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handmade from & for @insanj

Nobody Saves the World

28 Apr 2023

💖 Must play (in co-op)

Role playing games are played out. Nobody Saves the World, on the other hand, plays within and without the rules — talent points, unlockable characters with specific traits, guilds with grindy side quests that fill the gaps in the core storyline... the usual affairs, it's all here, but made for the gamer who has seen it all before.

I am hesitant to call Nobody Saves the World a satire, as that would lighten its reputation as a tour de force of unlockables with a genuinely heartbreaking thematic climax. Even its music reminds me of the best kinds of moments in my recent video gaming past (think: Undertale, Celeste), and sometimes of my own game's soundtrack.

From start to finish, I enjoyed the hell out of this co-op cartoony joyride. Yes, it has filler. But, the self awareness, and the super extended gameplay time, does make for a refreshing and cathartic break from triple-As and one-sitting indies. Difficulty makes it almost relaxing to keep playing, too, unlike the Elden Rings and Spelunky IIs that keep stealing the spotlight. Well, except for some of those sneaky guild challenges.

My enjoyment factor with Nobody is very high, even if the "best game of all time" factor is low. This is a delicious cold beer — not the priciest champagne.

Terra Nil

25 Apr 2023

💖 Must play

Terra Nil. You land in a wasteland, carefully reclaim each bleak, brown tile with sophisicated and diverse technology... which you must then meticulously recycle and remove to completely restore the world.

Since June 2021, when the full game was revealed by Devolver Digital, this concept has wormed its way into my heart. I haven't anticipated a game so hotly since... probably the Switch's powerhouse of post-launch titles. Last year, I even developed a proof of concept game called pellican, partially out of sheer raw inspiration from playing Terra Nil's demo, that fused the nature restoration with Floppy Knight's movement system.

Each building, environment, and challenge in this game restokes its commitment to the game world. Its isometric, cleverly realistic, Studio Ghibli-rooted graphics firmly stylize the experience, perhaps making it all the more immersive due to the sheer speed and dramatic scale of changes you as the player can make.

Pick this title up. Expect a swift and satisfying indie work of art. Yes, it won't last longer than a few sittings — for now — but even so, it's simply timeless.

Cult of the Lamb

2 Apr 2023

💖 Must play

Cult of the Lamb, from indie darling Massive Monster, demands your attention. Yes, it's not for everyone. It's for you, with a taste for the eccentric and a hunger for indie games that last longer than one sitting. It's time to pick up the controller.

Before I stepped in, I had no idea the fundamental structure of this game starts with Binding of Isaac. Each dungeon is laid out with that familiar, minimal room design packed with mysterious characters. But now, the universe of the game has life beyond combat. After each dungeon crawl, whether you survive or die, you return to a homebase (think: Harvest Moon but with a rate of excrement to rival a closet full of old Tamogatchis).

Bottom line, for about ⅓ the $ of a AAA game, we have a fresh mix of real time strategy, base building, and of course, the thing that cements it all — roguelike deckbuilding combat sequences. And by the 10th hour, the attention to detail really helps to keep the experience going, with exceptional music direction, a bouncy cartoon-but-not-Flash artstyle, and a seriously good unlock curve for its many skill trees. Plus, there's replay value, with a cute and surprisingly complex "daily routine" gameplay loop — aspects that remind me of Animal Crossing, from hell.

And yes, maybe spending all day today with Cult of the Lamb has me speaking idiomatically as a fluffy pagan warlord. Devolver Digital — a publisher so bombastically ostentatious, and yet, so utterly of the people. I can only hope this latest classic-in-the-making represents yet one of many peaks to come.

Across the Obelisk

1 Apr 2023

🤞 Ok to pass, may return

I was drawn into this Slay the Spire-like deckbuilding roguelike when I read it supported co-op. From the first moment, two things became clear — this game does not look good in 4k, and this game feels ripped right out of the AdventureQuest universe.

After one battle, I was brought into the "Town," which reminded me of a point-and-click adventure. A shop, an upgrade station, plot points... this is richer, with more to customize and change my experience, than a single floor in the archetypal Slay the Spire or Dicey Dungeons.

Ultimately, I favor the art and focus of the classics, but should return to this when wishing for a story and online co-op teamwork.