With so many indie games and smaller titles being released each month it can be difficult to know which ones to play. With this in mind, we have decided to showcase some of the games that stood out from the ever-increasing crowd. The past few weeks we’ve played a few rounds of mini-golf, ushered in the coming of an old god, threw some insults around and have even been mauled by a pack of dogs.
The Shrouded Isle – Managing A Cult Is Quite Challenging
Developer: Kitfox games
Publisher: Kitfox games
Reviewed by Deville Louw
In The Shrouded Isle, you are the High Priest of a tiny coastal village. The village has been waiting 500 years for the Elder God Charnobog’s return. With only three years remaining until his inevitable arrival, it’s up to you to make sure that everything runs smoothly until then.
In essence, The Shrouded Isle is a management game where players are tasked with managing the five houses that form part of the village. Sounds, easy? Well, it’s not. Each house specialises in a specific attribute: ignorance, fervour, discipline, penitence, and obedience. You are tasked with selecting one member of each family per season to help you manage each of these attributes for the village. Oh, and you must sacrifice one of them at the end of the season. The catch is that each family member has hidden virtues and vices that could either help or hinder your progress. If the village’s attributes drop too low or if a House becomes angered with you, it’s game over.
It quickly becomes a numbers game, forcing you to make efficient choices with characters becoming a bunch of stats. The game does tend to become repetitive after a while, although each virtue and vice are randomly generated. One thing the game does well is that it oozes atmosphere from the moment you start the game. While many might find the monochromatic visuals not to their liking, I actually found that it added to the overall feeling of dread and gloominess. You are, after all, misleading and sacrificing people.
I enjoyed playing short bursts of The Shrouded Isle. It’s a management game with a unique and interesting premise and, while it can be suspenseful during the early stages, it quickly devolves into rinse and repeat. In the end, I wish there was just a bit more to the game.
Verdict – 6/10
Oh…Sir!! The Insult Simulator – Let The Insults Begin
Developer: Vile Monarch
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Reviewed by Donny Chang
I suspect that God approached game designers Vile Monarch and told them to design the perfect game for someone called Donny Chang. That’s the only explanation I have for Oh…Sir!! The Insult Simulator. It is everything I love jammed into an 8-bit competitive multi-player. Think of it as a love letter to absurd surreal British humour, a-la Monty Python or The Goons mixed with Cards Against Humanity.
A brief history of the game: the original was the product of a game dev competition called Global Game Jam where teams have to make a game in 48 hours, from concept to completion, and this is version 2.0.
In Oh…Sir!! The Insult Simulator, you get dropped into an uncomfortable situation where you face off against an opponent in a battle of the wits, where your tongue and mind are either razor-sharp blades or dull rusty mallets. Each player takes a turn selecting from a common pool of nine words or phrases. Each player also has access to two private phrases which can be refreshed once per round. Once both players have locked in their insults, points are rewarded for a rather brilliant piece of code. As in so many things in life, length matters, but not as much as coherence. Ultimately though, the developers get to decide what’s funny or not.
This isn’t just a hilarious game of random smut generation, it’s really very engaging and when you get into it, deeply strategic. And even though on the surface it would seem to rely on luck, it’s actually dependent on your skill. It’s intelligent insanity with huge replay appeal, complete with a million Monty Python references and trumpet playing butts.
Thank you Vile Monarch, now get playing, you vacuous, toffee-nosed, malodorous pervert!
Verdict – 8.5/10
ChromaGun – A Colour-Filled Blast
Developer: Pixel Maniacs
Publisher: Pixel Maniacs
Reviewed by Evan Saunders
If you love Portal and Portal 2, then you’ll definitely find something to enjoy in the world of ChromaGun. In fact, the similarities extend beyond just being equipped with a test gun in a lab environment, it also has the same level-by-level progression coupled with sarcastic narration by means of an intercom system. But, as copy-paste as this may seem, the playthrough is still endearing. The biggest difference, while still using a lab gun, is the colour approach in the gameplay.
Players can switch between three primary colours, blue, yellow and red, to shoot the paint onto two types of objects. The first of these objects are the floating balls and the second being the walls. Painting the balls with colour doesn’t do much without the matched colour walls, which then draws these balls onto it. Drawing the balls towards the walls, sometimes between two or more, is part of the dynamic of solving the puzzles laid out throughout each of the levels. As the levels progress, the puzzles become much harder, sometimes having to blend colours together to make new ones, while also encountering new objects and even timing certain interactions. Unlike many other puzzle indie games, these puzzles aren’t the simple run-of-the-mill, trial and error type puzzles, but requires a lot of strategy and planning. That is what draws me to the game the most.
ChromaGun not only has challenging puzzles to contend with, it also has a lot of them. After an hour into the game, I still didn’t reach the halfway point and I was surprised that the game kept me enthralled throughout. There isn’t much of a story to play through, however, which does mean that at times I’m playing the game simply to complete the puzzle. This may be one of the only negative aspects of ChromaGun. It is a good game and worth every penny.
Verdict – 7/10
Inside – A Creepy, Dark Run-Through
Platform: PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Reviewed by Evan Saunders
Inside is an indie game created by the same developers of Limbo. This fact is what attracted me to the game in the first place. When Inside went on sale on Steam I knew I had to get my hands on it, a really good decision in retrospect.
From the start, Inside managed to hook me with its silent, but creepy feel. Within a minute I met with my first death by means of a dog attack. I’m not certain if there’s an underlying fear of being attacked to death by an animal of any kind but there’s just something really scary about it, so much so that I got the chills each and every time it happened. It may minimize some of the many other means of dying in-game, although it doesn’t take away from any of the creepiness.
Inside is labelled as a puzzle-platformer adventure game, but I wouldn’t go as far as to place it into any fixed genre. The game covers a few elements from start to finish, moving through different game dynamics, different environments, different types of puzzles and, most of all, a lot of running back and forth. Running seems to be the main feature of the game, which I feel is one of the negative aspects of it. Yes, this ties closely into its relation to Limbo and also isn’t a bad feature on its own. However, using it to solve almost all puzzles is a bit of a let-down. At certain points during the playthrough, it feels as if all I’m doing is running from one end to another as you unlock a certain door before having to go back again. And this can be very tedious.
Despite the back and forth, the game stands out for me thanks to the many different gameplay aspects of the environment and how the different puzzles are used while still running. The environments are what gives this game its appeal. It goes from the very small enclosed spaces to the wide-open fields and underwater cavities and from night to day. At times, the camera zooms out so much, with the background shown in great expanse, making the character feel almost inferior to what’s happening around him. But my favourite and probably many others’ too is how the game enters its final scene. Without going into too much detail and spoilers, it’s nothing short of freaky and captivating.
I didn’t care too much for the end, however, although it leaves you with a strange feeling, having gone through a wide variety of emotions throughout the different scenes. For me, I feel this is exactly what the developers wanted to achieve: a sense of awe.
Verdict – 8.5/10
Infinite Mini Golf – A Lighthearted Take On Golf
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Platform: PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One
Reviewed by Jarrod Saunders
A golfing game set in the confines of a small room or park, where gamers are tasked with putting and avoiding obstacles made from cardboard, probably doesn’t scream excitement for most people. However, Zen Studios, who made their name from the popular Zen Pinball franchise, have formed Infinite Minigolf into a fun, kid-friendly arcade game that has some major potential.
Infinite Mini Golf, a follow up to Planet Mini Golf, gets its name from the endless amount of user-created courses available to players online (literally thousands). Although the offline play offers three courses – a Toy Story-style bedroom, a Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired graveyard and a festive winter wonderland – the real fun is developing your own courses and sharing them with the world online.
It’s also remarkably easy. On my first go, I managed five straight holes-in-one without much thought or any expertise. You simply have to aim and power your shot correctly to win here. Everything about Infinite Mini Golf, its characters, colours, designs and gameplay, are all developed to give a younger audience the opportunity to play without the hassle of learning too many controls. And it works, mostly. While the game’s mechanics need some fine-tuning, most of the game is (including the ball movement) fairly accurate and really inoffensive.
Infinite Mini Golf might be less flashy than other available titles and some might consider it a little unfulfilling, but casual golfers who are looking for a pick-up-and-play experience will find it addictive, relaxing and fun.