Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Certain Something

...or as the French say, "je ne sais quoi." Why French? No other reason than the speed-run record holder for the game Kingdom (before it was updated to Kingdom: Classic) is a Frenchman.  Quite suitable considering this 2D strategy game has a very northern European look and feel to it.  Although aesthetically it reminds me of the old SNES game King Arthur's World, the simple pixel art has a lot of depth, both in terms of style and UI.   There's all sorts of nice scenery whether it be the reflection of torchlight on the water or rays of sunlight through the trees.  I especially like the little touches such as the way coins fall into the players purse, or how the forest vagrants hold out their hand begging for gold.  Gameplay-wise, Kingdom is also an interesting take on the Tower-Defense/RTS genre in that you as the ruler do not directly engage in...well...anything.  Instead the player primarily collects and redistributes money to develop his or her lands as they see fit.  It's even possible to pay-off an attacking force by dumping coins on the ground in front of them.  Don't let them take your crown though because that's how you lose the game.

At first glance Zombie Night Terror might seem like yet another zombie-themed video game, but it actually has more in common with that old puzzle game series Lemmings.  The most noteworthy difference here being you wrangle a horde of undead rather than a bunch of mindless rodents.  Visually, Zombie Night Terror draws a lot of inspiration from classics of the horror film-genre.  "Night of the Living Dead" being the obvious example since, like the movie, the game is in black and white.  That might sound like a strange choice given that it's done entirely in a pixelated art style, but things like blood, power-ups and electrified metal are highlighted red, green and blue respectively.  There's also a few well placed homages such as "Return of the Living Dead," "Re-animator" and even "Army of Darkness."  What really stands out to me though is the quality of the animation.  It's cartoony and exaggerated, but it gives the characters life - and not just the undead ones! 

Underwater games are in vogue at the moment with titles ranging from SOMA to Abzu and even large sections of Inside.  One you might not have heard of though is a little indie gem on Steam called Reveal the Deep.  It's a fairly simple platformer that involves exploring the sunken wreckage of a cargo ship in an old fashion diving suit.  Their is a story, mostly delivered via mysterious notes scattered throughout each level, but it's nothing special unless you are really starving for more plots along the lines of Amnesia: The Dark Decent.  Like the other two titles mentioned previously, this game utilizes pixel art.  Unlike both of the above though Reveal the Deep has a very minimalistic presentation.  In a way it lends itself to the uncomfortable feeling of being in the stark crushing blackness of the abyss.  There are also some traversal puzzles that depend on using the diving helmet lamp to alter the interior layout of the ship's hold which, in turn, plays with transitions to cold blues and warm oranges in eerie ways.  Overall it's not all that impressive look at, but the price tag is practically free so I certainly feel like I got my money's worth from this particular journey beneath the waves.   

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