a storyline could only go so far for a replayable game. In 2007, they were bought out by EA, created Mercenaries 2, LotR: Conquest, and The Saboteur under their guidance (probably why they weren’t ever as highly received as their earlier endeavours), and disbanded in 2009, leaving unfinished projects Mercenaries 3, The Dark Knight and The Next Big Thing (genuine title) abandoned.

A quote from IGN on Pandemic states “where Pandemic once had made a pledge to release only polished products, Mercenaries 2 was rough and uneven.” And it’s true, Pandemic’s games may not have looked flashy but everything worked beautifully, and it was under EA’s guidance that Merc’s 2 struggled. The same was felt with LotR: Conquest, and the game was basically ignored. It’s a shame, then, that The Saboteur was the light flickering through the jarred door as it swung close, a light that was truly amazing at times but had clear moments when it wasn’t quite reaching it’s potential. And behind that closed door, the lights for what could have been three more amazing games remained off. Now dusty and abandoned, I wonder if people will still remember Pandemic in years to come?

Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Advertisements
An update and a bit of a different review: Poor Pandemic Studios

Magicka

Magicka is an action-adventure game set in the fantasy world of Midgård, where elemental magic rules the land, goblins and trolls are perfectly harmless – well, perhaps not entirely, and all the villagers are wise-cracking smartalecks.
Magicka is an action-adventure game set in the fantasy world of Midgård, where elemental magic rules the land, goblins and trolls are perfectly harmless – well, perhaps not entirely, and all the villagers are wise-cracking smartalecks.

Magicka is a 2-D action-adventure spellcasting game thats utterly silly and pure fun to play. You play as a host of wizards in a quest to save Midgard from an old evil! Along the way, you’ll learn new spells, annoy your friends, and die more times by your own hand than you will by any of the mobs. The graphics are pretty, the soundtrack follows a mystical style, mixed with norse beats of a drum and suits the atmosphere very well. This game shines on its own but when played with friends it becomes a purely amazing, rage filled adventure, worthy of the price tag.

The title screen is a simple show of how silly this game is. Its utterly brilliant.
The title screen is a simple show of how silly this game is. Its utterly brilliant.

Jumping into Magicka you will instantly get the tone of the game: humor, wit and satire. Vlad, who is most certainly not a vampire, will explain that he is; most certainly not a vampire. Its the kind of “roll your eyes obvious kinda comedy” and its rife throughout the game. The game functions like a point and click for movement, you hold the left mouse button to guide your character to that point, the character also rotates with the mouse, so directions of spells is easy to control. The gameplay works by you have control of eight elements: Fire, Water, Ice, Earth, Arcane, Lightning, Life and Shield and you can use these on their own if you’re some kind of boring wizard, or you can do what the game really wants you to do: Combine them.

FWOOOSH.
FWOOOSH.

So after learning about the basics of the elements, like how you can’t combine lightning and water because you’d ultimately just fry yourself, you’re pretty much given free control over what spells you use. Over the course of the game, you’ll encounter new enemies who will have certain weaknesses to different spells and combinations of spells and this allows you keep being creative and makes you want to progress. You’ll find books along your adventure that give you powerful combinations of spells that you can cast to rain down meteors, crash enemies (or yourself and friends) to desktop, cause a blizzard and many more. Its such a fun way to play a game; see a huge horde of Goblins coming towards you? Just cast a meteor shower and hit yourself up with a shield and you’ll be fine. Most of the time.

PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC.
PANIC PANIC PANIC PANIC.

Like I said earlier, there are plenty of Wizards to choose from. They’re all (Mostly I think) DLC packs, but you can get them all for dirt cheap now, and they really do expand the experience considering each wizard robe you pick has a different staff, robe and passive effects. One of my favorites is the “Heavy Metal Robe” as he gets a sweet 80’s rocker look, a mic-stand staff and an axe guitar melee weapon. The melee weapons feature with every wizard and are mostly used for last resorts, but can become quite powerful if you put your spells onto your weapon, meaning you can make your sword icy for one hit. Or you can have it have a combination of steam, lightning and arcane. Whichever you prefer.

You can also customize the colour of the robes. I chose black, because all black everything.
You can also customize the colour of the robes. I chose black, because all black everything.

This game is utterly fantastic and made even more fantastic by the co=op and multiplayer options. Get four of your chums to get this game and you’ve got yourselves a wizard adventure like no other! I’ve cried with laughter when playing this with Static and others, mostly because Static doesn’t understand why he’s constantly drenched in water and dies when he goes to revive people. The PvP element is a little dodgy; server lag usually means somebody has a meteor spell lined up when you didn’t even see them setup, but its forgivable when one of their own meteors hits them in the face. The DLC quests and additions and tonnes of content. This game is superb.

The loading screens are also amazing. They all feature tips and a sketch of a wizard, usually acting stupidly and holding a sausage on a stick.
The loading screens are also amazing. They all feature tips and a sketch of a wizard, usually acting stupidly and holding a sausage on a stick.

Magicka is developed by Arrowhead Game Studios. You can find it on Steam for £7.99. Article written for Spirit Of The Robot by TD.
Join our steam group!: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/SpiritoftheRobot
Follow us on Twitter!: https://twitter.com/SpiritofTheRbt

Magicka

The Banner Saga

Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization.
Live through an epic role-playing Viking saga where your strategic choices directly affect your personal journey. Make allies as you travel with your caravan across this stunning yet harsh landscape. Carefully choose those who will help fight a new threat that jeopardizes an entire civilization.

The Banner Saga is a 2-D strategy RPG with decision making elements enrolled into the story. Its a narrative driven game, which is backed by some fantastic writing and story elements, making each character you play with a unique asset to your game. The art-style is gorgeous, adapting a hand-drawn style that compliments the soundtrack and the overall feel of the game beautifully. The gameplay is tactical and engaging, forcing you to make clever use of different characters and their abilities on the battlefield whilst attempting to keep moral high and your caravan fed as you trek through the harsh world.

In this sense, it borrows from TellTale games, actions have consequences that can be good, or bloody dire.
In this sense, it borrows from TellTale games, actions have consequences that can be good, or bloody dire.

Starting up Banner Saga you’ll be presented with the gorgeous splash screen that I showed in the first picture, this represents the art style throughout the game and is constantly refreshing to see how the artists have designed each part of the world as you move through it. The main aim of Banner Saga is there is an oncoming horde of colossal invaders; The Dredge. You have to seek safety as best you can. The story follows two narratives through Hakon and Rook. Hakon is a Varl warmaster: A giant horned race, and Rook is a human hunter. Both the stories are separate and face different challenges. When you’re not on the battleground, you’ll be travelling on your quest; this is where the game shows itself off, the landscapes are simply gorgeous, from rolling mountains to religious sites, fields to the sea; all drawn by hand and my god are they pretty. The effect of the banner that is trailing your caravan as you travel is also very neatly done. In short, this game is stunning.

So you’re probably wondering what the actual fights look like right? They operate on a grid like basis, similar to that of X-Com or Might and Magic, with each character and enemy taking up a grid slot, or four if you’re fighting/playing with Varl characters. Each character has a unique ability making them original and it makes choosing them from your roster equally important. An ability to “Mark Pray” where they’ll give them a slice and all in range allies will also attack, is as valuable as “Sundering Impact” which will decimate nearby enemies. Characters also have a passive ability that will boost defense, attack and other things. The enemy AI is clever and tactical, focusing on either weaker archers that you’ve left exposed or surrounding your main tank and giving him a few good smacks before you twirl your axe around and knock all of them down to 1 health. Its a gripping battle style and as I said, makes planning the layout of your characters a must if you don’t want them all to die.

Typical battlefield. I place archers in the back because the game told me it was best and it was my third attempt at this battle...
Typical battlefield. I place archers in the back because the game told me it was best and it was my third attempt at this battle…

Characters also have “Willpower” in battles. This acts as a kind of stamina for your special abilities and can be used to move further by a tile, attack with more force or use your special ability. The attacks in this game have two kinds, armor or health. Obviously a big tanking Dredge is going to need to be worn down with attacks to armor first; unless your characters boast a high strength in which you can bet you’ll be able to chink away their health over time. Battles work on a turn based system, with you being able to pick the order of your heroes. You do your turn, the AI does its turn and you repeat. It can seem a little tedious but its a tried and true formula to do strategy games: It lets you plan attacks that may or may not work depending on how the AI thinks. At the end of a successful fight, you’ll have gained xp with your characters and some may even become promoted, allowing boosted stats and traits. You’ll also gain Renown which acts as a currency that you can use to buy equipment that will boost a characters stats or more importantly, supplies.

WE EARNED OUR STRIPES- Wrong game...
WE EARNED OUR STRIPES- Wrong game…

I mentioned that there are decision making parts to this game and I did so for the reason that they create tension in the story. Faced with an approaching Dredge attack but limited on supplies, do you run the risk of gathering more supplies and be prepared to fight or do you flee and hope for some salvation down the road? The outcomes to these choices will either boost your caravan or cause you to be stuck in a fight you didn’t want to be in. There are also social decisions to make: brothers murder their former town leader, do you allow them to join your caravan as solid fighters or do you refuse them and send them on their own way? It keeps the game fresh and presents you with new dilemmas to solve without taking away from the narrative, which is vital to a game so good at telling the story.

Cut scenes involve reading what is being said, paying attention to detail will be useful to you later.
Cut scenes involve reading what is being said, paying attention to detail will be useful to you later.

Overall, this game is a must play for RPG strategy lovers. Its a shame I’m not overly in love with this kind of game series, as I love both RPG games and Strategy games. I can however, admire it for its style and story of which are going to be the lasting memories I have of this game.

Time to leave the safety of the town for the road...
Time to leave the safety of the town for the road…

The Banner Saga is developed by Stoic Studios. You can find it on Steam for £14.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.
Join our steam group!: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/SpiritoftheRobot
Follow us on Twitter!: https://twitter.com/SpiritofTheRbt

The Banner Saga

An Interview With Team Reptile, Creators of Lethal League, PLUS, A CHANCE TO WIN YOURSELF A COPY!

Vivid colours and a distinctive art style are immediate hallmarks of Lethal League
Back to make your day just that bit more insane!

A little while back I wrote an article regarding Lethal League, an awesome fighting game that went on a date with pong. Well, we loved the game so much we got in touch with Team Reptile to see if they’d give us some answers to a few questions we ended up asking.

Kindly, Dion Koster, the Game Director behind this crazy experience, got back to us to provide some insight!

First off: Where did the idea for Lethal League come from?
We had the idea from our last game, Megabyte Punch, which in turn was inspired by Super Smash Bros. In Megabyte Punch we kept shooting missiles at each other and then reflecting them back and forth. We thought this was fun enough for a separate game. I then made a prototype with some new a ideas added and it turned out pretty well.

A pong-gone-street-fighter game might not seem like a great idea on paper. What was the thought process to figuring out how the mechanics would work?
It’s an evolution really. You get an idea, you make it, if it’s fun it sticks. A game changing mechanic, like the increasing speed and hit-pause usually comes with multiple new issues to solve. So it’s also problem solving. Sometimes a problem is something that’s missing, instead of something glaring in your face. Solving those is more akin to creation than fixing. The ‘bunt’ solution was one such things, where there was contrast missing to all the high speed action. You could use it to slow the ball down and set it up for a better strike and it stuck because it turned out to be fun.

Bunt!
When you play, you’ll understand what awesome contrast the bunt gives the rest of the game

We absolutely love the colourful art style you guys went for, it complements the hectic fun and really makes Lethal League stand out. Did you consider any alternate art styles? What was your inspiration?
Thank you very much. We didn’t really consider other art styles for Lethal League to be honest. It was a very natural process. My inspirations are from street culture, hiphop and games like Jet Set Radio.

And what’s behind the character design? Mechanically enhanced crocodile? A skateboarding ex-working class robot?
I wanted to have fresh and individual characters, but from the same world and all within the street-theme. The Lethal League world is set in the near future where applied robotics is only just emerging. Every character’s concept can be traced back to many inspirations. For example, Candyman takes from Pacman, Deadmau5, tap-dancers and the puppets from Black Dynamite. Aside from making the characters look dope, I pay special attention to stay away from ‘cheap’ elements. Things like fad accessories or in-your-face pop culture references can bring a game’s value down in my eyes, especially long term.

We really can’t ignore the music, some of the best music we’ve ever encountered in a fighting game. How did you go about finding the artists behind the tracks? Have you ever thought about releasing a standalone Lethal League soundtrack?
Pretty early on in development we decided that we wanted to feature multiple artists in the game to have some fresh variations. 50% of the tracks are from artists we already knew from earlier projects or we knew from elsewhere. FlatAttack and RE by ZeroScar are from the guy who also composed the Megabyte Punch OST. We know Klaus Veen (Ordinary Days) for years already as a close friend. We found artists like Grillo, Bignic & Ishanna by listening to a lot of different playlists. If we heard something that would fit Lethal League we contacted the artists to see if we could work together. We definitely thought about releasing a standalone LL soundtrack but we thought it’s better to support the individual artist through their own pages/bandcamps/soundsclouds.(Note from Static: Honestly, check out the artists featured in this game. They are some truly creative minds worth supporting.).

Dice's special arcs the ball, rather than sending it in a straight line, which can totally throw off an opponent.
You can see the artist being played on the boombox. Convenient and a cool feature!

Have you got any tips for the players in general? Any tactics they might not have utilised?
Well, you probably noticed that timing is key in the game. However you can ‘cheat’ by checking out the boombox. The little volume sliders fills up during the hitlag of a player. The moment that meter is full is the same moment the ball releases from the player. A pro-tip which is not explained in the game itself is the parry. The parry is very useful when other players are trying to hijack your ball directly after you hit it. While you’re in the hitlag you can press B (the bunt button) to use your meter to parry and slightly stun incoming opponents.

The most recent addition to the League is Dice, but do you have any plans to release more characters? Or even any more arenas, or game modes?
We don’t have more content planned right now, but there is stuff in the works. That’s all I can say really.

And finally: My personal favourite is Switch, I can’t help but constantly ride the ceiling to drop for a down smash, but who is your go-to character?
I can’t choose a favorite, but lately I’ve been picking Raptor a lot. Mostly because I like his movement and jump speeds.

I'll stick with my amazing skateboarding robot.
I’ll stick with my amazing skateboarding robot.

Additionally, Team Reptile were kind enough to provide us with one more gift to you: A free copy of Lethal League to give away! So now is your chance to win yourself a totally free copy, courtesy of a fantastic game developer!

All you have to do is comment on this article with a link to your Steam profile, and join the Spirit of the Robot Steam group, which will let us keep you up to date when all our new articles are released! The point of this system is to stop people gaming the giveaway, keeping it fair for everyone.

The winner will be drawn on the 22nd of March and will receive a copy of Lethal League.

Make sure to tell your friends and we hope you enjoy reading all our articles! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

An Interview With Team Reptile, Creators of Lethal League, PLUS, A CHANCE TO WIN YOURSELF A COPY!

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora

You’re the Private Investigator on a string of grisly murders, scouring for clues in a 3D side-scrolling world. Grab your fedora and revolver - in Hot Tin Roof you’re on the case! Dive into a noir mystery and become Emma Jones, the only PI partnered to a cat named Franky.
You’re the Private Investigator on a string of grisly murders, scouring for clues in a 3D side-scrolling world. Grab your fedora and revolver – in Hot Tin Roof you’re on the case! Dive into a noir mystery and become Emma Jones, the only PI partnered to a cat named Franky.

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora (For reasons of length imma just call it Hot Tin Roof) Is a 3D side-scrolling metroidvania meets LA Noire. It’s so far my game of the year as its simply utterly compelling to play, captivating in charm and engaging in story. The graphics are simple: block types of creatures from Cats to Pigeons dominate a city which is colorful enough yet gritty to assist with the investigatory style. The music is one of the strongest points, with that 1920’s jazzy feel, building suspense with double bass plucks and it really makes you feel like putting on your coat, flicking up the collar and lighting a cigarette; but that would break the overall style the game has of itself. This game is very aware that it is a game and in that sense doesn’t take itself seriously and my god I love it even more for that.

One investigator and her cat.
One investigator and her cat.

So starting the game you’ll be cast into your office with the phone ringing. Answering it will provide you with a case that a nearby fancy lady has had her will stolen. You’ll grab your most useful tool, your revolver and head out. The way you transition between levels is by moving along a 3D plain, so you can go left and right but to go into alleys or into a room you’ll move forward onto another lane, kinda like what Little Big Planet does. But I’m getting ahead of myself, you’ll also speak to your trusty side-kick: Franky the cat. Franky is the best sidekick I’ve had in a game; albeit he’s utterly useless at jump puzzles his wit and addition to the game more than make up for it. He’ll act as your guide: explaining different types of ammo for your revolver (more on that later), giving insight into clues that you might find and having his own dark secret that deepens the connection you have with him. Franky, along with all the characters you meet and interact with form this great world to explore and play with.

Talking to most of the characters brings up dialogue options that can advance the case or are just plain silly.
Talking to most of the characters brings up dialogue options that can advance the case or are just plain silly.

So with the case, your revolver and your sidekick at your side, you step out into the overworld. You go onto speak to the lady who is missing the will that her father left. This is where the game starts properly. The main thing you deal with in this game is jump puzzles, hidden obstacles and quest solving. Hidden obstacles, like switches and platforms can be discovered using bubble ammo. This is where the puzzle solving comes into its element: your revolver can hold 4 bullets (Im not sure if that can be upgraded later in the game) but this means for the more elaborate puzzles you’ll have to load standard ammo, bubble ammo and a whole other variety to overcome the challenges. Its a stellar way to do platforming in my opinion. Oh and also Franky jumps and pops the bubbles which I laughed at when I first fired them.

So as you begin to explore the city, you’ll become wrapped into a series of cases along side the one you started with. This keeps you occupied and keeps the original case from getting dried up. There’s also a real sense of community in this game: the posh people inside the Ossified Egg work the Rats like slaves. The rats therefore exert a kind of resentment to the Eggs (as they’re called) whenever you mention them or talk to them about the missing will. Its factioning at its basic but it creates a diverse world that doesn’t get stale. Hopping around the world with the plucks on the double bass to accompany you, you begin to get lost in the world, I did and realized I’d played for almost an hour and a half in my first sitting. The Dump level was a real testament to platformers of the past; Various levels to explore, different techniques needed and a confusing labyrinth of doors and ways to go. I got lost a lot in that level and, whilst getting a little frustrated; managed to vent my frustration by shooting some bubbles for Franky to hop out infront of me and pop. I smiled, adjusted my fedora and pressed on.

The more you explore a case, the more clues you'll get. Its very LA Noire style of investigation and is used so well.
The more you explore a case, the more clues you’ll get. Its very LA Noire style of investigation and is used so well.

I really don’t want to say more about the story for fear of spoiling it, so I’ll wrap up this review. Before I do end it though, I want to say something about the sheer brilliance the writing has on the game. When you first go into the toilet to save (They act as save points), Franky will explain that its how you save. But he’ll do it using puns such as “Had to LOG MY PROGRESS, if you know what I mean” etc. It is simply brilliant and adds to the comedy of the game as he does it with most new things such as new bullets, characters, clues and more. A great feature to pull a gamer into the game is with humor and one that is executed as well as in Hot Tin Roof is a real bonus to an already great game. My only issues are that there doesn’t seem to be a map and dialogue options take you away from the main topic, so you’ll have to talk to the person again to ask them another question. But these are minimal, now, where did I place that fedora?

Utterly brilliant writing.
Utterly brilliant writing.

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedore is developed by Glass Bottom Games. You can find it on Steam for £10.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD. Special mention to the developer for giving me a code for the game!
Join our steam group!: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/SpiritoftheRobot

Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora