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Found 23 results

  1. Title: Night of the Living Noobyas Author: AMerk Version: Version 1.1 Night of the Living Noobyas is a comedy community game made by our resident potato head admin: AMerk. It features a lot of people from the forum RRR, many of whom migrated here and have become staff, such as Kaz and Jonnie19. The game takes a jab at the mass of uninspired, insipid games that get churned out by newer users who often try to run before they walk, tackling their grand vision without practicing and learning the tool beforehand. It's ironic that many comedy games are often not too different from the games they lambast; I was curious to see if AMerk had managed to avoid such pitfalls in his own work. Like many of you, I was also curious to explore some of the history that predates this site; in more than one way Living Noobyas feels like nostalgia even for those unfamiliar with RRR or its denizens in days of yore. The game's presentation feels, whether by design or otherwise, very inconsistent and at times schizophrenic. Upon booting up the game, you're treated to a lazily-made title screen (see an excerpt above) and title music that makes you want to get out of that screen as soon as possible. Should you have the misfortune of reaching the Game Over screen, whether by selecting an option in the prologue or dying in combat (both of which are very likely possibilities), a Game Over screen pops up with an autistic child yelling at you. While such gaudiness may be intentional, it lacks both humor and subtlety and simply reinforces the notion in the back of your mind that this title is made without regard to craft or interest. It's unfortunate because many elements of the game speak to the contrary: the mapping is fairly competent and there's a wide range of non-RTP sprites. The UI is laid out in a fairly presentable manner as well. I personally feel the game would be better off without the moments where it seems to shrug its shoulders and remark, "I'm not even trying." It's somewhat hypocritical to criticize games for being lazy and uninspired when similar elements plague certain areas of the game as well. Long story short: I think the author is fully capable of spending more effort on the presentation; I don't think the fact that it's a comedy game excuses it from doing so. The game's humor and charm could be drawn out with sprite animation. In one scene, X-M-O dances in a curtain dress but it's basically depicted with the sprite moving back and forth. Such a scene would have brought laughter if it was actually represented on screen. For example, in Shadows of Odessia I laughed out loud when a cat was dressed in a pirate outfit. What Living Noobyas has going for it is charm; it should leverage this through putting more effort into visually depicting its absurd and humorous narrative. Finally, the game's music fits the tone and mood of the game, though the audio was RTP and often felt out of place. When morning comes, the chicken sound was played but it wasn't actually a rooster crowing, which I assume was the intended effect. Much like sprite animations, small touches can go a long way with comedy, so extra effort should be put in here. This is what will turn off a lot of potential players as it did myself and several others. The game is hard and unforgiving in a way that doesn't promote skill or critical thinking. In the first dungeon, some monsters you encounter will kill your party members in one hit, which is rather absurd. Your abilities seem underpowered and cost a lot of mana relative to the characters' MP pools. Numbers seem oddly balanced in general; you start with a healing ability that recovers 250 HP when the highest HP any party member starts with is 100. The obvious intent is for the player to grind boogers for a bit, but it's rather tedious and feels pointless. I can understand if gameplay isn't meant to be the main focus of a story-driven, humorous game; if that's the case then it should really strive to minimize our time spent in combat. Having to wander about a forest hoping not to get one-shot by mushrooms is a pure test of conviction that only the most patient - or game reviewers - will slog through. It makes one feel like Jonnie19 within the context of the story, forced to endure a poorly balanced game for the sake of writing a review. In version 1.1, the game was toned down in difficulty, but it feels like the changes were in the in the wrongs areas and the new version comes across as placing bandaids on a gunshot wound. The party has higher agility, allowing you to act sooner, but it won't prevent mushrooms from killing Jonnie19 in one spell. EXP and Gold were buffed to facilitate easier grinding, but it doesn't change the fact that grinding in this game is not fun at all thanks to low MP pools. The game is so difficult that it comes with a walkthrough that feels more mandatory than optional. I appreciate that the creator spent time on including such a feature, and it's well-written and easy to follow, but again it seems like a quick fix to the larger issue of poor balance. I think many of the game's woes could be solved by increasing the character's HP and MP pools, slightly and greatly respectively. A character shouldn't be slain in one shot in the first dungeon with no chance for counterplay. Exploration is something that could be improved upon in the author's future games. The dungeons are mazey and not very fun; the player walks around and stumbles upon the occasional treasure here and there (and in its current state of difficulty, doesn't hold onto that treasure for very long). I felt like I was trekking through dungeons because I had to rather than because I wanted to. Having puzzles and less of a haphazard design would go miles in making the game feel cleaner, more approachable and more engaging. The key to humor in RPGs is in the writing; Living Noobyas is hit or miss in this area. First, I will state that I never browsed RRR and that I didn't know anyone in the game before coming to this site, so my perspective is that of someone unfamiliar with the people in the story (as I assume many prospective players here would be). I think the author does a surprisingly good job of characterization, especially with the main characters of Jonnie19, AMerk and X-M-O. I was pleasantly amused by Jonnie19's ingame playthrough and review of a terrible game. On the other hand, the other characters feel half-baked and thrown in for the sake of being inclusive. I don't even remember most of their names; they're fairly one dimensional and uninteresting. Some of their quips feel like esoteric jokes and memes spawned from their IRC conversations that the rest of us aren't privy to. I think the narrative would be improved if it focused on a smaller core cast at the beginning of the game before introducing other members of RRR. As it stands, there's a needlessly long-winded intro with a lot of seemingly inane conversations. The humor mostly consists of the protagonists pointing out the weird and unreasonable environments around them, with little to no inference or wit. I don't think the writing is bad per se, but in dire need of reiteration and revision. It feels like the author was trying too hard to tie in 'real' elements of the people he was casting in his game rather than allowing them to be independent characters. The end result is a cast that feels like caricatures rather than characters. In my personal experience of making a comedy game featuring friends, I found it easier to use the names of friends and some elements of their personality rather than trying to accurately depict them as people. The author is clearly a capable writer, but the game feels as if it was beholden to the fact that it's a community game rather than utilizing that aspect as its strength. Your mileage as a reader will vary depending on how familiar you are with the content, but most players will get turned off by the painful and tedious grinding. The game is beautiful in its own right, like a snapshot of simpler times that offers the player a voyeuristic glimpse at the lives of RRR staff. Grade: C
  2. Title: Shadows of Odessia Author: Corey Zamora Version: Demo This was a review I promised a long time ago; at last I've had some free time to explore this game. The game initially caught my attention with its snazzy screen shots, but perhaps it's more (in)famous for the creator's bold defiance of this site's self-congratulatory echo chamber; I expected great things from a man with such cojones. It's hard to be unimpressed with Shadows' mapping, which populates the world with ample decoration and intriguing layouts. There's quite a few maps and every area feels fleshed out and fully realized across a wide variety of terrain. While versatility and aesthetic sense is showcased, the design comes across as desultory. Like Final Fantasy, the game seems to eschew traditional setting genres like fantasy or sci-fi and go for a progressive mix of the two. One moment, you're in a cyberpunk metropolis; the next, you're in a medieval-looking shop talking to a guy in knight garb. Though this isn't necessarily a negative, it doesn't impress as much as a game that keeps a consistent theme and focus. The haphazardness also comes at the expense of logic; you'll be left wondering how the climate changes from cold and snowy to fair weather within walking distance to a village. The question that it boils down to is whether the maps looks good - and the answer is yes. There are a few hiccups; some maps look messy and there's the occasional pathing bug, but overall this is some of the most impressive mapping on the site. The author put a lot of time and detail into the maps, which makes it a shame that he chooses to obfuscate many of them with unnecessary lighting. For a short period of time, I thought the title was a horror game with its deadpan introduction and two files of visibility, putting Silent Hill's fog to shame. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see the environment in an RPG. The irony is that this is one of the few games that has both random encounters and sensibly designed maps, but the game quickly negates its stride and takes two steps back by forcing you to navigate with no vision. This problem does seem to go away as the game progresses, which is a case of the game's inconsistent settings working out for it. While the maps and environments are excellent, the game features the abominations known as facegen characters. Supposedly these are getting replaced at some point, but we're not in the business of judging games based on promises. And only the major characters have faces anyway, which begs the question of why it's so hard to provide decent faces for them. There's also a lack of sprite animation, which is somewhat alleviated by the author's skillful use of sprite movement to create a kinetic sense of action. However, there are multiple points throughout the game where sprite animation would have done wonders for the game's immersion and narrative. There are custom graphics here and there, including one hilarious scene involving dress up, but they are few and far. The author already uses freely available resources to great effect; I'd love to see what he can do with some more original art. The game boasts a unique soundtrack; it feels like an experiment that doesn't always pan out. A lot of the music is stuff that you wouldn't typically hear in games, which feels fresh but doesn't always fit with the game's tone and setting. Sometimes the music can be downright grating. If you've never heard Ratatat before, prepare to become intimately familiar with them as one of their songs is used as the battle theme. By the time you're finished with the demo, it will feel like it just played twenty times in a row on the radio and never want to hear it again. At the end of the day, I can't say that I dislike the soundtrack, but it was never used in a way that conjured any strong emotions or feelings. And I can see a lot of players being put off by the odd choice in music. The sound effects, on the other hand, do stand out and are smartly employed. In lieu of sprite animation, sound is used to convey action. What the game does really well is ambient sound, which gives the game a lot of atmosphere without being too intrusive. A diner feels alive with the chatter of patrons and scraping of silverware. It's a shame that the game lacks animation to go with the excellent sound direction, as it would truly blow away. If I could describe Shadows' gameplay in one word, it would be laid back. Battles are easy and at times trivial, which is probably why I found myself tolerating the random encounters. The game's skill design leans on the better side, with abilities that feel satisfying and adequately powerful without totally negating the attack option. On the other hand, you usually don't feel like there's much of a choice in battles; most are won by building up TP and using Shadow Art attacks. There is some choice with Multi-attack not generating tension, but it's never a contending choice unless there are three or more enemies anyway. The Spectrum system compensates slightly by offering the player a fair amount of choice outside of battle by allowing him or her to equip different attributes. They feel adequately impactful if somewhat bland. In terms of exploration, the game manages to offer a fair amount of it and reward the player with lots of loot for doing so. In fact, at times it felt like there was too much to explore; I never felt tempted to explore all of it thanks to the NPCs not having anything substantial to say or do, and the game being so generous with money that you have no idea what to do with all of it. The game needs to have less diluted content and trade some of it for richer experiences. The dojo in Vulcan city was a nice distraction of a side quest; I'd rather see more events like that instead of visiting ten different dwellings with no real point. Which leads me to my main criticism of the game - a lot of the content feels like filler. You're sent on a lot of different quests; while some of them are quite interesting, you never get the feeling that they serve a purpose. The game also seems to drag out its length here and there. For example, after completing one dungeon early on, the game doesn't teleport you out and has you walk out. To make things worse, this is one of the dungeons that has you stumbling around the dark like you're trying to avoid stepping on your cat when going to the bathroom at midnight. And oftentimes, you'll find yourself given an objective but no real direction as to where to go, forcing you to navigate blindly until you happen upon your target. In fact, this lack of direction eventually compelled me to stop playing entirely when I couldn't figure out how to progress. The game is certainly fun at times, but it doesn't manage to grip you for the entire journey. The battles have a lot of potential to be the main d raw of the game; one creative fight toward the end is a lot of fun. They could stand to be slightly more challenging and the player should be given more choice when it comes to tactics and strategy. The game's introduction does this game no favors, as it kind of throws you into the game. The main character is like Squall Lionheart in that he doesn't seem to care about anything. In fact, the game never really presents any motivation for the main character as he treads through life doing random things like bounty hunting. It's unfortunate because this game features some genuinely awesome writing as you get into and meet some characters with actual personality. My favorite one was a talking cat who does a fantastic job of fulfilling his role as comedic relief. The interaction between the three main characters is one of the biggest draws of the game; it's a shame that it's buried beneath a drab plot. The world is interesting, but as mentioned when discussing the presentation, it's inconsistent and seems to be whatever it wants to be at the time. The most flesh-out area appears to be Vulcan, a city that is run by an evil corporation. Well, the game hints that they're evil through NPC dialogue, but never really shows this. I mean, the NPCs seem to be living pretty decent lives to me, so whatever Orwellian oppression they endure must not be too big a burden to bear. Once I finished playing, I realized that I really couldn't give you an interesting synopsis of the story. A man is a bounty hunter... just because. He has no past, motivation, aspirations or likeable personality traits. The narrative still manages to be a good read with dialogue that manages to be genuinely funny and at times charming. This game would be amazing if it was just the three main characters on their bounty hunting missions sans the pointless rubbish between dungeons. The author definitely has a grasp on humor, but falls short when it comes to infusing the cast with any degree of depth. Some of the random and unsolicited conversations don't help matters when the attempt at characterization becomes a bit heavy handed. The writing is solid but oddly paced at times. This could be overlooked with a more engrossing story, but as it stands it's rather undercooked. The plot serves its purposes, but you never get sucked in like a good RPG that keeps you enraptured to find out what happens next. Odessia is a respectable game that hinges on remarkable, but there are some core flaws that keep it from greatness. Ultimately, it's a fun ride and worth your time. Grade: B
  3. Title: The Last Pirate Queen Author: flarify Version: Demo 1.0 The Last Pirate Queen is a title that I've been following for a few weeks now. The pre-release trailer had a subtle sense of humor, and the character designs stood out from typical RM fare. Unlike most titles that I review, this was one that I was eager to try before I dove into it. At last, a demo was released this weekend just in time for my birthday. Like many of its other aspects, the visual presentation is Pirate Queen is outstanding but marred by a few key mistakes. Starting with the good, there is some of the most superb sprite animation I've seen. Maids clean away, kids play jump rope, and many other small touches make the world feel vibrant and alive. The game features a fair amount of custom graphics; most notably the main characters have unique sprites and busts. I have to give props to this game for realizing that humans come in varieties other than Caucasian, which is rare for RM titles. It has its own style while still invoking a somewhat nostalgic vibe that brings you back to 16-bit era RPGs of yore. At the same time, there is room for improvement. The mapping is dense and rich, but sometimes to a degree that feels constraining. Multiple times throughout the demo, you're likely to unintentionally trigger map teleports. Otherwise, the maps are enjoyable to behold and explore with just a few areas that seem inconsistently sparse. The busts look great, particularly Anima's, but the title screen reminds me of the ill-conceived CD-i Legend of Zelda games in terms of quality and is oddly blurry. Most importantly, the lighting in the game tends to reach levels of luminosity that are far too dark, particularly in the final dungeon. It's also very jarring that the lighting changes gradually after you transition to another map, rather than being the intended lighting level as soon as you enter it. These graphical hiccups add up and definitely detract from the experience, which is a shame because of the game is otherwise very gorgeous. The audio is another weak point of the title. The largely Aaron Krogh soundtrack often feels out of sync with the tone of the story in spite of the musician's formidable talents; the game's music is at its best when it branches away from that artists, such as the dungeon theme. The use of the music itself feels poorly paced; one track will often be used for multiple scenes in spite of tonal changes within the story itself. Other times, the music abruptly shifts to something that is completely different and jarring. The battle victory theme, for example, doesn't pair well with most of the game's battle tracks. This is one area where the game has definite potential for growth. I have a lot to say about Pirate Queen's gameplay, which in itself is a testament to its depth and variety. First, the exploration in the game is good and borders on greatness. The author did not get lazy and offers a lot of content to explore and interact with. See a side door over there? You can open it and go into that room. Too often I see RM developers fail to implement side paths and little nooks and crannies in their worlds. These divergent paths help build a sense of scope within the world, and makes the player feel like he or she is an actual explorer. On the flip side, at times the number of interactive objects feels lacking in spite of so much detail in the world. The minigames offered are distracting but not very engaging. For example, chicken hunting simply entails running around the village and picking up every chicken within a generous time frame. The minecart boulder-dodging section was promising, but a bug that makes boulders sometimes appear in the track suddenly can make it anger-inducing when it forces you to retry due to a bug. Pirate Queen does offer more interactiveness than other games that I've played, but I was expecting a bit more. The level design is some of the best I've seen in an RPG. Normally I detest maze-like dungeon design as lazy and boring, but the author has managed to create non-linear dungeons that have a sense of purpose to their complex design. The abandoned mine is the best example of this with a deceptively sprawling layout that has you traversing on minecarts to different areas. As you explore it, you start to figure out its design and come to appreciate the beauty in the layout as you revisit previously treaded areas from a new perspective. It's like a watered down version of Legend of Zelda dungeon design and gives the title a lot of character that stands out from the crowd. In terms of the game's macro layout, it's usually fairly straightforward but at times you can feel lost without a sense of direction. When you finally get a boat, it's easy to forget or miss where you had to go and end up traversing the world trying to find your objective. Having the party camp have some kind of quest log or dialogue that let's the player always know where the next destination is would be a great addition. One amazing feature of the game is the use of choice that other developers often to struggle to implement. Several times throughout the demo, the game presents the player with difficult choices that range from moral quandaries to strategic decisions. It's clear that the game is inspired by games like Dragon Age: Origins and The Walking Dead; one highly anticipated feature in future releases will be the ambitious relationship system. It's game doesn't throw in choice for the sake of it, but rather utilizes it to give the player a degree of agency in the world. The battles are a step above average, demanding the player use a multitude of abilities and discouraging Attack spamming. On the other hand, the abilities aren't quite as unique as I'd hope. A lot of them are essentially the same spell but a different element; the 'strategy' in battles often boils down to using the strongest ability in your repertoire. There's a huge problem with randomness in the battles, with misses and evades creating frustration and debuffs seeming to fail 80% of the time. Using a turn to do no damage and apply a Blind debuff is even less fun when it doesn't work on 2 of the 3 enemies. Lastly, the ATB system is currently a bit questionable in how much it actually contributes to the gameplay experience as it currently feels like it just draws out battles longer than they need to and force you to navigate the UI quickly. Don't let me give you the impression that battles are poorly implemented in the title, as they are much better and tolerable than most RM games. But they don't stand out as fantastic and towards the end of the demo they became more annoying than fun. One final note about gameplay is that there are numerous bugs that plague the game. Sometimes, they are benign and amusing, like a misplaced graphic when a character is 'hurt' at the sealed door, the village girl disappearing if you refuse to fight her pet Nutters, or the save book in the dungeon changing graphics if you read it from below. Other times, the bugs can block progress and force a reload, like resting in the dungeon while being south of the bed or picking up an artifact shard in an impassable area. Over time, these bugs and imperfections do try your patience, but I was always invested enough to finish the game in spite of them. The game definitely needs a lot of technical and functional polish. The writing in Pirate Queen is some of the best on this site. The author has a real strength in dialogue, with witty banter and humor peppering a journey that is at times dark and bleak. As a result, characterization is well done, though not all of the character patties are evenly heated. Some seem a bit reactive like Zita, who comes across as a bit of a plot device who conveniently accepts the protagonist in spite of some questionable actions. Though some of this can be attributed to the party camp's sparse implementation, the game seems to throw a lot of characters at the player without sufficient time to bring out all of their personalities. Having said that, Anima is a fantastic character and Arianna makes for a great protagonist though at times her character is overshadowed by her reputation and the game has a habit of name dropping the Pirate Queen and talking her up rather than actually showing us why she is so formidable. Much like the audio, the story can sometimes feel ill-paced. The early stages of the game keep the story flowing naturally, but towards the middle and end there are some deus ex plot moments such as the character of The Witch. At the end, the game manages to tie things up and set up further challenges on the horizon. The story is never bad, but there are weak moments that comes across as filler. This could be improved by using these transitional moments as opportunities for character development. For example, the cliffs and mines could have cutscenes that further develop Zita. The last bit of criticism on the writing is that there are a few plot holes and logical anomalies throughout the story. One small example takes place in the intro scene in which the protagonist encounters sentry golems that guard the entrance to an area. Somehow, her loyal underlings are already raiding the houses in spite of the fact that the golems have not been dealt with. These inconsistencies do break the player's immersion a bit. Overall, while I have minor quips about the plot, the writing is always compelling and keeps the player invested in the generally well-written characters. The writing utilizes inference and doesn't treat the reader like a poorly-read Neanderthal, which is always a plus. While it falls a tad short of the mighty Trial, Pirate Queen will be a serious contender for best game on the site. Its terrific blend of WRPG and JRPG elements will attract an audience of wide taste. It's a little rough in certain areas, but even in its current state it's worth a download. I look forward to seeing the growth of this engaging and accessible adventure. Grade: B+
  4. Title: The Melado Rain Author: sk8migas Version: Demo 1.5 I'll let you in on a secret: I really enjoy simple, RTP-style RM games. As long as the story is charming and it has passable gameplay, I take guilty pleasure in spending a few hours wandering around someone's game with Ralph or Erik as the main character. The Melado Rain comes across as such a title; I went into it hoping to have a relaxing JRPG romp. Like opening your McDonald's bag and discovering that they forgot your fries, this is an example of going into something with low expectations and still feeling horribly disappointed. The title is basically full RTP, with some out-of-place Thalzon battlers thrown into the mix. If You Are Not the Hero was an instruction manual on how to utilize RTP graphics to their fullest, Melado Rain stands on the opposite side of the spectrum. The mapping is very blocky with large maps that follow no sense of design or logic. Objects are scattered around shops and buildings for the sake of being there, yet somehow there are wide, open spaces pervading through the entire game. In addition, something has to be said about the lime green UI, which makes reading a pain. There's also a scrolling text sequence that displays a large wall of text with no background. The audio is equally haphazard, with different tunes for different buildings, again consisting largely of RTP content that fail to interest the player. For some reason, every interior has an ambient clock sound, even rooms without clocks. There's no clear vision in the presentation overall; it makes the game come across as a mess. In battles, all I can say is prepare to attack a lot. It's basically your only option, as you lack special abilities and I didn't pick up many consumable items. Dungeons are a maze-like design that combine with random encounters to create a tedious dungeon crawling experience. Exploration is boring, with NPCs breaking the fourth wall and rampant lampshading trying to be humorous. Ultimately, there's no incentive to keep playing and nothing in the game is fun or interesting. It feels like the developer spent a lot of effort on the story, but all you need to know is that it involves crystals and the main character is arbitrarily a chosen hero. Sound familiar? The narrative makes no sense and the main character lacks any personality. The writing is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. It's so ridiculous that the writing comes across as satirical, leaving you shaking your head in disbelief that someone wanted to write a story without a basic grasp of the English language. The end result is that it leaves the player with an impression that the author doesn't care about the quality of his writing or game; if that's the case why should the player care? I didn't want to give out a failing grade lightly, but it feels as if this title has had no effort put into it whatsoever. Every aspect of the title is woefully broken. Normally, a review of a poor game can at least offer some insight to the author and others on how to improve, but this title leaves me at a loss. It isn't just poorly executed, but I can't find a redeemable aspect of the game that would make it worth salvaging. Grade: F
  5. Ocedic

    official [Oc Review] - Trial

    Title: Trial Author: CogentJin Version: Demo Trial is a criminally neglected project due to its modest thread presentation that doesn't rely on ostentatious flashiness. My first impressions of the thread was distaste for the facegen characters, which is usually a sign of laziness in RM games; the story synopsis also failed to grab my attention. But then I expanded the screen shots and realized that this game is a digital testament to not judging a book by its cover. What started as simple curiosity turned into a surprise gem of a game that feels like a cross between Final Fantasy and Battle Royale. You can probably surmise from the screen shots that this game is gorgeous, yet they only tell half of the story. Trial combines beautiful backdrops with superb sprite animations and little touches that bring this game to life. I've stated in other reviews that sprite animations and edits are the best way to make your game look great, and Trial is a perfect example of that. The game shows the action that happens, rather than relying on exposition or forced dialogue. Seeing this game in motion makes the vast majority of RM games look boring and static in comparison. Even the aforementioned facegens are edited so that they don't look like creepy, lifeless dolls; the faces reflect the state of the characters with blood on their faces after a battle or an apple in the frame when eating. It's clear that a lot of love and painstaking detail went into every facet of this game; the author manages to strike a fine aesthetic balance without crossing into the realm of gaudiness. The mapping is above average, with fully parallax environments that are detailed without looking cluttered. There is a weird black border around some maps that is initially jarring, but I understand the logic that the author was going for in that it provides clear exit and entrance indications to the player on what would otherwise be perfectly square maps. Paths are clear and the mapping helps facilitate a clear flow through the game, though sometimes the opportunity for exploration feels limited and unrewarding. There was only one pathing bug that I found, which is very impressive considering that everything is parallax. The game's audio features a lot of solid tracks while also making use of silence to control tone and mood. Sound effects are also used to great effect, working in tandem with the animations to make the game feel immersive. Gunshots, parkour, etc. Some ambient audio doesn't quite loop correctly, but otherwise it's hard to find flaws with the game's audio. While Trial is definitely a JRPG, at the juncture of this demo there aren't many RPG elements that have been fleshed out. The first two scenes of the game serve as an extended intro to the world and idiosyncrasies of the game, and the demo feels like an extended tutorial. It gives a taste of things to come, but this demo feels a bit more like an adventure game or visual novel than full blown RPG. Thus, there isn't much to comment on in terms of the RPG aspects, but the game makes up for it by offering some interesting gameplay mechanics that help it stand out from other RPGs. A lot of sequences involve timing and patience, which are placed throughout the demo to break up the large sections of story. For example, in one section you have to sneak by a villager to steal his lumber while another has you navigating around a horde of zombies. The gameplay sections are about the right level of difficulty, offering a challenge without being too frustrating or difficult. While there's a lot of NPCs to talk to and some interactive objects, it can feel like there's not much point to exploring the world. Again, this harkens back to the fact that the game's RPG elements have yet to be fully realized. I'm hoping that the next demo offers more hidden areas to explore, because the setting of the story lends itself to allow exploration and side quests. Having said that, the game does a great job thus far of giving the player a sense of building up. Never before in a game have I felt like earning 1 R.B. (the equivalent of gold) to be such a tremendous milestone. Trial is literally a rags to riches story, so it makes sense that the beginning starts off slow instead of having the player be some bad ass monster slayer from the get go. At the end of the day, in the current demo the gameplay takes a backseat to story, but I had a lot of fun and there's certainly enough action to feel like you're a part of the adventure. I'm hoping the RPG elements come together as cleanly as the rest of the game and that future iterations of the title expand on the RPG aspects. I will make a quick note that some sections felt slightly unpolished like the crashed ship part which requires the player to pick up the sword twice before proceeding. Such bugs do dampen an otherwise solid experience. The strength of Trial lies not in its story, but how it tells it. Unlike more poorly written games, Trial doesn't assume that the player is an idiot and allows inflection and subtlety to tell the story, which is good because the dialogue is adequate but not impressive. By letting action and animation dictate the flow of the story, this leaves room for dialogue to focus on characterization, which is one of the game's strengths. The characters you encounter are likeable and unique. At times they come across as one-dimensional, but the main character does show a bit of growth as the story progresses. The downside is that the cast of supporting characters is rather large and the player isn't given much opportunity to interactive with them which lends to the one-dimensional feeling. The story itself is intriguing, with the protagonist landing upon a mysterious, monster-infested island. There's a sense of mystery to the story, which moves the game along early on. As the game progresses, some questions are answered and the focus changes to a character-driven narrative. The game excels at both areas, always providing the player with an incentive to continue. The author has a very good sense of action, creating an almost filmic sense of tension from the very beginning. The events and story feel unpredictable; watching the characters cross a rickety log bridge gives you an uneasy, ominous feeling thanks to the constant sense of danger that the author managed to create. I do have to mention that there's a few spelling and grammatical errors here and there. And dialogue doesn't appear to be the author's strong suit, but he does a better job than most RM users. Well-paced and charming, the writing of Trial is the real star of the show here. Beneath the fancy graphics lies a very engaging story backed by an awesome cast of characters. This is the first game from this site that I wanted to finish solely because it was a blast to play rather than progressing for the sake of a review. I had fun throughout the demo and the end left me hungry for more. While other designers try to mask shallow stories and poor writing with fancy graphics, Trial is engrossing on multiple levels in which the graphics harmonize with solid writing. A highly recommended download for all players. Grade: A- As the first game thus far to earn a grade in the A range, Trial receives the Dog Seal of Approval!
  6. Title: Mystic Knights Author: RoseGuardian Version: Demo Mystic Knights is a title that I was requested to review. I went into this game with a bit of apprehension as it isn't presented in a particularly appealing manner, but I have been pleasantly surprised by peoples' first games in the past such as Liphidian. Thus, I placed my prejudices aside and jumped into the short demo. The first thing you'll probably notice about the title is its custom drawn character busts. They help the otherwise generic-looking game stand out from similar titles, but they won't amaze or impress. The art can certainly be improved, though the author does deserve some kudos for her attempts. The mapping is below average, with large, maze-like designs that don't actually offer a lot to explore. To my knowledge, you can't even enter any of the assorted houses peppered across the starting village. The lack of interactivity combined with the large spaces really create an unintended ambiance of barrenness. The maps are currently too large and bare, with little of interest to encourage exploration. The audio fared a bit better, with some rather interesting tracks being employed. For some reason, the audio folder is a separate (huge) download instead of being packaged with the game. Otherwise, I actually think the music selection was the best part of this title. In terms of map design, the mazes are haphazard and different paths don't really lead to anywhere substantial. I found myself wandering around aimlessly until I found the objective, sometimes going in a huge circle before realizing I took the wrong path to begin with. As mentioned before, the game could really use more interactivity on the map. The game feels bare-bones when you can't even enter a house or receive notification that it's locked. In battle, your characters start off with almost interchangeable kits and are basically relegated to attacking every turn. I'm not entirely sure why there's both a Dodge and Guard ability, but neither option was ever appealing and having both came across as redundant. Later on, your characters gain magic, Overdrive and special abilities, but they're pretty much database defaults and not very interesting to use. There's not a lot of choice in battle; usually there's one clear 'correct answer' on which ability to use, which is frustrating because some characters have no options other than to use a spell that the enemy is resistant to. The game really needs more interesting, custom abilities and more options for all characters to help distinguish themselves from one another. On the bright side, battles are fairly quick and painless, if a bit imbalanced. Airwyn has a spell that heals the entire party for more than their total hit point pool, which is rather ridiculous. But as I've said in the past, I'd rather have a game that is overtuned towards easy than difficult. Like many games in the community, this is where the title needs the most work. Characters are flat with personalities that meld together; it's hard to tell one of main characters apart from another. The driving force behind the narrative of the story seems to be having the party being shuffled from one location to another by plot device characters. There's no sense of connection to the story, nor is there really any desire to see what happens next. When a 'twist' finally comes, the game's coordinates seem set for a generic destined-heroes-save-the-world-and-fight-the-ancient-evil story, which I wouldn't mind if the characters or writing were engrossing. The game's story really needs to be slowed down, and the scope of it should be toned down initially so that it can focus on the main party members for some characterization. The player needs to be invested in the story to keep playing; there should be a real sense of meaningful contribution as a result of the player's actions rather than being told to go from point A to B constantly. In addition, there's a few spelling errors here and there that should be caught beforehand with proofreading. Overall, the author needs a bit more practice with writing in general to build up some fundamental skills in the craft. As it currently is, it's hard to recommend this title as something to play for fun. There's certainly the potential for improvement, and the game does offer some unique art. Hopefully the author will not be deterred from criticism and will continue to hone her skills. There's definite and undeniable effort that has gone into this project; with some practice and polish it may be a worthwhile game. Grade: D
  7. Title: Blood Shard Author: Gorlami Version: Demo 1 The screenshots alone are enough to justify at least a passing interest in this title by the talented Gorlami. This is a title that has drawn my attention for some time, and I've been spending so much time reviewing avant-garde titles that I thought it was time for a more traditional game. Enter Blood Shard, a project with vast ambitions and solid production values. But is there substance beneath the painterly surface? In terms of visuals, not a whole lot has to be said. The maps and environments are gorgeous, with mise-en-scène similar to the very 16-bit era epics. The maps are detailed and alive, as well as varied. At times, the author does go overboard with effects. Dark lighting and intense storm effects obfuscate the action and distract from the story. And while the parallax mapping is certainly a pleasure on the eyes to behold, pathing is not always clear and you will find yourself doing a lot of aimless wandering to advance. For example, the first playable scenes have water that is sometimes pathable and sometimes not. It doesn't ruin the experience, but it will annoy you when you feel that the game doesn't have clear visual indications of its rules. The music is surprisingly not scored by Gorlami, who is known for his orchestral audio. It seemed like typical JRPG fare, though one scene had a Fallout 3-esque song playing from a record player that seemed a bit out of place given the setting of the game. Otherwise, the music does its job well even if I did feel a bit let down since I was expecting musical greatness from a musician's game. Blood Shard has a lot of interesting mechanics that make it stand out from the typical JRPG. First, you fully heal after every battle and to my knowledge don't seem to gain levels or experience. Thus, non-boss encounters are fewer and seem somewhat trivial. The game is generous with healing items, which was initially confusing given the lack of need to heal outside of battle. However, once you get to the first boss it becomes clear why you are given so many consumable items. The boss fight is legitimately tough, and you will burn through consumables like skittles. Combat is a bit more interesting than typical RM games, but it feels a bit unbalanced and very obtuse. Mechanics are poorly explained (if at all); I still have no idea what the vigor system is. I think it's explained in the game thread, but I feel that game mechanics should be fleshed out in the game itself. Spells in general feel very weak, either with too little output (your healing spell will recover less than a basic potion; the latter doesn't even take a turn) or burdened with drawbacks like long cooldowns. Forte abilities in general seemed very lackluster and a turn waste. Overall, you're pigeonholed into a specific set of abilities, removing a lot of choice from the battles. Cool ideas are here, but they could be better executed. Outside of battles, the game is pretty much standard RPG fare. There are puzzles and NPCs to interact with, although the environment lacked purpose beyond visual appeal. There was one room full of NPCs in which none of them even responded to interaction. It's a shame because the story and visuals give the vibe of a rich world, but in practice there really isn't much to explore. Blood Shard boasts some robust writing, but the story fails to captivate. The key flaw that keeps me from getting invested is the poor characterization. Characters' motivations and personalities seem sparely revealed, leaving characters to feel somewhat generic and indistinguishable. The characters that I did enjoy such as Miranda seemed to receive too little screen time, and the opening sequence feels like a series of non-sequiturs as a multitude of characters are introduced but none are fleshed out. The other core issue with the title is that its story raises a lot of questions, but they're either uninteresting or poorly formulated. For example, by the end of the opening sequence one of the mysteries is "What is a Blood Shard?" ... I guess? The game feels like it has a lack of tension and you aren't dying to find out more. It's a shame because it feels like there's a dark, epic story that wants to be told here, but the title fails to hook you in from the beginning. Beautifully designed and aesthetically lush, marred by a dull story. Battle design is innovative, but needs clarification. Overall, quite a bit of potential here. Grade: B-
  8. Title: You Are Not the Hero Author: Seita Version: v2.0 YANTH has propelled itself into popularity on the legs of its own merits in recent months. After gaining recognition on RMW and being featured on RMN, YANTH has finally made its way to these fair forums. I played the original demo some months ago and was impressed with its production values. Since then, the game has undergone a tumultuous expansion, with new artwork and additional content. The most impressive part of YANTH is its ability to take the withered flowers of RTP graphics and package them into a beautiful bouquet. In spite of some custom graphics here and there, this is unquestionably an RTP game, yet it looks better than most games with custom graphics. The mapping expertly walks the line between beautiful and functional, with a world that is quietly appealing and fleshed out without exhibitionistic extravagance. YANTH singlehandedly writes the book on how to properly utilize RTP graphics; it does not disappoint with its attention to detail. There's always some kind of visual representation of onscreen action, such as the main character bouncing around frantically when a rope crashes down on her. Small details like this bring the world to life and immerse the player in this quirky little universe. This new version adds character busts, replacing the facesets of yore. My feelings about these are mixed, as I feel they compromise the tone and charm of the game. It feels like a half measure in which the author doesn't know whether or not he's putting effort into making a lighthearted parody. Overall, it's not a big deal but I felt that the facesets fit the game's themes more appropriately; the busts don't really add anything substantial to the experience. Also, there's a new health and mana UI which takes up way too much screen space. When you first encounter it in the tower, it even blocks the dialogue. Such missteps are surprising for the author, as he's generally on the ball with polish. The audio of YANTH consists of a mix of RTP and DS music. Nothing wholly groundbreaking, but I imagine the point is to convey a sense of genericness (part of the reason I'm against the busts). The music fits the mood without overstepping its bounds. What really shines is how the author utilizes sound effects, which are well timed and liberally peppered throughout the cutscenes. If it isn't clear by now, the presentation as a whole is just outstanding. For those who don't believe in RTP, this game is a testament to the opposite. YANTH employs unique game mechanics and ventures into the realm of platformer rather than traditional RPG. On one hand, it's a breath of fresh air from the typical grind of RPGs, but RPG Maker is a poor engine for top-down platforming to say the least. In the first platforming section in the tower, you'll probably fall into holes many times thanks to the awkward controls. When the game leaves its focus on jumping, it becomes quite a bit more tolerable. The action is fast-paced and frenetic in the first chapter, but slows down in the second chapter to be more exploration and puzzle-solving based. At times, this can leave the experience feeling inconsistent and undercooked. Although the amount of variety is impressive, in terms of the gameplay the game never finds its sweet spot of what it's going for. Is this supposed to be Zelda? Or Mario? Depending on your expectations, the amalgamation of game modes will either leave you enamored or disinterested at certain sections of the game. The author needs to be wary of feature creep in future iterations of the title. Having said that, YANTH is generally fun to play. Each level lasts a short amount of time, with plenty of NPCs to interact with. The game boasts some replayability by rating you based on performance and giving players a summary at the end of each level and allowing them to retry the level. The experience does start to drag in the second chapter when it trades fast-paced action for dungeon exploration, but never to the point of causing boredom. Story is basically something completely disregarded in YANTH. There's some backstory that parodies the generic JRPG tale of a band of heroes facing an insurmountable evil, but the focus of the game is on the plight of Petula, a typical villager girl whose life is thrown into turmoil. The JRPG heroes raid her home for loot, and her village is invaded by the army of evil. The writing focuses less on story and more on humor, with mixed results. Sometimes, the game is genuinely funny with Petula being the only sane person stuck in the absurdity of a JRPG world. Other times, the game's referential humor is cringe-worthy, like the contrived conversation in which Petula states "the cake is a lie". Really? Overall, there's not much to say here. Story and writing is definitely not the main draw of the game, but enough is there to keep the game moving along. I will say that I was turned off by the game's self-deprecating 'intro', which seemed like a thinly veiled attempt to deflect criticism by describing itself as a 'bad game'. Like a supermodel calling herself fat to get showered in compliments, it was a tad grating and unnecessary. Fun, unique and charming, YANTH is a great game that everyone should try, given its short length and accessibility. Some of the new additions are questionable, but none manage to dampen the lighthearted experience. Definitely worth a download. Grade: B+
  9. Cecillia: Cruel Miracle Official Review Developer: Cecillia Belle Lacriox and Allen Leighton VXAN Topic Download: 70MB Positive Points: High Quality Mapping Enticing storyline Professional Grade Busts and Characters Negative Points: Intro Text (see below) Storyline: This short prologue only contained snippets of storyline, as Cecillia: Cruel Miracle (hereafter abbreviated to CCM) is designed to be an episodic game. Each episode will be a different aspect of the main character Cecillia’s story. Although the storyline in this prologue was delivered in “bits” and pieces, it never felt disjoined and out of place. You could tell that the two developers wanted to give as little away as possible, but still give players a hint of what is going on. This is something that normally is done very badly, and I end up being more confused, but in this case I was even more intrigued. It made me want to know even more about what is going on! One thing that I would comment about is, right at the beginning, I would have preferred the ability to have the text move automatically. Now as I know that people read at different speeds, this would be something very difficult to implement effectively my personal suggestion would be to add in Modern Algebra’s ATS script (which has the ability to use a VN style text system) and combine that with the Menu Options script by Yanfly. So that people have the option to turn on/off the VN style auto-text. This is the only negative comment, as I played this on my big screen TV and I would have preferred to have the intro text (and just the intro text) move forward on it’s on as me having to click to move it on, broke the atmosphere slightly. Presentation: I don’t think there is anything to fault with the presentation. The mapping is just superior, parallax mapping and HEAVILY edited tileset, makes the world of Cecillia beautiful, and original: Alongside this is the beautiful CG art created by the developers, you can tell that a lot of hard work went into these scenes, the manipulation of the images made it feel more like you were watching a movie clip, rather than moving images, which I have been assured that 90% of these CG’s are actually just moving pictures. It’s just outstanding. The artwork is professional quality; the art in this project is something I would expect to see in an AAA Project such as Valkyria Chronicles or even some of the higher budget Japanese Amine’s. The quality in my opinion is the same, if not higher quality. What makes this game even more believable is the background ambience; you can tell that the developers gave A LOT of thought into the project, especially when it comes to attention to detail, all the music and sound effects fit perfectly, within the game. Not one item felt out of place. Writing I really enjoyed the distinction between the characters, I could tell when different characters spoke, you can see the mannerism in the way they spoke, and the dialogue felt realistic. It felt as if you could genuinely hear the characters talking, without any voice acting. Conclusion When developers pour there heart and soul into the game you can see it throughout this short 15minute prologue. So little is revealed, but it hints of so much quality to come. If you are looking for a normal RPG Maker game, walk away from Cecillia right now. But if you are looking for a story driven game. Then you should play this game now! 5/5
  10. Title: Liphidain: Dissonance of Darkness Author: Tharis Version: Demo 1.12 I reviewed this title many eons ago in February. At the time, the author Tharis had just begun the project and it was his first game. While most people give up on their first game and try to incorporate the skills they learned into new projects, Tharis has diligently stuck by his game throughout these months. I've been eager to try this game for a long time now just to see what kind of improvements have been made. A lot has happened in the past few months, but at its core Liphidain is very similar to the modest little demo that I tried out at the beginning of the year. Okay, before we get to the audio or graphics, one thing has to made clear: The font is terrible. The "medieval-style" font just makes everything a chore to read. It's extremely difficult to tell the difference between capitalized and lower-case letters. Once you get past that major hurdle, the game's graphics are fairly presentable, if at times messy and inconsistent. The mix of RTP and Mack graphics are used to adequate effect, and the world looks fresh and original even with these commonly used tilesets. The mapping has improved leaps and bounds over the original demo, with environments that manage to balance detail with open space. Some locations, which were recycled from the original demo, feel dated and archaic in comparison to the newer maps. There's also a fair amount of pathing bugs present; though none of them affect gameplay, they do take you out of the experience when they occur. The music seemed well-chosen and often worked well with the scenes they accompanied. What really stands out are the sound effects, which provide more detail to the events happening onscreen than the average RM title does. Sometimes they feel a bit out of place compared to the cartoony-ness of the game, but they definitely help draw you into the story. While the sound effects help convey onscreen actions, the lack of sprite animation falls short in this regard. There's an over-reliance on battle animations to convey the action, which feels a bit tacky and lazy. This game would really shine in the presentation department if sprites were better animated to actually perform the actions. Like the first demo, this is where Liphidain struggles. There are a lot of improvements like adding more interesting abilities to the player's arsenal, but it's usually obtuse as to what situation they can be utilized. For example, you have an ability that deals extra damage versus enemies with lower agility, but in every situation that I used it, it did less damage than my regular attack despite costing TP. And this is a symptom of a larger, more problematic issue: Spells don't do enough to justify their use. Healing spells feel like they barely heal the amount of damage you take in a turn and damage abilities are far too weak (except on Arysana, but we'll get to her in a moment.) Basically, every turn I looked at all of my options, and attack was generally the only choice I could use other than potions (of which you will be running burning through a lot.) Which leads to the next problem: The game is hard... in an annoying way. Because your abilities are so awful, fights consist of attacking until your health runs low, then popping a potion and attacking some more. Sometimes, enemies are so strong that you can only get 1-2 attacks in before you need to pop the next potion. In certain fights, you can abuse the First Aid ability to heal up, but this only gives a surplus of 10 HP or so after the enemies have dealt their damage. The result is you end up spamming First Aid for 3-4 turns just to heal a respectable amount of health. Overall, fighting is tedious and you eventually come to dread fights, rather than want to enter battles. And that's a huge issue in an RPG. Eventually, I came to a boss fight that felt like it was tuned way too difficult and I didn't have the patience to try again after being worn out from the previous battles. What it comes down to is that the game isn't fun to play from a gameplay perspective. Abilities aren't fun to use. Battles don't require critical thinking, just a lot of healing that drag out the fights. And a quick note on Arysana: She provided some hope in that she had unique spells and an interesting Infusion ability that converted TP to MP, but that ability was bugged and there was no other way to replenish MP to my knowledge. So after one battle I depleted her MP and could never cast a spell with her again. Even if Infusion DID work properly, you gain enough MP per cast to use one spell. When you run out of MP, you'd just be casting Infusion every other turn so that she could have some output. Super tedious, not fun. Finally, I mentioned that the mapping is aesthetically well done, but in terms of gameplay it's quite the opposite. The maps are large, which I initially did enjoy until I realized that there actually isn't much to explore. You might take a winding path that takes a fair amount of time to travel down just to find that it has a lame treasure chest or (usually) a dead end. The towns are huge, but you can't interact with any of the environments. The result is that you end up doing a lot of walking around without much reward. It's fine to have large maps if there's actually a purpose to them, but in this title it felt like it was just making me walk around more. Be prepared to abuse your Shift key. Liphidain is well-written, with dialogue that flows together and a world that feels alive to a certain extent. The one flaw with the writing is that there's little room for inference. It's a common problem in RM games that I've played: The author doesn't leave room for inference, and sometimes it feels like he doesn't trust the player to be able to read any subtext within the story. For example, one character mentions multiple times that he won't see a girl he likes because denying her attention is the way to earn hers. This point is beaten over our heads several times and he even states it explicitly to the girl herself. The author needs to leave room for the player to figure things out him or herself. And tangentially, the romantic aspects of the plot feel contrived, almost as if they exist solely for Tharis to teach guys how to pick up girls. The female characters feel vapid and pedantic, and it seems like a stretch that an angelic immortal would fall in love with an exotic dancer. Though keep in mind that these are minor quips; the characterization in the game is actually fairly engaging most of the time. The story itself is at times exciting, but usually generic and uninteresting. The cool parts of the lore are similar to the Diablo series, where a war wages between angels and demons that inadvertently involves humankind as well. Though it works, it doesn't leave much room for surprises. It's about on par with your typical fantasy RPG overall. I do feel that the beginning portions are much better than the later ones, where you start to play as a teenager which is an immediate turnoff. The story seems to lack direction and it only gets worse once you become a teenage guy who spends most of his time performing odd jobs for the town's citizens. It's just not engaging, especially considering just 15 minutes ago we were battling demons in the much more awesome prologue. As I mentioned above, I did give up a bit in due to an annoying boss fight, so perhaps the story does pick up from there. It's definitely not bad, but doesn't stand out as revolutionary and it certainly wasn't enough to keep me playing in spite of the tiring difficulty. A great improvement over its previous iteration, but still haunted by an inexplicably unforgiving difficulty. Otherwise, this is a very solid game that will hold your attention at least through its sizable prologue. Looking forward to future versions, as Tharis has clearly demonstrated that he's a game developer capable of growing. Grade: B
  11. Title: Reap and Sow Author: SnowOwl Version: Demo 3 Reap and Sow is a game that promises to combine the soothing farm-tending gameplay of Harvest Moon with elements of horror. It caught my eye with its interesting premise and unique presentation. For such a captivating idea, Reap and Sow has received little attention. Thus, I decided to stow my inhibitions and plunge into the Cthuluesque abyss. What I found was a soft undercurrent of melancholy and a glimpsing sense of serenity. It's certainly a different experience, but is it a worthwhile one? The game's graphical style is at times surreal and always grim. The creatures that you encounter in the dreamworld are captivating and grotesque. The environments were a bit bland at times, especially during the farm sequences. There are times when things are confusing or unclear due to mapping and art. For example, in the dreamworld it's not immediately discernible which tiles are interactive or harmful and which ones are decorative. There are also times when the lighting is a bit too dark, making navigation somewhat obtuse. The mapping really fails to jump out and grab you in terms of aesthetics, though it does do its job from a utilitarian standpoint. Ultimately, the monsters are very impressive but the environments are boring and forgettable. Audio-wise, the game does an adequate job of creating mood. Some of the music is beautiful, and the sound effects are always fitting and at times disturbing. There's room for more ambiance though, as the creatures are silent except when you touch them. It could add a lot of fear if you could hear the squishing noises of their movements and faint growls. Overall, the audio is fairly reserved for a horror themed game. In the beginning, I was a bit underwhelmed in this department. For one thing, you're not given nearly enough instruction on how to manage your farm. You're thrust into the role and given only a few lines of instruction, rather than eased into the process in an elegant manner. You basically learn the farming system through trial and error. For example, on the first day I took the hoe and dug a bunch of holes. With no warning, I ran out of stamina and was forced to end the farming day without having planted any crops. There is no UI that indicates your stamina nor is there any mention of it at all. Things like this frustrate and annoy the player. Tangentially, the lack of a UI in general is a large burden on the player. There's too much menu navigating to perform even simple actions, like checking how much gold you have. The entire farming system lacks user-friendliness and simplicity. This almost made me stopped playing completely, but the dreamworld was where the game picked up. The gameplay here is very simple: You avoid enemies and navigate room by room trying, sometimes encountering puzzles and eventually bosses. Since enemies (typically) don't chase you and move in pre-determined routes, it actually complimented the farming sections somewhat nicely and were surprisingly calming. You do lose the level in one mistake, which makes you take these sections at a slow and careful pace. It creates an interesting dynamic as failing in the dreamworld will send you back to the farm world. Since you don't get to immediately retry your mistakes like in Super Meat Boy, it's actually not that frustrating when you 'die' and you switch focus to tending your crops before you try again. I didn't get far enough to see it, but eventually the farming and dreamworld sections intersect. Objects you gain in the farming world help you in the dreamworld, and gold you find in the dreamworld helps you expand your farm. It creates a very interesting synergy and the end result is that I wanted to explore more and more of the dreamworld. The game design here is at times brilliant, such as when you're shown a mechanic in a non-intrusive way that is later the key to defeating a boss. There are subtleties to the level layouts such as placing gold in more difficult-to-reach areas, creating optional challenges for those who wish to find more rewards. The ambition is impressive on a macro level and the execution is fantastic on a micro level. I really hope the farming section is improved with a better interface and more interesting mechanics in general. Right now, it only serves as a vehicle to support the dreamworld sequences. When I play Harvest Moon, I'm farming because it's enjoyable and relaxing. The game would be far better if the farming sequences were as engaging as the dreamworld sequences and playable standalone. As it stands, I would put this game down in 10 minutes if it only had farming. This is something of a weak point for the title. The story feels esoteric and unrelatable. I feel like you're intended to want to find out what happened to the village, but the game fails to establish a meaningful connection between you and the main character. I found myself exploring the dreamworld because it was fun in terms of gameplay, not because I was dying to watch the story unfold. Having said that, I don't think it's terribly important that the story is a bit shallow. The minimalistic narrative is enough to keep the game grounded in the gloomy atmosphere and general creepiness. Reap and Sow is one of the few games that combines interesting ideas with some delivery on its ambitious ideas. The dreamworlds will have you coming back for more, but its mediocre farming sections are disappointing to say the least. Grade: B-
  12. Title: Hell Diary Author: Noyemi Version: 0.3 If there's one thing that catches my eye as a reviewer and player, it's uniqueness. If your game stands out in some way, it's likely to get a review from me at some point as many of these games tend to be ignored for not following conventional game molds. Hell Diary is such a game; if you think the graphics and premise are unique, that's really just the beginning of one of the strangest rabbit holes you will ever explore. Hell Diary challenges the RM game archetype, but does so quietly. This is in contrast to other designers, who take the Roman approach and loudly proclaim how unique and worthwhile their experience is to anyone who will listen on every communication medium known to man. Without fanfare, Noyemi has crafted a game that marches to the beat of its own drum. This is truly the hallmark of Hell Diary. It's one of the most interesting experiences I've had in any game, let alone an RM one. The graphics have a DOS look that harkens back to the days of floppy discs, but with modern sensibilities that keep it from being an eyesore. The environment boasts an old-school palette of blue and orange, giving a futuristic vibe that looks lively and explosive rather than drab and gray like many modern sci-fi games. All of the assets have a great deal of variety even within a single location without feeling disjointed or tacky. All of this is supported by solid mapping that wasn't riddled with pathing errors and showcased a balance between detail and clutter. The music is a bit of an acquired taste, but it definitely fits the tone and setting of the game. It reminds one of pre-Daft Punk Tron in all of its beep boopy glory. Some tunes are grating, but otherwise the soundtrack is excellent and at times beautiful and nostalgic. The most impressive part of the presentation is that the author created the custom graphics and soundtrack herself. The game is an adventure title that leans more toward visual novel than Monkey Island. You walk around, talk to people and explore the world around you. From what I played, it seemed like there were cases and mysteries to solve, but I never progressed far enough to experience this. In fact, it felt like I didn't do much of anything in spite of wandering around for about an hour or so. You can speak with a lot of NPCs, but none of the interactions felt meaningful or interesting. It seemed like the author wanted to have some sim elements, but they were never fleshed out or explored. Overall, it feels like you're just walking around and talking, which would be sufficient if that was engaging in its own right, but unfortunately it isn't (more on that in the next section). I'd describe the gameplay as interesting, but not fun or engaging. I don't think a game needs to beat you over the head with gameplay mechanics, but the combination of an obtuse storyline with a lack of action made for a very dull and confusing session. The writing itself is very good. The dialogue is well written, and it feels like the world is alive and everyone is doing their own thing, rather than reacting to the player. This is a difficult feat to accomplish, so I commend the author on that. Having said that, the story is just utterly confusing. You're thrown into the game with little explanation, and you basically try to grasp the narrative and setting through dialogue and object interaction. The author has a prequel to this title, so perhaps I was supposed to play that prior to this game, but I believe that games should stand on their own to some degree and regardless of understanding the backstory of this universe, there's a huge lack of direction when it comes to where to go or what to do. It's a shame because there's clearly an immersive story to be told here, but it remains concealed by a veil of obfuscation. Ever experience a game or story where you think, "Well that was an unnatural and blatant way for the author to explain the lore"? It happens a lot in RM games, and Hell Diary suffers from the opposite problem. I wish the author would hold my hand a little bit and explain what was going on, rather than dropping a series of names and jargon that are ultimately meaningless to the reader. Hell Diary is an impressive artistic feat that disappoints in that it could be so much more. The game is still in alpha, so there's certainly room for growth. I hope the author concentrates on conveying the story she wants to convey in a clearer manner. And in spite of its flaws, the game still has a certain aura of charm to it that few games ever achieve. Grade: C+
  13. RetroExcellent

    Shaddow's Showcase: Craft Master Review

    I know, it is a surprise that I write reviews, isn't it? Well, I've decided to help out a bit in this area, and the first game that caught my attention was Craft Master, a project with a lot of potential. What did I find out about this game? Did it live up to its potential? Did it flop like a fish? You'll have to read below to find out. Author: Braxillian Release: Beta Demo V1.1 Graphics I have to be honest, this was a nice use of the RTP, with the occasional custom sprite or graphic, not much stood out, but it was pleasant to look at when used well. I think the creator knew what tiles and graphics to use in what location to give a good effect, but unfortunately not all the maps were as pretty as this, and the nicely used graphics did not come across as well. The world does seem to come to life with the well placed graphics, but as they are just standard RTP for the most part, not a lot of it stood out. I wish I could say more, but overall, it is pretty generic, though the use of some custom icons really did help improve this. Score: 7/10 Writing The story and writing of this game kind of made me wonder if the author had ADHD. Some parts seemed almost professional and fresh, as there were little grammatical errors and mostly good spelling. The author even threw in the use of colors to mark out things you should really take note of, which was a nice touch. I wish that was all I had to say about this, that I could just leave it there and give it a good score, but no, there is a darker side to the writing. There are parts where the author uses swearing and unneeded insults for no seeming reason. The Inn is a prime example, and I truly hope it was only a joke that will be taken out after the demo. Another appalling aspect was whenever the main characters father talked, you would never know if he would give sage like advice or insult you and swear for no reason, personally, I hated the character. Back on the flip side, the NPCs tend to give out useful information for the most part, though they tend to be a bit wordy. Yet on the dark side, you can find random porno mags stashed next to a book describing what the electrician does. ADHD. Score: 4/10 Mapping The Mapping is another area that I feel like the creator could not decide what they were doing. The outside of the village is beautiful and everything is well placed, but the interior of any of the houses, or shops is a jumbled mess that seems to be filled just for the sake of no empty spaces. The interior of the mine is even worse, with strange corners and tight corridors that make no sense. They do not seem to be man made, nor natural, and are annoying to navigate. I truly wish I could understand what was going on there, with the enemy detection system, this kind of mapping is even more flawed. I think this is probably the spot where the author could improve most, maybe even more than the writing. Score 3/10 Audio I wish I had much to say about the audio, but honestly, it fit well but was rather lackluster. I really can't even remember what much sounded like, with the exception of the end of battle. For some reason everything got a lot louder during the victory, from the annoying grating sound of your experience increasing, to the badly used 'world map' audio for the victory theme. This part could be improved, everything else worked fine, but was mediocre at best. Score: 5/10 Gameplay This is the spot where Craft Master shines, and rightly so. The crafting system is incredible and a lot of fun. Not only do you gather your own materials, but you can customize your weapons with the use of gems, giving you multiple options depending on the quality. It is reminiscent of world of warcraft combined with Summon Night, both of which have good systems to use. I wish I could have gotten a chance to play some of the puzzles and explored the game a bit more, but lag really killed that off, I will talk about that more later. Truly gameplay is the biggest and best aspect of Craft Master. Score: 9/10 Battles The second best aspect of Craft Master, in a way. The interesting concept behind the combos for a Swordmaster was a lot of fun, and made Brax an interesting character. Sadly the same could not be said for Allexa. She is a Cleric, supposedly, but has no useful skills starting out and hits for about 2 damage, while Brax hits for somewhere around 200 with the right combos. I see a lot of balance issues. Allexa needs steroids, stat, as well as something that actually makes her a 'cleric'. Now, the concepts behind the other three classes, and the ability to increase your class seemed very interesting, sadly they are not available during the demo. The concept behind preemptive strikes was very interesting and added a nice touch to both the gameplay and the battles, but sadly a strong bout of lag really ruined the chance to try it out. Score: 7/10 Polish The game suffers from some pretty horrible lag at many points, night time in the village, while pretty, lagged so bad that I did not even notice when my character moved, and had to push where I thought he would go until I managed to get back inside. The mines are nearly as bad, with so many light events and spiders crawling around, the mines lagged to the point that I actually stopped playing. I wish the game worked better, as it has many interesting ideas, and they seem to be executed rather well, but the lag issue really needs to be addressed before this game could hope to be called playable. The crafting system and combat skills, for Brax, work well though, giving this game some redeeming features. Score: 5/10 Final Word I would have to say the same thing I said at the beginning, this game is full of potential, and many parts of it see that potential, but there is a lot wrong with the game, the biggest flaw being inconsistency. I really wish that I wasn't pulled out of the game every time I see horrible and pointless dialogue and swearing, or that I would stop enjoying the maps because they suddenly became bad. I really enjoyed a lot of the game, and I hope these things will be addressed by the time the final product has come out, or this game may have a hard time finding its audience. Final Score: 6.5/10
  14. Welcome to the May's ReStaff release. This month is all about Nature. We've got a new face on the ReStaff so give a warm welcome to Cecillia who has now been awarded her ReStaff badge for helping out with ReStaff this month! You can download all of it here! To find out more what's in the release this month...Keep reading! This month Arin has brought us 3 new tracks, Fire in the Eyes, Jungle and The Last Miracle. Our New secret ReStaffer has finally emerged into the open a warm welcome to Cecillia who introduces her ReStaff Exclusive character Amaryllis: She's made a face sets and a sprite to go with the bust. GyroWolf is back again with 4 new tracks entitled: Dawn's Drizzle, Noon's Shower, Eve's Monsoon, Night's Storm. and finally my release, this month I've got a new track called Hasu Village, and a new version of Misery of the Monsoon. and thats it for this month let us know what you wanna see next month! If you have an idea for a theme, then send me a PM and I'll add it to the collection!
  15. Game Title: Profound Darkness Game Author: Waeckel Brothers Version: Demo Review by: Ocedic Introduction Profound Darkness is a dark fantasy RPG that focuses on atmosphere and mechanics. Graphics In spite of its off-putting use of RTP graphics, Profound Darkness looks visually appealing. The way graphics are used just fits very nicely, and what should be a bleak setting has some nice touches that bring it to life, like rats that scuttle away when you enter rooms. There's definite room for improvement, like the jarring overuse of on-map battle animations and how the light doesn't change until after you've entered a room (an all too common mishap). The graphics also get a bit repetitive after a while, with little variation. You'll find yourself trudging through familiar looking rooms that offer little respite from the constant feeling of 'sameness', which is also reflected in the gameplay (more on that later). Also, one non-trivial gripe is how dark the rooms are when the lights are dimmed. People, this isn't creating 'ambiance', it's just annoying and frustrating to navigate. Having said that, Darkness does a lot of things right in the graphics department without relying on custom visuals. Verdict: Mapping Both in terms of aesthetics and level design, the mapping is pretty good. Sometimes there is a bit too much debris on the ground and it creates a blocky 'spill', but nothing stands out as terribly offensive. The rooms are just the right size, with just enough space for you to navigate around monsters. There's a sense of purpose with how rooms are laid out and contraptions are placed; things never feel random or disjointed. Like the graphics, there is a pervading feeling of repetition, but what's there is robust and well-constructed. Verdict: Audio A creepy atmosphere and sense of foreboding is captured perfectly with the soundtrack and sound effects. Initially, I thought this was a horror game because of how well the music gave that impression. Sound effects are used well, with rats squeaking and spiders shuffling from the ceiling as they drop down on you. These little details are often neglected, so it's nice to play a game in which the action is properly brought to life through effects. I might be sounding like a broken record, but audio also suffers from repetition and you may grow apathetic to the haunting ambiance after hearing the same tune for 20 minutes or so. Again, what's there is good, but there needs to be more variation. Verdict: Gameplay - Exploration On one hand, Profound Darkness does some really cool things with exploration. You can change forms to different avatars which have unique properties like being able to move heavy objects or pass through barred doors. This kind of interaction is fairly unique for an RM game, though the interface for toggling between forms is somewhat clunky. As I mentioned before, the level design is fairly competent, but you're left without a sense of ramp up. You start out with three forms, which seems to be squandering potential for a Metroid style game flow in which previously inaccessible areas yield secret items and new paths. Instead, you have a fairly linear dungeon crawling with pseudo-puzzle designs, but the obstacles fail to challenge you in any substantial manner. It ends up feeling a bit tedious to go into the Skill menu to bypass an object in your way. If you were granted forms in a staggered manner, and the puzzles were more interesting and involved the use of several different forms to complete, I could see this idea having a lot of potential. As it stands, the exploration phase feels a bit lackluster and boring once you're a few minutes in. Verdict: Gameplay - Battles Well, this is where things get really hairy. Battles feel different from typical RM games, but it feels like you have a lot of abilities and most of them don't do anything noteworthy or different. Ultimately, I found myself avoiding battles because I didn't find them fun, which is a huge flaw. It doesn't help that battles are on the difficult side of the spectrum, and not in a way that utilizes your skill or decision making. Monsters simply hit very hard and your abilities (when they don't miss) are rather lackluster. Sometimes it can feel like a series of dice rolling and hoping the string of criticals and misses work out in your favor. You get a lot of equipment from various chests, but annoyingly they are often weaker than what you have. It's baffling that you can find equipment that is worse than your default gear. The player should treat chests with excitement and anticipating, not indifference. This aspect of the game needs the most work, but it's probably the only truly outstanding flaw in this game. Verdict: Story The game begins with no introduction of story. You're simply in a dungeon and can begin moving around immediately. I think the background story is fleshed out in the thread, but I'm a believer that games should be standalone and not require players to read extraneous materials. It didn't feel like there was much of a plot. At one point, you get a cutscene that fails to raise or answer any meaningful questions. Ultimately, it seems like a lone warrior story with some references to King Solomon. I'm still not sure whether this is minimalism at its finest or a complete failure to convey plot, but I do know that the narrative is not gripping and the game failed to make me care about what happens next in the plot. Perhaps the author should give more nuggets of information that drive the narrative forward. Verdict: Polish Didn't notice bugs, pathing issues or grammatical errors (not that there's much text to begin with.) Overall, I got the sense that the author cared about the presentation and mechanics of his (or her) game, which is a plus. Verdict: Overall A flawed game with lots of potential. I would definitely like to see this more developed. There are some interesting ideas at work, and the author has really nailed the dark atmosphere. The story and gameplay need some work, but it's definitely not unsalvageable by any means. The biggest suggestion would be to try and create more of a varied experience. I want to be excited to venture further in the dungeon, not indifferent. Make treasure that is actually worthwhile, and add some variation in puzzle and level design. Don't be afraid to challenge your players in the puzzle department! Score: 6.1/10
  16. Game Title: Horse Fantasy II Game Author: Ironhoof Version: Demo Review by: Ocedic Introduction Horse Fantasy II is a JRPG that takes places in a world where horses and humans coexist. Graphics The visuals of HF2 suffer from two main issues: inconsistency and messiness. A lot of graphics seem to be shoved in from everywhere. Facesets are either frankened, RTP or from completely unknown sources. Monster battlers range from map sprites for humans to RTP battlers to where-ever the dinosaur boss crawled out of. In inconsistency in size is jarring, and the huge battlers look really awkward next to the chibi sized party members. Maps look completely different from one another. Sometimes they use lighting scripts and most of the time they are uniformly lit, as if the author put a lot of effort into making the beginning of the game look nice and got lazier as the game progressed. When you take away all of the flash, the graphics are very bland and unexciting. Locations are blocky and disproportionately sized. Instead of adding some decor to make things look nice, the author simply utilizes scripts to add some vapid flashiness. Whether it's a lighting script, Moghunter's weather script, fog or some old-fashioned tinting, these effects are horribly misused and thrown together, often clashing with the maps they are on and of course the rest of the game. The first dungeon in the game, for example, is obnoxiously dark to the point where you can't see details. Light colors seem random. There were normal colored lights here and there, then a blue light in one location for no apparent reason. Once you step outside, Moghunter's weather script makes some leaves blow in the wind. This is actually one of the nicer looking sections of the game, but when you ignore the effects the area is the same dull design as the rest of the game. Eventually you enter a burning building and the combination of fog and tinting make you almost completely blind. My main advice to the author in regards to this: Sometimes less is more. Stop overwhelming the maps with unnecessary visual effects. Verdict: :wacko: Mapping As I mentioned before, environments are blocky and excessively large. Roads are huge and unnaturally devoid of any variation. Visually, it's an eyesore. In terms of level design, it's even worse. Dungeons and levels are basically giant mazes that you have to wander around blindly until you find where you need to go. Sometimes they're nothing more than vast, open stretches with random treasure and monsters sprinkled throughout, somehow making the aforementioned windy labyrinths and corridors a luxury you yearn for. These are fairly common rookie mistakes; I suggest the author try some other RM games or ask for assistance in the level design forum, as this is an area that needs quite a bit of work. Verdict: :wacko: Audio This is probably the best part of the game, but it's not without flaw. Like a recurring motif, inconsistency rears its ugly head here. The music as a whole just doesn't have a coherent style. This is probably because the author 'borrowed' music from so many different sources, from Final Fantasy to Ratatat to Aphex Twins. The songs themselves are good, and sometimes used well, but it still feels messy. The FF music in particular sticks out like a sore thumb. I let out an audible "Really?" when I booted up the game and the FF title screen theme started playing. It's just one of many elements that are derivative of the Final Fantasy series. Verdict: Gameplay - Exploration I covered a lot of these points in mapping, but I'll reiterate that the maps are humongous and maze-like. The redeeming quality is that there aren't random battles, but enemies use the same on-map sprite so you can't tell what kind of enemy you'll go up against. One cool part of the game is that there are Pokemon-like obstacles such as vines that you can clear away with the right tools. Unfortunately, the extent of this feature is simply having the right tool for the job and tools aren't utilized in any creative or interesting fashion. Also, the game isn't friendly toward backtracking (in that you can't do it,) so once I reached a new area I couldn't go back with my newly acquired tool to clear the paths that were previously inaccessible to me. I think the author is onto something with the idea, it just needs to be executed better. Overall, exploration isn't particularly interesting but it also isn't annoying like some other games that I've reviewed. Verdict: Gameplay - Battles First, I'll mention what the author does right. Skills are useful (necessary, even) and between attacking, skills, limit breaks, bombs, scrolls and healing items there are a lot of options. However, the rest of the battle system is like an exercise in frustrating game design. Hit and evasion rates make it feel like you miss waaaay too often while enemy attacks seem to always connect. The limit breaks are massively stronger than other options and boss battles seem to balanced around that fact. It makes it feel like everything you do OTHER than using limit attacks is absolutely pointless. You get four characters which creates a highly imbalanced system. Against bosses, be prepared to have two to three of your characters using revival and healing items constantly. That's not really a challenge, it's just tedious. The game uses an ATB system which serves no purpose except to make the whole thing run at a plodding, tiresome pace. The option to steal is interesting, but ultimately annoying because stealing can fail. I mean, I'm giving up a turn of dealing damage and you STILL want me to sometimes fail at that? Overall the battles just wear you down and not very fun. You can ignore them since they aren't random, but good luck fighting the horribly tuned bosses if you didn't do the prerequisite amount of grinding. Verdict: Story The one aspect of the story that stands out is the fact that there's horses. But when you take out the horses, the story is fairly generic and seems like it comes right out of a Final Fantasy game. Dialogue is at times painful to read; 90% of NPCs have nothing relevant to offer and serve only as tools to tell you game mechanics like which elements enemies are weak against or that holding shift allows you to dash. Your companions are fairly likeable, but the main character is oddly annoying with an ugly face to boot. All of the characters lack motivation to pull the player in; they all seem to be following your main character who starts her journey because she 'feels that she's destined for something greater.' The story needs a real plot device to drive the events, because otherwise it just feels like I'm re-enacting random, disjointed scenes out of Final Fantasy. Basically, the author fails to make you care about any of the characters, settings or events. It's a very common mistake in which the author tries to create an epic journey simply by having a journey and labeling it as epic. When you strip away the main character's 'destiny', there isn't any meat to the tale. Verdict: Polish Though I wouldn't call the game polished per se, there weren't any bugs or tons of grammatical errors which is a good thing. There are a lot of little annoyances, but fighting glitches won't be one of them. Verdict: Overall This was clearly a learning experience for the author, and I hope he or she does not become discouraged from trying future projects. Overall, I think the main issue is that the author is biting off unchewable portions. Tone down the scope of the story, don't add crazy visual effects for the sake of it, and slow down and really focus on making quality content. I'd rather play a great 15 minute game than a mediocre or terrible 15 hour one. Also, work on finding your own voice. It's clear that you are influenced by Final Fantasy, but it seems like you're trying to recreate it rather than your own unique story. Score: 3.9/10
  17. Game Title: One Night 4 Game Author: Dark Gaia Version: Demo 1.1 Review by: Ocedic Note: This project has been updated since this review; this review may or may not reflect the current state of the game. Introduction One Night 4 is a horror adventure games with an emphasis on exploration and Silent Hill influences. I should note that I don't play a lot of horror games and don't particularly enjoy them, but I thought I'd give this a shot to try something new. Graphics ON4 has a strong sense of visual cohesion. Nothing stands out as looking out of place or inconsistent with the rest of the visuals. Modern environments are replicated well and appear to be spatially similar to real-world design. My main criticism is that the first level is too dark, to the point where some objects become difficult to see and details are obfuscated. Lighting in general feels a bit underutilized, which is not a big deal in a normal game, but is a key element in creating atmosphere in a horror title. For example, in one scene there is a flashing alarm which is depicted simply by a periodic red screen flash. First, the author doesn't use a loop to keep the effect going during messages, which is jarring. Second, the flashing itself comes across as annoying rather than distressing, which I imagine is its desired effect. Verdict: Mapping I should note that the version I downloaded had an error in which one of the tileset files wasn't included. Thus, a lot of the graphics in the second level were missing, which made things hard to judge at that point. The mapping has been created with a nice aesthetic sense. The maps simply look nice based on how they are laid out. There are some pathing errors here and there, notably you can sometimes walk on blood on the walls. That aside, level design is solid. Verdict: Audio This is one of the most important aspects of horror (some would argue the most important,) and ON4 nails it both in terms of music and sound effects. The music is haunting, creepy and creates a sense of dread as you navigate the levels. The only issue is that the exploration sequences are long, and the songs will loop and become repetitive, which weakens their effect when heard multiple times. Perhaps the author should have multiple tracks play throughout a level in order to keep a fair amount of variety. After all, when the player's expectations are fulfilled, that's when things cease to be suspenseful. The sound effects are disturbing and unsettling, though their use can be at times predictable. I remember thinking to myself, "The monster will probably shriek around now," and it did. Overall, well done in terms of audio. Verdict: Gameplay - Exploration ON4 eschews combat in favor of of puzzle solving and run-from-the-monster escape sequences that are all-too-common amongst RM horror games. The puzzle solving/exploration sequences feel at odds with the urgency that the author tries to create with the brief glimpses of the monster that is lurking about. The entire game just feels very scripted. You walk around, the game hints that there is danger around, and then you solve some adventure game-style puzzles and advance, possibly encountering the monster that was established in the first act of the level. This is more or less the formula that a lot of Playstation-era horror games used, such as the early Resident Evil and Silent Hill games. The issue is ON4 doesn't try to shake up that tired formula in any way, and if you're expecting anything truly revolutionary or extraordinary to occur, you may not want to hold your breath. And though I generally don't give much praise for modern horror games, one thing they do correctly is make the action feel more unpredictable and organic. Once your players 'figure out your game,' you'll have a hard time keeping them on their toes. So it's best to throw constant curve balls at them. Look at the Half Life mod Nightmare House 2 for some excellent examples of this. The puzzles themselves are a bit uninspired. I like that they tie in with the lore and setting, but they also seemed a bit unpolished with some unintuitive issues. They certainly did not involve much critical thinking. When you're given two numbers that you combine, it's not clear which order you put them in. In fact, one would expect to put them in order of left-to-right, but for some reason that's not the case. Later on, you use a date as one of the puzzle answers. Hypothetically, the date was May 12th, so I entered "0512" to no avail. I then remembered that the author is Australian, so I flipped it to "1205" and it worked, which doesn't make a lot of sense when the hero is implied to be American (he mentions Maine at some point.) Small details like these may seem trivial, but the game is about nuance and when I play a horror game, I expect every detail to be engineered carefully. When there are small design blemishes, the player is unconsciously told that the developer is actually not in control, which alleviates a lot of tension and suspense. Overall, gameplay is disappointing as I was expecting something more cerebral from a game without combat. What's there is passable and not bad by any means, but it's rudimentary and unengaging. Verdict: Story This is where most of the Silent Hill-esque influence is present. The story involves a man who is transported to a dream world where he must confront events that occurred in his past. It's refreshing to see an RM horror title focused on the psychological and abstract rather than the recent trend of boogiemen and cheap thrills fueled by the Youtube scare-cam culture. In this game, the true antagonist is not the monster that lurks in the shadow, but the monster that dwells within. It's a fundamental element of classic horror stories in which the monsters were more metaphorical than literal. Having said that, One Night comes across as a bit derivative of these sources without offering much of its own unique voice. You almost roll your eyes when you come across a newspaper clipping that titillates the reader with a tease of the events that set the game's story into motion. If you've ever played Corpse Party, you will feel an overwhelming sense of been-there, done-that, with the young anime characters replaced with James Sunderland if he were a struggling writer. Nonetheless, I admire the literary ambitions of the story and it does keep me interested to unravel its plot. The writing itself is fairly good, although the object interaction dialogue feels stale and mechanical, as if the author found it a chore to have to write out so many boilerplate lines for pointless objects. Nonetheless, the narrator's voice is natural, although he seems to accept his supernatural predicament a bit too easily and without much protest. By the second level, he simply goes, "Oh, looks like I'm in a nightmare dream world." It's as if the protagonist played Silent Hill 2 and knows what to expect. All things considered, I'd say the story and writing is above average, though it never approaches greatness or quite grips you in the same way as the mysteries of superior horror games. The author really needs to capture that je ne sais quoi. Verdict: Polish Being an early version, One Night 4 is surprisingly polished in the presentation department. There are some rough edges, and the missing graphic file really hampers the current version. Verdict: Overall The game shows a tremendous amount of promise, and in my opinion it's one of the better RPG Maker horror games. However, like many RM horror games, it's clearly modeled after an existing game; its main advantage is that the game it draws inspiration from happens to be very good. It's well put together, but at times lacks soul and heart. I hope the author will be more adventurous with future iterations, and bring more surprises to the table. Nonetheless, I think it's a solid horror recommendation and deserves a try if you are into the genre. Score: 6.6/10
  18. Radiant Arin

    Hero's Summon [Review by Dante]

    Game Title: Hero's Summon Developer: @SRB912 Game Engine: RMVXAce Topic URL: http://www.rpgmakervxace.net/topic/11785-heros-summon/ Game Download: http://www.gamefront.com/files/22859136/Hero_s_Summon_exe POSITIVE POINTS: As much as I'd like to say the game was very bad on it's own, I have to put AT LEAST one positive point. About the only redeeming feature seemed to be the one puzzle room at the start of the game, which reminded me a bit on the Devil May Cry light puzzle (aligning the statues on certain blocks and then revealing the way). NEGATIVE POINTS: The plot is dorky, the battles are annoying and difficult to deal with, you have no money to buy any good weapons/armors, there isn't even a store in town so you can buy potions or mana potions. There's also a loading screen (wut?)....uggh, why did I sign up for this? GENERAL COMMENTS: Since the game is exclusively RTP with a bit of changes, it automatically gets a bit of a downgrade in terms of originality. STORY: At the beginning of the story, we're thrown into a plot that has no meaning or idea whatsoever, and for the next three minutes, we're looking at text on a transparent background that I wish I could skip. But from what I gathered, both in-game and looking at the thread, is that some douchebag stole the Declaration of Independence. While this might seem good for a 17th century type of game, the RTP medieval tilesets makes it look like a complete joke. The two types of ideals clash and suddenly we're left with a plot standing on it's tiptoes, about to go six feet under. You take on the role of this Human Police Officer (yes, that's his actual name) who, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was stolen, decides to gather up his friends, "Constitution Man" (yes, that's his actual name) and "Red Mage" (yep, you guessed it) and leads them on a man-hunt into a stupid-ass dungeon that really could have been designed better. Remember what I said about that six feet under thing? Yeah, here's where it is. So, you fight this witch or whatever, I don't even care anymore (she doesn't even disappear after the fight), who reveals that the Declaration of Independence is already in the hands of her master. After heading back to town and chatting it up with the Curator, she explains that, on the back of the Declaration of Independence is a mystic spell that sealed an evil entity in a lifeless realm, and the person to do this was aptly named "Hero". The cliche is killing me slowly. After that, you have to do the same exact thing "Hero" did: gather the five pieces of armor he used to combat the evil entity, and then probably do something RPG-related, like kill the main boss, because I didn't get that far. AUDIO/GRAPHICS: What do I put here? It's RTP. No one gives a crap. Beyond the lack of custom music used, there were also a lot of random Fanfares played when the "Human Police Officer" said his "punchline", which is the vibe I got from it. While some might find it amusing, the Fanfare playing each time the "Human Police Officer" says "It's time to...defend our country!" is not only dorky and kiddish, but can also become quite irritating. There were no edits, and everything was pitched to it's original settings, except for the Battle Theme, which is pitched to 75%. Not that it really matters. BATTLE SYSTEM: The first thing that annoyed me about the Battle System was the stock Battle System, for one. After using YANFLY's Engine for so long, it's become commonplace for me to expect 20 FPS for animations. Oh boy....that was fun, seeing my 15 FPS brethren again. The second thing that annoyed me was the fact that you don't earn experience. This would be a fine mechanic, as games that I have played over the time I've been here (Towering Heights, for example) have used this effectively, but when you approach a boss room, you suddenly find yourself swamped by the lack of special abilities that you can use to exploit an enemy's weakness. You hit for at least 30 damage each turn, which would be fine if the monsters didn't have their regular stock HP value from the RTP (or at least, it felt like it). You also use the same strategy over and over: spam Attack. Or unless you're facing multiple dangerous foes, then you use: Human Police Officer -> Attack, Constitution Man -> Slow on one target, Red Mage -> sits there and does jack shit. Oh, also, Red Mage sucks. OTHER GENERAL COMMENTS: The museum wasn't very prestigious and the Curator is a total dummy. NPCs don't make a lot of sense and some of them are just plain stupid. Example, in the opening intro, you see two animations of a building blowing up and two guards dying......while there is a guard literally TWO STEPS AWAY from the building. But what does he do? He just keeps walking like a fucking drone. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (I turned into DP3 for a second there, I apologize.) OVERALL SUMMARY: Goddamnit. RATING: Do I put a number here now? At least you get an E for Effort.
  19. Game Title: The Guardian Game Author: Relic Version: Complete Review by: Ocedic Introduction The Guardian is an RPG that focuses on classic-style exploration, character building and minimalistic desgin. Graphics Perhaps the greatest disappointment with The Guardian is its lackluster visual design. It's not that they're bad. In fact, the graphics are consistent, well-used and fit the theme of being an old-school style RPG. However, the modern interpretation of this type of game realizes that players should be mystified and awed by visual splendor. Such examples include the likes of Metroid Prime and Dark Souls. The game manages to somewhat capture the haunting, bleak atmosphere of these games in all categories with the exception of visuals. They're simply too bland and fail to keep the player eager to explore and see new sights. On the other hand, the UI elements are completely custom and combine simple, functional design with a nostalgia-inducing vibe. The presentation of the game's menus are clean and economical, without any superfluous or unnecessary elements taking up real estate. Verdict: Mapping The mapping in The Guardian is proficient and, likes its visuals, focused on fundamentals rather than flash. Unlike many RM games, which throw doodads around haphazardly and without purpose in order to take up space, The Guardian conveys a sense of purpose with each and every one of its few details. The reserved mapping harkens back to NES style top-down games; it's hard not to feel a Legend of Zelda-esque vibe when traversing the overworld map. Maps look good, but not exceptional. Verdict: Audio The music is definitely the best part of the game's presentation; it conveys a sense of haunting desolation and foreboding. It feels a bit reminiscent of Dragon Warrior, but has a unique feel of its own. Sound effects are minimal and forgettable, but that's mostly due to the lack of cutscenes in the game. Overall, there's not much to complain about in regards to sound and music. Verdict: Gameplay - Exploration Exploration in this game attempts to recreate a Legend of Zelda style of progression. There's a large world for you explore, and you go from location to location finding equipment that helps you progress, much like the tools in Zelda allow you to unlock new areas and paths. The screens even transition in the same style as Zelda, which is a nice touch. However, the main criticism I have is that the world feels very barren. Part of this is that the world map is very large. There's basically nothing to do on the overworld except for walk to your next destination, and you'll find yourself wondering why there's so many screens that exist simply to be there. And while The Guardian mimics the exploration style of adventure RPG titles, it fails to fully capture their essence. In Metroid games, for example, you will often find secrets and treasure early on that you cannot access until you gain new powerups. This game fails to create that same feeling of "I must go back there" that other games do. Exploration doesn't feel as rewarding or interesting as it should be. I'm actually surprised that some other players had expressed criticism about a lack of direction, as I found the game surprisingly linear for the type of game it is. There just needs to be more... stuff. Places to explore, secrets to find and things to do. Verdict: Gameplay - Battles The Guardian has a very unique combat and leveling system compared to most RM games. Instead of levels, you simply had stat points in the form of AP, BP and GP. AP is used to increase your stats, BP allows you to upgrade your abilities and GP is a general resource that can be converted to either. These stat points are regularly allocated throughout the game, giving you a constant sense of character progression and a fair amount of playstyle customization. Battles themselves are very interesting. When you touch an on-screen enemy, the battle initiates immediately (it doesn't even transition to a separate battle scene.) The order of moves is visible to you; unlike the normal turn-based battle system it's possible for your agility to grant you additional turns. This allows you to mix and match your offense and defense. For example, say you have two turns before your enemy can act. You can either choose to deal damage twice, or deal damage on the first turn and guard on the second, taking reduced damage from your opponent's counterattack. Enemies also have weaknesses, so it's up to you to find out which attack works best in each scenario. The overall system is fun and simple, but felt a bit limited. After clearing the first cave, I felt like there weren't many surprises or opportunities for further progression with the system (aside from increasing your stats.) It definitely could have been improved with some more depth, but what's there works well and is interesting enough to keep you motivated through most of the game. Verdict: Story The game has a very bare-bones and simple story. After the intro is finished, exposition and dialogue becomes rare except for the occasional NPC that appears to lament the state of the world. While that in itself is fine, the lack of an interesting world or narrative does work against the player's drive to continue (though it certainly isn't a fatal flaw.) The game could have abstained from an apparent story but still offer a rich setting to explore in the form of logs such as those found in Metroid Prime or Dark Souls. But seeing as the author did not go down that route, there really isn't much to say about the plot. Verdict: Polish In spite of its many custom systems, I didn't come across any bugs. The game feels delicately crafted and purposefully laid out. Some portions are a bit obtuse in terms of how you progress, but I never felt hopelessly lost or frustrated. The game was well tested and fairly well balanced. My one complaint is that loading between maps felt like it took an inexplicably long time, almost as if it were load times. Verdict: Overall This game got me excited for an adventure RPG borrowing elements from some of my favorite games. It's definitely a solid title, but I would like to see the author expand on the idea in a future iteration or sequel. There's a lot of potential here that seems untapped. In spite of that, this is a polished, fun game with a unique premise in the realm of RM games. Score: 7.4/10
  20. Game Title: Tryandine Effect Game Author: Jens of Zanicuud Version: Demo Days 1-5 Review by: Ocedic Note: This project has been updated since this review; this review may or may not reflect the current state of the game. Introduction Tryandine Effect is a sci-fi cyberpunk RPG. It's made in RMXP and focuses on investigation and detective work. Graphics TE is something of a mixed bag in terms of visuals. In some cases, the graphics are mesmerizingly beautiful and well-built. On the other hand, there are a lot of pieces that feel out of place or downright ugly. The part that stands out about TE is its acute attention to detail. RPG Maker games are often visually vague, leaving much of the on-screen action left to imagination or exposition. In this game, the world is brought to life with cutscenes and animations. If the devil is in the details, Tryandine is a product of hell. Scientists are seen typing at their keyboards, turning their heads to speak with the protagonist. Lights streak outside your window as you ride a train in thoughtful contemplation. Your main menu, accessed via a personal smart phone-like device, is uniquely dressed up to look like you're peering at the screen of your own personal device. I'm usually not impressed by visuals in RM games, even those with 'good art.' Perhaps that's because animation is more impressive than still art, and the author of TE uses that to bring his world to life. With this in mind, it's definitely a shame that this game doesn't have 'good art.' The biggest culprit are the facesets, in particular the main character Veckert's. He's an eyesore to look at, and I don't mean that he's ugly since in the context of the story he's covering his disfigured face with a horrendous mask. But rather, the graphic itself just feels of low quality and either poorly drawn or scaled and edited in a way that ruined it. It's hard to make out any details, and even after spending a few hours with a game I'm still unsure of what I'm looking at exactly. The only thing I am sure of is that I don't like the look. While this may seem like a superficial complaint, it really hampered my connection to the character and proved to be a large distraction from the other elements of the game. There's a good reason why protagonists are generally good looking. And if not attractive, then at least cool. Veckert is neither and simply looks like a mess. And while that bit is the worst offender, the rest of the graphics seem to suffer from the same qualities of amateurishness. The custom menu mentioned above, for example, has cool animations and details but ultimately looks like it was drawn in MS Paint with poor depth and shading. Things generally looks okay, especially with the special effects used to bring things to life, but it's disappointing because they could look stunning if the author had better assets. There's definitely a lot of potential here, the author just needs to find a way to unlock it. Verdict: Mapping Tryandine uses tileset mapping to great effect. There is a good sense of space and mapping direction throughout the demo. Maps feel just the right size and look distinct yet cohesive. There are a troubling number of pathing bugs, mostly associated with walkable walls. I also noticed a slight lack of grit and detail in the mapping. Things look a bit too uniform and clean for the setting. There's no grime on the wall, faded posters or general messiness. Too much order for an unsterilized environment. However, it never looks bad and this is just something that could be improved in order to make the world feel more alive. Verdict: Audio The music of TE has a fair amount of Ace RTP with some MIDIs thrown in. Generally, music sounds great and is used well, but at times it feels like the same few songs repeat over and over, creating a sense of repetition. Other than that, the author uses well-chosen songs to set the tone and mood, although some scenes come across as melodramatic when the intense beats don't necessarily match the intended gravity of the situation. In terms of sound effects, the game does an adequate job but can be improved. A lot of effects are RTP, which isn't a bad things but they feel out of place. For example, the very first scene depicts a shooting and the sound of a gun being cocked just doesn't sound right. There's plenty of free resources for sounds, so the author should really put some extra effort into getting the right sound effects for each situation. Verdict: Gameplay - Investigation The part that helps set Tryandine apart from the typical RPG is its investigation-style gameplay. You take the role of a detective whose job is to solve murders and crimes. This boils down to interacting with objects and talking to people until Veckert has found enough clues to continue. While it works to a degree, it feels very lacking and on-rails. You can't really fail these sections; you're basically walking around until you've spoken with every character and checked every object. Sometimes, it can be unclear what you're supposed to do next and the game becomes an easter egg hunt as you start trying everything in order to advance to plot, including backtracking. This gets especially painful with the slow move speed and apparent lack of a dash option. There was never a point where I got utterly stuck, but some sections seemed to drag out much longer than they should have and at least a few times it was solely because I missed one small detail somewhere. This gameplay just feels very uninspired and if it weren't for the well-written dialogue, I don't know if I could have stuck with this game. There really needs to be puzzles, deduction or interrogation of some kind. Make us actually feel like we're a detective instead of watching a movie. Verdict: Gameplay - Battles There are a few battles here and there, usually spaced out in intervals and used in the plot. There are no random battles or even on-map encounters, just pre-defined battles based around the narrative. The combat system uses a unique Pain and Blood system combined with side-view battles, in which you have a Pain meter and health bar. Abilities either inflict pain or blood damage, and pain will cause you to lose turns or bleed out. It's kind of like a guard break system of sorts. While it is interesting and adds a small amount of depth and strategy to battles, because of how severe pain penalties are it boils down to an extension of your health bar. Your basic strategy will almost always be causing as much pain damage as possible before resorting to regular attacks or blood-only damage once the enemy is incapacitated. Your ability options to reduce pain are de-facto non-existent. There's a Rest ability that reduces less pain than one attack will inflict, so in that situation you're basically delaying the inevitable by using it. It needs to reduce pain by about 5-10 times the current amount it does in order for it to be a practical choice in combat. The battle system has a flaw in that the pain system really slows down gameplay and promotes an unfun mechanic. Have you ever played an RPG where the miss rate was too high and it frustrated you? Well if you take too much damage in this game, you won't even be able to act 50% of the time. It's avoidable in that you simply have to abuse the pain mechanic on your opponents rather than let them use it on you, but it feels broken and imbalanced right now. If all of your characters have 90% or more pain, you might as well just reload your save file than deal with that mess. Having said that, battles were on the easy side which I didn't mind. They never got in the way and I felt like the number and frequency of battles was balanced fairly well. The pain and blood idea is a refreshing take on the standard battle system, but it could be better executed. Verdict: Story The plot of TE follows a detective who is investigating the death of his friend, a famous and well-respected scientist. Though he believes that there's more to the case than meets the eye, his colleagues don't agree due to a lack of evidence and his superiors try to shut down his inquiries for what is presumed to be a cover-up. The story is moderately gripping, but somewhat predictable. You almost feel like the game is going through a checklist as the government writes off the case as solved and your superior officer tells you to stop your investigation immediately. Then of course it's up to the cop who won't play by the rules to bring justice to the situation. It seems like most of the 'surprises' the game intended are too easily read beforehand. In spite of this, I was still interested in unraveling the mysteries presented. The world of the game is fleshed out in a fair amount of detail. Classism plays a major theme in the story, and it's an issue that affects Veckert on a day-to-day basis due to his origins in the lower class district. Though this aspect of his life is well developed and you get a feel for the discrimination that these people experience, I don't like how the game goes about it in a very black-and-white manner. Basically, the rich people are painted as arrogant and ignorant while the poor people are almost all friendly. None of the poor people seem to resent Veckert for his success, even though that's a fairly common and natural reaction. The world and NPC's ends up feeling a bit one-dimensional and thus unrealistic. Having said that, the dialogue is cleanly written and flows nicely. Most of it came across as natural and purposely, each bit of dialogue serving to further the player's understanding of the world or give us insight into the thoughts of the main character. Verdict: Polish Like I mentioned earlier, there are some mapping bugs in which you can walk around in spaces you aren't intended to. These are relatively few, but still noticeable. Starting on Day 2 and beyond, it seemed like a lot of dialogue was cut off by the message box. I wasn't sure if this was a font issue as it seemed to happen a lot, but if it's not then Days 2 and 3 badly need some proofreading. On a similar note, there are a few spelling errors as well that should be stamped out. Finally, and most importantly, my playthrough was ended by a game breaking bug in which obtaining the torch on Day 3 crashed the game. Considering the length of the demo, it's fairly well-tested and polished, though there is certainly room for improvement. Verdict: Overall Tryandine Effect is an interesting experience, and almost worth playing solely for its clever cutscenes. The story is on the grittier side, but never gets so dark that it loses its JRPG feel. The tone and atmosphere reminded me of Final Fantasy 7's Midgar in a way. Combat is okay and has an interesting idea, but could be better executed. The game doesn't throw many battles at you, which is very refreshing. So if you're a fan of sci-fi and detective stories, Tryandine is worth the try. Score: 7.0/10
  21. Welcome to our first large ReStaff release. Unlike the previous two, this one will include all of the active Resource Staff, Nicke, pjcr, Andinator, and Jonnie91. So let's get to the point the goodies...This months theme is Steampunk. Please remember that this release is strictly for this site. DO NOT REDISTRIBUTE TO OTHER SITES. A link to this page is the only thing allowed. I'll be uploading a RAR file with all of the past releases shortly. It will also give more details on the requirements for using the resources. The basics are to credit the respective artists if you use these resources and also VXA.N (this site) So Nicke's up first this week with an awesome script that adds sound to footsteps. GRAB IT HERE I'm sure you may have seen many scripts like it, but this one has yet another feature! You can customize different sounds for different events and players! So regular people can have normal noises, but a tank or car could have an engine noise! Also, be sure to grab his core XS script. You'll need to place this above any of his XS scripts for them to work GRAB IT HERE Next up is my release for this month. First off here's a track I've made to show the darker side of steampunk. So close your eyes and be careful not to burn yourself in your visit to my Steaming Wonderland I've also made a few SFX noises to go with Nicke's footstep script, including a Robotic Noise! You'll see why that's important in a bit Footsteps.rar And then comes Andinator and pjcr with yet another Battler + Sprite combination! Here's Andi's battler: And here's pj's matching sprite: We'll see you next month with our new release...Keep your eyes out for more details
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