Tag Archives: Milkstone Studios

REVIEW: Midnight Bite

Capitalizing on the popularity of bloodsuckers, Milkstone StudiosMidnight Bite ($1.00) combines vampires (the cool, retro kind with capes, not the ridiculously-attractive and / or whiny, glittering in sunlight kind) and stealth, with you sneakily going around and sucking the blood out of hapless villagers, old people, altar boys, etc.

It’s purely ‘PG’ stuff in the execution, as the cutesy, cartoon-y graphics do a lot to negate the idea of violence, making it safer for a younger audience to play (although you’d still have to explain to your incessantly-inquisitive kids why you’re leeching the neck of an innocent old lady; good luck explaining why they shouldn’t copy that).

Working from an overhead perspective, levels assign you a set number of kills, asking you to dodge the sight-lines of wandering guards and feed on the selected prey. Afterwards, you return to a… well, magical mirror, that will transport you to the next level. Along with quenching your thirst, eternal life and that whole benefits package, there’s various medals to be earned for completing the stage, maintaining a stealthy run throughout, and for collecting all scattered coins. Said medals aren’t just for showing off or completionists, either. They actually matter here, used as a currency to unlock subsequent levels.

The stealth component handily copies Metal Gear’s approach, giving you the ‘Dude, I can totally see your Vision Cone’ ability to determine where each guard’s eyes will fall, and thus, where all the blind spots are. Multiple hiding locations will help you wait out routes and move freely through trouble areas. Taking it one step (no future pun intended) farther, you can even see most of your enemies projected movements, blatantly-illustrated to allow you even more of a leg up… er.. fang up, on your competition. To start, it all seems a piece of human cake, a walk in the mobile blood bank park.

The game realizes this unfair advantage, though, and quickly introduces multiple variables to each stage’s layout to counteract. Easily-disturbed cats and potential targets will shriek if they spot you, drawing nearby guards and riflemen. Hazards in the environment, like garlic (natch) and Bibles (double natch), will slow you down as well. You learn some of your own tricks along the way, and gain access to traversal items (cardboard box, anyone?) and shortcuts, or weapons that cause a temporary stun, to turn the situation back in your favor.

Midnight Bite - Screen

Wouldn’t Gatorade work?… Fine, Cherry Gatorade?

It’s not hard so much as identifying a strategic path and being patient. Later levels and hub worlds do add enemies that refuse to follow predetermined patrol routes. Coupling this with the existing elements gives the stages a sense of randomness, where your skill and watchful eye will prove to be the difference. While success still comes relatively easy (run away all you like; the game only ends once you ‘touch’ an enemy), landing a ‘perfect’ on each stage is tougher, leaving you to replay earlier levels in order to build up your ‘medal bank’ and move on.

Midnight Bite is a decent game to sink your teeth into. The comic-style visuals and playful presentation keep things light-hearted, and the arcade gameplay simplifies the objectives while still ratcheting up the challenge as you go. It starts to bore you if you’re playing in longer stretches, but otherwise, it’s a perfectly-adequate time-waster.

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REVIEW: White Noise Online

Call them the odd couple, rushing into things so soon after their introduction, but for better or worse, Slender-like psychological scares and online co-op are married in White Noise Online (80 MSP). For the sake of space, I’ll spare you the game’s premise. If you do need some perspective / background, the original’s review is here, though trust that the game is just as gorgeous, the darkness still as disorienting, as ever.

Tape collecting returns (each recorder now comes with a brief yet effective playback), with the benefit (and potential mood-breaker) of online co-op. Don’t worry, it’s not a Slender Man FPS, more a co-op excuse for people who need their hand held during horror movies. It’s only competitive in the sense of who can acquire the most tape recorders and survive the longest, though, as progress is shared between the group. And teamwork is necessary; getting too far ahead of the other players will spell your doom, and them likewise. Hearing the screams of your group getting picked off by the creature one by one, sometimes right next to you, is as unnerving as if you were playing alone.

‘Dying’ isn’t permanent in multiplayer. When you’re ‘found’ by the creature, you’re simply transported to a spirit realm of sorts, where you gain an illuminated view of the grounds. Your body is turned to stone on the spot, and your avatar becomes an outline of a ghost. From here until the last player survives or perishes (or disconnects), you can either follow the paths of others still in the hunt, or help them find additional tapes (being a ghost with enhanced vision has its advantages). At the end, a summary will show you and your crew where and when you found your tapes / demise, and how many times you walked in a circle like an idiot. All in all, the online play works well, even in the context of horror and isolation.

This time out, you can choose from three stages. ‘Chateau’ is the level from the previous game, and hasn’t changed much, outside of the weird, green ‘creature’ obelisks (do not stare at them for long) and avatar ghosts. The added locales, ‘Saint-Martin’ and the snowy ‘Kvitoya’, feature their own unique layouts and monuments, a church and cabins, respectively. Character selection is a first for the franchise, and goes beyond simple preference or gender choices. Each choice comes with its own skill set, like more flashlight power, better scouting abilities, or less susceptibility to fear (vital when you’re the last man standing, or searching, as it were).

White Noise Online - Screen

Pro-tip for real life: if you ever find yourself in a secluded wooded area with a statue like this, run in the opposite direction.

There are extras in the form of unlockable characters, some of which can be obtained by collecting a set number of tapes over your career, while others are accessible only via codes you’ll find in other Milkstone releases you own (effective advertising at its finest, eh?). It’s nothing to get worked up about, just palette swaps, though it is a neat perk if you’re into showing off that you’re a loyal customer.

Leaving the Slender comparisons aside, and if you’re still in the market for scares or too chicken to go it alone, I definitely say you pick up this version of White Noise over the ‘barely two months old’ original. You still have the option to play solo, and the new areas and addition of online play are solid points to this otherwise very early sequel.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: White Noise: A Tale of Horror

Let’s just get it out in the open. It is impossible to mention White Noise: A Tale of Horror (80 MSP) or any of the harm / good it does, without first invoking Slender. Their two cores are so intrinsically-linked that it’s not out of order for you to call White Noise a straight-up rip-off. It is. It’s also a no-brainer. I can say I entirely don’t mind a console version (unoriginal as it may be) that can replicate the fear the indie PC release did such a masterful job at creating.

As much as I can claim to be better equipped than some, I’m still a wuss in a lot of respects. I don’t like to feel scared or helpless. The same applies for horror games and their manifestations, especially being at the mercy of a threat you cannot fight no matter how much courage you muster. Your only choice throughout is to walk (or, better, run) in the opposite direction. The patch of ground the entirety of the game takes place in is no ally either. Each play starts you off at a random point within it, keeping you disoriented and constantly plying the darkness and terrain for clues, with no safe port to anchor in.

You’ll undoubtedly walk in circles your first few tries, which is entirely the game’s intention. How better to appreciate the odd layout of the land, the heavy foliage and wandering ghosts (harmless), a running stream or architecture that’s even Silent Hill-esque in spots, like a street that unexpectedly drops off into a foggy void? Milkstone certainly has the programming chops to evoke uneasiness. White Noise has a really nice-looking 3D engine that I hope to see employed in other, lengthy and more original horror endeavors. That’s not a dig at the company, more so a ‘thumbs up’ for them to aspire to do more.

Both the environment and ambient sound effects superbly set the tone. Disembodied screams, or the coughing of your own character, ratchet up nerves. The subtle images in the darkness, like trees that take human forms, or statues whose shapes are a little off, too, spawn a sense of dread. The predator here is just as effective. Granted, Milkstone’s creature is no Slender Man, but the same visceral tension is present in every near sighting, every corner-of-your-eye glance. You won’t suffer from any nightmares, but if Slender scared you enough to avoid playing with the lights off, expect White Noise to do the same.

White Noise - Screen

Again, collection of a set number of items is the engine for transporting scares. While Slender had you retrieving eight scattered pages, in this game it’s tape recorders. There’s no map or set route to follow, and only the sound of static will point towards the next recorder. You don’t get to listen to any dialogue upon collection, but the accompanying music change lets you know you’ve just made a mistake. The creature begins stalking you after the first pickup, and doesn’t lose your scent for long if you manage to avoid it. Count on it standing right behind you. There are several cues, audio and visual, that will warn you of trouble.

And that’s it. It plays like the original. White Noise is obvious copycatism, though it does succeed at beating everyone else to the punch (i.e., Slender on console). It’s light on additional content, only a code to unlock items in other Milkstone releases (EDIT 1/27: An update has added new unlockable visual filters: Night Vision / Smiley Face / brighter flashlight, and a new Hard mode), but as a homage (or rip-off, depending on your word choice) to one of the most unnerving games I’ve played, it fills the role much better than expected. The fact that someone will pay a dollar willingly in order to be terrorized is compliment enough.

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Bonus! Watch the always-entertaining Alan from The Indie Ocean blindly play White Noise.

REVIEW: Sushi Castle

Ignoring the urge to joke that this is a review of a medieval-themed chain of Japanese restaurants instead of a game, Sushi Castle (80 MSP) is actually a roguelike dungeon shooter whose obvious inspiration is PC indie The Binding of Issac (thanks @MavericForever). Both of them, in turn, owe their existence to Legend of Zelda. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of course, and Milkstone Studios abides, opting for ninjas and their aesthetic in an attempt to differentiate itself. So, it’s clearly not original, but is it any fun?

It is. Having been a recent convert to the world of ‘losing all your shit once you die’ games, I quite enjoyed Sushi Castle, which places random chance on equal footing with skill. And that randomness applies to every part of the game, not just what room you find yourself in.

Using the dungeon template of the original Zelda, each room must be cleared of enemies before you can advance. Other doors require scissors (taking the place of keys), which sometimes lead to treasure rooms or wishing wells, or (careful what you wish for) more trouble. Enemy spawns and types, weapons and outfits, items that can boost or subtract your stats— they all switch up. Complete a pair of floors with a boss at the end of each, enter the next section. The goal is to get to the end without dying, however you can.

And however you go about it, expect to have a fight on your hands. Either you’re swamped with enemies or there’s traps waiting to be sprung, often in a friendly disguise like chests or items. You can never take for granted that the next room (or its contents) will be lax. And it’s those random layouts and payouts, the nagging uncertainty that precedes each decision you make, that provide the most tension and fun, and ensure a new challenge (or frustration) each playthrough.

With death comes the total reset as advertised, so there’s no strategy in holding back; hoard when you can, buy when the chance presents, and when the times comes, hit with everything you’ve got.

One final bit: The DLC section in the menu, which lists Sushi Castle‘s future intentions once the game hits certain sales milestones. I’m okay with DLC in retail. I’m even more comfortable with in XBLIG, as it’s a free update if you’ve bought the game. I just wish developers wouldn’t go out of their way to tell me what they’d like to add. Whether it’s the case or not, it smacks too much of shipping a half-finished game, dependent on the wallets of others.

Still, Sushi Castle is fun for console gamers who’ve missed out on ‘Issac’ roguelikes until now. Despite the groundwork having been laid for it, the game establishes an identity, and I welcome the DLC, if / when that happens. Not that it’s even needed. What’s in place already is good.