Boreal Tales: Bargain Indie Scares Up The Past

Boreal Tales title

With a game developer name like Snot Bubbles Productions, one would imagine the Vancouver-based team to have a first game straight out of the gate that’s going to be pretty darn interesting.  Or kind of damp and sticky, ewww.

Welcome to Boreal Tales, folks.

The game is out now and it’s a paltry $3.00 or Steam or itch.io and that makes it for me, an automatic purchase even though I was offered a free code to review. Small developers with a great looking game such as this need a boost with any sales they can get and I really like these offbeat games, so it’s on my BUY IT! list as we speak. Anyway, “What’s the game about?” you may be asking right about now. Well, I’ll duck quickly into show and tell mode here (quack, quack!):

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: No Blade of Grass

no blade of grassSo, I lost a coin toss with myself a few days ago and ended up watching a pretty dark film from the lower end of the bucket list. Reasons, I guess. I also guess I should put a trigger warning here, as this one’s something else.

Grim meets garish (plus tax where applicable) in Cornel Wilde’s 1970 apocalyptic survival shocker No Blade of Grass, which is very likely not a film you want to see if you’re holed up in quarantine for a spell. Then again, it’s a film that’s brutal to watch under any circumstances, with its kind of timely by today’s calendar plot and Wilde’s decision to linger on some scenes that are a bit too exploitative and counteract whatever strong ecological message he was trying to send.

Then again, the source material wasn’t exactly a pleasant story either. Still, Wilde (who co-wrote, directed, and produced the film) gets his powerful message across from the opening moments, using a sledgehammer of assorted mostly stock imagery of polluted water, air and land, plus what seems to be clips of a dying emaciated child to let you know business is meant in all that intensity of the opening moments. I think there was a nuclear explosion in there somewhere as well, but I might have been busy trying to find my jaw, which was under the sofa when it fell off and rolled under it. I need to vacuum more, it seems, as my chin was a bit dusty when I located it. Uh, so mind-blowing and downbeat opening, plus a reach for a finger pistol depressing tune (sung by Roger Whittaker!) as a main title? Check.

(Thanks, The Film Archives!)

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Review: Dark Nights with Poe and Munro (PC)

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There are no incorrect choices in this game, as you’ll discover.

In the fourth episode of six in D’avekki Studios rather excellent FMV (full motion video) game Dark Nights with Poe and Munro ($12.99), there’s a rather neat dark surprise in store for fans of their first FMV game, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker. I won’t fully reveal that surprise, but sharp-eyed fans will have grasped it already from a single screenshot. Let’s just say that I hadn’t yet visited the Doctor’s office and had it on my Steam wishlist for a bit until that episode in Dark Nights had my brain spin around in my head and my wallet flew into my hands from across the room – SOLD. I’ve only put about four hours onto the (maybe) deceased Doctor’s couch, but it’s definitely been worth the session fee.

Back to the newer game, which is a more TV-like prequel to events in The Shapeshifting Detective (one of the better FMV games we’ve played) featuring the radio host duo from that title. You get six very replayable chapters featuring John ‘Poe’ Pope (Klemens Koehring) and Ellis Munro (Leah Cunard), both superbly possessing their roles, coming off a bit like this decade’s Mulder and Scully, but with a struggling radio show and much more supernatural goings on. Their relationship is a lot more complex (all together now: “it’s complicated!”) and the game uses that as both backdrop and foreground material for their escapades. All six chapters delve into their radio relationship as well as what happens off-air, with multiple choices that can lead to some, shall we say innnnntersting outcomes. Or, Death certainly doesn’t take a holiday here in some episodes, is all I’ll say.

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The Chair (And Other Tales Of Modern Terror)

(Or: Trick or Treat III, but I didn’t want the title to be too long.)

I: The Chair

Gossamer and Bugs

“What’s up. doc?”, indeed.

Yesterday afternoon, I was about to go downstairs to get my mail, when I opened the door, stepped halfway outside and immediately saw some monsters in the hall about 15 feet away. I calmly walked back inside, shut the door and shook my head, then got a bottle of cold water from the refrigerator and took a seat on the couch. The TV was on and it was the usual news of the day, all bad all the time, of late.  It was going to be a long wait before I went back outside again.

Okay, so it wasn’t ‘real’ monsters at all and no real monsters like you see in the movies actually exist no matter how good the film is. But there was a young guy sitting in a chair in that hallway getting his hair cut by another older guy who was standing up, and no, the guy doing the cutting didn’t have six foot long arms, either.

When I sat down, I shook my head again, then laughed for maybe a good two minutes. What came to mind at that point was this:

(Thanks, Edge of the Fringe!)

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Review: Diabolic (Switch)

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Not a game of the week by any means, but an itch will absolutely be scratched.

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Yes, it is.

In the middle of of downloading a lengthy Windows update a few days ago, I turned on my Switch to kill some time while waiting, and poked around at the weekly sale in the eShop. There was a lot of stuff there as usual, but I decided to spend about a buck fifty on a game called Diabolic (normally $4.99) from indie developer MyDreamForever and ported/published by Drageus Games. While I wasn’t expecting much and got what I paid for, the game still had a certain… let’s just say, charm in its simplicity that made it a pretty decent time killer. It’s not a perfect game by far, but that long Windows update download was forgotten for as long as I played.

Dirt simple, and light on exposition, Diabolic is sort of a half Diablo/half Gauntlet hybrid with none of the grit and longevity of either where you play a knight setting out slay the evil dragon boss at the end of the 10-level game while killing a load of enemies on the way to that confrontation. That’s pretty much it in the way of story save for some optional side quests that net you coins and extra items. Things are pretty basic here, but I rather liked the straightforwardness of the time-sink while it lasted. Sometimes, you just want something that doesn’t require a lot of thought or learning of arcane commands and this game nails its pure gameplay simplicity down pat.

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Dungeon of the Endless: Living Up To Its Name, Now On PS4 & Switch

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Sony is late in posting the game on PSN, so it’s Nintendo to the rescue. No worries, as the game should look the same across all systems,

Way back in 2014, I played and really enjoyed Amplitude Studios’ brilliant Dungeon of the Endless on PC, scoring it an A (95%) and going through it a few times, as it was yes, literally endless. I recall asking a PR person repping the title if it was ever coming to consoles and recall hearing it was coming to Xbox One at some point, which made me a touch sad that many PS4 and Nintendo only owners would miss this wonderfully tough hybrid of randomly generated dungeons, resource management and strategy. It was a game that felt fresh and was very well written, with plot and brief, sometimes humorous dialog shared by a number of diverse characters. Six years later, guess what’s on PS4 and Switch today and guess who got their freshly washed hands on a review code?

(Thanks, Playdigious!)

Amplitude, Sega and Playdigious have teamed up to bring the game to PlayStation 4 and Switch owners, and if the release is the same overall as the PC version, many hours will be spent getting that motley crew of survivors from a crashed spaceship through those randomly-generated challenging maps. Let me go download this and get to reporting back. I see there’s extra content included in the game, which makes that $15.99 price point very attractive indeed.

There’s also this:

(Thanks again, Playdigious!)

As usual, the PlayStation Store is late on posting a game until they want to, but Nintendo has it up and available to buy as we speak. If I had to guess, I’d say Sony will have it on their store maybe by 1pm or so. Don’t hold me to that, but it will launch today at some point on the store.

-GW

 

Review: TT Isle of Man – Ride On the Edge 2 (Switch)

tt-isle-of-man-ride-on-the-edge-2-switch-description-charKT Racing has clearly put a Kylotonn of work into bringing TT Isle of Man – Ride On the Edge 2  ($59.99) to the Nintendo Switch and it’s truly an impressive effort on the hybrid console. The developer has recreated the recent PC and console experience perfectly in terms of complete content on the Switch with a few very obvious concessions to the lower-powered hardware. On Switch, there’s a tiny bit of texture draw-in plus some low resolution textures such as bike shadows, some of the signage, plus logos on your rider’s gear, which can all be a bit fuzzy in static shots. Despite these flaws and some long loading times, the game completely soars when in motion, particularly in docked mode. In handheld mode, the game is fine, but as a simulation that requires zen-like focus (there’s no in-race music for a reason!), every little detail needs to be seen at the best resolution available.

Where TT2 impresses constantly is in the excellent bike detail and its thrilling overall sense of speed thanks to excellent visual representation in the various camera modes and some tremendous sound design. The sheer intensity when you get to flying down a course and don’t go flying off your bike is nothing but a pure adrenaline rush, and the game will make you appreciate the art of the learning process. That said, it feels like a bit of understeer is in play on corners and you’ll crash a lot as a beginner and a great deal less (or not at all when you get better) as you get accustomed to the controls, which can by fully customized and come in a few styles from amateur to professional. Got a first or third party Switch compatible controller with a Rumble feature? DO please use that over the handheld’s Joy-Cons. The game goes from trickier to control and a bit too shaky to one where analog controls make things more manageable. The game is playable with Joy-Cons, mind you – it’s just more difficult if you stick to the standard control scheme and/or if you have the dreaded left Joy-Con drift issues some users have experienced with the handheld.

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Review: Guard Duty (PS4)

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Oh, this is the same game, alright…

guard duty PS4Ratalaika Games has been pretty much killing it lately in terms of quietly porting and publishing little indie games that sometimes pack in a few surprises despite the low budget price points. While there’s a core group of fans who snap up most of these games for fast trophies, once in a while there comes something that’s worth a second look because it taps the right vein in the right place and is more than a simple trophy hunt you can rush through in an hour or so. Welcome to Sick Chicken Studios’ Guard Duty ($9.99, Cross-Buy with PS Vita!), folks.

This is a fantastic albeit brief homage to old computer games from the mid-80’s and the 1990’s and absolutely nails that aesthetic to a T with perfect stylized pixel art and animation, some hilarious (and fully voiced) writing and solid point & click gameplay. There’s a plot that blends in medieval and futuristic elements really well, but I’ll not spoil that for you here as the story works best this way. After an intro that teases that medieval and future melding, we meet Tondbert, loyal Guard to the Castle of Wrinklewood. He’s having a bad day that started the night before as he was stupid drunk while on duty and let a odd stranger into the village, which has led to the Princess being kidnapped. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

(Thanks, PlayStation!)

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Jet Lancer: Take To The Skies On Switch, PC

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“Snakes… Why’d it have to be snakes?”

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A pilot, a Captain and an engineer walk into a bar…

Today, ace pilot Ash Leguinn joins the ranks of the many other legendary arcade shooter ladies who fly and blast enemies out of the sky with the release of indie developer Code Wakers’ Jet Lancer on PC and Nintendo Switch ($14.99) published by Armor Games. Having put in some playtime with an earlier PC build and and after playing the Switch version for a spell, this writer can say it’s quite a challenging mix of acrobatic flight combat against waves of enemies and some pretty large and tough bosses.

Ash travels from mission to mission on a small aircraft carrier piloted by a Captain who doles out briefings as she accepts them. Others in need of aid from Ash’s skills will pop in with their own requests as the game progresses, and you’ll get a talking cat engineer named Lem early on to upgrade your ship, the LANCE, as well as that aircraft carrier it travels on. The boat is sea bound until you get an upgrade that allows it to move over land barriers and the map unlocks more missions and plot elements.

Here’s the game’s launch trailer:

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HUNTDOWN: It’s Been A Long Time Coming, But It’s Been Worth The Wait

huntdown-switch-hero

Here comes trouble, and there goes your free time!

Way back in 2016, I saw a trailer for a wild little 2D game from an independent developer and I was pretty excited because it captured a few nostalgic vibes from both some older games and plenty of crazy action flicks:

(Thanks, Easy Trigger!)

Skip ahead to the next year, and the game went through some changes that made it look even better. I was able to sign up and test out an in-progress version on Steam, and it was pretty great even though some parts were in need of a little refining (as any work in progress would – a demo of a game is NOT a full game experience). Even with the parts that needed work, what was there was such a huge improvement that it was clearer this was going to be even more amazing when it was completed:

(Thanks, Coffee Stain!)

Now (well, tomorrow), the final game is ready for its closeup and wow, does it look too nuts or what? “Hold on to your butts!”, as the saying goes:

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