Tag Archives: greenlight

Review – Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed Heart

Artifex Mundi brings Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart to the table this month as they push for Greenlight approval, the game is already available outside of Steam but they’re pushing to reach that next audience. Adventure games are a secret love of mine, I used to play them for ages along the likes of Doom II and Duke Nukem, simple narrative driven stories that weren’t competitive but made your brain rage out anyway.  Is this one of those games? Lets take a look and see what Nightmares from the Deep packs and how it executes upon that goal.

The story introduces a loving duo, a mother and her daughter leading an exhibition on a legendary dreaded pirate. Recovered in scary levels of preservation and with a boatload of swag they’re able to put on a massive exhibition… well, until someone decides to start outfitting our dear pirate captain with enchanted accessories. Suddenly the story goes sideways and the deeper truth behind his amazing preservation and trinkets comes forward.  Cursed ships, undead pirates mysterious enchantments and a deal with the devil while the curator’s daughter pushes closer to her own ill-fate all emerge in the story.

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To some degree I enjoy the story, it’s honest and while a bit taxing to build it piece by piece to find the entire back story (there’s a challenge for that). That said, sticking it to the undead, there’s nothing better than that, they can run off some smart remark about how you’re incapable or you’ll fail and then you shove it in their face and it’s just majestic beyond words to throw at them.  What I didn’t care for, introducing a massive geographical change and then not resolving it, because it only happens once but it still bugs about why it’s unresolved. You’re introducing a story driven game with lots of thinking mechanics to a demographic that will think about everything you throw at them. It’s not a deal breaker but sometimes it’s just an extra moment spent on review of the plot where one would go “ooh… we should probably make a note about that”.

While the story may have some rough edges, it’s easy to get distracted while playing due to the detail levels of the art within Nightmare of the Deep. There’s something about just heavy illustrations with painterly style, watching these intense scenes of still ambience without relying on lighting elements to paint it in the moment.  It’s a crafted moment and easy to take a moment to appreciate the intense labor to develop each scene. To some degree I can really say I almost wish they even omitted trying to use mouth animations as it does remove some of the immersion (it’s not really in sync at all).

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Players have to piece together just about everything in The Cursed Heart, jump back to the mid-late 90’s adventure era where things were click based, arranged, mixed and so on and that’s where you go. Artifex Mundi actually accounts for this and created 2 modes to cater to new audiences and classic players.

Regular Mode:

  • No misclick penalty for hidden-object scenes
  • Active zones glimmer frequently
  • The hint and skip button recharge quickly
  • Locations with an available action are indicated on the map

Expert Mode:

  • There is a misclick penalty in hidden-object scenes
  • The hint and skip buttons take longer to recharge
  • Active zones, except hidden-object scenes, are not indicated
  • Locations with an available action are not indicated on the map

Odd facts about those:

  • I played on regular mode, I’m extremely defiant about click spam, I still focused on targeting those or playing the Mahjong mini game to finish out those I could not finish
  • Had no use for the hint or skip buttons, most of the challenges are very accessible
  • I did notice glimmer but honestly I figured that was just part of the atmosphere of a cursed pirated adventure, wasn’t my focus
  • I never used the map unless it was an interactive event

You can act completely oblivious in this game on either mode and still have a fun time and a challenging experience, I urge players who do attempt to take on Nightmare of the Deep to also ignore the skip and hint options as with a decent pace, the game is only about 4 hours long with full exploration and even some double backing.

It’s been ages since I really dove into an adventure game, with so much experimentation and hybrid design it became off-putting to really keep after the genre. The art and general design of Nightmare of the Deep: The Cursed heart make for an enjoyable experience, the story tackles pirate lore and a lighter supernatural layer without trying too hard. I’d suggest checking into it now or boosting it on Steam Greenlight if you’d rather have it managed in Steam.

The good:

  • Beautiful areas, just flat out stunning art to look at
  • Challenging but not to the point of pure rage and quitting
  • Applies itself to new and old players, pick your entry level
  • Story is reasonable, not overkill but easy to relate to
  • Low entry point at $6.99 currently through Artifex Mundi

The not so good:

  • CG actually is a disservice, blocky resolution not sure how to avoid it
  • Facial mouth movements aren’t remotely synchronized
  • Using the tip and skip feature could probably make this game about an hour shorter if used

As Nightmare of the Deep released in 2012, a lot of people might already have the game, regardless I think it’s still worth supporting to see on Greenlight, it would give an enjoyable experience to the genre and bring in some new players to the adventure genre. The flaws within the game are cosmetic and not game breaking which are easy to overlook in the overall picture.

Link: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart (Steam)

Review – Race the Sun

Far far away, crafts race against the sun at hyper speed, pushing the limit of physics to catch every glimmering ray. Some wonder if it’s simply so they can keep up battery life but the rays are essential to the crafts, the radiant nutrition that keeps them alive.

Race the Sun is a unique entry into the racing field, coming from an independent background it pushes to experiment with the idea of a craft being the user avatar. Like a human seeking out oxygen to avoid suffocation, the craft races through shadows and against time itself as death itself approaches. Levels overflow with pillars, tunnels and obstacles to slow players, kill players or rob them of valuable light. The blend isn’t perfect and some areas feel extremely linear but it’s in a league of its own which is rare but also every reason for them to continue their dedication to development.

The visuals are simple, the colors muted and the emotion is largely dead; players race through a near purgatory hoping to see just a few more minutes of life. While there’s debate on how color might impact the overall tone, past games from the arcade era like S.T.U.N. Runner operated on an equally basic delivery and still delivered enjoyment. For me, Race the Sun starts to lose a bit of appeal when it turns into pure survival instinct over a mix of speed and excitement. There are few random jumps, often they’re calculated to pair with a floating bridge, at some point the appearance of the ramps and open space ahead with a fork is predictable. It needs to stop that, ramps can have a radius to send a ship sideways and not everything has to narrow into a valley.

Similar graphical games of the past have attempted to supplement this challenge with rolling tunnels, leap of faith jumps and more. While I understand the worlds generate for the main design, you start to really think that after repeating runs over time and that’s never good unless it’s intentional. Having instant thoughts of “Stage 3 = spikes, narrow path, few jumps, enemy ships floating” is good for an arcade game but I don’t think that’s purely what Race the Sun wants aim for, but if it does, it’s still not quite there.

Other than that, Race the Sun delivers, the first hours into the game are enjoyable, the user-created levels work to bridge into new creativity and use of the engine with first person view, trees and other objects to give larger appeal. The longer term investment into the game drives realizations about the current generator options and hopefully Flippfly can help counter that with improved variety and less predictable stages. I do enjoy what the game offers, I’m upset that I’m mentally prepared for variations of relatively any stage number.

The team has worked hard, there’s no doubt in that, having a live beta to experience as they drive to the finish line is a unique experience. Seeing the game and dynamics take subtle shifts along the way allows a player to feel like their opinion is actively shaping their experience vs being fed random shots of change. Hopefully Flippfly’s commitment continues to drive their experimentation with Race the Sun, it certainly has the potential to go higher from this point.

The good:

  • Scales impossibly well, even at Eyefinity the engine just pours on
  • Challenges are the name of this game, maps rotate and striving to top of the charts is a chore
  • Manning the craft means fighting for life, chasing for light as the darkness envelops everything.
  • Online top lists and portal jumping allow players to interact in relay races and other competition building forms.
  • Stands as a unique entry in a genre crowded with Sim trucks to mock racing leagues.

The not so good:

  • Levels become predictable for format or expected challenges
  • Interactive object placement is just strategy and memorization (jumps to platforms, tunnels sweep right left in most cases)

Race the Sun has a lot to offer that we haven’t seen yet, one just has to hope that Flippfly pushes to drive that variety for players. At $9.99 it’s certainly enjoyable and it’s in competition for Steam’s Greenlight service, hopefully they continue to generate votes to reach a wider audience and really bring in the income that allows them to invest in experimentation at a larger scale.

Review – Shelter

Might and Delight took a shot at platforming with p.i.d. and they’ve returned with Shelter, a game of a different scope, asking players to find a parental or guardian instinct within. The task presents difficulty, having to fend off flying predators, lurkers in the dark and brave the elements while trying not to let your family starve. The reward of course is simple, your family lives and you take the reward of having protected and saved them, that’s one of the best they could really distribute.

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Sadly, Shelter is really short, like an hour if you really push through and don’t get lost in the dark. The pathways are linear through most regions and fail to embrace the open world presentation, predators and challenges fail to repeat and instead greet players a step at a time. With a difficulty adjustment option maybe it could solve that issue, now though, once completing Shelter, there’s a general idea of where mistakes happened and how to overcome them.

Shelter 2013-09-03 01-41-08-52It’s a nice perk to learn from the past but to have that negate the experience is a bit rough, replay value does drop as players begin to count of turns or paces between zones until they’re on the next task. I really wish they would attempt to add some alternatives or options into Shelter, before you know it, you’re almost done and it’s too late. For $9.99 there’s a contrast in the experience between this and other Greenlight games, being able to revisit is a huge part of the experience now.

Conceptually I find Shelter as a fun start of an experience, crossing regions, protecting from predators and experiencing a world without guns, swords or other weapons. It falls short of taking the experience further, what about other shelter regions, paths, enemies or different level designs for each adventure. Variety is the biggest issue here, I just wish there was something available to generate that impression.

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The good:

  • Unique experience, focusing on protecting your kin
  • Challenges forcing preservation of self and the group
  • Design uses simplicity and rough illustration to paint a warm home

The not so good:

  • Good for about 1 experience
  • Lacks variety in enemy and layout options
  • Short, between 60-120 minutes depending on the player