IN MEMORANDUM

 Simplicity is key in this current day and age. We live our lives between screens, counting down the seconds to each new console, phone or any of the other numerous distractions we can get our hands on. And why not? We live in a convenience culture, carefully crafted to supplement all the needs of the modern man: why sing when you can be auto-tuned; walk when you can drive; read a book when you can watch a film? But, it’s not our fault, God forbid – this world has just been much too generous for us to refuse. Sadly, that leaves humanity in a bit of a predicament, rotting away mentally while technology continues to grow and flourish.

Although that introduction may seem a little bit dire and exaggerated in comparison to the current state of gaming, it does still hold very true. With every new mainstream release the bar is being lowered and lowered in terms of true involvement from the player, requiring less effort and application on their behalf until all you’re left with is essentially a digital colouring by numbers, £45 RRP. Where has all the challenge and achievement of old gone? Do the new generations of gamer only want quick reward and satisfaction for their virtual actions; a shiny badge for every minute wasted online, smashing pixels together? Having grown up with the emergence of popular consoles and titles, such as Tomb Raider, or Marathon (now continued in the Halo franchise), the thrill of playing lay in the completion of a particularly hard level, or solving that frustrating puzzle that had kept you clueless for days. It is a shame to see now that only the independent developers have risen to defend the intellectual and punishing genres of the past; the Roguelikes, Strategy and Logic titles that essentially created gaming as we know it today.

The problem, I think, lies in the creation of the Casual genre. People just don’t have the time or motivation to really work for success in their virtual fantasies, ironically defeating the point of their own escapism. A good example of this would be in the vast popularity of Rovio Entertainment’s mobile time-waster, Angry Birds, which has been downloaded over a billion times since its initial release in 2009 – a staggeringly high figure for any developer to boast. However, the pulling power of this game does not lie in its complexity, storyline or challenge, but rather its repetition and quick reward system that gives instant gratification with no fault for mistake: just another 3 stars to show off to your friends. Comparing this system to the current setup of modern, ‘advanced’ titles – such as Call Of Duty – the concept of even having difficulty settings anymore is quickly called into question. I don’t mean to condemn Casual games as the instigators of our current situation, but they are very much to blame for the effect it has had across all platforms, mimicking the evolution of our society into the Short and Simple – i.e. far from the Nightmare Mode we used to relish so fervently.

So, can we still restore gaming to its original state and help save ourselves from mental decay? Yes, of course – you just have to make yourself heard and show the support to those who really need it. Portals such as Indievania, or even Steam Greenlight, have all worked hard in bringing the spotlight back to the community and allowing for independent developers to showcase their art to a mainstream audience, gaining the recognition and opportunity that is normally only found in the wallets of established publishers. This is not so much a whimpering cry of ‘support the Indies’, but rather a backlash to what appears to be a massive decline in front line content and production. I may be jaded, but I honestly urge all those who still believe in the integrity of gaming as outlets of logic and true art to please consider these humble words before you purchase that next spin-off sequel the minute it touches the shelves.

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

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

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/