Tag Archives: 2d platformer

Planet of the Eyes review

Planet of the Eyes is described as ‘Limbo in a colourful world’ and that covers this narrative led platformer very well. It delivers an intriguing tale punctuated by trial and error moments, with a simple but effective aesthetic accompanying its short run time. And while, at times, it unabashedly clones elements from Limbo, by the end it does just enough to differentiate itself and make the experience interesting and enjoyable on its own merits.

You are a robot, having survived a crash landing on a peculiar alien planet and having discovered an audio message from your creator that compels you to explore. Further audio messages are obtained throughout your adventure and fill in more of the backstory, hint at dangers to come and help build your relationship to the mute machine you control. It’s a well-told story that really comes into its own by the end.

Platforming is the order of the day, with some very light puzzles moments, and much like Limbo, death is a frequent visitor as you wander into danger unknowingly, then take that lesson with you the next time you try that and similar sections. It can feel a bit cheap to have the ground suddenly become unstable, or a boulder come careening towards you from off screen, or an alien organism grab hold and eat you, but checkpoints are abundant and the game doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to reviving you. It’s smooth and fast throughout and the deaths are less frustrating due to it.

While Planet of the Eyes is described as ‘colourful’ it’s more subtle than that suggests. The immediate area around you is subdued with different gradients of blue to indicate darkness, meanwhile the background takes on all manner of brighter colours but to an almost voxel aesthetic of alien geography. It’s different and alien enough to sell you on this being a strange planet yet elegantly simplistic. Interiors get a little more complicated, fitting the growingly complex narrative that’s unravelling around you, but the 2D assets never really convince you of any depth.

Unfortunately, Planet of the Eyes only keeps you entertained for a mere hour or two, depending on general ham-handedness. Meanwhile, many of the environment and enemy encounters feel directly pulled from Limbo rather than unique to this title. There are a few instances of originality in the latter half of the game, and the final section is superb, throwing some more engaging puzzles at you and asking you to perform more complex and rewarding platforming feats.

Indeed, Planet of the Eyes is an enjoyable little adventure that ultimately feels too familiar in the first instance, and by the time it shows you something new and interesting it’s over. If you’re in the mood for some trial and error platforming with an intriguing story then Planet of the Eyes delivers a bite-size taste that might satiate you for now.

Thanks to Xbox and Cococucumber Games for supporting TiX

Hunter’s Legacy review

Hunter’s Legacy is a 2D action platformer that evokes similar charms to that of the Metroid and Castlevania series, with its gradual acquirement of new abilities allowing you to explore previously blocked paths. However, despite some strong elements of design throughout the majority of the title, a few omissions really hurt the overall intuitiveness and polish.

You are the huntress Ikki, a well-respected feline warrior from the small village of Un’Amak, filled with fellow bipedal cats. A villainous entity known as Morodir, has stolen three orbs and threatens to destroy the kingdom of Iripur. It’s up to you to venture fourth with your twin blades and bow and defeat this villain, saving the kingdom.

In order to confront Morodir, you’ll need to acquire new abilities that help your chances in battle. This means adventuring through a variety of different locations and slaying that region’s boss. Meanwhile, you come across paths that are currently blocked, but as you defeat the bosses and gain new abilities, you’ll be able to overcome some of these platforming obstacles and find hidden treasures that can be used to further enhance your health and attack attributes.

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It’s very much a Metroidvania platformer, with a non-lineal design focusing on exploration. And it’s well-designed too, with a seldom seen verticality to level design that allows for ample opportunities to discover paths high in the air or deep underground, which in turn allows you to proceed deeper into the region you’re exploring in the hopes you’ll find the treasures you need to upgrade Ikki.

Unfortunately however, this exploration is also the source of the titles main frustration: not being able to find the treasures to upgrade Ikki. For the majority of the adventure you can muddle through, dying frequently as your face new or large groups of enemies, and relying more on luck than skill for a couple of bosses, but making enough progress to feel like it’s worth the hardship. However, eventually the bosses become too challenging for luck to see you through, and that extra damage or health you could acquire through upgrading becomes crucially important. And you’re free to explore the kingdom looking for the purple crystals that allow you to trade for upgrades, but you’re provided no clues as to where they may be.

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A map gives you a general idea of the layout of the kingdom but only the over-world rather than the intricacies of the regions. Meanwhile, portals can be discovered that facilitate quick travel between levels, which is a great time saver, but finding the crystals is entirely up to you. And with levels being large sprawling areas, it’s tricky to find areas you’ve not visited. Eventually you find areas that have been blocked with stones that only a specific ability can smash through, or a platform that is only accessible with the dash ability, but many of these areas hold ordinary treasure, used to buy the upgrades but only if you have those aforementioned purple crystals. It’s aggravating to say the least, and makes the exploration a chore more so than a treat.

Fortunately, the platforming and combat are great. Ikki smoothly and accurately jumps and travels through the air, allowing high precision and fast platforming. Meanwhile, combat with the twin blades has a three-move set of attacks that cover an effective arch in front, below or above Ikki, depending on the direction you’re pushing, that’s fast enough not to leave you vulnerable. The Bow has a standard and charged shot for dealing with enemies at range, and the ability to roll – and later dash – to avoid taking damage works splendidly. It’s all very well put together.

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However, whilst there’s clearly some smart design behind the scenes, with enemies sporting a nice variety of movement and abilities to keep you on your toes as you gradually master your own abilities, and the hand-drawn art providing a charming aesthetic, the limited animations for Ikki when she jumps and hangs from platforms takes you out of the experience a little.

Hunter’s Legacy’s old-school 2D platforming action sets a pleasant nostalgic tone, but whilst the era of games it’s trying to emulate did often put up a stiff challenge, here it feels a bit too unfair. Indeed it is possible to complete the game without any upgrades, but that method is more reliant on luck than skill. Fortunately, if you do find enough crystals to upgrade you attack and health, you’ll find a challenging but enjoyable adventure awaits you in the kingdom or Iripur.

Thanks to Xbox and Lienzo Mx for supporting TiX

Amazing Princess Sarah review

Amazing Princess Sarah

Amazing Princess Sarah is a call back to the games of my childhood, its 8 bit style and game design triggering memories of Castlevania, Megaman and Mario that have long remained dormant. Its simple story focuses on your father, the King, who while entertaining what appears to be the majority of enemy types you will face within the game in his throne room, is enthralled by a succubus called Lilith and you are whisked away by a demon to prevent you from interfering. As such, you must battle your way through a myriad of castles in order to rescue your father.

Combat and gameplay as a whole takes a lot of cues from these 8 bit classics; enemy attacks have a great deal of variety, environmental items contain health, and successful enemy hits cause a knockback effect, yet there are some innovations here worthy of note.

Aside from your standard sword attack, which can be used to dispose of the majority of enemies, you can also utilise items from the environment and even the enemies’ defeated corpses themselves in your battle against the minions of Lilith. Each of these corpses have differing properties; bats can be thrown long distances, ghosts travel across the screen in a straight line, elementals cast out a fire attack that sweeps across the platforms it hits, and archers disperse a volley of arrows over a short distance. When the screen becomes heavy with enemies, all of whom are attacking and moving in their own way, utilising these special attacks becomes all the more strategic.

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Additionally, APS has a light smattering of RPG elements, with each enemy defeated awarding experience and additional hit points being gained as you level up. This experience is carried even if you die, giving the levels a rogue-like quality with your ever-increasing health pool allowing you to traverse further between checkpoints purely through your ability to take more punishment following each death.

Each Castle is a series of checkpoints, with a lot of platforming tropes contained within; disappearing platforms, moving platforms, bottomless pits, and typically involves a bit of exploring, switch activation and backtracking in order to move on to the next checkpoint. That said, most of the maps are pretty linear and its difficult to actually get lost within the level and the checkpoints are numerous enough that frustration over repeated deaths never really has the chance to kick in.

At the end of each castle you must face a boss battle, and each of these bosses have their own unique attack patterns that you must learn in order to overcome them.  These bosses look somewhat out of place with the overall aesthetic as they appear drastically different from the 8 bit sprites you encounter throughout, but this does not affect the gameplay or hit detection on these enemies, and once you learn their pattern they can be easily overcome. Most can be done at your leisure, and only once did I encounter a boss where a particular attack could not be avoided, lending an air of urgency to that particular battle.

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Once completed, you effectively unlock a new game +, and with seven of these in order to “fully” defeat Lilith, there is plenty of content to get through to actually complete the game. These change the mechanics enough to prevent the game feeling like a retreading of the original levels. A ghost version of yourself chases you throughout the game, enemies resist certain attacks, or a constant bleed effect that forces you to speed run from checkpoint to checkpoint help to refresh the game enough to make it feel different.

The game though, is not perfect. Certain enemy attacks can reach you through solid walls, and combined with the knockback effect, (which also makes you drop any item you are carrying), can cause untold frustration when the screen becomes increasingly crowded. I was also able to trick the game’s physics as well, bouncing miles into the air when chaining enemy head bounces together in a specific way. That said, the phasing attacks and breakable physics are the only two gripes I can level at the game, (if I ignore the pixelated jiggle physics that seem to have been added for no particular reason other than to garner attention).

Amazing Princess Sarah almost lives up to its name with pitch perfect platforming and varied attack mechanics, although its reliance on certain old school mechanics and frustrating bugs hold it back. Those issues aside, this is certainly a game that should be on your radar if you are a fan of action platformers.

Thanks to Xbox and Haruneko for supporting TiX

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Aaru’s Awakening review

Aaru’s Awakening has a wonderfully nostalgic aesthetic. Its subtle music and sound effects, the hand-drawn, 70s inspired visuals, and the lonely, highly dangerous platforming and exploration; it all feels very reminiscent of Another World. Even protagonist, Aaru, resembled the hulking, four-legged beasts from Another World, as he trots, leaps, charges and teleports between the realms of Dawn, Day, Dusk and Night.

Aaru has been charged by his master, the deity Dawn, to travel into the realms of the other gods and upset the balance, giving Dawn dominance over the world. Devilish platforming stands in Aaru’s way, before battling each god in a multi-stage battle that turns platforming into combat. It’s a superficial but intriguing tale, with narrated static images punctuating the platforming to deliver it, however, it touches on concepts of loyalty, following orders, and loneliness in an effective way. As Aaru ventures further from Dawn’s domain he becomes less sure of the objective and more isolated. It all fits in very well with the level design, which becomes increasingly complex and alien, as well as dangerous.

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Almost anything can kill Aaru, from rays of sunlight in Day’s domain, to the grey sludge in the pits of Dusk’s domain, as well as the odd beast that inhabits each area. As mighty as you appear, resembling an eagle crossed with a lion and a bear, you don’t have any traditional attacks, instead you can use one of your platforming abilities to teleport inside an enemy and tear them apart from the inside. However, that’s easier said than done, as moving anywhere is a risk, with each level packed with deadly environmental hazards. Additionally, you can’t take more than a hit from an enemy before you perish, so if you miss your target and materialise above them when teleporting, touching them on the way down is enough to kill you.

Indeed then, surviving this harsh and unusual world is hard, platforming through it is harder. The aforementioned teleportation sees you throw out an orb of light with control over its velocity. This orb then acts as a physical object in the world, bouncing off ledges, or through small gaps. At the press of a button you teleport to where the orb is. Meanwhile, the ability to leap as well as a charge ability that grants temporary flight and destroys weak environmental barriers, rounds out your skills beyond moving right or left. Getting the timing right and using your abilities in tandem quickly is the key to completing levels, and it can be a struggle bringing them all together.

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The controls are mapped so that you use the shoulder buttons to platform, allowing you to keep both thumbs on the analogue sticks to ensure you’re ready to launch an orb and teleport at a moment’s notice. It’s a control scheme that makes sense, especially in the later levels where your reactions and mastery of the controls truly come into play, but training yourself not to use the face buttons takes a bit of effort, and leads to some frustration when you do use them and Aaru plummets to his death. Additionally, the level of precision the title demanded is very high, and getting the orb to go exactly where you want it to is a chore.

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When it all clicks – or perhaps if it all clicks – the speed and grace you can achieve as you elegantly teleport, charge and leap your way through a level, is highly satisfying, and with online leaderboards tracking completion times, the reward for a smooth run is enhanced further through bragging rights, but make no mistake, this is one for the platforming elite. Despite generous checkpoints throughout, including some within boss fights, Aaru’s Awakening puts up a challenge that seldom few other titles do, and it will frustrate the majority of players.

Aaru’s Awakening is a masochistically designed platformer, with a thoughtful narrative and beautiful art style that hides its perils. The occasional foreground and background confusion can lead to a bad platforming decision on your part and there’s a bit too much trial and error in figuring out the layout of each level, and what can kill you and when, but if you’re looking for a challenge – or an excuse to break a controller – then you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks to Lumenox for supplying TiX with a promotional copy

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Ori and the Blind Forest review

Ori and the Blind Forest is a truly beautiful game. The layered, watercolour backdrops, flora that subtlety sway as you pass by them, and superb use of lighting, all combine to form a visual treat on par with the recent Rayman titles.  Furthermore a captivating score, intrinsically woven into the game and acting as a companion on this lonely journey, strikes all the right chords for evoking adrenaline, fear, and sorrow. It’s a stunning audio and visual experience.

Fortunately the level design and mechanics are constructed with the same quality, providing an intriguing, dangerous, and rewarding forest to explore, with precisely the right abilities and pacing you’d expect from a high calibre, 2D Metroidvania platformer.

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After a heart wrenching opening, which wonderfully sets the scene and introduces the world, you take control of Ori, a fox type creature encapsulated by light, who must return the three elements of water, wind and warmth to the Spirit Tree in order to restore balance to the forest and prevent everything withering away. Meanwhile, Kuro, a sinister looking owl, means to stop you, and Sein, an orb of light from the Spirit Tree, means to guide and protect you.

To find the three elements you must move through the forest, defeating enemies, exploring different areas, and acquiring new abilities that help you access paths that were previously closed to you. Sein fights for you, homing in on nearby enemies and striking them at the press of a button. Meanwhile, you collect green orbs for health, blue to power some of your abilities, and gold orbs to purchase skills. It’s a very traditional 2D platformer at heart, right down to its stiff challenge.

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Enemies can very quickly drain you of your health and in order for Sein to lock-on to them, you have to position yourself fairly close to danger. You’re highly acrobatic though and thanks to the lock-on you can concentrate on dodging rather than attacking. It’s unfortunate that the enemies show such a lack of variety. You’ll fight the odd frog type creature and charging beast, but the majority are pulsating blobs.

Additionally, saving is down to you. For the cost of blue orbs you can create save points; an extremely useful ability if you’re about to face a dangerous section. However, it’s not always easy to foresee dangers, and with the aforementioned strong hitting enemies, a slight lapse in concentration can leave you vulnerable. It’s very frustrating to lose significant progress because you haven’t saved often enough and getting into the habit of creating save points takes some getting used to. Fortunately it’s not long before you’re inundated with blue orb energy and can save frequently without compromising the use of other energy dependent abilities.

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There’s also a sprinkling of collectables to find on your journey for the three elements and mastering the mechanics to fetch them all is hugely satisfying. The Dash ability in particular is very interesting to use. Dash freezes time and gives you the chance to leap significant distances, reflect a projectile back at an enemy and maintain multiple jumps in such a way that it’s as if you’re flying. As you acquire a new ability you’re very quickly presented with obstacles that require you to use that ability to overcome them, the collectables ask you to fully master them, and doing so treats you to some spectacular acrobatics from Ori, all presented with fantastic animation.

Certainly Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful looking and sounding game, and thanks to strong level design and superb mechanics, the platforming and combat provides a fun and impressive experience. It can get very frustrating during the particularly difficult sections, and remembering to create save points is an important lesson to learn, but you shouldn’t hesitate to experience Ori’s well-told and charming story in this spectacular setting.

Thanks to Microsoft for supplying TiX with a download code

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Fenix Rage – Birdbone Islands Trailer for Xbox One

Costa Rican indie developer Green Lava Studios is delighted to showcase the brand new “Birdbone Islands” trailer that shows off World Four of upcoming game Fenix Rage. Players will feel the antagonizing ice attacks of the game boss Oktarus, who makes dodging the dangers of every level a huge challenge. Investing in extra gamepad controllers is strongly recommended.

Described as a “ridiculously addictive, hardcore action-platformer” Fenix Rage tests players’ ability to run, jump, and dash their way through a maze of dangerous obstacles, across hundreds of lightning-paced levels, all in an effort to track down a shadowy villain. Loads of different enemies, slick retro-inspired music, and vivid level landscapes await gamers with the mettle to play.

Slated for release in fall 2014, Fenix Rage will be coming to Xbox One and other well known platforms.