Category Archives: Adventure

REVIEW: 2D World Creator

When Dinora released on XBLIG last year, it found a comfortable niche between two groups of people; those that wanted a cheaper, indie-er Terraria, and those that liked the idea of Terraria combined with more NPC interaction, including creating your own family in-game. Now developer NeuronVexx is returning to its roots, of sorts, with plainly-titled 2D World Creator ($1.00).

To be clear, 2D World Creator is not Dinora. If Dinora was meant to evoke the ‘hardcore-ness’ of survival mixed with creativity, of hard work paired with incremental progress, then 2D World Creator is the Casual Friday of crafters; zero pressure, zero responsibilities, and zero crafting. Hey, if you want to drop a toilet in a cave and call your ‘house’ completed, so be it. No judgement.

The game allows you— and up to three others, locally— to choose from a handful of avatar types, then drops you into a pristine world ripe for construction. The avatars correspond to the block sets you can build with, like a Farmer, a medieval Knight, or a futuristic Robot. I chose to play my robot ill-tempered, to make scenes like this:

And those block sets are unlocked fully from the start, no hassle required, cutting out a lot of the lead-in and busywork that traditional crafting games entail. The typical components apply, including fencing, walls, chairs, beds, dressers, and a ton of accessories. Mix and match from across the four tilesets.

Visually, 2D World Creator is an upgrade from Dinora. Structures and components look better in this game, though the idea remains the same. Stack blocks as you will, using the foreground and background to add flair and variety, set up wiring to attach switches and lamps, or interact with a radio1, TV, portal, etc. Your ‘home’ is what you make it. Build a massive brick castle or mansion with futuristic furnishings, or keep it dirt simple, and underground:

Short of having local friends to build with you, though, this world will feel cold and empty compared to other games of its type. No animals (aww man, no pets!) or NPCs of any kind exist here. There are no enemies to fight, no pockets of rare minerals / items to discover. Just you and your pickaxe.

The rest, as they say, is up to you. 2D World Creator cuts out all the boring stuff like, you know… Challenge, Progression, and a sense of Purpose, and hands you the controls to the entire thing from the start. Creativity takes the place of all that ‘rest’, and if you’ve got an idea in your head, the game gives you some means to realize it.


  1. You can sample from the game’s limited soundtrack, turn it off completely, or use your own from the hard drive. I totally forgot I had an old My Chemical Romance album on mine, which made for ‘interesting’ construction music. 
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REVIEW: DeadKings

The game of Checkers1 is an old one, possibly the oldest. It’s rules are relatively simple; two sides, two sets. Men can make diagonal moves on the board, only going forward, while King pieces—having reached the other side of the board unscathed— have the luxury of moving diagonally in either direction. The idea is to ‘trap’ and / or ‘capture’ all of your foe’s pieces. There are good moves and bad moves2, and a fair amount of strategy involved, but generally, anyone can jump right in and play.

Ditto for DeadKings3 ($1.00), although in many ways, Checkers isn’t the game’s primary focus. As the sequel to a fan-favorite game called, appropriately enough, BloodyCheckers4, you’d kinda expect it to be. I mean, you’ll play plenty of rounds of Checkers, against the AI and / or human players. All of the parts and rule sets are there, mind you, and some not-so-official powerups, but DeadKings is also all at once a dungeon crawler, an RPG, part roguelike, and even a co-op adventure game, if you prefer to play nice with others.

Dead.Kings - Screen

To that end, you are a reincarnated knight, brought back to the entrance of a vast, extremely hazardous, and unmapped castle. Your ‘goal’ as stated is to ascend the floors of said castle, finding ways around locked doors and gates, triggering a number of devious traps and enemies, and challenging dozens of opponents (including Death Himself) to a very impolite game of Checkers5. All of this, in order to eventually level up your knight and reach max level, to open every door, and to claim the Sword of Valor for your own.

Easier said than done, natch. Though really, it’s not the ‘games’ you should be worried about. The castle itself is the real challenge, practically a living, breathing character, providing multiple ways for you to die and get lost in its labyrinthian corridors. That said, you can also thrive, once you’ve built up a small treasury of gold and earned a few abilities / items. From there (and once you’ve gained the ability to warp around the map), it’s essentially an open world. Do as you wish. Uncover some secrets, burn some bats, or troll your co-op partner and teleport him to the pits of the castle6.

Whatever happens, it’s important to keep your light handy. As in the original game, your candle is basically life itself. Should your flame be snuffed out, you are in a world of trouble. Besides the obvious result of being left in the dark, you cannot open chests, doors, or enter paintings (how you start Checkers matches, buy certain powerups, etc.) without it. Later in the game, this is potentially less of an issue, but in the early going, you’ll have to be on guard.

Dead.Kings - Screen2

Given that mechanic, the maze-like floors, and the shifting nature of its hazards (DeadKings has its own version of Lost‘s Smoke Monster), the sheer scope of the castle can sometimes be intimidating. The game is built with co-op in mind, which should cut down on any frustrations you may have. Although, as is the case with other games this size, a few bugs still exist in the current form. Fixes are inbound, but none really detract from the overall experience.

Thankfully, the game keeps you too busy and too entertained to notice. Play some Checkers (or don’t), solve the castle’s various mysteries, adventure with— or against— a friend, and, perhaps most importantly, continue to explore. Even then, you’ll likely never run out of things to do. After five-plus hours, I’ve only scratched its surface7. And that’s a very good thing. However you choose to play, and whatever endeavor you wish to focus on, DeadKings— and its expansive castle— gives you plenty of excellent options.


  1. Checkers is my game, and really, my only game. Although I was taught the basics on a couple of occasions, I still to this day can not sit down and play a game of Chess. My simple mind just doesn’t know it. Mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  2. And if you should need some refreshment of the rules or wish to learn some new strategies, DeadKings offers plenty of lessons. Educates as much as it entertains, if you will. 
  3. This review is also featured at Indiepitome
  4. An admission: the game was released before my time reviewing XBLIGs, and therefore, I have not played it to any great degree. Again, mock me if you’d like. I deserve it. 
  5. If you so desire; a forthcoming update will add a few minigames to spice up the match-playing, and you can always bypass the Checkers games entirely (see ‘RageQuit’). 
  6. A sarcastic ‘Thanks!’ to GNAWMAN for that. 
  7. Only 25% completed, and I’m Level 18. Seems there’s a lot of castle still to discover. 

REVIEW: Avatar Fear

You have to admire persistence. Rendercode Games has been on a mission to create a Slender-like worth playing for more than a year now. First there was the dreadful The Monastery, followed up by a an FPS / Collection hybrid that just didn’t work, Hellhounds. Whether this game is the product of that constant iteration, listening to criticism and adapting, or something else entirely, that dogged persistence to Slender-ize has now paid off. Somewhat. Avatar Fear ($1.00) is still just plain boring as a solo act, but in teaming up with four friends (or randoms, even) online, it’s a bit of alright.

Avatar Fear - Screen

Switching the traditional perspective to a third-person view, Avatar Fear drops you on a large map containing a number of Mayan temples and buildings, some you can enter, some not. You’re asked to collect a certain amount of coins— ranging from 10 to 24 depending on the difficulty chosen— with the knowledge that an ancient monster (er… a giant lizard with wings and tiny human skulls for a belt) will be stalking you and / or your crew the entire time. Bet you regret that decision to visit ancient ruins1 now, don’t you?

Conveniently, your avatar walks very slowly (to dial up that tension, natch), but you do have a limited ability to run, essential in escaping the monster. In multiplayer, your endurance is wisely tied to that of your teammates. If you don’t stick close to the group, you won’t be able to run as far when the creature picks up your scent. This also means you shouldn’t cast too wide a net in your search, as lone-wolfing it is a surefire way to get yourself killed off early.

There’s no real way of dealing with the lizard when it appears, or defending yourself if you’re caught out. You simply have to run, hopefully finding a corner or building to duck into, breaking the line of sight. Even then, you’ll have to mumble a prayer and hope it gets bored with the chase. You can also, in effect, throw your partners under the bus and walk away, leaving them to ditch the monster or suffer a cruel fate. Upon death, you turn into a ‘ghost’ camera of sorts, and can watch the survivors search for the remaining cash.

Avatar Fear - Screen2

Similar to White Noise Online, playing what should be a scary game with others doesn’t dilute the fear as much as it makes things more fun and genuine. Having others conduct their own search while you do yours cuts out a lot of slow busywork, and it’s certainly a little unnerving to look up and see the distant glow of your friends’ torches, and realize you wandered a bit too far. Then the music starts, and its too late. The reverse is also true, as being the last alive means your name is next on the list.

Still, was I able to find the final two coins, play the hero, and bring down the lizard king’s evil grip on… fictional ancient currency? You bet I was. Shame the global leaderboard only tallies scores made during the duller solo runs, but I digress. It still pales next to the likes of White Noise Online and, you know, the actual Slender, but Avatar Fear is quick entertainment for a group of people that aren’t afraid of the dark. Or giant, stalking lizards with skull belts2.

 


  1. Partially-related (as least the part about Mayan ruins), The Ruins is an under-appreciated horror flick. Killer weeds, man. 
  2. Seriously, how did it get the belt? Its fingers are way too long to be of any help with precision work. Not to mention cleaning the skulls and putting the belt on. Something don’t add up. 

REVIEW: The Undead Syndrome 2

And then, like a hopeful ray of light shining down from a bizarre Japanese sun, The Undead Syndrome 2 ($1.00) was released onto the indie channel. Only momentarily blinded by its arrival, my heart stirred at the sight, and I was bathed in memories of foggy environs, KI powers, crystal implants, and giant, vein-covered babies. As the sequel to one of the oddest experiences around (and a personal favorite), this new game had quite a bit to live up to.

Once again channeling parts of all the great, classic survival horror games (notably Silent Hill and Parasite Eve), you’re dropped into the continuing saga of our unknown— and possibly murdered— female lead. After the events of the first game, she wakes up in an alien structure, impaled on a spike. Nearby, others are similarly hung up, including her attacker. She learns the Matrix-like truth that she is being ‘plugged into’ the unending nightmare she’s experiencing, and that whoever or whatever is behind it all is studying them for research purposes. Hmm, guess we’ll be taking the red pill today.

The game’s alien rabbit-hole leads back into the interconnected nightmare, and it’s as strange (and familiar) as ever, morphing from claustrophobic Japanese-style rooms to large, open dreamscapes filled with all sorts of ugly creations bent on stopping you. Using the gifted-to-you ability to shoot energy from your hand (known as KI), you’ll have to cleanse the dream bit by bit, exploring, finding keys and other useful items through some simple platforming, and then revisiting old areas once you’ve gained a new way forward.

That route is mostly trial and error, mind you, as one of my biggest issues with the previous game— the lack of a map or objective markers— leads to some guesswork once again. Helpful floating text in the environment occasionally points you in the right direction or offers a clue to solving some basic puzzles (plus it looks really cool), but it’s largely on you to make a mental diagram of your surroundings and remember which doors were locked the last time you came through. If you’re like me, you’ll get lost a few times before eventually stumbling onto the path the game wants you to take.

Combat feels more amped-up this time around, introducing new enemy types and larger battles, for better and for worse. Given that foes respawn the minute you leave, and backtracking plays a huge role in the game, you’ll be fighting a lot. A lot. Thankfully, the RPG-style leveling and versatile body implants return, rewarding you for fighting those waves of enemies and experimenting with your crystal loadout, trading off KI power or health for greater protection from poison or paralyzing blows. The higher the percentage, the less susceptible you will be to enemy attacks, and really, this perk is worth its weight in the diamonds you’ll equip. Trust me.

The Undead Syndrome 2 - Screen

That’s right, random status ailments rear their ugly head again, and are more annoying than ever. Having to pause mid-fight to bring up the menu and scroll down to the required item is a momentum breaker, and that’s assuming you’re carrying the herbs you need. While enemies drop money (the mysterious spectral salesman and his store are back!) and said healing items, it’s never a guarantee you’ll have what you need in any situation. With the hulking crab-baby bosses (a total of three) guarding the keys you’ll need to progress deeper into your nightmare, you’d be wise to stock up.

Each fight plays the same, with you first attempting to hit their weak points on their arms to expose their head, which takes more damage. This is easier said than done, with the game’s loose combat controls not-suited to precision hits. All this while the bosses give chase, stomping you and inflicting those goddamn status ailments you’ll learn to loathe. Your best bet is to carry plenty of curative items and use the game’s speed run feature to keep a distance buffer between you and them. Otherwise, you may be forced to restart or backtrack to a shop to purchase more. Which is… very not fun.

It’s a shame, as the rest of the game flows well-enough. It ends on a cliffhanger, of course, without any definitive showdown or further exposition. Although abrupt ends tend to infuriate (especially after another 3+ hours of work), that means we can probably expect an additional chapter or two in the series at some point. Which I’m all for. Minus those truly terrible boss fights and the absence of a map, The Undead Syndrome 2 is an intriguing follow-up to an already plenty-intriguing original that fans should enjoy.

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

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REVIEW: Super Dungeon Quest

From a visual standpoint, and from reading its idea on paper, Super Dungeon Quest ($2.99) is the kind of game that appeals to me right away. It would probably appeal to most others, too. A straight-up dungeon hack & slash, with a hint of roguelike flavoring and a ton of lovely-looking sprites, several character classes to choose from, and some light RPG values that enable you to level up your stats as you go.

Super Dungeon Quest - Screen

So why then, after playing through the game’s randomized dungeons with two (of seven) different character classes, a fireball-slinging Wizard and a melee-focused Warrior, am I left with such an empty, repetitive feeling? To understand that, you have to first recognize the gameplay for what it is; a twin-stick shooter. Sure, you don’t use the right thumbstick, but attacks can be auto-aimed and spammed repeatedly. For the range-based Heroes in particular, like the aforementioned Wizard, and the Archer, Bomber, etc., the ‘shooter’ vibe is strong. Less so for the blade-wielding types, but each character has their own special attack / move that helps offset any shortcomings based on weapons.

It’s all faster-playing than you might think, with you twin-sticking your way through hundreds of blurred baddies and collecting gold on the way to each floor’s exit. Once you’ve battled through enough villains and found the key (you don’t necessarily have to kill everyone to find it, though you should; that extra gold you’ll farm is, well, golden), it’s rinse and repeat all the way to the skill bank, which allocates your typical boosts to health, attack power, mana, luck, etc, in exchange for gold. Said upgrades are basically interchangeable between the Heroes, as you’ll only ever need increased weapon power and health to breeze through the game on its normal setting.

Super Dungeon Quest - Screen2

And oh, what a breeze it is. There’s absolutely nothing else tying you to the game, as it is minus a story, bosses, or even an excuse for all the looting. Once you’ve traversed the entirely of the dungeon (fourteen floors = forty minutes, slightly longer on Hard), the game simply returns to the title screen after tallying your stats. There’s two alternative modes to try your luck at, both wave-based, and which play exactly the same as the main game— albeit in a single arena— with you again earning gold to spend on upgrades between rounds.

With none of your progress saved upon death (it’s a roguelike, natch) or success, and no leaderboards of any kind for the arenas, it’s all rendered moot in the end. Running through the dungeons once or twice is enough to get your fill, too, as each floor and character starts to feel the same as the last, with only the cosmetic side of it changing as you advance. It plays well-enough, and certainly looks great, but Super Dungeon Quest is just empty adventuring. 

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This review is also featured at Indiepitome

Review on Indie Gamer Chick