TOY SOLDIERS

Following in the footsteps of many other titles this year, Signal Studio’s Toy Soldiers has joined the invasion of Xbox Live Arcade games being ported to PC, already gaining a strong new fan base with its Steam release.

A deadly combination of tower defence, hoard and survival, Toy Soldiers has definite attraction for bringing an interesting new style to its genre that is reminiscent of old Army Men titles, however with a lot more depth and direction: each piece and detail within the game has been designed to emulate the look and feel of painted miniatures, all captured atop a variety of replica battlefields.

Using a multitude of upgradeable gun and infantry placements, you are tasked with fighting off swarms of enemy soldiers and vehicles, all intent on invading your toy box. The ability to control individual pieces is certainly what sets this game apart from others within its genre, allowing for precise, tactical aiming and speed – as well as using biplanes and tanks to freely roam the environment.

My main criticism of this game lie in its settings – with extremely limited options, not much can be done to configure graphics or speed, which caused a highly frustrating lag to descend every time too many units were in play, but there will (hopefully) be updates and fixes to this in the future.

Overall, Toy Soldiers is fun, addictive and educational, following the progress of real battles across the First World War with a confidently antique aesthetic. Allowing you to easily switch between units or full bird’s eye view, there are potentially a lot of different strategies that can be used throughout, combining tactics, speed and prediction to manipulate the course of war.

The campaign itself is restricted to single player, but the included DLC’s allow for multiplayer combat in a selection of unique maps and scenarios – and all for a very reasonable price.

Visit the website here

Buy it on Steam here

– I forgot to mention that this game is only playable through the Windows Live overlay, so be prepared for the DRM and stress that it comes with.
 Lag issue can be fixed by turning off hardware acceleration of sound in DxDiag, but the music will not work properly (Start > Run > dxdiag).

LONE SURVIVOR

Wow. This game is definitely worth getting, if not just trying out the demo – and, taking over 4 years to build, is truly deserving of all the praise it can be given.

Jasper Byrne’s Lone Survivor centres on a boy fighting for survival in a Resident Evil-esque apocalypse. With limited flashlight usage, a severe shortage of bullets and the biting reminder to eat or sleep, this game is full of suspense and fear, leaving you fearful of every slight change and extremely aware of your own survival.

Describing itself as an adult psychological horror, Lone Survivor is rife with nods and references to the predecessors of its kind, especially that of Silent Hill; almost acting as a patchwork of Byrne’s favourites, except pulling the style off extremely successfully. The game takes you to a very personal level as you scavenge through its claustrophobic corridors, relying solely on the flickering, last gasps of your dying torch and your ever-present alertness for the next encounter with one of its chilling creatures. The graphics in this game have an absolutely beautiful render, drawing heavily on the style of classic 16 bit games – particularly reminding me of early Japanese RPG’s.

The only real criticism I can say of this game is the navigation system. Despite being a 2D side scroller, Lone Survivor uses a top-down map, culminating in some rather confusing directions and frantic running to try and find out just where the hell you are going. However, it could be said that this adds to the experience – much like the rather undependable gun use, it is almost reminding you of how lost and unprepared the character is, pulling on a much greater bond between the audience and the art.

Overall, I found this game to be incredibly immersive, quickly forming a bond with the main character and his innocent, naive perspective – highly recommend.

Buy it or Try it at the website here

Buy it from Steam here

SUPERBROTHERS: SWORD & SWORCERY EP

Spawned from the music of Jim Guthrie, Sword & Sworcery was originally created for iOS, but has been nicely ported to the PC – with the full soundtrack included.

This game is incredibly relaxing, leading you on a journey through a beautifully organic world as you solve small puzzles and interact with the creatures and scenery. Being a point and click adventure, S&S is very undemanding in terms of controls, relying more on the atmosphere, style and involvement of the player rather than any kind of strategy – hints for each stage can be found in the recorded ‘thoughts’ of each character, as well as an inbuilt, optional Twitter feature that allows you to share clues and help other players through the wilderness.

Just watching the trailer for this game was enough to persuade me: an inviting mixture of nostalgia and dreamlike sequences, however all encompassed within a very digital sense of mystery. Sword & Sworcery is not so much a game, but a piece of art that allows its audience to explore its canvas, affecting the landscape with each simple manipulation and movement over the span of 4 short ‘sessions’ that act as chapters for its narrative.

I highly recommend this game as a refreshing break from the stresses and complications of other contemporary works – from the very moment of download I found myself fully submerged within the simple, innocent life that the developers have so perfectly conjured, instantly a part of the mystical flow that makes up the visual recreation of Jim Guthrie’s latest LP.

I would definitely say that S&S works best on a larger screen, so as not too miss out on the full experience of every pixel, animation and detail that inhabits its lovingly crafted landscape – a must-buy for every gamer looking for a bit of release and inspiration.

Visit the website here   – (also, Capy games and Jim Guthrie)

Buy it from Steam here

WIZORB

Tribute Games’ debut release is a very nostalgic mix of 16 bit adventure with block breaking at heart, but those who are looking for a more prominent RPG element will be disappointed – Wizorb encompasses the style and atmosphere, but doesn’t venture much further than that.

Packed full of the paddle game classics, there are a variety of traditional power ups for you to unlock as you progress through each of its five, individually themed worlds, using keys to access bonus areas and shops in-game. Your score becomes secondary in Wizorb, however, instead focusing a lot more on collecting coins, which can be spent on paddle upgrades and saving the people of Gorudo from an evil curse.

What really sets Wizorb apart from the Arkanoid clones is the injection of ‘magic’, allowing you to use skills such as teleport, fireball and wind to manipulate each level to your advantage. You have a limited amount of power, but it can be refilled by collecting red potions or in slow regeneration.

My main criticism of this game would lie in its difficulty – or lack thereof. With 12 stages to every world, it felt more time consuming than challenging and I quickly got into a routine where I was finishing levels purely to get back into the World Map. Power ups, such as sticky paddle, made each stage increasingly mundane as it became more a matter of catch and aim. However, this is not so much a fault in Wizorb, but of the genre itself, and can be easily rectified by self-imposing your own limits and restrictions – I found that playing on Hard difficulty and refusing all paddle upgrades created an entirely new experience and definitely made it a lot more intense in terms of gameplay.

I found myself pleasantly surprised to find that this game actually does have a lot of replayability value, with 20 varying achievements littered throughout. Furthermore, I found myself revisiting past levels multiple times in order to build up gold and my score, despite there being absolutely no requirement too – obtaining the amulet was certainly a rewarding experience, especially so in its use ingame.

Overall, this is a very fun and satisfying puzzle game, but don’t expect much more out of it – the RPG elements are essentially to add atmosphere and style, coating it in a classic 16 bit finish. If you’re looking to kill boredom without emptying your wallet, then I highly recommend this game. Either way, Tribute Games have definitely set themselves up as an exciting new developer with a lot of potential for the future.

Buy it from the website here

Get it on Steam here

Tribute Games

HACK, SLASH, LOOT

Despite having no tutorial or any guide to its controls in-game (they can be found here), this very traditional, turn-based dungeon crawler is extremely easy to pick up the instant you download it, placing you straight into one of its various scenarios as one of their three starting characters: Saracen, Wizard or Archer. A variety of other classes can be unlocked, however, but only after you have died a certain number of times – and this you will quickly become accustomed too.

Much like Dungeons Of Dredmor, HSL is based on randomly generated dungeons, creating a multitude of unpredictable events – starting directly next to a high level enemy, for instance. If that wasn’t hard enough, the game has a tendency to be pretty ruthless toward you, leaving your chances of survival pretty low in most occasions as you are left to watch your newly-born adventure cut down, mere steps from the spawn point.

However, despite its flaws, HSL has an attraction in its difficulty – progress is achievement, and the feeling of satisfaction as you manage to venture deeper and deeper into its unforgiving depths is a very different experience without all the tips and hints most modern franchises will thrust upon you. This game reminds you very firmly of your character’s mortality: you’re just a guy with a weapon, and if you manage to complete your quest, you’ve earned all the glory you set out for.

Overall, this game is very much built as a traditional dungeon crawler: your inventory doesn’t extend beyond what you are wearing, every scenario is based around a classic ‘escape this lair/kill this beast’ theme and, most of all, everything is down to chance… But, hey – this is the kind of game you can jump in and jump out of very quickly and easily, the graphics are pleasingly retro – and all for a very low price!

Try it or Buy it from the website here

Buy it on Steam here

THE ART OF THEFT

A devilishly hard mixture of strategy, stealth and robbery, Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw’s The Art Of Theft will most definitely steal your time – whether you want it too or not.

Playing as Trilby, an experienced master thief, your objective is to infiltrate and loot a variety of high security buildings across Chapow City, armed with nothing but a tazer and a variety of evasive skills. Although there is a central storyline running through the game, it is essentially a test of observation and reaction as you are forced to note the clockwork patrols of each guard, camera and laser to complete each new level. With every effective use of your talents, Trilby will earn Reputation (RP), which can be spent on upgrading current skills, as well as learning new ones to access previously unreachable areas of buildings and add completely new strategies to each heist.

The Art Of Theft is not a casual game, but a learning experience – I found myself running through every level a good number of times before completion, perfecting the routes and skills I’d need to deploy to achieve the highest score. This game pushes you to be as inventive and devious as possible, assessing every new puzzle deeply before stepping out to tackle it – especially so with restrictions placed on your gameplay: the tazer may only be used a limited amount within a level, as well as a limit on how many alarms may be set off before the entire level is aborted.

If you’re a fan of stealth platform games, then I highly recommend this – the controls are very smooth and responsive, plus the art is very confident in its style: neither serious, nor cartoon. This is a good game all-round, however you will find yourself pushed to your mental limit trying to complete the tiniest details out of determination.

The Art Of Theft can be downloaded here

Yahtzee’s blog (and more of his games) can be found here

DUNGEONS OF DREDMOR

A classic Roguelike throughout, Gaslamp’s Dungeons of Dredmor is a turn based point-and-click adventure through the randomly generated depths of the Dark Lord Dredmor’s catacombs.

The main attraction within this game is its charm, with every small object, detail and enemy packed full of humorous descriptions and outcomes, creating a very original, quirky world for you to explore – I even found myself laughing at the creation screen, choosing from skills such as ‘Mathemagics’ and ‘Emomancy’ (-only available in its ‘Realm of the Diggle Gods’ DLC) to form my Hero’s abilities and bonuses.


With a default Hardcore mode (which – thank God – can be turned off), the aim of this game is to basically see how far you can get – and to then build on those skill structures/tactics to find what strategy works best for you. However, due to the random generation that each level of the dungeon holds, be prepared for frustration as your newly created character is confined to the graveyard, barely a few minutes in!

Dungeons of Dredmor definitely has a lot of replay value, be it for the loveable Diggles, determination to beat your last score, or even to test out completely new combinations of skillsets – the game holds an incredibly vast and complex range of crafting abilities, each with their own, unique benefits, allowing you to create a variety of traps, weapons and potions.

This game does take a couple of playthroughs to fully understand, but with an in-depth tutorial and a high level of customizability, anyone who is a fan of fantasy or dungeon-crawling is sure to love this – and all for an incredibly affordable price of £3.49!

Buy it on Steam here

http://www.dungeonsofdredmor.com/