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!
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Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore A Fedora

Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.
Competitive gaming style title screen. Says a lot immediately.

I should really give credit to TD for this one. He found it, we played it, and I decided to review it. This was probably a wise idea on his half, since it’s taken me a long time to get round to a point where I feel I can take the plunge and actually give an opinion on this game.

So, Nosgoth pits vampires against humans in sets of two, five man teams going head to head in shooter style combat. Only, both sides seem to be taking part in an alternative Victorian steampunk style world. Humans are armed with crossbows, guns, are various types of launchers, whilst vampires are armed with the gifts the bad lord gave them, including climbing walls, spewing goo, and mauling you to death.

Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced.
Despite being bow-based, the action is still very fast paced, with your typical life being very short.

Vampires might be a strong word to use here. Recently, we’ve had so many different types. The traditional Dracula style, blood sucking, cape wearing, castle residing person is not present in this game. Nor is Twilight’s poncy self-hating angsty teenager vampire. Not even Underworld’s alternate Gothic, leather spangled vampires make an appearance. In fact, what we end up with is positively not what I would consider a vampire to be in any light.

Rather, Square Enix went down the path of creating a few beasts, not seeming to find a better name for them and using “vampire”, since they can regenerate health by feasting upon corpses. But honestly, there is nothing here I’d consider a “classic” vampire. You have guys that leap for miles, engaging hit and run tactics. You have big muscle men that can charge through and act as your tank. You even get deadly, lightning fast winged beasts which can swoop down and pick up a lone human to drop him from a great height. These are not what I consider vampires, but alas, Nosgoth does.

Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.
Some pointy teeth and a lovely flowing cape would suit you nicely, sir.

But let’s take a step back and assess the gameplay. Rounds consist of one team of five humans going head to head against one team of five vampires in a straightforward team deathmatch; that is to say, their only goal is to kill each other. At the end of the round, they swap sides and the humans become vampires and vice versa. At the end, the kill count is tallied up and the side with the higher overall score wins. Good system, easy enough.

I have to admit immediately that gamemodes are a bit thin on the ground at the moment. It does feel like it lacks variety, and I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a Capture the Flag, or King of the Hill. But this is probably all round due to one incredible factor about this game. It is balanced.

Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.
Trust me, a balanced game with asymmetric sides is rare.

Nosgoth has to compete with itself to maintain a balance. Humans are stuck on the ground, with frequently defensive abilities. They heal by using designated healing points, which can only be used once in a while, forcing them to rotate round the map to stay alive. Meanwhile, vampires regain health by eating corpses, forcing them to be aggressive. Their abilities lie in devastation and disorientation, and have access to almost everywhere on the map. Can you imagine the difficulty in balancing a team that could choose to entirely consist of people who swoop from above to drop you from the heavens against a load of guys armed with crossbows and gunpowder pistols?

That said, Nosgoth does a fantastic job. Whilst playing, TD and I couldn’t really decide who had the upper hand overall, though we did think it was vampires by a very, very fine line. However, this was less for the individual units than the fact that it’s easier for an individual vampire to do more damage than for an individual human. Meanwhile, humans do require a lot more teamwork. With that in mind, we often found that we lost when playing with a team that refused to stick together, and won with a team that stayed focused as humans, and attacked all at once as vampires.

This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.
This old brute prepares to feast on a corpse. Nice.

The balance is definitely a huge help, but the main draw to this game will be how active it is. These are not slow games, and I’m tempted to liken them to Smite in terms of activity. Whilst you have a powerful base attack, the true gameplay is revealed in each unit’s customizable abilities: Placing lines of fire, spewing poison, spawning minions, disabling and snaring units. Given that each individual person has a set of skills to help their team, it’s as much about having the right units to respond to the current enemy team as it is about using them at the right time. My favourite vampire unit had a great ability to reduce incoming damage by 80%, but the flipside is he couldn’t attack during that time and it had a half minute cooldown. So, I purely used it to run away without dying. This worked for my team as, before that, I’d charge in and begin the assault, taking most of the damage in that time.

So I expect we’ll see Nosgoth becoming a competitive game in the future. The opportunities for teams to develop tactics and train up, learning the intricacies of why that 0.4 second increase on that particular ability makes it no longer worthwhile, is too damn high. That said, for now, the random public matchmaking works well for finding a game, and there is a party system so you can play with your friends. Which, honestly, you’re going to want to do because matchmaking can put you with anybody of any skill (though, they do counter this by allowing low levels to purely match make within low levels).

The human healing and resupply point.
The human healing and resupply point.

There is one more gameplay fact to mention. This is a freemium game and it’s going for a League of Legends model. That means, there is an entire meta-game to help boost your ingame play (or improve your character appearance). You can buy new abilities, classes, skins, and boosters to help you progress. As a result, you can expect some people to be better than you, because they’ll be able to get the best of these items. In some respects, it’s a shame, since it unbalances a very balanced game. Of course nobody is going to take the 5% speed increase when there’s a 10% damage buff on offer, but if that 5% speed increase is free an 10% damage buff costs you $4.99, you might decide to stay free. But that’s always a risk with this marketing model. That said, and in Nosgoth’s defence, they do give out a daily taster on a random ability item each day, and I just made up those two items above. So, maybe they are more balanced. But my point still stands, there will always be some items more tasty than others.

The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.
The armory is where the meta-game mostly goes down.

All in all, for a freemium game, Nosgoth is damn fun. It’s been produced to a very high quality, which was surprising at first but explained by the fact that the team behind it are Square Enix. The graphics and sounds are excellent, especially given the freemium status, and the gameplay feels balanced and enjoyable. That said, at it’s current stage, I do feel like it has work to be done in getting more variety into the game. However, we are looking at Early Access and, so, there are many things that may yet change. It’s definitely worth a try but, unless you’re a fan of the growing area of ability-based gaming, you probably won’t stick on it.

And I still think “vampires” is a big stretch of that word.

Nosgoth is developed by Square Enix. You can find it on Steam for freemium. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Nosgoth – Vampires versus humans? That could be pretty awesome.

Stranded Deep – Survival games now fall under the law of Darwinian evolution

Eerie.
Eerie.

I’ve been putting off writing this review for about a week because I just don’t know where to begin. It’s not like it’s a large game in any way; in fact, it’s only just gone into alpha, but has already received considerable attention for its quality and potential.

So what is this game? Well, it’s a survival game. Another one, you say? Yes, another one. Like all survival games, it has its “catch”. Just as DayZ has zombies, and The Forest has natives, Stranded Deep has… Islands. Yep, just islands. No immediate threat from some savage beast, you’re generally safe, and your biggest threat is the elements.

This is your spawn, after the tutorial. In a life raft with a paddle, and your watch.
This is your spawn, after the tutorial. In a life raft with a paddle, and your watch.

The goal is the same as any other game of this genre: Survive. From my experience so far in this game, it’s not been too hard. After getting on an island, its a trivial matter of making some crude tools, a fire, killing some crabs, collecting some coconuts (for their juicy, juicy milk) and sitting around until there’s nothing left to eat or drink. Then you paddle over to the next island and repeat until you get bored.

But that’s really playing the game at the basic stage it’s at, and I can only assume that a significantly large amount more content will be added. There is plenty more to do, even now. You can build rafts, simple houses, fire pits (which are permanent features, useful for signifying places you’ve already been), beds, and hunting spears (useful for fishing and hunting sharks).

Cutting down trees is an enjoyable experience. You cut the base and you can watch them tumble over. You can then cut them up into logs and sticks to build with.
Cutting down trees is an enjoyable experience. You cut the base and watch them tumble over. You can then cut them up into logs and sticks to build with.

Oh, did I forget to mention the sharks? Well, this is a game technically about hopping between scarcely resourced islands to survive, so putting something inbetween to make that slightly more difficult makes sense. At this stage of the game, they don’t do much at all (I’m not even certain if they can attack you), but you can hunt them for meat and it’s every so slightly scary to see one when you’re half way to another island circling your little rubber raft.

However, there’s also fish in the sea. And you can hunt them to eat them. To be honest, you’d have to be a fool to die of starvation in this game, since these seas and islands are chock full of tasty creatures to eat. It reduces the challenge, definitely, but this game is very early alpha and we could see a huge change in the future, potentially making the creatures less numerous, or spawn less often.

Your watch, aside from displaying the time, temperature, and days survived, can also show your health, hunger, and thirst.
Your watch, aside from displaying the time, temperature, and days survived, can also show your health, hunger, and thirst. The state of your arm also indicate any status effects. For instance, a bleeding wound will require a bandage.

Crafting in this game is unique, as far as I can tell. Unlike other games, where it generally involves using a recipe and crafting in your inventory, Stranded Deep requires you to drop all the items into a pile on the floor. This will then present a menu which will display all the things you can make with what is currently in the pile.

There are things I like and dislike about this system. On one hand, it makes crafting a lot easier and give you a slightly more realistic inventory. No longer does the game need to give you the ability to carry fifty tonnes of material to craft, so your inventory space is more realistic (note, more, not perfectly realistic). However, it does mean that things you might not have expected to work together might present you the ability to build, much to your surprise. For people who hate discovering crafting recipes, this is slightly helpful (though you have the internet anyway), and it makes crafting a lot faster. However, it’s a wonder that any person could one day throw a pile of items down and suddenly think “You know what? I could make a sword out of this.”

I truly have a love-hate relationship with this crafting system, but it's slightly more love.
I truly have a love-hate relationship with this crafting system, but it’s slightly more love.

I’m very glad it’s done away with the minecraft way of making things, or simple combination recipes. I just don’t know if it is quite perfect, yet.

There is one other major feature to Stranded Deep I haven’t yet mentioned which, to me, is a defining feature. Exploring ship wrecks.

All around the shores and seas of stranded deep are ship wrecks. One can only assume that this area is effectively the Bermuda Triangle. There tends to be at least one ship wreck per island, with more in places and at sea. Then it’s a matter of getting into the wreck. For ones on shore, this might be as easy as walking over to it and finding a chest to open. For deep ocean ones, you’ll be diving down amongst the sharks, rifling through cupboards, grabbing what you can and returning to the surface to gasp for air.

I found a bottle of water. I really hope that seal is tight...
I found a bottle of water. I really hope that seal is tight…

Ship wrecks contain items you simply cannot craft. Lighters, good quality tools, torches, lanterns, bandages, buckets (for collecting rain), even motor parts so you can craft a powered raft to traverse the seas more quickly. As a result, you’ll spend a good amount of time exploring these wrecks.

My only problem with this at the moment, and I’m sure it’s something that will be fixed, is the game gives you no indication of how direly you need to breath. You can be thinking “just a few more seconds, just a few more seconds” and then find your character blacks out to “You have died”. Disappointing, but again, this is an alpha game.

Now, let’s just touch on one thing that really annoys me.

You spot an island out of the corner of your eye. “Wow, that isn’t too far! Let’s head that way.” As you slowly turn your head, the island gets further, and further, and further away. And suddenly you realise, for whatever reason, you have binoculars on the side of your head.

Irritating. Not least since it takes a long time to paddle between these islands. It actually makes exploring kind of boring, because you’re just sat there holding left mouse wishing you could accelerate time.

But for all this bad side, there are some incredible cool features. As I’ve said, cutting down trees feels fantastic and immersive. But another feature, which took me a long time to figure out, was dynamic water levels.

I picked up a bucket in a ship wreck. Obviously, it was full of sea water. I couldn’t figure out how to empty the sea water without drinking it. So eventually, I just put it on the ground. After dropping it, there was a splashing animation surrounding the bucket, and I just thought it was an effect to symbolise how it was full of water. However, in picking up the bucket and trying to rotate it, I noticed that if the bucket stood up, it didn’t make the animation. And I then noticed, there was actually a liquid in the bucket model. Holy shit, that wasn’t a buggy animation, the water was actually pouring out of the bucket! I played around with this, and realised I could actually watch the water level in the bucket go down. Sure, the water itself isn’t dynamic, but the fact you can see a water level in the bucket itself that rises and falls blew me away! I can’t express how amazing it is that they actually created a dynamic model that displays how much liquid is in the bucket, that reacts to it’s position. It’s something I’ve never seen in a game before.

My camp is small and simple, but it sure is cosy.
My camp is small and simple, but it sure is cosy.

All in all, Stranded Deep is looking to be a survival game that stands out. Nowadays, with the huge host of survival games about, they all need something to stand out, and Stranded Deep manages it by presenting that necessity to explore in a beautiful, procedurally generated environment. I have high hopes for this game in the future and can only sit here eagerly anticipating future updates. It isn’t too expensive to buy right now, but I’d personally wait until a little more content is added before splashing cash on this.

Stranded Deep is developed by Beam Team Games and is in Early Access. You can find it on Steam for £10.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Stranded Deep – Survival games now fall under the law of Darwinian evolution

Besiege

Besiege is a physics based building game in which you construct medieval siege engines and lay waste to immense fortresses and peaceful hamlets. Build a machine which can crush windmills, wipe out battalions of brave soldiers and transport valuable resources, defending your creation against cannons, archers and whatever else the desperate enemies have at their disposal. Create a trundling behemoth, or take clumsily to the skies, and cause carnage in fully destructible environments. Ultimately, you must conquer every Kingdom by crippling their castles and killing their men and livestock, in as creative or clinical a manner as possible.
Besiege is a physics based building game in which you construct medieval siege engines and lay waste to immense fortresses and peaceful hamlets. Build a machine which can crush windmills, wipe out battalions of brave soldiers and transport valuable resources, defending your creation against cannons, archers and whatever else the desperate enemies have at their disposal. Create a trundling behemoth, or take clumsily to the skies, and cause carnage in fully destructible environments. Ultimately, you must conquer every Kingdom by crippling their castles and killing their men and livestock, in as creative or clinical a manner as possible.

Besiege is a 3-D Medieval construction game developed by Spiderling Studios, and my god is it simply amazing. The aim of the game is that you are presented with a castle to destroy, men to kill or resources to grab. The best part? You can design your very own war machine to do it. So whatever you think might be able to blow up a castle and murder knights in a glorious jam explosion, you can build. The graphics are simply stunning in a minimalist way, the textures for all the construction pieces are beautiful and detailed. Its so hard to believe this is VERSION 0.01 of an Alpha.

This is the only world at the time of writing. I should point out, the menus are gorgeous.
This is the only world at the time of writing, but the levels are entertaining and there is a sandbox mode to mess around with. I should point out, the menus are gorgeous.

When you first load up Besiege, you’ll be greeted with a simple menu screen, as presented in the first screenshot, and you’ll jump into Ipsilon, the only world at the time of writing. You’ll then be thrown into the game with very little instruction on how to build, the game quickly adopts the “Here are the tools, do it your way” of playing. And within height restrictions, you can! The building mechanic is simple and effective to use, parts snap on to each other and can be deleted and flipped to your hearts content. There is only wood as the base of your projects at this time of writing, but it serves as a general starting point. Then, you’ll look at the tabs in the bottom right and notice, that along with your “Basic” blocks, you get other ones. Powered block are mechanical gizmos, such as spinning blocks and decouplers, Weapons are (Unsurprisingly) an arsenal of medieval weapons to destroy both castle and knight alike. The weapons go from spike balls to cannons and combining them onto your machine with the use of the Powered Blocks offers endless amounts of fun. There are also Flight Blocks, such as propellers and wings, which CAN make your abomination of a ballista fly if you’re some kind of engineering god, which Static is not; given his first ballista was an abomination of wood and string.

The builder is simple to access and get around, easily laid out and suited to building a massive war machine.
The builder is simple to access and get around, easily laid out and suited to building a massive war machine.

So with your attempt at a trebuchet built, you’ll start the mission and probably break it as soon as you move forward. At least, thats what I did, but I was so smitten by getting a working siege engine working that I worked for a whole 2 HOURS to get my ballista up to scratch and workable, and my god the feeling of accomplishment I got made my little face smile as I launched a bomb towards an enemy castle. Its the old “Easy to learn, hard to master” situation. Sure I could have simply made a wrecking ball, destroy my engine but still win the level, but I wanted that sense that this machine that just crushed 3 archers with a swinging spiked ball was all mine. The enemies, of which there are Knights, Archers, Cannons and a weird Monolith thing that fires lazers at you, all present their own problems; Archers will pelt your exposed wooden areas with arrows, eventually breaking them off, Cannons will pelt them with cannonballs that will tear right through the wood and the Knights will… Well they’ll just charge at you and die really, they’re the only useless thing about in this game. If by some chance you manage to set yourself on fire, the particle effects of your machine crumbling are bitter sweet; A joy to look at, a pain to have to tweak the design. I’ve stated before that I can’t believe this is an Early Alpha, and I really can’t. The gameplay is very solid at this stage, albeit sometimes programmed keys to extend pistons might forget themselves, your machine might collapse inwards when spinning too much but this is the level of complaints I have; they’re too minimal to even pick up on.

"Men... I think this might  be the end..."
“Men… I think this might be the end…”

I can’t recommend this game enough. For the price its in and the quality of the Alpha its in, Spiderling Studios have a seriously good future ahead of themselves. The things missing, such as more construction components, more levels a scenario editor and possibly even community levels (Kinda like what Little Big Planet does) will all come in time. So, whilst I wait, I’m going to build a 50ft siege tower with cannons on every row.

It was a massacre. A jam filled, sword swinging, bomb launching massacre.
It was a massacre. A jam filled, sword swinging, bomb launching massacre.

Besiege is developed by Spiderling Studios. You can find it on Steam for £4.99. Seriously: £4.99 for a medieval Kerbal Space Program. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Besiege

Omegalodon – Giant Monster Destroying A City? SOLD!

Wake up, sleepy head!
Wake up, sleepy head!

There is a small group of modern games, often made by indie developers, which are created on a specific idea and are particularly innovative. They tend to allow you to easily get into a game with basic mechanics, allowing anyone to play on a whim. RUNNING WITH RIFLES is a good example of this. Omegalodon is another.

The premise is simple. A giant, mutant being has been roused due to the environmental damage caused by a city. A guiding force, in response, wants him to destroy the city by blowing up the nuclear power plant right in the centre. Meanwhile, the citizens aren’t too happy and will be doing everything they can to stop the beast.

Immediately, knowledge of other games will make you think “OK, so you play as a soldier or something and have to stop a big ol’ creature from destroying your city? Fun enough.” You would be mostly correct. In fact, you can also play as Godzill- Uhh, Omegalodon.

CRUSH ALL THE THINGS!
CRUSH ALL THE THINGS!

Let me give you a better insight to the game. Someone gets to play as the monster, rampaging through the city to find and destroy the nuclear plant, whilst other players either try to help or hinder its progress. The aggressive groups are police and soldiers, both armed to combat Omegalodon, whilst the friendly group is the Enviros, a group of healing-gun wielding hippies who do their beast to help the creature.

Playing as a soldier or policeman is identical for the most part, as you’ll spend most of your time as either of these classes jumping into vehicles, which perform the same regardless of class, trying to kill the gigantic invader. The vehicles range from simple, unarmed civilian cars, through tanks and humvees with lasers, to military jets and helicopters armed with bombs and missiles. So, playing as one of these two classes boils down to jumping in a vehicle and using it to try to kill the Omegalodon. However, there are two differences between the classes. Firstly, the spawn location, which is no big deal besides what vehicles you have immediate access to, and secondly, the weapon the actual person you play wields. Yes, if you choose not to use a vehicle, you can still attack that oversized newt. For the soldier, it’s a simple matter of firing a rocket launcher from the shoulder, whilst the policeman places toxic mines which explode when Omegalodon gets too close.

Honestly, the variety of vehicles you can control is astounding, even if the unarmed ones have no real use.
Honestly, the variety of vehicles you can control is astounding, even if the unarmed ones have no real use.

Meanwhile, playing as the Omegalodon is equally straightforward. You follow a path highlighted for you to weave through the city’s defences, avoiding the attackers and doing your best to survive and reach the central nuclear power plant which, when destroyed, will blow up the entire city and signal victory! You can destroy buildings to replenish health, which you will have to do frequently since you will take obscene amounts of damage from the attackers. This actually becomes quite a tactical game, since any building destroyed will heal Omegalodon, even if the military destroys it; hiding in a clump of buildings and letting the military arbitrarily bomb an entire suburb is a feasible tactic to replenishing health. Equally, there are regions on your path where there are no buildings, so you need to stack up health before you try crossing them.

Fighting as King Kong’s amphibian cousin is incredibly straightforward. Left click to light punch, right click to heavy punch, middle click to unleash a devastating area of effect burst attack. From my experience, the only attack worth using is the special burst, however, as the hit registration and range of the attacks is absolutely pathetic. You will never hit that guy in a helicopter with your punch, but your burst attack might just manage it.

Assault the beast!
Assault the beast!

For completions sake, I’ll mention the Enviros too. Armed with healing guns, they can keep Omegalodon’s health topped up without the need to destroy buildings, though that is a significantly faster way to regain it. They can also man vehicles, which may be used to attack soldiers and police to keep them from damaging Omegalodon.

This all comes together in a dynamic way. Again, it’s worth emphasising that Omegalodon is a very indie title, and although it creates a game scenario you can pretty much do as you please. You can play the game as it’s meant to be played, or just drive around shooting down buildings and trying out every vehicle on the map. Sure, your team might not appreciate what you’re doing, but there’s nothing else stopping you. Heck, you could go soldier and try defending the Omegalodon, team damage is most certainly on. This game allows you to play it as you wish.

The Omegalodon follows a set out path, which spirals to the city centre.
The Omegalodon follows a set out path, which spirals to the city centre.

Unfortunately, I reckon the most boring part of the game is actually playing as the Omegalodon. He’s incredibly slow, his attacks are mostly useless, he has to follow a set path and it takes a long time to reach the nuclear plant. If you ever even reach the power plant, good on your for being so diligent and not quitting out of boredom! I’ve only ever managed it once in all my years owning this game, because it’s just not that fun.

Other problems involve the tiny online community for this game. To make it clear, this is online only, and yet going online at any time you’ll only find between six to fifteen people online, over three or four servers. As a result, games are very small, disappointing when you know that the servers can handle sixteen people each.

It’s worth noting though that, I love the graphics. Very simple (yet surprisingly detailed) models give a really rich environment to the game. It’s not quite cell shaded, I’m not certain how you’d describe it, but it’s very pretty and isn’t a graphical style I’ve ever seen used elsewhere.

The sound, meanwhile, is relatively boring. There is some small amount of background music that plays at key points, such as the beginning of the match or reaching certain checkpoints, but it’s nothing to shout about. The effects sounds are equally dull, though are rich and high quality in themselves, more than I can say about some games.

Throw bombs on it, throw bombs on it...
Throw bombs on it, throw bombs on it…

All in all, Omegalodon is a good attempt at a very different style of game, one that is bespokely made to an idea by a small team. I’m not sure I’d recommend it at its full price of £6.99, but perhaps £4 or less would be a fair price for a game which you might play for a short while before getting bored. It might be made better with friends due to the freedom of doing things, but I honestly doubt it. It lacks those group activities which make gaming with friends fun, spare attacking the Omegalodon. I guess if the main idea of the game engages you, you could have hours and hours of fun on it. But personally, I found that the gameplay quickly got tiresome, especially given the nature of the Omegalodon. Honestly, they might as well have designed a very simple AI for the great blue bugger so that another player could have fun attacking him, rather than just walking forwards tapping middle mouse and hoping to hit someone every now and then.

I wouldn’t recommend this game. It’s not bad, per se, it just doesn’t have anywhere near enough content to hold someone’s attention for more than a small jaunt, and I would struggle to justify it’s asking price.

Omegalodon is developed by North of Earth. You can find it on Steam for £6.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

Omegalodon – Giant Monster Destroying A City? SOLD!

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.

You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.
You become a survivor in the zombie infested ruins of society, and team up with your friends to remain among the living.

Unturned is a 3-D, free-to-play (Kinda), early access zombie survival game by Nelson Sexton, who I should add that when he developed this game was only 17. It’s easily one of my favorite games in my library, with simple, minecraft blocky graphics, music thats utterly beautiful and sticks to the very core of zombie survival: Loot, kill, survive. That, and playing with friends is an incredibly fun experience. Whilst it is still in early access, it has plenty of potential and massive room for expansion.

Character options aren't expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)
Character options aren’t expansive, but they do allow for customization. (Ninja Gear not included.)

You start Unturned dumped into a map of your choice, as of this article there are only two: Arena – which is a more pvp scenario map, and PEI (Prince Edward Island) which is where you’ll probably spend most of your time playing. As you spawn, you’ll be as fresh and naked as a newborn baby and assuming you spawn within a town or building, you’ll make a beeline for the building and start searching for gear. Whilst the maps may not be randomly generated, the loot inside buildings is, so one spawn you might be lucky and find a pair of sailor pants, a lumberjack shirt and a baseball bat. Other spawns you might be lucky to find a stick. This presents an interesting panic start to the game, one that you SHOULD feel in a zombie survival scenario. So, all booted up and equipped with Nes’s baseball bat, you’ll probably start to hear groans and grunts and turn around to see a zombie waving at you through the window. This is where the fun starts.

Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.
Zombie meet Katana. Katana meet Zombie.

The fun starts when you swing madly at the zombie who will keep chasing you till you die, mixing light and heavy attacks with the left and right mouse button until its just a corpse on the ground, surrounded by pixelated blood and you’re exhausted. You’ll be exhausted because there is a stamina bar, which like most things can be upgraded with the XP you get from senselessly beating up zombies. The pure joy from this melee combat is that every time you connect, blood erupts from the zombie (Or other player) and covers the area. Whilst it might sound gruesome, its slightly satisfying and gives real indication on the damage you’re inflicting, albeit that all attacks make the same amount of blood come out, so there is not real indicator that you’re seriously damaging whatever you’re hitting. The zombies themselves are programmed just right, being stupid enough on their own, much like Static, but in groups they’ll swarm you and eventually overwhelm you.

It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.
It was a massacre. A jam like massacre.

Speaking of weapons, this game has a plethora available. Melee weapons range from baseball bats to Katanas, which is the most OP at this time, ranged weapons from a simple bow to a crossbow, and guns from a simple 9mm pistol to an Outfield (Most of the named weapons are simple play on original names e.g Outfield = Enfield, Desert Falcon = Desert Eagle). Most of the ranged weapons also have customization options, the system functions very much like Crisis, in that you hold your gun infront of you and you can apply certain additions to certain places. In a game designed as simply as this, its a really nice detailed feature, and makes for an attachment (No pun intended) to the weapons. Also, the weapons use different ammo and clips, adding to the complexity and adding rareness to the best guns. Got a weapon that uses a NATO Clip? Good luck finding them! But thats what keeps me playing this game, hoping to find a NATO clip whilst murdering countless zombies is utterly amusing.

Im ready to rock.
Im ready to rock.

The game also features that old zombie game cliche almost of “Sound attracts zombies”, whilst its not original, it does make firing a rifle in the middle of a town dangerous as you’ll see zombies pour out of every building in site, waving their blocky arms at you like you were Justin Bieber surrounded by adolescent fans. The map PEI is large for an early access game, with three towns, a golf course, military base and three islands with surprises on them. Having an island to explore this big straight away was brilliant, especially when I got friends involved and we fortified a Barn on a farm and began to horde all available supplies. Friends make this game even more special, adding to the charm and quirk that the game already has when you watch one of your friends get mauled by several zombies never gets old.

Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.
Well, I guess whoever is in that mess of a zombie train is already dead. Better flee.

Unturned also has vehicles. Ranging from simple 2 seater cars to fire trucks, which can carry six of your chums around the place. It makes traversing the island easy, but in this stage of the game, they seem to guzzle down fuel, regardless of what car it is, but I’ll forgive it because smashing into one of your friends- I mean a zombie with your car on the last choke of fuel is hilarious.

To adventure!
To adventure!

I know some of you may be thinking “TD, it’s just dayZ but minecraft! It has crafting and looting, but dayZ is far better!” And I’d 100% disagree with you. I understand that dayZ is built on an old engine, but Unturned was made by a single 17 year old. The gameplay is 100x more enjoyable, and from when I’ve managed to hop onto a random server, the community isn’t infested with shoot on site bandits. But thats just my opinion, guess I’ve already signed my death warrant by putting it on the internet, but meh.

Its a shame the boats aren't allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.
Its a shame the boats aren’t allowed to be driven, they would be an awesome feature.

Overall, this game is one you should defiantly check out. Its free-to-play but it has an interesting twist, you can play it in all its glory for free, or pay (At the time of writing) £3.99 for a gold upgrade, which basically gives you more character customization choices and a gamemode with more loot avaliable, I played a significant time before I paid the money and can honestly say its the best way to encourage people to donate to the game.

I think we may have more than enough supplies.
I think we may have more than enough supplies.

Unturned is developed by Nelson Sexton. You can find it on Steam for free! Article written for Spirit of the Robot by TD.

Unturned – Free to Play, Zombie Survival Done Right.

Verdun – More like ver-not-very-well-dun AM I RIGHT HAHA oh forget it

I do love interesting title screens.
I do love interesting title screens.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this one’s treating you better than it is me, as I’ve gone from having a bad cold to full blown tonsilitis over the course of a week. But, I can’t sit around and do nothing forever, so I decided I might as well get trench foot as well by stepping back into World War One.

That is the first amazing thing about Verdun. It’s set in World War One. I can think of a single other WWI title, and it’s an arcade game from the developer of Dwarf Fortress. Before we begin to look at what Verdun really is, we should look at why there are so few titles based around this grisly era.

Trenches, bad weapons, and no mans land. Yep, WWI.
Trenches, bad weapons, and no mans land. Yep, WWI.

The First World War was fought by sending hordes and hordes of men into big holes in the ground, then getting them to run out of those holes and jump into holes that other people were in. To make this more difficult, artillery fire hoped to manage to get into one of the holes, and since most didn’t, the land between the holes was particularly messy and difficult to traverse. Additionally, the people in each hole were particularly hostile themselves, and would shoot anything they could see from their hole on sight. Couple this with the fact that people spending many months in holes where water tends to pool, disease became rife and many were too ill to leave their hole. As a result, the overall war was very stagnant and not much happened for a long time.

With this in mind, you might not think the First World War is a very good setting for a game. Afterall, games are meant to be fun and action packed, not a situational drama of your life in a trench, just happening to own a gun but probably never firing it. This is exactly why there are so few games set in this era.

What a fine moustache!
What a fine moustache!

Alas, Verdun looked past that and came through into Early Alpha, revealing to the world its intimate beauty and design. A game where you did indeed fight over trenches, run over no man’s land, take the enemy trench, and attempt to repeat indefinitely.

And let me tell you, at this point, I am inherently impressed by Verdun. They came up with an excellent system of gameplay. You spawn in your trench as part of a small squad, lead by your commanding officer, and either have to defend your trench or run across and try to take the opponent’s trench, based on what stage of play the game is at. Defending is significantly easier than attacking, and the attackers charging over what is effectively a giant, empty field will die plenty of times. Fortunately, the act of spawning waves is balanced out by the fact each team will have a maximum of sixteen players, and attackers can try and use the horribly mangled terrain to sneak up closer to the enemy trench.

Germans can even drop gas, so get ready to plop on that mask!
Germans can even drop gas, so get ready to plop on that mask!

Unfortunately, the overall great idea of the game is the end of it’s excellence. Remembering it is in Early Alpha, there is plenty of room for improvement. The dynamics of your character are, altogether, clunky and difficult. It feels like a significantly older game, as aiming is jarred and movement feels… Interesting. The best description I had was “Like walking through custard”. And it’s true, your character feels too slow all the time. Sprinting feels closer to what the normal jogging speed should be. Jumping, however, is featherlight. As a result, you get a horrible feel for how your character actually moves. This tied in with the jarred aiming makes a moving kill painfully difficult.

This is further unaided by the catastrophically designed ironsights. All guns on this game can be fired inaccurately from the hip using the cross hair, but can be fired with a gigantic improvement on accuracy by using ironsights. Whilst for most guns this is fine, it is a notable challenge for pistols, as soldiers in WWI apparently had terrible peripheral vision, meaning that a gun held at arm’s length obscured a huge amount of what you were looking at. This is only made worse by the fact that the designers decided on a ridiculous idea for gun sway, where the actual point of aiming doesn’t change but the rear sights of the gun slowly rotate around to obstruct your view.

MGs are useful for defending
MGs are useful for defending

It’s hard to explain how badly Verdun handles. I guess if you took the steering wheel out of a car and tried to simply turn the rod, it’s kind of like that. Or like trying to get TD to write a new article. It’s very difficult and doesn’t respond well to even the most gentle input.

As a result, and as it stands, I’m disappointed in Verdun. It’s a fun game which could be made so much more fun if it controlled better. A different engine, or more work on the camera and player controls, would be an overwhelming benefit to a game that isn’t inherently bad, just badly created. However, this isn’t from a big name studio and nor is it finished, so hopefully we’ll see some decent progression in these areas soon. Otherwise, I have remarkably little bad to say about this little, daring indie game.

Verdun is developed by M2H and Blackmill Games. You can find it on Steam for £16.99. Article written for Spirit of the Robot by Static.

EDIT: I’ve revisited this title to patch up a couple of glaring typos, but to mention one other feature I suddenly remembered. The gun sounds. It has been a long, long time since I have encountered gun sounds in an FPS as bad as in Verdun. The worst part, for me at least, is it left me disconnected from the battle, making the overall experience significantly worse personally.

Verdun – More like ver-not-very-well-dun AM I RIGHT HAHA oh forget it