Here’s a great piece of news! At EGX 2018 I was lucky enough to spend some time with the PC version of Dead Cells, a Castlevania inspired, Roguelike Metrovania. Even the developer, France based Motion Twin describes it as a “mash-up, a veritable Frankenstein’s monster of a game”. I had an absolute blast with its constant changing dungeons with NO checkpoints.
Originally released on Steam Early Access in 2017, Motion Twin have now confirmed that it will be released on all consoles later in 2018. This is definitely one to watch later this year!
More details of Dead Cells can be found on Xbox Wire.
Tribute Games’ Flinthook is one of those titles that seems to remind you of a thousand other games, yet remains totally individual all at the same time. When it landed in my inbox, I have to admit, I was intrigued.
Flinthook is an action-platformer with a Roguelike quality. I’m going to level with you. I hate the term Roguelike. What does it even mean? It’s popped up like some playground fad over the last few years. Roguelike games are characterised by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated game levels. This is exactly what Flinthook gives you. A game has to have a gimmick, too though, right? What does Flinthook offer in the way of a gameplay hook, if you’ll pardon the pun?
Well, the game features some rather nifty grappling hook gameplay, allowing your character to attach him (or her) self to various rings and points around the dungoen rooms. The grapple isn’t just used for swinging though. You will face some enemies who are protected by a bubble-type shield. You can use the grapple to pop that, but I’m getting ahead of myself a little here.
So, according to the ‘Roguelike’ description, Flinthook should be packing some dungeons. It is, but it isn’t as well. You pilot a small ship, armed with a bigger version of your grappling hook. This targets and harpoons bigger space-going ships for you to explore and loot. These then form the rooms that make up the dungeon-like crawl you’ll experience. The ultimate goal is to collect enough pieces of loot in the form of gems and gold to be able to upgrade, but more importantly, enough Ghost Gems to feed to Slimey, your little pet compass. Feed Slimey enough of these gems and he’ll be able to point the way for Flinthook to his next destination. Sounds easy, right?
Let’s backtrack a little. The premise of the game is to defeat a mysteriously malevolent treasure hunter, who has hatched a sinister plan to release an ancient evil on the cosmos.You are the universe’s last, best hope. Slimey the compass is necessary in order to find the miscreant and stop him. So, you can see the importance of the Ghost Gems. You will only get one Ghost Gem per ship you plunder, usually in one of the last rooms you will explore. Grab that gem and hot-foot it out of there and on to the next. Only it’s not quite that simple.
The levels are all procedurally generated, which means that no two ships should have the same layout. This I found true, although some did have repeated rooms in them and if you hit a dead-end there can be some tedious back-tracking involved. For the first target, you need three Ghost Gems, which means looting three separate ships, filled with cartoon enemies , until you find the main treasure chest. This is much easier said than done. You only have one life to do this feat, and a certain amount of hit points to get this finished. That, again, is all well and good, but your health isn’t replenished after completing a ship-raid, so whatever you ended the last sorties with, is all you’ve got for the next one. Unless you find a shop on that next ship of course. This meant that, for me at least, the first two ship raids were completed OK, but when it came to the last one, I simply had no energy left to complete it. I died and had to start the sequence of three all over again.
This is immensely frustrating, even if the game itself is easy to pick up and fun to play. The difficulty ramp goes from a breeze to a raging tornado in no seconds flat and the loss of the Gems you collect is a blow. There is an upside though. The more treasure you collect, the more chance there is of being able to upgrade your grapple, Blasma pistol or Time-slowing powers on the Black Market, which opens to you after you achieve a specific level. It’s this glimmer of hope that keeps you coming back to play the game, however. It allows you to get tantalisingly close to completing that first gem set, only to dash your hopes in the asteroid belt of failure.
You also have a perk-card system to enhance some of your attributes. Among others you can increase your health, increase your luck, grab a shield, slow down enemy shots and many, many more. These all have a ‘cost’ on a particular bar on the perks screen. You can only load up to the maximum value perk slots you have available, which can limit you on the number you can pick, so choosing wisely is an obvious and over-used statement here.
Apart from the grapple and your Blasma pistol, your feisty Captain can also pick up and carry a keg that explodes and can slow time down to get through seemingly impentrable barriers. These are all very handy when trying to battle your way through the ships hold and towards your ultimate treasure.
The enemies you’ll face are varied in size, accuracy and damage dealt, with some being imperveous to your attempts at killing them. They are incredibly well drawn, with more than a touch of the 16-bit era about them. Indeed, the whole game has that slightly blocky charm about it that probably would’ve seen me addicted to it for months back in the late 1990s.
There’s a speed about Flinthook’s gameplay which sets it slightly apart from other Roguelike’s on the market. The level designs are such that if you catch them just right, you’ll skip along at a rate of knots. It can be an immensely enjoyable and rewarding experience, but massively frustrating in equal measure. Despite it’s flaws in the progress department, I kept going back to Flinthook though.
Overall, Flinthook is a smashing little Roguelike puzzle-platformer. It’s graphically polished and the level designs are on point to keep you on your game-playing toes. Even from an audio standpoint, the game isn’t lacking, with a decent chip-tune soundtrack and good overall effects. If you can persevere and battle your way past that initial difficulty-curve, you have a solid title which promises entertainment for hours.
Thanks to Tribute Games and Xbox for supporting TiX
Pixel Heroes, from developer The Bitfather and publisher Headup Games, will be hitting digital shelves on March 3rd, bring it’s nostalgia inducing, amusing, retro-style RPG to Xbox One. You can get a taste of what’s the come, and the kind of humour involved, in the trailer below:
This Roguelike RPG promises a world full of hilarious events and characters, and plenty of deadly dungeons to test your adventuring might and reward you will copious amounts of loot.
It’s set to feature:
•Thirty unique hero classes to unlock, each with individual skills and attributes.
•More procedurally generated axes, spears, maces, swords, shields, bows, crossbows, spells and prayers than a llama has hair on its body.
•Thirteen mystic and beautifully cruel dungeons to explore. Epic bossfights waiting!
•Three campaigns to unlock, each with its own final dungeon and boss.
•Permadeath! You know you want it.
•A detailed graveyard where you can mourn your dead heroes, compare their statistics and see which of their choices led to their tragic death.
•Completely crazy NPCs, each one of them with a significant storyline that you can follow to unlock cool stuff!
•Tons of random events that you will encounter on your way, expecting you to make important choices. Will you yell at the cat like a crazy idiot?
•Many achievements and unlockables, try to get them all and become the most badass Pixel Hero in the world!
Full Mojo Rampage takes a new route on the well trodden path of roguelike games to try to bring us a new blend of gaming mechanics to the genre. Alongside the tried and tested roguelike c0omponents, FMR utilises a unique mix of twin stick shooter, Light RPG Character development with a Caribbean façade that makes this dungeon crawler feel decidedly original when viewed against its contemporaries.
You are placed in the role of a masked voodoo houngan, charged by his Loa with completing a series of challenges for their approval. Across four disparate chapters, each comprised of a randomly assigned and generated level, each with a specific requirement for success. These range from closing magic portals that are randomly located within a map, rescuing zombie servants from skeletal attackers, to simply collecting items that are distributed about the map.
As each game begins, the random numbers begin to shape the world, not only constructing the layout of the levels within, but also where they appear on the overworld map. This variation allows you to take numerous different approaches to the game depending on how the environment is constructed. You could find that the first stage has two side quests associated; allowing you to earn some additional experience or even a shrine or two to allow you to earn or modify some new items to boost your characters stats, or you could find that you are forced straight on to the next chapter without any additional challenges. Core chapters also tend to feature a boss battle, who typically has a far more powerful and potent range of attacks than the generic mobs you encounter throughout. That is not to say these mobs are easy.
In typical rougelike style, you have but one life to live in each adventure. Pick a fight with too many mobs at once and you may find yourself restarting much sooner than you first thought, as their primary mode is straight up attack, and you can find yourself surrounded by enemies If you are a little bit gung ho in how you approach exploring the map. To aid you in this and improve your survivability somewhat, each map also has items and power ups that drop regularly to give you a fighting chance. Some give more benign bonuses, such as increased movement speed or additional health, while others directly upgrade your wand, (albeit temporarily), or increase your overall damage output.
All the while, destroyed enemies have a chance to drop health orbs that allow you to continue battling for longer. Other items have active abilities, sometimes one shot only, allowing you to cast damaging spells or summon powerful companions. At some points, you may do enough to impress your current Loa, and they may grant you a boon that when used will summon them into battle alongside you.
These items are dropped on death, but experience carries throughout, and it is the development of your characters stats that truly allows you to attain access to the end game. As this is a roguelike, you will inevitably die a lot throughout your attempt to conquer the game and when you do, you have to restart the chapter all over again, which can be extremely frustrating or challenging depending on how many times you have already die so far. By levelling your character you can improve skills and stats such as attack rate, damage output, hit points or movement speed, which allows you to make your character that little bit stronger making the next try to overcome the chapter that little bit easier.
Character customisation is not just down to how you level your character and what you have in your inventory, but is also dictated by choices you make when you begin. Your sponsor Loa, initially Baron Samedi while others unlock later, grants you two unique spells and each of the eight Spirits provide different boons. As you progress through the game you will also unlock additional voodoo masks and voodoo pins that add additional perks to your characters, and although the variation is not unlimited it does offer a fairly comprehensive level of individuality that can be attributed to your own character.
The multiplayer is alos well worth mentioning as it provides significant amounts of fun both off and online. The addition of friends allows for an easier time throughout the levels, but this comes at the cost of losing track of some of what is going on, especially when you have the maximum four players running around together.
The difficulty itself is escalates quickly, and you will find yourself dying extremely easily on the later levels of the first chapter when you first start out, unless your reactions are superlative. Basic enemies on level 3 will easily take you out in two hits, where you could quick easily tank a dozen or so hits in the first level. This obviously changes once you start levelling up, but it can seem over punishing to anyone relatively new to the roguelike game style. This, coupled with the repetitive enemy types did cause me to struggle to maintain my interest on several occasions, but the variety and customisation allowed me to push through this barrier. Hopefully, the same will be said of joe blogs on the street.
Heart&Slash has the potential to fill a void in your gaming library, offering an experience that’s visually charming and nostalgic yet one that plays similarly to that of Dark Souls of Devil May Cry. It’s an interesting mix of aesthetics and gameplay, and one that works surprisingly well, that is once you’ve come to terms with the difficulty.
Indeed Heart&Slash is a hard game, the combat is fast-paced and brutal, the enemies numerous and hard hitting, and the bosses massive and intimidating. Furthermore, the rogue-like element of procedurally generated levels and enemy encounters means sometimes fortune isn’t on your side.
It’s Heart&Slash’s greatest strength and greatest weakness; the dichotomy of surprise. On the one hand, dying and having to replay a level is far less frustrating when that level is entirely different the next time around. However, mastering a level is made all the more difficult because you’re not sure what to expect. It’s a trade-off that doesn’t always work, especially early on in the game where you have no or very little upgrades and your mastery of the mechanics is still in its infancy, but later on it’s less of a problem and overall the randomness of it all makes the experience all the sweeter.
However, in order to taste that sweetness you need adapt to Heart & Slash’s pace and challenge. Blisteringly fast movement and combat that requires forethought and skill to best conquer your robot enemies isn’t necessarily what you’d expect after the amusing and slow-paced introduction. The first 15 minutes involves you jumping into the mechanical boots of a robot, with a tutorial on movement and combat in a safe test lab accompanied by your maker and his assistant setting up the world through banter. Next thing you know, you’ve been inactive for 100 years and missed the robot apocalypse. Humankind is dead and the robots that now rule this world are locked in to a long obsolete standardisation protocol, under the supervision of the all-seeing robot leader Quality Assurance System (QuAsSy). You think differently, you want to think for yourself and be unique, and so begins your quest to fight the establishment.
And fight you most certainly do, utilising your equipped blades or all manner of weapons you can pick up on your adventure. However, don’t let this 3D brawler’s bright and colourful palette and cute robot design fool you, combat is strategic. Your enemies come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all with their own unique attacks, strengths and weaknesses. You can’t simply pound away at them and expect to be victorious, instead you must read their tells and dodge their attacks, looking for openings to strike before quickly moving away. Moreover, the combat is so fast paced that you’re barely given the chance to think before you react. It requires some practice but eventually you’ll adapt to Heart&Slash’s combat system and speed.
Beyond practice however, upgrades are what really start to make a difference. Nuts and bolts you collect can be spent on upgrades to yourself and your weapons, granting you more health, stronger attacks, better abilities and even modifying the kind of attacks from your arsenal to include elemental damage and projectile functions. Indeed, the more enemies you study – committing their attack patterns to memory – and the more upgrades you acquire, the easier Heart & Slash becomes, however, thanks once again to the procedurally generated encounters, it’s always interesting, surprising and rewarding to progress that little bit further.
However, no amount of upgrades and practice can help you in your fight against the camera. The often narrow hallways and confined rooms cause the camera to zoom in and out at the most inopportune moments, and it’s so incredibly sensitive that lining it up manually is a chore. It frequently causes platforming and combat inaccuracies, which inevitably lead to death.
Heart&Slash is a very challenging but equally rewarding brawler that stands out from the crowd thanks to its colourful and charming aesthetic yet highly tactical combat. The camera is a huge pain but otherwise tight controls help keep you moving and fighting at the blistering fast pace required.
Thanks to Xbox and Badland Games and aheartfulofgames for supporting TiX
The voodoo-infused roguelike action RPG, Full Mojo Rampage, will be enchanting Xbox One on June 28th.
Brought to you by Over The Top Games and published by Nicalis Inc. Full Mojo Rampage puts you in the shoes of a knowledge-hungry apprentice, looking to serve deities known as Loa in pursuit of strange, dark magic. Utilizing abilities bestowed by Loa alongside an ever-changing array of enchanted items known as mojos, up to 4 players will venture together through randomly generated spooky 3D environments brimming with secret rooms, shrines and loot.
Additionally, you can also engage in a variety of online versus modes that support up to 8 players, including challenges such as Capture the Flag, Deathmatch and King of Mojo. You can also expect some visual and gameplay improvements over its PC original as the title jumps to console.