Does Not Disappoint
It was a shock at first to see one of amon26's works being posted here. When the game started, I first thought that someone was trying to imitate his style.
Having played amon26's previous games, Au Sable and All Of Our Friends Are Dead, its a pleasure to see this experience posted on the portal for a wider audience.
The most obvious standout feature of this is, of course, the artwork. The art as always serves brilliantly to paint the scene, and though the environment is mindbendingly surreal, the presentation makes it believable, immersive and consistent. Artwork has been stepped up from previous titles, and every drop of expressive potential is wrenched from the small pixels. Ffrom the tormented trees with impossible features to the shivering and frightened people to the eyes that begin to watch you when you've gone too far, everything works together to present a beautifully unsettling atmosphere.
Little design touches such as the character's last body remaining in the place where it died, the monsters resembling distorted versions of the people you pass, and the shower of water that eases your character's rage show how complete the thought process is.
The harshness of distortion in graphics, music and SFX is used to great effect and nothing is spared, created an agonized sense of unease that people familiar with the author's work will know very well. People unfamiliar with it will be in for a surprise, and for some this surprise will be a pleasant treat.
The storyline and presentation thereof is esoteric, evasive, and immediate. You as a player are dumped immediately into the environment, and watch the world and story unfold around you as if in a dream. It is a cold and refreshing breath of fresh air in a field of games where text boxes and unskippable cutscenes are the rule of the day. The writing is, in fact, almost too obscure to the point of indiscernability, but still appreciable for how different it is from everything else you typically see in games these days.
Unfortunately where this game falters most is the gameplay - unlike in previous works, where the involvement of the mouse invites clicking, the use of the down key is not necessarily a given, and only the overly curious or determined would discover it. Given that the down key is at times crucial to survival and progress, this becomes a major block in play and breaks the immersion somewhat.
The platforming is largely solid, though the jumping is a floaty and can become frustrating - tightening of the controls is strongly recommended, as many platform sequences that would otherwise feel just the right length instead feel a little too long due to the dodgy controls.
The gun and shield mechanics, once discovered, are clunky but servicable - like everything else it could use some tightening up.
Of note as well is the Crucible of Uxaxa, used to alternately sacrifice a poor girl or cross a boiling lake of blood - standing on the crucible is unexpectedly slippery, deadly when you're trying to cross the aforementioned lake. This is especially a problem as dying at that point involves re-crossing large portions of that screen, which can grow frustrating and will further break the immersion.
All-in-all, what game mechanics that exist are sparse, but functional. The flow of the game, however, would benefit greatly if the same attention to detail that was given to the art and design was given to play mechanics.
None of this is unexpected if you've played any of the author's previous work. Historically, amon26's games have always been artwork-heavy and mechanics-light, and this one is no different.
For future projects, however, some more careful implementation of game mechanics would benefit the game's impressive art and environment greatly.
Either way, the game is a sharp left turn from the usual fare on Newgrounds, and it is a solid object lesson for alternate modes of thinking in game design for the designers on this site.
An Admirable If Uninspired Effort
Having played through the entire series of games, Chapters 1 through 6, I'm finally getting down to reviewing.
As the title suggests, the biggest problem this game has is that, content-wise, it feels uninspired.
Technically the game functions well - there are no glitches and bugs, and everything worked exactly as expected. Throughout the entire series there were no bugs or glitches, no graphical errors, and nowhere where the programming or collision detection went awry. Considering the large amount of content, this is really well worth noting, especially since you were doing different things with every game, and every time it worked perfectly.
Also to be applauded is your consistency - everything else notwithstanding the series stands well together as a cohesive whole and may be presented as a six-game package without any jarring changes or adjustments, and all together it makes for a very neat presentation, which is better than can be said for a lot of games and movies, even on the professional level.
The most interesting parts of the game were actually the space-shooter sequences, those were fun and interesting to play through and engaging as well.
These are definitely worth noting and these must be kept in mind. That said, the game still suffers in a lot of ways, almost all of which stems from the headlining description of the game: uninspiring.
Everything, and I really do mean everything, from the art and sound design to the voice acting and directing to the gameplay design and the story felt incredibly uninspired. Its nothing we've never seen before, in fact I could take almost every one of the elements from the game and point to something that it's directly taken from.
While pastiches of other successful games have worked to make fun experiences,in this case it was not done very well, or very engagingly. Many elements, for example the "Metroid-vania" style gameplay were cut and pasted seemingly without any understanding of what made those types of games appealing: exploration of the unknown, interesting and believable enemies that challenge the player, beautiful environment artwork, and character growth through interesting and various items and tools is generally what makes these games tick, and Hunters features exactly none of these. This not only keeps the players from getting invested in the characters, the story and the events, but makes the game much less fun and interesting to play overall.
There are other issues with the game as well - the voice acting was too over-the-top. Your VO cast is fairly well known around the portal and they've done good voice acting work in the past, which leaves the directing that could use a little work. Hamming it up CAN work in certain instances, but it seems like you were trying for a story with serious elements in it and the over-the-top acting really clashes with it.
The story is also clumsily put together and the writing largely uninteresting - genre stereotypes are on full display here, from a plucky, overly snarky heroine to the inexplicable magic orbs (in a science fiction setting), to the megalomaniacal end boss.
All this said, while this isn't the first game you've ever made, it does seem like the first you've ever done on this sort of scale. And while sadly I, like everyone else, must question the continued featuring of this series on the front-page - I totally see that this was a lot of hard work on your part, and you should definitely be commended for all the work you've put in. Not everyone can say that they want to write, direct and code a six chapter run-and-gun shooter and actually pull it off.
However, since you have been getting a lot of front-page press, I highly recommend taking the critiques that have been offered seriously for future projects. This game is a great start, and hopefully you'll only be going up from here.
If you don't, however, all that will be left is what's embodied in this series: an admirable, but uninspired - and ultimately uninteresting - effort.
Beautiful, But Technically Flawed
This game is unfortunately marred by some crippling technical issues which seriously bring this game's playability down.
I'm totally aware the system used in this and the two previous game was initially intended for keyboard play, and there are very few problems there, outside of the inherent awkwardness of aiming with a keyboard in a high-adrenaline, fast-paced shooter.
However, since mouse support was implemented in Madness Accelerant, the gameplay has been plagued with heavy and nigh-on unmissable delays whenever mouse control is used, where the main character becomes VERY slow to respond to aim commands from the mouse or move commands from the keyboard. The game runs smoothly the entire time- there is no drop in graphical or sound quality, nor is there the hiccuping associated with the "usual" lag- it seems to simply take a long time for the character on screen to acknowledge the command, sometimes up to ten or twelve seconds after input. This makes gameplay at best tedious and at worst completely unplayable as it grinds the player's interaction with the game to a complete halt - in the meanwhile the swarms of opponents onscreen continue hitting the character, knocking him down and whittling down his health.
The problem seems to stem from the number of enemies on-screen at once which, judging by the description in the Author Comments is something the creators are well aware of.
It must be said, however, that "CPU-crushing" is not a good selling point for a game and in fact does nothing more than advertise this game's biggest, most critical flaw.
Unfortunately despite what may or may not have been the creators' original intentions, the game is much more engaging and fun to play with mouse control - something demonstrated in Madness Accelerant when the problem was less pronounced due to the reduced number of onscreen enemies - and many players will (and likely already have) try to play the game with mouse control first, only to leave when the delay frustrates them completely.
There are other small flaws in the game's design which could use improvement. The health and damage system is somewhat awkward, and while getting knocked down every time the character takes a hit prevents the sudden massive health loss that was the flaw in Regent, it has the effect of completely stopping the action, which breaks the pacing of the game. A game like this relies on immersion in its fast, frenetic pace, and anything that would slow it, let alone break it, would completely ruin the player's engagement in the game. This is however, merely a design issue, and doesn't keep the game from being fun, only from being as fun as it likely could be.
Ultimately the game's biggest flaw - the unresponsiveness of the mouse - can be ignored. The game can be played on keyboard mode well enough, and its possible to go through the entire game without ever really *needing* the mouse. However, setting aside fun and engagment, you guys offer the mouse as a control option up front before every new game and before every continue, with no indication that using the mouse causes delays. If it continues, its going to ring of laziness or worse outright incompetence in the ability to implement or playtest a game properly.
Really, the game is fine without it, but for the sake of the experience, my recommendation would be to give some serious thought to resolving it, either by eliminating the delays in mouse control or simply by sticking to your roots and taking off mouse control altogether.
You guys are obviously talented people with proven chops. Mindchamber's art is beautiful, unique and distinctive as always, and Tom's knack for simplistic, interesting and fresh takes on gameplay is always a pleasure to see - we've learned to expect a lot out of you guys and where it really counts you didn't disappoint.
Unfortunately the technical issues seriously overshadow all of this, and reduce what could have been a really engaging, fun and memorable game into at best, an awkward yet passable shooter, or at worst, a frustrating, unplayable mess.
Terrifying in Simplicity
(warning - review contains spoilers)
Its rare the game that can truly evoke an emotion. These days the indie gaming circuit tends to err towards the positive, leaning on implied wonders or softly understated but no less poignant messages of hope, love, and family to be told in between the gaps left by pixels and lo-fi artwork.
So in this case, its been rarer still that this type of game would fall into the 'horror' genre.
This isn't the horror we're used to. Its not gory, or graphic - the gigantic pixels could just barely convey the boy that our character spends the majority of the game inside of. It isn't suspenseful, nor does it jump out at you from the corners - the environment and the framing stays familiar the entire time. The game's not even particularly dark - save the text panels, the entire screen is a wash of saturated yellows and reds.
But this game is more truly horror than many of the games claiming to be the genre, even in the most advanced system today.
The pacing and text work together masterfully to create the slowly dawning realization of what exactly is happening, what the pixels we're staring at are supposed to represent, and what exactly it is we've been doing as we've been moving an indistinguishable mass of pulsating dots around the screen.
Its a terror on a classic, Lovecraftian level - the realization in the end that it is US that is the monster...US that is slowly eating an innocent and faultless child from the inside out, US that (if the correct ending is chosing) will come bursting from poor child's still living body, shrieking like a thing from nightmares - and it was all enabled by us. Our actions. Our keystrokes and button-pushes.
In the end you are left shaken, stunned by what has happened or(depending on the ending) what could have happened.
The graphics work. The "less is more" approach has been taken and used to great effect - if the art had been any more complex, any less abstract, the game would not have struck home as powerfully as it has done here. The terror is left to our imaginations, in our knowledge of what is being represented, and in a way, nothing could possibly be more graphic.
In the field of games, a game like this will no doubt be nothing but than a blip - a brightly flashing blip that people will remember. But as many indie games do, it serves to pave the way for others ahead, breaking down barriers for what is possible to convey in games, and expanding the field. So a blip yet, but an important blip nontheless.
And that's something to be truly covetous of.
A Stunning First
Promotional games, that is, smaller promotional games for larger products in mediums such as Flash, have a deservedly bad reputation, and a markedly terrible history. They have been, almost without exception, boring and outdated attempts at wrapping gameplay around promotion and tend to fail at doing both.
While Ubisoft is a game company, and hence it shouldn't be surprising that they can produce a good flash game, they ought to be commended for being one of the first, if not being the first, to actually produce a game that feels like some thought and effort was put into it.
The game follows an old tried and true formula - the endless running game, popularized (as far as I can recall anyways) by games like Marvin Spectrum and Spin Sprint Orange and polished by games like Canabalt - and kicks it up a notch. Like a previous reviewer said, "its Canabalt on steroids" - building upon solid foundations is never a bad thing and this game did that beautifully.
The combination of hazards that merely hurt you a little with traps that mercilessly butcher you for coming close to them recalls the Prince of Persia games of old, while the fast paced action, magic system and the good old sands of time continues to make the legendary mercilessness of PoP accessible.
The art and the production values are flawless, but this is to be beyond expected, considering who's at the helm, here.
Technically the game is, with a few notable exceptions, very well made, which is something that while ought to be expected has not always been the case. Controls are tight and for the most part responsive, and the player is never confused on what needs to happen, leaving the player free to experience the thrill of the game. The control scheme itself could have used a little work - wall jumping in particular was questionable and needless buggy, and timing sword swings to hit enemies is probably the most difficult part of the game when it seems like it really shouldn't be.
Other than that - the game is overall a really tight, fun and engaging experience.
As a game on its own, its pretty damn good. As a promotional game, its got to be one of the best.
Phenomenally Well Made, With A Few Drawbacks
As the summary suggests, the game is incredibly well made, both visually and technically. The game is beautiful, showcasing a consistent style, and is well-paced...the music, sound effects, the overall look and feel and the design of Hippolyta herself all come together fantastically. Additionally, while I can see the inspiration for many of the things that work as copied from successful mainstream console titles - as they say, don't fix what isn't broken, and it still serves as a good example of what works to make a game really pop.
There are, however, a few drawbacks - the biggest drawback being the male voice acting. The voice acting itself was fine, however the problem lays in only choosing one voice actor to voice -all- of your living obstacles: the farmer, the riders, the hoplites, etc. The different lines of dialogue used are often not enough to differentiate the pursuing Greek forces and in an extremely fast paced game like this, guesswork will only frustrate a player who is otherwise immersed, especially when the penalty for guessing wrong is failure.
Different voice actors or some more attentive directing of the one voice actor would get rid of this problem entirely.
A smaller problem that is however also worth mentioning is that the static obstacles don't pop out from the background enough, in particular the low branches and the spiked barriers. Sometimes a player who is focused on dodging arrows and spears is usually inattentive to the background, and while this may be the intention, it may come across as unnecessarily difficult when the game is meant to be reactive. This isn't a significant problem, however and definatley isn't as significant as the issues with the audio and voice cues.
However, it speaks to the quality of the game that a critique will pick at nits like this, becuase it means that the rest of the game is otherwise extremely well made, and that is what Hippolyta is.
So kudos to you!
Great Artwork, Shoddy Gameplay
The big, big problem with this is conveying what the player needs to do next. I totally understand that the whole point of this game is that you look around the scene, full of items, trying to figure out possibilities on what to do next.
Unfortunately, more often than not, many of the most obvious outlets are -not- what is needed to move the story forward, and those things that -are- do not have enough of a visual indication that that is what they are.
Most flagrant examples of this are in getting the car to move forward in the police confrontation in the alley outside the hospital, and in the couples' living room scene, the one that isn't the bonus one. There, the hotspot that you have to click on tends to be small, and also the same color as the rest of the objects around it, and even if you'd known to click on it, hitting it becomes a game of pure guesswork, which really makes the experience less than fun.
As is, the game is almost impossible to get through carefully reading the walkthrough, which is generally an indication that something needs to change in the gameplay.
Better visual design of the environments in terms of color, placement and contrast would help guide the players' eye and hint towards what needs to happen next and reduce guesswork. Visual indications that the player is on the right track, such as highlighting clickable objects in color or with white (this is especially key in instances such as the combo objects in the second bonus scene) would also cut down the amount of blind clicking in the game. There -is- indication currently of clickable objects via the cursor changing to a finger, but that's not nearly enough visual indication, and when you consider that not everything that is clickable is the solution to moving the scene forward, a better visual would really go a long way in making this more playable.
The artwork, as I mentioned in the title, is great. There's a lot of detail in the backgrounds and sets, characters are clearly and cleanly designed, and things like the transition between a human being a bystander into a human being possessed/infected are really clearly indicated and overall just very well done. Its got a nice ambiance overall, and while the gore and violence might be a little unnecessary, who even really cares.
It looks great. But for the kind of game it is, it really needs some extra thought into the design in order to make it more playable and less frustrating.
Ambitious, But Not Fun
If you were to ask me to sum up what this game really needs, its a round of vigorous and honest playtesting.
Now, I know Mindchamber is big on Newgrounds and probably has a substantial support network, and hence the game likely -did- go through a lot of playtesting. But if that was the case, then it needs more. I'm not saying the game is in any way broken - in fact I'd say the exact opposite: the game functioned beautifully. There were no glitches, and everything you put in worked and was responsive and very dynamic. That aside however, there are still some problems that end up seriously dragging it down.
Mindchamber's art is beautiful as always, it has an incredibly distinct and unique style that is seen in very few places, especially in mediums like this. However, while the art and style were impressive, it felt like it needed some more thought before it was translated into a moving, action-filled game like this. The simplistic color palette made the game incredibly hard to follow - it was blue, on blue, on yet even more blue, with occasional yellow details. This looks really great in illustrations and in the concept work that the game is wrapped in, but when everything is moving and you have a half dozen elements to keep track of on screen (character, enemies, pickups, score, hazards, etc), everything ends up completely disappearing into a confusing mess. The red outline around the main character helped a little, but not nearly enough. Absence of things like clear shadows under all the elements that weren't marked with red crosshairs, and a -very- low camera perspective that made the ever-critical z-axis movement difficult makes for an experience that's very hard to get used to and not incredibly appealing after the first few minutes.
Which brings me to the next point: the 3D, or 2-and-a-half-D that you guys reached for was ambitious, and I commend you guys a huge amount for pulling it off. I know 3D elements in Flash are tricky enough without having to deal with interactivity. That said, however, while it looked alright, it really did a lot to make confusing and difficult to play. Keeping track of the character's position on the ground plane was difficult with so much going on, and the red indicators that helped you do so weren't nearly enough. This wouldn't be a problem if precise movement on the z-axis wasn't such a critical part of gameplay...unfortunately as it turned out, it was the -most- critical part of gameplay, as dodging, firing accurately, and scoring combos all relied on the player being able to track M-Bot and the enemies' movements quickly and accurately on the z-axis. Unfortuantely, the way its set up, the players capabilities in this sense are going to be anything but. And with things like weapon upgrades and M-Bot's score (and hence health) tied to being able to keep your nose clean, it can make gameplay frustrating.
Effectively combo-ing under all of these conditions also becomes a chore at best, and as its one of the primary features of gameplay, it leaves very little in the game that can really be called 'fun'.
Other issues like pacing can also be addressed, the min and wall dodge sequences felt too long and only served to keep the player from accomplishing anything as he risks losing score and upgrades if he misses even a single step.
Couple this with the enormous filesize and the whole game just becomes unfortunately unwieldly.
For the sake of the game, my recommendation would have been to raise the camera angle a little bit, or even abandon the 3D entirely - this game would be much smaller and smoother and more enjoyable with just 2D. Some adjustments to the color palette wouldn't hurt either.
You guys are really very talented (that isn't even debatable at this point).
I totally dig that this game is ambitious and experimental, and it seemed like you guys were trying out a whole lot of new things... but unfortunately none of them really worked to make a fun game.
I agree with the color palette, dodge sequences.. Ill get it right next time.
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