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Rogue Legacy 2 – Early Access Review

It’s a tad ironic that Rogue Legacy, a game all about children succeeding their parents, has taken almost seven years to come out with a sequel; but Rogue Legacy 2 is finally here. Can Rouge Legacy 2, which has recently entered its early access period, manage to live up to the legacy of its well-loved predecessor or is this new child nothing but a big disappointment?

Rogue-lite


If you’re not familiar with the original Rogue Legacy, the basic concept is this. An existential threat is facing the kingdom and it’s up to a brave hero, controlled the player, to venture into a dark castle and save the day. As metroidvania style game, the castle is a randomly generated environment divided into different rooms which can all be freely explored by the player from a side-scrolling perspective. Each room presents a different challenge to overcome, from deadly enemies to vicious traps and even the occasional brutally hard boss-fight.

Rogue Legacy 2 is an unapologetically hard game, and your first foray into the castle is nearly guaranteed to end with death. Luckily, the adventure doesn’t end there as the hero has a seemingly endless line of descendants who are eager to pick up and continue the quest. Upon death you are presented with a choice of three potential heirs, all with randomised traits, different appearances and a unique class. Classes consist of your typical fantasy fare of with knights wielding sharp swords, spell-casting wizards and axe-carrying barbarians, each with their own unique playstyle and aesthetic.

Your character’s traits, on the other hand, are much more on the zaney side. Each heir can potentially have up to two of over thirty available traits. These range from things like colour-blindness which puts a black and white filter over the entire game to IBS which replaces all of your special abilities with farts. When these traits are first encountered on a character, their meaning is not immediately apparent and their explanations are hidden until you have played with them at least once.

I had to learn the hard way that my pacifist archer who suffered from brittle bone disease was unable to attack, on account of the pacifism, and was doomed to die in one hit. Although it would be nice to see a larger selection of traits added, especially considering that this game contains roughly the same number as its predecessor, the potential for over a thousand unique trait combinations nevertheless kept my characters feeling unique.

Castle crasher


One new feature is the ‘Universal Healthcare’ upgrade which means that you can now pick up positive cash modifiers depending on the severity of your character’s conditions. This means that players who deliberately pick the most challenge traits are rewarded and stops you from just picking the heir with the fewest conditions every single time. As in real life, collecting money in-game is extremely beneficial as it acts much akin to experience points rather than traditional currency.

Whilst money, which is collected from defeated enemies and a variety of hidden chests, is lost at the start of a new run, players are always first given the option to purchase a number of upgrades for their castle. This is effectively your character upgrade tree, unlocking handy upgrades which are carried forward in each subsequent run. You can pick up health upgrades, armour upgrades and even unlock new classes. Unlocked upgrades are accompanied with an additional building being erected in your in-game castle serving as a nice visual way to track your progress the game.

In addition to constructing your castle, you can also build shops in the game’s hub world. These shops include a blacksmith, selling a variety of armour pieces which improve your hit-points, and a sorceress dealing in mana upgrades. Purchases from shops are only temporary, lasting the duration of the run they were purchased on, but can still provide you with a nice little boost. Before you can buy anything however, you have to track down blueprints which are randomly distributed in the chests scattered throughout the castle.

There are also occasionally rooms with special chests. They have special criteria, like killing enemies without taking any damage, which must be completed before the chest can be unlocked. These chests are more likely to contain higher amounts of cash, rare blueprints or even valuable heirlooms – items which provide permanent buffs and are passed on to descendants.

Rogue’s gallery


Visually, Rogue’s Legacy 2 is particularly pleasant. Merging very colourful, smoothly animated character sprites with soft hand-drawn backgrounds is a great aesthetic choice and successfully modernises the original’s pixelated graphics whilst remaining comfortingly familiar to returning players. The game also features two new biomes, distinct from the castle, which appear later in the game. One features a bright and snowy outdoors aesthetic whilst the other is dark, demonic and menacing.

These biomes each have unique architecture and enemies in addition to their new looks and help liven up the experience when they are introduced later in the game. The developer has also promised to release a number of new biomes throughout early access, going so far as to include a countdown to the next biome update on the game’s main menu, and I’m excited to see what new content is in store for the game.

Not much of a legacy


On the subject of new content, more of it is definitely needed. The current experience feels a little bare bones, even for an early access title. In addition to the new biomes, it would be nice to see some new classes added to be unlocked perhaps later in the game as playing for hours with the same four classes that I unlocked right at the start of the game quickly became repetitive and samey in spite of the randomised character traits.

The game’s music could also use some work as whilst some tracks, particularly that of the hub world, are very enjoyable; the majority that play while you explore the castle felt underwhelming. It’s alarmingly easy to forget that there’s any music playing at all and I often found myself muting the in-game music all-together and just jumping on to Spotify instead.

There’s also the matter of the game’s difficulty, which is notably high. Whilst I don’t have an inherent issue with hard games, I died frequently as a result of the game’s bizarre keyboard controls which are particularly fiddly. The game makes use of the left mouse button to attack and the right to use powerups, but there’s no option to face the direction of your cursor. This means you have to stalk walking towards your enemies to actually face them, and lead to many annoying instances where I was either desperately clicking to kill a fast-moving enemy I wasn’t facing or accidentally walking into enemies while trying to face them.

Verdict:


Rogue Legacy 2‘s position as an early access title is definitely reflected in its current state. It has many of the same features which made the original great, accompanied by a fantastically overhauled set of visuals, but lacks a degree of polish. At the moment there are some solid foundations laid which would greatly benefit from some minor fixes and a hearty content addition. Although the high difficulty might prove too challenging for some, if you were the type of person who got hooked on the original Rogue Legacy, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be equally enthralled by its successor.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Necronator: Dead Wrong – Review

Have you ever been in the middle of a round on one of those browser tower defence games and sat back and just wondered about who exactly is behind the seemingly endless legions of baddies who are practically throwing themselves at your impenetrable defences? Well, Necronator: Dead Wrong, which has just received a full release having recently left early access, is a game to answer that question. Uniquely told from the attacker’s perspective, it combines elements from both the deck-building and real-time-strategy into a proudly quirky and distinctly different experience that will likely have you coming back time and time again for more.

Tower offence


The plot follows the exploits of a young evil-doer fully trained up in all sorts of villainy, having recently graduated from the ‘Undead Academy’, who is aiming to become the greatest necromancer in the rather ironically named fantasy world of Livmore. Joined by a ‘chubat’, an adorably squishy looking winged purple comrade, players must rampage across Livmore winning challenging battles, recruiting armies of troops and just generally leaving a trail of death and destruction in your wake.

When you start the game, there are three available protagonists to choose from with one, the Death Knight, available right away and the other two being unlockable via in-game progression. With slightly different story interactions throughout their campaigns, each protagonist has their own unique abilities and card decks, giving them unique playstyles. Your character’s decks and abilities are utilised in the game’s combat sections, which involve using cards from your deck to dispatch troops along paths, much like the lanes of MOBA titles, towards an enemy base and to heal or provide buffs to your army.

Your current hand is shown at the bottom of the screen and each card is labelled with a set amount of mana which must be spent to play the card. Mana is generated predominantly by your home building or when by captured enemy defences You mana can too be used to discard your hand and draw new cards from your deck – particularly handy a few hours in, when you have obtained a deck of considerable size.

It’s good to be bad


Although the initial few levels being almost incredibly easy, completed in a matter of seconds by simply spamming all your units, difficulty soon picks up and I was pleased to discover that there is a shocking amount of strategy required in order to get past the later levels. Becoming acquainted with the individual stats and properties of the cards in your deck is a must if you want to get very far, and I found that keeping track of which cards I had already played in a game in order to try and predict the ones which would enter my hand next both kept me one step ahead of my adversary, making winning the fight extra rewarding.

No matter how much you think things through however, battles still rely partly on chance. The cards selected to enter your hand are chosen entirely at random from your card pool and the same goes for that of your enemy. Whilst strategy is undeniably effective, this randomness stops the player from becoming too complacent and, despite sometimes becoming a source of unparalleled frustration, keeps each battle feeling fresh and exciting. Keeping battles engaging is particularly important for Necronator; with death converting all of their progress to overall character XP and setting the player right back to square one.

XP levels up your protagonist, unlocking new starting decks and abilities. Alongside gaining cards to bolster out your deck, succeeding on the battlefield grants “souls” which players can spend on upgrades. Cards can be purchased directly in their upgraded forms through the shops littered about the map or alternatively upgraded in camp. The opportunity to set up camp is granted to the player every few levels and allows them to upgrade cheaply, heal or pay a small fee to remove cards from their hand. You can, however, only select one of these options before being forced to move on.

This creates an interesting conflict between maintaining your health and increasing the power of your deck. Alongside better stats, enhancing cards unlocks new visual sprites for your units who are now seen with visibly more durable armour or a more menacing looking improved weapon in their hands. In addition to being a nice bit of attention-to-detail, this helps give a good sense of progression to your deck and I enjoyed being able to actually see my troops becoming more powerful throughout the game.

There are a number of random encounters to be discovered throughout the game, marked by a mysterious question mark on the map. These give the player some choices to make, granting powerful cards if successful but simultaneously run the risk of crippling unlucky players with debuffs. The sheer number of different decisions to be made throughout the campaign, as well as the vast number of cards that can be added to your deck, makes losing feel less like a chore than an opportunity to start over and experiment with new card configurations or discover events and outcomes you may have missed. Furthermore, the inclusion Steam Workshop support does wonders for replayability, allowing players to create and share everything from custom-made game modifiers to full-length story campaigns.

Unfinished business


Outside of combat, the game’s map is pleasantly drawn with its soft colours and cartoon-like style complimenting the game’s cutesy hand-drawn character designs well. Battles themselves, on the other hand, are presented from an isometric perspective the presentation of each battlefield in a small square area, which can be rotated and explored by the camera. I found that it was far easier to focus with concentration focused on a small area and kept even the most frantic of fights from feeling too overwhelming. Older gamers will likely find the box-like arenas, three-dimensional scenery and two-dimensional pixelated unit sprites a pleasantly nostalgic combination, being particularly reminiscent of early strategy games like Disgaea.

This influence is also apparent in the game’s writing, which follows a similarly comic tone. I found the light-hearted pre-battle dialogue to be a constant source of amusement whilst the sardonic interactions with the game’s cast of punnily-named boss characters contains its fair share of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. It’s a shame that this dialogue becomes far less entertaining when it is repeated verbatim at the same points in every single playthrough. The pre-battle dialogue from Chubat is a notable offender in this regard, which each area only having a handful of lines which play out before each battle. What’s there may be very good, but it’s a shame there simply aren’t enough unique lines to keep you from instinctively skipping dialogue interactions.

The title’s music, although by all means wholly satisfactory, was on the whole a little blander than I expected for a game which is otherwise oozing with personality. This is quite nit-picky, but it would also be nice if the game’s tutorial, which is relegated to a small tick-box on the game creation menu, was made a little more apparent for new players as launching the game for the first time and missing the tutorial made for quite a confusing experience.

Despite having left early access, the game is still receiving frequent content and quality of life updates based on user feedback, so I’m confident that these small nagging issues will be resolved in future patches.

Verdict:


Despite some very minor shortcomings, the entertaining writing and engaging visual flair elevates the game’s experimental gameplay combination of addictive deck-building and unpredictable real-time strategy. Cute and colourful, Necronator: Dead Wrong is one unique strategy experience you won’t soon forget.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Panzer Paladin – Review

Whether you’re a long time player who’s chasing the thrill of childhood nostalgia or a more recent arrival to the gaming world who is simply trying to live the highlights of an era gone-by, there’s nothing quite like a great retro-styled platformer. After a few hours with the recently released game from the platforming gurus over at Tribute Games, I can report that Panzer Paladin is exactly that – a great retro-styled platformer that will certainly scratch your itch for all things 8-bit.

Gundam style


The game opens with a quick tutorial level, which introduces the core mechanics of Panzer Paladin‘s gameplay. In short, you play as the pilot of a powerful mech suit – the titular paladin – and must utilise this suit to navigate sprawling levels populated by evil demons which have escaped from the underworld. These demons appear in a number of forms including horrible insects, evil knights and even knife-throwing goblins. Each enemy poses a unique challenge, with distinctive attack patterns with must be learned to ensure success in combat.

Players can employ the mech’s in-built defences, a somewhat weak fire-ball attack, or take advantage of the plethora of oversized medieval melee weapons dropped by enemies. Paladins are able to carry a large number of these dropped weapons, each of which carries its own attack range, damage stat and durability meter. These values, which can be viewed in the game’s pause-menu work about how you would expect. Weapons like spears have large ranges and high durability but comparatively low damage when put against the likes of swords or clubs. Having your items frequently break may sound like a chore on paper, but in practice it ensures you experience the wide range of weapons on offer and incentivises you to pursue higher-level, and therefore more durable, weapons.

You can manually break your weapons by holding a button. This destroys you currently selected item but unleashes a unique-power attack, the strength of which depends predominantly on the power of the weapon you are sacrificing. It’s an enjoyable and effective way of disposing of any lower-level items you might pick up and can come in extremely handy in a fight. Weapons can also be tossed a high speeds and throwing a spear at an out of reach enemy is an awful lot of fun. You still have to be careful though, because tossing away all your weapons willy-nilly can leave you highly vulnerable until they are retrieved.

In addition to combat the game also features some light platforming elements which have you avoiding trapdoor platforms, exploding mines and spike pits galore. These sections are made easier by leaving ejecting from your power-armour which renders you more smaller and more mobile at the cost of lower health and the inability to pick up and use weapons. There are also some small puzzle-like optional elements in levels centred around breaking parts of the environment or ejecting from your suit at specific points to enter small gaps. Completing these is often rewarded with a bonus health regeneration station or unique weapon.

A world at your fingertips:


One of the first thing’s you’ll notice about the game is it’s striking art-style, a faithful recreation of colourful 8-bit graphics. Each of the thirteen levels is based upon a real-world country, selected from a world map-style level select screen, and carries its own distinctive art style. The portrayals of each country may be a little on the stereotypical side but they provide a great variety. One minute you’re taking in the spooky gothic atmosphere of an ancient Scottish castle and the next you’re navigating the bustling streets of New York. I was also pleased to notice that the game’s bosses, which are situated at the end of each level, were all loosely based upon mythological creatures native to each country’s lore. The stages themselves are accompanied by their own fantastic theme songs, featuring an exciting blend of typical 8-bit beeps and more sophisticated elements clearly inspired by each nation’s traditional instruments. Each boss fight also comes with its own, more generic, combat theme.

From the map-screen, players can also access the “laboratory” in which they can use their “spirit points” – gained by completing levels – to upgrade their weapons. An upgrade system is a nice feature to have, but it is made pretty redundant by the fact that you still have to find the weapons each level to use them with the large number of available weapons making it quite tricky to actually encounter the specific one you have just poured all of your points into. Luckily, although these upgrades do undeniably improve weapons they are certainly not necessary to complete the game and in my playthrough the availability of powerful weapons in levels meant I never really felt held back by a lack of upgrades.

The game also features an in-depth weapon creator which allows users to create their own pixel-sprites and stat sheets. Your creation uploaded directly to the Steam Workshop on PC and automatically integrated into everyone’s games. Players can find community created weapons dropped randomly by higher level enemies and the potential of finding all-new weapons contributes greatly to the replayability of the game. If for some reason though you want to stick to only the developer-made weapons, the community content can be disabled at any time via the settings menu.

In addition to encountering all new weapons, replays are encouraged by the remix mode and speedrun mode. As the name would suggest, remix mode alters the levels of the campaign mode by altering enemy placements to create a more challenging experience whilst speedrun mode challenges players to beat “ghost” versions of either their previous playthroughs or those of the top global players.

Lost the plot


I found the only real major issue with the game to be the result of questionable PC optimisation. The default keyboard control scheme can be described as ‘unintuitive’ at best and makes a game with an old-school approach to difficulty borderline impossible at times – even on easiest settings. Thankfully, this is easily remedied through either picking up a cheap PC compatible controller or purchasing the Nintendo Switch edition of the game; it is worth noting that this edition doesn’t include the Steam Workshop features, however, for obvious reasons.

The game’s plot, which is presented through some admittedly superbly drawn retro pixel-art cutscenes, is pretty straightforward and I found that, despite their prettiness, being bombarded with walls of text at the end of an otherwise exciting level made me pretty eager to skip them; particularly in some of the longer story segments. It would also be nice to have the option to change the in-game font as, although the blocky text is undeniably authentic, I found it a bit hard to read at times. These criticisms may seem to be a little nit-picky, but there’s really very little wrong with the game besides these minor niggles.

Verdict:


When it comes to retro-styled platformers, this is certainly one of the best we’ve seen yet. It may not entirely reinvent the wheel conceptually but Panzer Paladin still has a host of fantastic features and a great art direction. Any fans of the genre will certainly appreciate a particularly well crafted set of maps, some killer music and gameplay which has undeniably been tweaked to perfection.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.

Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise – Review

Over the last few weeks, I’ve really been taking my time to get to know Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise. Its predecessor, an obscure Xbox 360 survival horror title, was jam-packed with idiosyncrasies and hidden features which took months, even years, for its fans to uncover and whilst the first entry in the series appears at first glance to be a borderline non-functional mess, underneath its rough surface of iffy controls, weird glitches and general strangeness, lies some of the most unapologetically brilliant storytelling and character building I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Thus, I wanted to make sure I was offering a complete evaluation of the sequel, taking into account everything it has to offer, rather than just basing this article upon any potentially deceiving first impressions.

Past and present


Beginning in the modern day, the prologue of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise lets players experience see for the first time the profound effect the events of the first game have had on the now series’ protagonist, Francis York Morgan. Despite his retirement, the now elderly York begrudgingly finds himself at the centre of a new FBI investigation headed by two fresh faces, the no-nonsense Agent Davis and her comedic pizza-loving sidekick Agent Jones. Despite appearing initially uncooperative, York becomes intrigued when he learns about the appearance of a mysterious red tree in New Orleans and the sudden discovery of a young girl’s dismembered body frozen in a block of ice.

It soon becomes clear that Davis’ current investigation is deeply intertwined with a case worked by York almost fifteen years prior. This takes the plot back into the past, where players meet a refreshingly young Agent York who has, by pure coincidence, stumbled across the news of a brutal murder in the town of Le Carré at the heart of the deep south. Intrigued, York swiftly travels to Le Carré and assumes control of the case. Conducting his own investigation, aided by the Le Carré sheriff and his young daughter Patricia, York is soon thrust into a bizarre world of brutal killings, strange drugs and paranormal entities.

Whilst the almost surrealist writing makes the game’s atmosphere particularly hard to engage with at first, players who persevere are rewarded with an engaging and smartly-written three-part mystery filled with unpredictable twists, a lovable cast of characters and a jaw-dropping finale. It’s also worth noting that a knowledge of the previous game in the series, now marketed as Deadly Premonition Origins, is required to fully appreciate the plot. Whilst first-time players will probably still have some vague idea of what is going on at any given time, much of the nuance will be lost.

Please, just call me York


Much like the plot, gameplay is decidedly split between both the past and the present. In the present day, the player controls Agent Davis as she interrogates York and listens to his story. As Davis in the modern day, players are confined to a fixed position from which they can select from a number of items in the environment to initiate conversations with York. These sections are short, and found at the beginning of each segment, with the rest of the episode leaving players free to explore the open-world of Le Carré at Agent York in 2005.

Much like the original Deadly Premonition, life in Le Carré operates on a week-long schedule with named NPCs having detailed daily routines. You often catch characters driving around the map to go to work or completing various chores around town. Interacting with characters during certain parts of their routines or in specific episodes gives the player access to the game’s side quests. Although these side quests are often just a generic fetch-quest, they each provide a unique insight into the life of their associated character. In addition to solving side quests, players can entertain themselves with a variety of minigames; including bowling and stone-skipping. Both the mastery of minigames and the competition of side quests provide unique rewards like special suits to wear or unlocking new fast-travel locations.

Players also have to maintain various aspects of York’s wellbeing. Skateboarding around town in the sweltering Louisiana sun is quite a sweaty task, and the player needs to make sure showers or changes his clothes daily. There is also a hunger bar, with low hunger depleting stamina and health, which can be filled by dining at local restaurants or picking up snacks from the plethora of vending machines that are littered around town. You can also pick up temporary debuffs from catching a cold, drinking too much or even staying in the sun long enough to become sunburnt! Although many of these features seem pretty mundane on paper, they make the world of Deadly Premonition 2 far more immersive than most and kept me eager to explore the open world even into the late-game.

The main story quests also offer a fantastic variety of gameplay. With access to profiling mode which involves examining reconstructed crime scenes, gathering evidence at crimes scenes and the routine solving of riddle-like clues provided by a skeletal oracle; this is certainly an investigation like no other. York also frequently enters the distorted ‘otherworld’ throughout the course of the investigation by entering portals known as ‘singularities’. The otherworld sections comprise of fighting off waves of creepy monsters in addition to some very light puzzle solving. They always close with a memorable boss-fight and shocking plot revelations.

This barely scratches the surface of many of the game’s features, but if this large number of mechanics already seems a little overwhelming; fear not! Players can always access a handy bank of tutorial guides via the pause menu at any point in the game.

A blessing in disguise


Despite all of its charm, Deadly Premonition 2 does still have its fair share of issues. The most apparent problem is the game’s absolutely abysmal framerate which often dips below ten frames-per-second seemingly randomly. Whilst closing and reopening the game frequently does seem to alleviate this problem somewhat performance is still inexcusably poor. On top of this, certain cutscenes often result in soft-locks and black screens. Although the game does have an autosave feature, I would still recommend saving frequently just to be safe.

I also found certain animations, particularly the shooting animations and even some parts of cutscenes, seem stiff an oddly unnatural. There are also a number of eerily stationary, almost dead-looking nameless NPCs spattered around Le Carré, presumably for decoration, which I felt were a completely unnecessary addition and just detracted from the otherwise good-looking locale. The game also has its fair share of general glitches, with falling through the floor, floating NPCs and enemies stuck in walls not a particularly uncommon occurrence.

Once you get past the initial teething phase, it’s still alarmingly easy to become enthralled by the incredibly gripping storyline. Perhaps the biggest compliment that I can give to Deadly Premonition 2 is that, in spite of all its glaring issues, I never wanted to put the game down. if you’re still put-off by the poor performance though, the developers have thankfully already confirmed the fact that there is a complete patch in the works – although no release date has been given.

Verdict:


It may a be a little rough around the edges but the game provides series fans with exactly what they would want from a sequel whilst still, almost incredibly, wholly subverting expectations. It supersedes the original in some respects whilst simultaneously significantly lacking in others but nevertheless provides a suitable vessel for Agent Francis York Morgan, one of the most brilliantly written characters in videogame history, to make a triumphant return. I’ve never known a game to have a more fitting tagline than Deadly Premonition 2 which, on the whole, can rightfully be described as nothing short of “a blessing in disguise”.

The Otterman Empire – Review

There doesn’t seem to have been much to celebrate recently but that certainly doesn’t stop us from being in the mood for a good party game. The Otterman Empire from indie developers Tri-Heart Interactive is one such game. A bright and colourful co-op shooter in which you play as adorable otters, might just be the you need to keep you and your friends cheerful when times are tough.

A l(otter) heart


Set on an intergalactic space colony, The Otterman Empire places players in the shoes of a customisable aquatic warrior who is tasked with defending the planet against the evil mad scientist Dr Tiko by destroying his seemingly endless army of malevolent machines. Players can face this challenge with up to three friends in local co-op play or opt to face it alone in single-player. There are eight selectable characters to choose from, each with a unique design and diverse selection of unlockable cosmetic items to discover.

From a visual standpoint, The Otterman Empire is a pretty good all-rounder. The colour palette is bright and cartoonish, perfectly complimenting the game’s character’s colourful designs. I found all of the eight included maps to be intriguing, each one covering a distinct visual theme. These range from a futuristic sport themed space arena to the gardens of a mediaeval looking castle. My personal favourite was the game’s first map, a sleek futuristic city environment which was both gorgeous to look at and a lot of fun to explore.

Your progress through the game is mapped, if you’ll pardon the pun, by the maps you unlock through playing. Each one has three alternate game-modes to try with a potential of nine total stars to unlock – three stars being the highest obtainable rating per game-mode. By unlocking a sufficient number of stars, you gain access to the next map. In theory, this ensures the player will spend a sufficiently long amount of time in each map to get really to grips with it. but in reality, this system just becomes a bit of a slog after a while; with players forced to repeatedly go over the same maps in order to get a high enough rating to progress.

In spite of the forced repetition, the different game-modes which are on offer in each map are nevertheless pleasantly varied. My personal favourite was ‘squidditch’ a fast-paced mode which challenges players to use their jetpacks to slam dunk as many bombs into enemy spawning portals as possible. Both jetpack fuel and ammunition is replenished through sliding gaily along waterways which are dotted along maps and additionally serve as a quick method of transportation when you’re in a hurry. The other game-modes on offer are similarly unique and all require a distinct set of skills for players to master.

Not quite a party


It is a huge shame that no matter which map or mode you choose to play there seems to be only two total enemy types found throughout the entire campaign. There are stationary turrets which will blast any player unlucky enough to stumble into their field of view with a laser beam and smaller, laser-firing flying drones, which are often equally as stationary. The strategy for tackling both enemy types is the same, unload as many shots into them as quickly as you can, and this tangible lack of enemy variety causes gameplay to become incredibly stale in only a matter of minutes.

Overall, the campaign mode offers a few interesting modes to try out, but the seeming lack of effort put into enemy design and behaviour leaves the whole ordeal feeling like one big wasted opportunity. It can be tackled in both a single player or as part of a local co-op but why anyone would actually want to play the campaign in co-op, and not the far more interesting versus mode which does away with the boring robot enemies, is beyond me.

Sitting down with the versus mode and having your buddies blast away at each other’s otter avatars is an awful lot of fun! It allows you to return to your favourite maps and revitalises the more interesting game modes from the campaign. PC users also have the option of Steam‘s ‘Remote Play Together’ with which you can invite a friend to play a livestreamed version of your game through an integrated browser window. It is entirely reliant on the other player having both a fast internet connection and USB controller on hand, but does you the chance to play the game with people who are not in the immediate vicinity.

Otterly baffling


I am happy to report that since launch, the game has received numerous patches and small updates – the most significant of which was a fix for the PC version of the title, which launched with a borderline unusable keyboard control scheme. It would be nice to see some further additions to help improve the overall polish of the game.

A notable area for improvement is the audio design. Whilst most of the included original music is good, the audio design of the in-game dialogue definitely needs some work. With no actual sound effects beyond a few frequently repeated, and strangely quiet, soundbites, the character interactions of both the campaign and tutorial feel completely lifeless. Another appreciated addition would be a reworking of the game’s graphics menu, which still doesn’t include basic options like changing the window’s resolution or even just the option of playing the game in windowed mode!

The UI on PC is absolutely huge and there is absolutely no way to resize the text and buttons so that they don’t occupy large areas of the screen. Simply addressing these few basic issues would go a huge way in improving the title’s overall look and feel. It would also be nice if damage taken was more obviously communicated to the player. It’s hard to keep track of your health in the heat of a battle and there were many occasions when I didn’t even know I was taking damage until I had died.

Verdict:


The saddest thing about The Otterman Empire is that the game is almost good. Whilst there has evidently been a lot of love and passion behind the title’s unique art-direction, quirky writing and superb community management over the years; a number of baffling design missteps and a lack of overall polish unfortunately prevents me from being able to wholeheartedly recommend this title. It isn’t an inherently awful option if you’re craving a local co-op fix, but many would-be players will likely find that the game’s current issues are just a little too hard to swallow.


Just so you’re aware! In order to facilitate a review this product was given to our organisation free of charge.