Tag Archives: platformer

Planet of the Eyes review and giveaway

My latest video is up today. It’s a review and recommendation of the recent indie platforming game, Planet of the Eyes.

It’s a gorgeous game with a beautiful art style, standout music and great writing. The platforming is pretty fun too, and you get to play an adorable little robot (who will get brutally dismembered fairly often).

This is a game made in my home town of Toronto. I was given a Steam code from one of the developers, and I’d like to help support the game and pay that forward by giving away a code for the game to someone else!

If you want to enter to win, just leave me a comment here and tell me what your favourite indie game is. I’ll pick a random winner on Friday September 4th. Be sure to use a real email so I can get in touch if you win.

Note: You do not have to watch the video or go to my YouTube channel to enter (YouTube contests aren’t allowed and I don’t want to get in trouble). Just comment here on the blog.

Congratulations to DragonLich, who won the copy of Planet of the Eyes.

This is day 29 of Blaugust.

Contrast (Review)

Contrast was first released late in 2013, but just came out for the Xbox One on June 27th. As someone who prefers to play on the Xbox, but has found the lineup of available games lackluster (Do you like shooting? Racing? Neither? Sorry, can’t help you), I was excited to see something a little different appear on the console.

In Contrast you play the role of Dawn, an acrobat who can travel between the 3D corporeal world and the 2D shadow world. The only person who can see Dawn is Didi, a little girl trying to keep her family together. Dawn is a featureless protagonist – she has no real character of her own, she never speaks or emotes – though she’s the one you control, this is really Didi’s story.

Contrast Didi and Dawn

The gameplay revolves around Dawn’s ability to shift into the shadows, using them to get to places that would otherwise be unreachable. As the game progresses, you also manipulate lights and objects in the real world in order to create your own shadow paths.  The mechanics are simple, and the few times I ran into trouble it was due to not understanding how the game physics worked. For example, the first time I encountered a box I could pick up and move I assumed I had to put it in front of a light source to create a shadow. Actually, I was able to pick up the box and shift into the shadows with at, turning it from a 3D object to a 2D one. I liked the idea here, but the execution was not great. There were a lot of issues with camera angles, collision, sluggish controls, and getting stuck. Luckily none of these were game breaking – I could usually get unstuck by shifting in and out or dashing – but it was a major source of annoyance. Based on other reviews, these bugs are not unique to the Xbox One port.

Dawn and Didi are the only characters you see clearly, the rest appear to you only as silhouettes against brightly lit walls. This led to one of the more compelling parts of the game. You’d see and hear a vignette play out and traverse the character’s moving shadows to get where you needed to go. Though these were the least challenging platforming parts of the game, I enjoyed them the most as they really married the gameplay and story together.

Contrast Shadows

The story is simple and the characters are quite trite. Didi’s father Johnny is a hustler who’s just not very good at hustling. Because of this, he’s been kicked out by Didi’s mother Kat, who gets portrayed as mentally unstable when it comes to Johnny. Through the game Didi and Dawn are basically going around fixing Johnny’s mistakes to make sure his latest scheme works and they can be a big, happy family who can afford to pay their rent again.

Contrast has some good ideas and appealing designs, but it feels like a shadow of what it could have been. The game takes place in the 1920’s Paris jazz age and has some lovely aesthetics. There is also some beautiful music featured during certain scenes, but as you’re actually playing the game feels silent and empty. Shadows aren’t too exciting to look at and Act I in particular has almost no background music or ambient sound, which makes it feel unfinished. The whole shadow and light theme is a great idea, but not enough is done with it. The puzzles get repetitive by the end of the game. Many questions are raised – who is Dawn? why can she turn into a shadow? what is the shadow world? but few are answered. Near the end of the game you can find collectibles which reference these things, but don’t give any real insight.

 Rating: 5/10 – The game looks nice and has its charms – a scene where you participate in a shadow puppet theater stands out as the highlight – but is marred by glitches, poor controls, and lack of explanation. Gameplay became repetitive even though it only lasted about 4 hours. On the bright side, if you love achievements this game showers you with them. I earned 840 without trying to be a completionist.

The Swapper: Review and Giveaway

Of all the games I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale the one I’ve enjoyed the most is The Swapper, an atmospheric puzzle platformer set in space. In it, you play an unidentified astronaut who must traverse a huge, mostly dark and empty space station. It makes for an unsettling mood and provides plenty of intrigue that makes you want to push on and discover more.

The Swapper

Gameplay revolves around the titular swapper device which allows you to create clones of yourself which will copy your actions exactly. The device also allows you to swap your consciousness (soul?) into the clones in order to move forward. In order to make your way through the space station you need to collect orbs which are inaccessible to you initially but reachable through clever use of your clones.

While the puzzles start off simple, they quickly become more challenging. Eventually it’s not just a matter of positioning, you also need to navigate around obstacles and make use of gravity, momentum, and timing. Don’t worry about needing twitchy, split-second reaction time though – as you hold down the mouse button to project a clone time slows way down, giving you plenty of time to think and act.

The story is not only about trying to escape the space station but also learning about an alien civilization and creators of the swapper technology, the Watchers. You learn about what happened through security console logs, interactions with the Watchers themselves, and from a mysterious woman who seems to be the only other human survivor on the station.

The Swapper

The narrative and gameplay are equally engaging, and really enhance each other. Things get rather philosophical as questions about the nature of life, identity, and the mind are raised. Are the hundreds of clones you create and discard throughout the game just empty vessels? When they fall to their deaths or get dematerialized once you no longer need them, does it mean nothing? Can a body be shared by multiple minds?

The Swapper clocks in at about 5 hours of gameplay, depending on how long it takes you to solve the puzzles. If you’re a fan of games that make you think and the sci-fi genre, I’m sure you’d like it. If you’re looking for something to compare the game to, I’d say it has aspects of Braid (though you’re manipulating copies of yourself instead of time) and a number of similar ideas to the movie Moon.

Rating: 10/10 – The game is short but kept me engaged and curious the whole way through. Gameplay is simple, smooth and requires more thinking than reacting. Also, it’s set in space. So automatic +1.

Since I enjoyed The Swapper so much, I’d like for other people to enjoy it too, so I’ve got 2 copies to give away on Steam. If you’d like a chance to win one, comment below and tell me your favourite game, book, movie, or show that is set in space. Be sure to use a real email when you comment so I can send you the game. I will randomly pick 2 winners in a week, on Sunday July 6th.

Edit (July 7): Thanks to everyone who entered! The winners were Lizzy and Gruffertus! Steam codes have been sent.