From Nintendo and Sony to Sega and Konami, there was a time where every developer with a semi decent roster of recognizable characters felt the need to shoehorn their mascots into a kart racing game. Some were good, some not, but the most memorable ones were usually the games featuring well-known characters. 3DClouds, an Italian indie developer doesn’t have the luxury of banking on familiar faces for their title, All-Star Fruit Racing, as it is their debut title. However, this doesn’t mean that the game isn’t worth a closer look as even though it is still an Early Access title, it already impresses
Observer is a slow-paced, cyberpunk themed thriller from the same developers that brought us Layers of Fear. Despite the change of setting, Observer shares a lot of similarities with LOF, especially during the surreal hacking sequences where you invade the thoughts of other people and experience their worst fears. The incredibly detailed visuals and gripping environments make Observer a game that is hard to put down, but the slower pace and lack of control beyond observing your surroundings and scanning things might deter the action crowd. Overall, it is a title that all fans of the cyberpunk genre will enjoy and it offers an enthralling experience despite some technical issues.
Gameplay: There is little to do apart from exploring your surroundings and scanning things for clues, but the game remains engrossing nonetheless.
Graphics: The abundance of post-processing effects might be a bit much for some players, but there is no faulting the highly detailed visuals.
Sound: The soundtrack is just as tense as you’d expect from a title like this and it is great to hear Rutger Hauer lending his vocals to the lead character
Cat Quest is a very tongue-in-cheek role playing game that is sure to appeal to fans of the genre who also loves cats. Don’t be fooled by the bright, colorful visuals, though, as the game is every bit as fun and addictive as its serious counterparts. The streamlined interface and open world makes the game a joy to play and it offers hours of fun, although it can also be enjoyed in short bursts if you don’t have a lot of time. It is obviously not as in-depth as more serious takes on the genre, but remains addictive and entertaining throughout.
Gameplay: A very accessible entry in the action RPG genre that favors fun over statistics and inventory juggling.
Graphics: Bright, colorful and very easy on the eyes.
Sound: The game doesn’t have any speech, but the soundtrack hits all the nostalgic notes
While there are plenty of games that allow you to play as a magic user, Fictorum is one of the few that makes you feel truly powerful right from the start. With an impressive arsenal of spells at your disposal and the ability to shatter buildings, it is definitely not lacking in excitement initially. Unfortunately, once the novelty wears off the game can become quite repetitive and doesn’t offer you much to do beyond blowing up the same enemies and buildings. The game also lacks some polish in terms of visuals and audio, but as long as you don’t expect too much there is still fun to be had.
Gameplay: Fictorum is quite exciting initially, but once the novelty of blowing up buildings wears off it can become a little repetitive.
Graphics: The destruction is impressive, but the overall visual style a little bland.
Sound: Decent enough sound effects, but repetitive music and no voice acting
Omega Pattern is a visual novel where you follow the story of a young man named Shaiel who is on the run from a ruthless organization called Bioagora. His psychic skills make him an important target for Bioagora, who has a history of turning gifted people into brainwashed agents to do their bidding. The game doesn’t just tell the story of Shaiel in the present, but also features plenty of flashbacks where you actually get to make choices that influences the route you take to the ending. This gives the game some nice replay value and the different routes are actually quite different and not just minor variations. Unfortunately, Omega Pattern is also quite short and since it is only the first part of the full story, it ends in a “To Be Continued,” which might annoy some fans.
Gameplay: The story is genuinely intriguing and the choices you get to make actually impacts the story, which is a nice touch.
Graphics: Nothing really special, but gets the job done.
Sound: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is really solid
Hop into the cockpit of your fighter and take down a virtual network that has evolved a little too much for its own good in this shoot ‘em up from Bikkuri Software. It offers non-stop action and a bullet grazing mechanic that forces you to risk life and limb to boost your score while unleashing devastating attacks. The 16-bit style of the visuals and audio offers a nice blast from the past for fans of the genre, but even newcomers can ease into the action thanks to a practice mode and selectable difficulty settings. The game is a little short for our liking and the style might not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy a good shoot ‘em up you can do far worse than this one.
Gameplay: Being forced to skirt dangerously close to bullets instead of simply avoiding them makes for a frantic experience.
Graphics: The 16-bit visual style is charming, but might not appeal to those who didn’t grow up with the genre.
Sound: The soundtrack is good, but the sound effects lack a little punch
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a twin stick shooter where the odds are very much against you. Faced with waves of deadly enemies, your only chance for survival is to play a bit more tactical than what is expected from you in most of these types of games. Using your drone companion to manage your threat level is essential and sometimes knowing when to make a run for it is just as useful as standing your ground. With four character classes, different skill trees, a story mode and survival mode, this is the type of game that can keep you busy for ages. The lack of online co-op sucks, but nothing beats setting up two controllers and playing with a friend next to you on the couch.
Gameplay: The game is intense,even on lower skill levels, and requires you to do more than just spray and pray.
Graphics: Not a very colorful game, but the top down visuals packs plenty of detail.
Sound: Surprisingly good voice acting even if the background music is nothing to write home about
The NEKOPARA series has consistently delivered entertaining kinetic novels with great visuals and audio, so it is no surprise that volume three does the same. This time the story shifts to Maple and Cinnamon, the only catgirls left at La Soleil who have not yet had their chance to shine. While the story spends a lot of time with these two the other catgirls also make regular appearances, so no matter which ones are your favorite, you’ll get to experience more of their cuteness. Like volume one and two, this game is available in censored and uncensored versions, with the former costing less and the latter including explicit h-scenes. Whichever version you choose, you’ll find a story that is packed with adorable catgirls, plenty of humorous situations and some of the best visuals in the genre.
Gameplay: NEKOPARA Vol. 3 is still a kinetic novel with no choices to make, but the story is entertaining all the way through.
Graphics: More stunning artwork by Sayori and more animations courtesy of the E-mote system.
Sound: The soundtrack sounds a little too familiar at times, but still has plenty of great tracks and some stellar Japanese voice acting
Perception is a unique horror title with a charming protagonist who just happens to be blind. This puts a whole new spin on exploring a haunted location as you have to make use of echolocation to find your way around. Although creepy, some of the horror elements, such as being chased by an evil presence if you make too much noise, doesn’t quite live up to expectations. However, the story is very interesting, despite a couple of cliches and discovering what happened in the house throughout the years is fascinating. While the game won’t win any awards for its monochromatic visuals, it does feature some stellar voice acting. Players in search of an atmospheric ghost story that isn’t too demanding should definitely try out Perception.
Gameplay: A little short and easy, but very interesting while it lasts.
Graphics: The visuals are purposely kept simple, which means it doesn’t look as good as some other horror titles.
Sound: Great ambient sound effects and brilliant voice acting, especially for the protagonist
Even if you don’t know your shoggoths from your Mi-go there is a lot to like about this Lovecraftian horror title by Zoetrope Interactive. They are no strangers to the genre and are clearly huge fans of H. P. Lovecraft, which is very evident in this game. The slower place and lack of combat might scare away some horror fans, but the attention to detail and the way that the game perfectly captures the atmosphere of Lovecraft’s work makes it a must play for fans. It might lack a little polish in some areas and it is over all too soon, but it is still a remarkable effort by a small indie team and one that deserves to be played.
Gameplay: Plenty of exploration and puzzle solving in environments that perfectly capture the style of H. P Lovecraft.
Graphics: Your surroundings are detailed and quite atmospheric.
Sound: The voice acting could have been better, but the rest of the audio is very good