Tag Archives: Wolf Brew Games

Slain: Back from Hell review

Slain: Back from Hell is essentially a modern take on Ghosts ‘n Goblins. You wander from left to right, platforming and killing spooky enemies, and dying a copious amount of times. Enemies will often follow you, encouraging you to thoroughly kill everything before attempting to move on, and there are cheap deaths aplenty. But with some excellent heavy metal tunes and highly intricate pixel art, does Slain offer enough to make the frustrations worth it?

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Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Despite strong presentation, mechanically it’s simple and dull and the difficulty feels harsh and unfair.

An intriguing start to Slain’s story sees you awaken from a deep slumber in order to battle the forces of darkness, with some dialogue pertaining to some character background and lore to the world. Moments later you’ll be platforming through a Hell-scape, slicing up a selection of undead and monstrous foes, and occasionally firing off a magical ball of energy. Later you gain a couple of new melee weapons and magical abilities but the gameplay-loop remains unchanged, with a focus on some tricky platforming courtesy of the abundance of beasties knocking you back, that frequently respawn, and a severe lack of checkpoints.

Enemies can really pack a punch and many have attack and defence stances that you’ll need to study in order to efficiently defeat them. And indeed efficiency is critical. The longer you dilly dally with an enemy, the more likely their friends will turn up, and once there’s a crowd it gets very difficult to manage them. This is partially due to the knockbacks that can push you into environmental hazards or straight into the path of another enemy’s attack or view, but also your limited health bar and lack of checkpoints or opportunities to refill it.

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On your travels you’ll occasionally come across health and mana pillars that restore you completely, and less often you’ll hit a checkpoint. Unfortunately, the two are uncommon enough to mean large sections of a level will need repeating over and over again each time you die. And you’ll die a lot; there’s Dark Souls level difficulty going on here. Additionally, much like Dark Souls, you’ll learn something different after each death, better preparing you for that particular foe, or that platforming section, or precisely what that object on the ground does when you walk into it. Unfortunately though, where Dark Souls taught you repeated behaviours of enemies and repeated aspects of its level design, Slain’s lessons are more specific, with enemy traits and level design changing quite drastically throughout the game and never referring to any set rules.

This, inevitably, starts to feel unfair. It does however, help with its nostalgic charm. The enemy and level design is reminiscent of Ghosts ’n Goblins and the original, linear Castlevania titles. Meanwhile, the gory, grotesque theme also draws a comparison with those classics, with its harsh difficulty taking it further into the 8-bit and 16-bit realm. However, whilst the visuals are indeed pixels, Slain sports some of the most impressive, intricate and detailed pixel art on the market. Environments are multi-layered to give a faux-3D effect that’s very effective, meanwhile, every aspects of the game is full of gory detail. Meeting a new enemy for the first time is quite the spectacle, killing them for the first time is equally a visual treat as their death animation delights with blood oozing out of them as they collapse, this is especially so for the end of level bosses. Furthermore, a heavy metal rock soundtrack takes the presentation to new heights. It’s terrific.

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However, the frustration of it all is brought home but just how basic the mechanics are. There’s no skill or finesse to combat. Despite five different attacks it all comes down to simply as whaling on an enemy with until they die. There is a defence mechanic but you’ll take damage regardless, albeit less damage, and whilst a well-timed press of the defence button allows you to counter, it’s so narrow a window it feels more like luck than skill to hit. Additionally, enemies are damage sponges and a chore to keep fighting.

Indeed, Slain: Back from Hell’s terrific presentation is a strong draw but it’s frustrating lack of checkpoints, harsh challenge, and simple mechanics largely undo the good. It can certainly trade a little on nostalgia for those in the mood for such a title, but it heavily features the worst parts of those games of yore.

Thanks to Xbox and Digerati for supporting TiX

Prepare to be Slain!

Slain

I make no apology for the fact that I’m an old-time gamer. I love the look and feel of the games that many of you won’t remember. Games like the immensely enjoyable Ghosts N Goblins, a side-scrolling hack n slash platformer, stir my memories like great rippling eddies in my gaming mind. There has to be something out there that appeals to this side of my gaming persona, surely? Yes. Yes there is. It comes to me, almost willingly, in the form of Slain!

Our very own Kris introduced us to Slain! in issue 3 of his crowd-funding spotlight last week. Now, Wolf Brew Games have released the official announcement trailer, and it greatly appeals to my nostalgic gaming nature.

You play as Bathoryn, a lycanthropic hero in a gothic world as he seeks to liberate 7 great towers from 7 deadly overlords. Battle through the towers and defeat the end of level overlord to progress. The game is inspired by the likes of Shadow of the Beast, Golden Axe and Altered Beast, all incidentally, games from my youth and fondly remembered.

If you’re a fan of pixel-driven gore and simple, hacking playability, you’re going to love Slain! It looks great, and it looks like it plays great. Have a look, finally, and see for yourself. Sure, it’s not going to offer the graphics of a game like Dying Light, but it might be just as enjoyable.

TiX crowdfunding spotlight issue #2

crowdfunding-spotlight

Issue #2 of our latest feature highlighting crowdfunding campaigns is here. As well as four new projects, we’ll first take a look at the progress of last week’s Tix Crowdfunding Spotlight #1 projects to see how they are faring in our catch-up section.

Catch –up:

In Issue #1 we started by looking at Strength of the Sword Ultimate from Ivent Games. Originally a PS3 title, the developers are now looking to bring the latest title in the franchise to as many consoles as possible. At the time of writing, the project; found here, has 64 hours left to go and has smashed the original target  of $14,000 and now sits at $68,212 and guess what?! They’ve announced an Xbox One version set for release in December this year! As a famous supermarket chain would say, ‘Every little helps’, and we hope our coverage helped even in the slightest way to bring this game to Xbox One in the future.

Unfortunately another project we featured; Crystal Quest Classic, doesn’t seem to be doing so well. With 13 hours left to go they still have a long way to go towards their $30,000 target having only managed to raise $4,456. Why not give them a helping hand and retweet the following?

We mentioned Gamer for Life: KKG Fan Art Tribute book last week, a project featured on IndieGoGo raising money towards the fight against Cancer. We are thrilled to announce that with 11 days still to go, the amazing team at Gamers for Good have already achieved 106% of their funding target. Check out the project if you haven’t already. All proceeds go towards two fantastic charities.

And finally in Issue #1 we also shone our spotlight on Underworld Ascendant by OtherSide Entertainment. Although this wasn’t originally listed as a project with an Xbox 360 or Xbox One release, it did list a mystery stretch goal at +$1,200,000, which based on OtherSide Entertainment’s combined experience, we thought may be a console release. Underworld Ascendant has officially closed its Kickstarter page having successfully raised over $850,000, 5 stretch goals over its original base objective. I for one am still holding onto a console release and will be watching the official website very closely.

So, what’s new?

Slain!

Slain!

Our first project in the spotlight this week is Slain! a homage to the gory hack and slash games of the 80s and 90s by Wolf Brew Games. With still over two weeks to go this project has almost reached its base target of $12,000 and the developers have already confirmed it will see an Xbox One release (no PS4 at this time). So let’s take a closer look at what we can expect.

“Players control Bathoryn, a hero in a Gothic world, seeking to liberate seven great towers. Bathoryn must battle his way through a doomed land packed with gruesome pixel art foes before ascending (or sometimes descending) each tower, defeating puzzles, traps and monsters alike. At the heart of each keep, he must confront a mighty overlord. Defeat it and Bathoryn’s quest continues. Fail, and you’ll die gruesomely – mauled by werewolves, disintegrated by floating monstrosities, squashed by great weights or torn apart by hidden blades. And you will fail…”

You can back the project for $20 and receive an Xbox One code as a tier reward along with your name in the credits, exclusive wallpaper, Steam key for PC use and the full soundtrack on digital download. Check out the project page here and throw a few hard pounds (well, dollars) their way to help make Slain! as good as it can be.

Likeliness of happening – It’s already been confirmed so this gets our first 100% rating.

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 Albert & Otto

Xbox One Controller Albert and Otto

Our second project hasn’t yet added Xbox One as a release platform, but based on the above reward, I can’t help but believe this is a title that could see itself as part of the ID@Xbox program very shortly. Albert & Otto is a 2D physics platformer requiring the player to control both Albert and his magical bunny Otto in order to solve puzzles.

Film maker Nikola Kostic started work on Albert & Otto over a year ago as a story he’d been wanting to tell for some time. As a filmmaker and designer Nikola says he has wanted to combine storytelling and design into an interactive format. What started as a hobby has evolved into a full-time project.

So although listed as a Windows, Mac OS and Linux release this rather splendid Xbox One customer skin has me hopeful we’ll see a Xbox One release.

Likeliness of happening – With both a Windows release and custom Xbox One controller skin reward, I’ve placed this at a highly optimistic 90%.

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Tanks, Fire & Destruction!

Hot Armor

Hot Armor: Brothers War is a 3D arcade title, about the war in Ukraine with “lots of destruction and explosions” by the Russian based ARGAMEDON Studio, a three-man part-time operation. The Kickstarter page, although still very basic at this point in time, confirms the game is planned for Windows and Xbox 360 (alongside other platforms).

The project page lists three different games modes; Dendy, Tactical and 3D mode. Each one offering up a different way to experience the game. The developers have listed Bomberman and Battle City both as inspirations for Hot Armor: Brothers War.

ARGAMEDON Studio are looking for just £3,000 to finish this title. They still have 14 days to go with only 3 backers and £40 raised to date. You can view the full progress including reward tiers here.

Likeliness of happening – With less than 40% of the game complete and a subject matter that if not delivered many could find offensive; the Ukraine war, I’ve put this as unlikely 35%.

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Hera and Sooky

Hera & Sooky

Our fourth and final project in the spotlight is the epic adventure of two dogs out to find their owners. Phantamos Studio LLC say that you’ll visit distant lands before you can defeat the evil Mr. Cat, avoiding ill-tempered animals and ultimately reuniting Hera and Sooky with their owners.

Hera and Sooky will be released initially on both iOS and Android. It’s then planned to be released on PC, OSX, Wii U and PS4… but no current plans for Xbox One other than a footnote that reads “If we receive enough funding we will port it to other systems as well.” So that’s where we come in then!

Hera and Sooky is an expansive 2D platformer and has 12 worlds and 64 levels currently in development with more planned. Each level will see players collecting gears to progress and unlock abilities. Gears also act as hit points for Hera and Sooky. Get hit with zero gears and you have to start the current level over. There are a number of end level bosses, different modes of transport and more planned for this quirky title.

Presently the project has raised $481 and 7 backers towards its $30,000 goal. There are still 22 days left to turn it around, so fingers crossed for Phantamos Studio. The project page can be found here.

Likeliness of happening – This is going to be a difficult mountain to climb for Phantamos Studio looking at the current backing. If things don’t pick up for them in terms of funding, an Xbox One release is extremely unlikely. 30%

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And finally a quick note for J-RPG fans with something to get excited about! An Indie J-RPG inspired project that reached its Xbox One stretch target in a matter of days. Edge of Eternity is making its way to Xbox One in 2016. As this project has already been funded check out the page here to find out what you can expect from the team at Midgar Studio.

http://youtu.be/lkLPXU9xUAc

And there we have it, issue #2 of our TiX crowdfunding spotlight. Please let me know your thoughts below in the comments section and feel free to recommend any projects you spot that deserve to have the spotlight on them in upcoming issues.