Sparklite is a wonderful new release from Red Blue Games that takes us into the world of Geodia. In this top-down adventure game, you will find an ever-changing world of Sparklite-powered gear to help you take down the titans of mining!
In the long line of Nintendo Indie games (adorably named “Nindies”) there are a few really standout games that have been coming out. One such game, Pode, is that about a Star who has fallen out of the sky, and just wants to go back home.
Our little hero, Glo, has crashed landed and met up with a rock named Bulder. Together the two make quite the pair as they solve puzzles, and embark on a (sometimes emotional) journey.
Pode is, at it’s core, a co-op game. While the game can be played in a single player mode, Pode really benefits from having a partner to play with. Glo and Bulder each have their own characteristics that make Pode unique. Since Glo is a star, they can glide across water no problem where as Bulder, the rock, will sink to the bottom. This is part of what makes Pode so unique as players will enjoy figuring out the right character to use in the right situation.
What makes Pode stand out is it’s unique presentation. It’s hard to describe without sounding contradictory. Dark, yet colorful. Dim, yet bright. Glo can use their light to shine areas and make the plant life grow. There are some wonderfully animated cutscenes that show the relationship between Glo and Bulder and it’s just.. it’s just the most precious.
Pode is a real treat for anyone with a Switch and a friend. I mean… having a friend is a treat anyway. But having a friend you can play Pode with, is the best treat.
The author was given a retail code for Pode for review purposes
Limbo and Inside helped usher in a string of Indie games that all centered around the same aesthetic: small child in a creepy environment dealing with monsters and puzzles while being viewed with high contrast colors. I loved Limbo. I loved Inside. Would I love Albert & Otto? The only way to find out was to play it.
Developed by K Bros Games and published by Digerati Distribution Albert & Otto was originally going to be a four-part narrative. Lack of funding prevented the other episodes from ever being made so they released Episode 1 – The Adventure Begins on PC and eventually Xbox One and Playstation 4. The gang at K Bros Games are hoping this new audience will help fund the rest of the episodes.
Albert & Otto stars young Albert. A boy set out to search for his sister in 1939 Germany. Right away the atmosphere is unsettling. Cold machinery and metal clanking fill the backgrounds as the wind howls. The sound design in this game really makes you feel small and insignificant in a world ravaged by war.
Adding to the atmosphere is the contrast in colors. Black, white, and shades of grey fill your screen as Albert makes his way through the world. While venturing you stumble across Otto, a bunny that used to belong to your sister. When you find Otto you gain new abilities like a double-jump. You can also place Otto down to help trigger platforms and solve puzzles.
To help combat the massive giant crows that attack you, Albert has a gun… because… why not? Honestly I am a little confused about the gun because in a platforming game with puzzles a gun seems out of place. Maybe in future episodes the gun will have a more significant role but for right now it doesn’t do much except kill birds.
Throughout the game letters from your sister are scattered about and it becomes increasingly clear that something more sinister is happening. Cryptic messages and creepy imagery appear as you progress through the game.
The controls are decent. Albert’s jumps don’t always make him land where you think he’s going to land. This lead to a lot of missed jumps which was frustrating while trying to defeat a boss. Albert can only take one hit before he dies and you have to start over from the last checkpoint. The difficulty isn’t too bad but the game is pretty repetitive. Puzzles are clever and there are some great moments where you send poor little sheep to their death. No I’m serious, you can light a sheep on fire to use it as a torch. Which I will admit, made me feel like a real jerk.
Albert & Otto is a welcome addition to the “small-child-in-a-creepy-black-and-white-world-puzzle-plattformer” genre. You just have to get used to the jumping controls.
*The reviewer was given a copy of Albert & Otto: The Adventure Begins for Xbox One
Kerbal Space Program, an indie game from Squad, is a sandbox game that deals with building and flying things. Whether those things are rockets, airplanes, space planes, or interplanetary probes is entirely up to the imagination of the player. It’s an incredibly deep game that deals with physics aerodynamic forces, gravity, and orbital mechanics. All of that depth is beautifully abstracted away with a very simple snap together system for building aircraft and spacecraft.
The core game mechanic is very satisfying; start with a cockpit, add a fuel tank, snap an engine to the bottom, and select a Kerbal pilot. Then go to the launchpad, fire up the engine, and see what happens. What will most likely happen will be an explosion. Maybe on the next launch you’ll actually send your Kerbal up, or in a general direction that is somewhat up, and then there will be an explosion. On your third launch that little green guy or gal is DEFINITELY going up, but then you’ll realize that you forgot to add in a way to separate the capsule from the fuel tank. So now your Kerbal is coming back down too fast and on top of explody things….explosion. For the fourth launch you put in a stage separator. Now when the engine runs out of fuel you smartly separate the capsule. It goes up higher, and higher, and then starts coming down. It’s then that you realize that a parachute would’ve been nice. Crash, then explosion.
But, throughout all of this, something that absolutely shouldn’t happen in games does happen, you start to learn things. The iteration between build, launch, and explosion, is entertainingly short, and no loss is permanent in Kerbal. Soon enough you find yourself getting Kerbals to space, and then in orbit. After that you will find yourself docking things together in orbit. And then, leaving the safety of your home planet, Kerbin, to land on your moon, Mun. Then, quite literally, the solar system is the limit. Kerbal features nine planets with different orbits, gravities, and atmospheres. You can build craft to explore all of them. Whether or not you build craft that can return your Kerbals safely home is entirely up to you. You can play in a sandbox mode or a full career mode with space center management, an economy, research and development, and astronaut recruitment.
For building your rockets and planes the collection of parts you can use is very deep. There are multiple types of each component. Along with capsules, tanks and engines there are solar panels, batteries, landing gear, and science experiments, just to name a few. If you head over to the aircraft hangar there are wings, tail fins, rudders, elevators, everything you need to make fully flyable airplanes and spaceplanes.
Unfortunately for the console releases (this review is based on the XBox One release) the simplicity of everything is mired in a port that did nothing to adapt the game to a console experience. This is evident from the very first loading screen where the name of each file being loaded is shown to the user. Why? Even on the PC and Mac versions such information is of questionable value. But, at least on those platforms the user has the ability to look at the filesystem and find the files if something goes wrong. On the console providing filenames is useless. It does nothing other than enforce the fact that Kerbal Space Program is primarily a PC game. From there the experience with KSP on a console only gets more frustrating.
Dialogs, like picking graphical settings and saving and loading games, are not adapted to the console at all. Instead of navigating through options with the thumbsticks and buttons you are expected to use the left thumbstick to control an onscreen mouse pointer and the A button as a mouse left-click button. No thought or design work was done to change the interface for consoles.
Text, of which there is quite a lot in KSP, is very small and hard to read. This is based on sitting on a couch which is about eight feet away from a sixty inch television.
Building a rocket is frustrating. Again, the console controller has been relegated to emulating a mouse. Picking an object and moving it around is passable, but trying to position two objects close enough to each other that they snap together correctly is tedious. No consideration has been given to making the snapping system more user friendly on consoles. Building a simplistic rocket of less than a dozen parts was a struggle. I don’t feel I’d have the patience to snap together enough pieces to build a Mun capable rocket, let alone an interplanetary vessel.
Kerbal Space Program is a deep game, with a career mode, space center management, research and development and, of course, rockets and lots of explosions. It’s designed in such a way that a player only has to expose as much of that gameplay as they want. It’s a wonderful game and I am a huge fan. If you want to play it and you only have an XBox One, please give it a try, even with the problems the basic porting effort has introduced. If you have access to a gaming PC or a Macintosh, play it on your computer. You will have a much more enjoyable experience exploring space.