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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Indie B-Sides Review #008

Welcome back to another Indie B-Sides Review! Today, we take a look at a couple of creepy platformers, a couple of fight-til-you-die arena battlers, and a game where you fly a literal giant middle finger in defiance. Let's take a look!

Tamashii (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: The Waffinator

Developer: Vinkintor

Publisher: Digerati

Category: Arcade, Puzzle, Platformer, Horror

Release Date: 12.25.19

Price: $11.99

Digerati Does It Again

I reviewed another game from Digerati a little while back, Monster Slayers, and I absolutely loved it. In fact, it is one of only a few games I own that has still stayed in my regular rotation. This time, we are going to explore another game from Digerati that I am loving even more, because it touches base on more genres that I am—and I know many of you are as well—a big fan of: puzzle, platformer, and horror! This game is very dark and mysterious, and has everything it needs to keep you wanting to know more; but I will warn you, this game is not for the faint of heart, for it will push you and test you as a puzzler game should.

Tamashii is based off of eerie and obscure Japanese games of the late 80s and 90s. The horror theme is on key and will keep you on your toes. It isn’t a scare factor, but more on the dark and really twisted side of horror; the stuff that you know is messed up, but you can’t help but want more. There are apparently Easter eggs to find throughout the game. As to what those eggs are, I am not certain, but either way, I am thoroughly enjoying the game.

Tamashii is in a pixelated art style with 2-D side-scrolling. The BGM is very eerie, and perfectly sets up the horror theme. Overall, the build of the game reminds me of the good old NES days, and I am absolutely loving it. Even the controls are super basic like in the gold old retro days. You have the D-Pad for movement, a jump button, and a clone button. You also have the reset button, for when you are trapped and can’t get out from where you are—which is really a suicide button. I have only played in portable mode thus far. and overall it is spot on as a great portable game.

The story to that game I am still trying to get a full grasp on, so I will not even try to get into trying to explain it so far, but as you progress, you will be able to interact with the story’s dialogue with multiple-choice answers. Once you have completed each level, you can replay it to try and set a record clear time for that level. As you progress, you will notice it getting more and more difficult, as any good puzzle game should. What is really neat, and something I like about Tamashii, is that when you are about to beat a level or section, you can choose which way you want to beat it by choosing a different path. You can go left for a more difficult, yet rewarding experience, or right, which is less difficult without being as rewarding. I have gone right side every time so far, which has included a boss fight that was very entertaining.

Tamashii is well written, and is a well-rounded game that I know many platformer gamers will enjoy. The horror theme, the Easter eggs (even though, like I said, I don’t know what they are yet) and puzzle-solving elements are just the icing on the cake. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention: one hit kills you. Everything kills you instantly. Are you ready to push yourself?

Score: 9/10

Buy Tamashii from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Akane (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: Ludic Studios

Publisher: QubicGames

Category: Action, Arcade, Fighting

Release Date: 5.17.2019

Price: $4.99

You Need to Kill As Many Enemies As Possible

Every so often, I scroll through the sales in the eShop and come across a game that, at first glance, doesn’t seem like much, but the $.99 sale price is enough to make me bite. I usually then forget I even bought the game and may eventually come back to it and try it out a few months later. Well, for some reason, I decided to play Akane pretty much right away after I bought it. I wasn’t really expecting much; It looked like a mix between Katana Zero and Streets of Rage to me, so I figured it might be fun. As I fired it up, I immediately realized that it was something else entirely. Akane takes place entirely within one big arena, and there is no plot except for the brief backstory that you get when you select the tutorial—which I would recommend doing, as there are several different techniques that, while I’m sure you could fumble through and figure them out on your own, are very useful to understand. Basically, you are Akane, a warrior who has spent your entire life training in the art of the Samurai with your katana—and your gun, because apparently, in Mega Tokyo, circa 2121, guns are a big part of the Samurai art as well—in preparation for this one final battle royale, where everyone is after you and you alone. You know you will not make it out alive, but your goal is not to survive, it is to take out as many enemies as possible before you yourself are taken out.

The entire point of the game is to stay alive as long as possible while killing as many people as possible as fast in succession as possible. If you keep the hits coming fast enough, you will keep adding to your combo count, as well as filling your adrenaline bar. Once you have filled up at least one of the sections of your adrenaline bar, you can execute one of your special moves. You have the Dragon Slash, where you use the right toggle to draw a line through the crowd of assailants before dashing along that line and killing anyone in the path. This move only requires one section to be filled, but the adrenaline drains quickly, so you really can’t spend too much time lining up your shot, or you will lose your momentum and not be able to execute the slash, so filling up at least 2 of the 3 sections gives you a bit of a buffer. The Dragon Slayer move requires that the entire bar be filled before you can execute the attack. Once full, you hit ZR, which prompts a brief animation screen, and then you are prompted to mash A as fast as you can until the timer runs out. Each mash of the A-button marks another on-screen assailant for death, and once the timer runs out, all who are marked are extinguished. The Dragon Slayer attack, unlike the Dragon Slash, also freezes the action on screen while you do your button mashing, making it easier to not be killed in the process.

It only takes one hit to die, so you really have to stay on your guard to stay alive. The good news is that your enemies—most of them, anyway—also only take one hit to kill. There are tanks and bosses that take several hits to kill though, so special care to stick and move must be taken. There is also another enemy type that comes out shooting, and in order to efficiently take them out, you must use the B-button to block their bullets with your katana and ricochet them back at the shooter. You can upgrade your stats, like extra stamina, attack power, faster bullet regeneration, etc., by unlocking different achievements during gameplay; for example: getting 30 kills with 100% katana accuracy will unlock a set of gauntlets you can equip. Defeating a boss will unlock another piece of equipment, and raising your boldness to 100 during a match will unlock another. In all, this game is short, sweet, and fun! It is a great time-killing game too, as you can jump on for a quick 5-minute session, or stick around for longer. I would definitely recommend picking up this one!

Score: 9/10

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Demon Pit (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developer: DoomCube, Psychic Software Publisher: Digerati Category: Action, Arcade, First-Person Shooter Release Date: 12.25.2019 Price: £8.99

After DOOM

Demon Pit for the Nintendo Switch is, at first blush, a pretty interesting Doom-inspired shooter. The screenshots and trailers reveal an FPS with graphics styled after the genre’s 90s-era roots, and a very, VERY Doom-inspired setting. The concept is fairly simple, as well: you’re a demon hunter, and for your actions in life you are sentenced to eternity in hell, where demons will attack and kill you over and over again in endless waves. And that’s the whole game; a fast-paced arena shooter where you face endless waves of enemies, and the purpose of the game is just to survive as long as you possibly can.

As far as the game mechanics go, everything is competently designed. The action is fast and the controls are responsive, which are two of the most important elements a shooter needs. New weapons spawn at the beginning of each wave, like shotguns and machine guns, to provide a little bit of variety to the shooting gameplay. There are also grapple points scattered around the levels, and you can use your grappling hook to quickly scurry around the map or get out of trouble if you need to.

The problem with the gameplay is that there’s just not much to do. You run around and shoot. I mean sure, the arena changes shape and occasionally some lava or laser grids pop up to provide some semi-platforming kind of challenges, but it doesn’t really feel like a new dimension to the gameplay when you’re playing. There isn’t really a storyline or anything to hold your attention either, so unless you’re really into competent shooting and not much else, there’s just not a lot going on. There are online leaderboards to climb if you’re into that sort of thing, but personally that’s just not much of an incentive for me.

As I said, the graphics are very 90s-inspired, and they look pretty good for what they are. The enemies are well-designed to sell the idea of this game as an homage to Doom; none of the demons in Demon Pit would feel out of place getting crushed under the Doomguy’s boots. But, once again, a lack of variety hurts the game a little. The aesthetics of the arena don’t really change, even if the layout shifts with every wave. When you get right down to it, that pretty much sums up Demon Pit: the basic elements are polished enough, but there isn’t enough layered on top of them to maintain player interest long-term.

Score: 4.5/10

Buy Demon Pit from the UK Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Down to Hell (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: Red Dev Studio

Publisher: Ultimate Games S.A.

Category: Action, Slasher

Release Date: 12.23.2019

Price: $9.99

BGM Almost More Hardcore Than the Bosses

If you enjoy Devil May Cry 5 but want to experience it in a 2-D side-scroller format, then Down to Hell is probably a game you would enjoy. Ok, so it’s not exactly the same, but there are definitely some parallels between the two games, at least in the demonic design aesthetic. In Down to Hell, you play the part of an unnamed knight, traversing a dark and chaotic world full of demonic creatures trying to kill you. It is a hack-and-slash title at heart, with a unique combination of battle dynamics that let you choose weaker (but faster) attacks that allow for bigger combo sequences and slashing, or stronger, slower attacks that give you that critical damage. You also have different spells to cast, and a finishing move that, if landed properly, will give you a little health recharge as a bonus. It feels like a nice hybrid between a hack-and-slash and a beat ‘em up, and with the added aspect of limited health potions, it has a bit of a strategy element to it as well.

The visuals are apocalyptic and eerie, but absolutely stunning—especially the hand-drawn interlude scenes—and the heavy metal soundtrack—provided by Polish metal bands Koronal and Decapitated—will beat you up almost as bad as the boss fights for which they provide the backing track. I love the music and the sound effects in Down to Hell, and it really just adds to the brutal and hellish feel of the game as a whole. The controls are fairly tight, though sometimes felt a bit rough on the platforming end. Overall though, the controls give a very gratifying feel to your demon-slashing swordplay.

It’s not a very long game, in theory. There are only two chapters, but each chapter has at least three bosses, even the very first of which was kicking the crap out of me. For someone who is really good at this game, it is supposed to take around 3 hours. I was getting killed a lot and playing many of the same places over and over again, but the replay value is there, so it’s not too bad! I am sure I already have more than 3 hours into this game, and a few more on the way. This is another one of those games where I kind of suck at it, but it’s still fun and satisfying to play anyway.

The game, while supposedly short, has been a fun experience, and I am sure it will provide me many hours of frustrating fun to come. The sights and the sounds are wonderful—I’m especially partial to the metal soundtrack, as a metal guitarist myself—and the gameplay is, for the most part, tight and responsive. If you like a good hack-and-slash adventure or even a good beat ‘em up, then you should check out Down to Hell for yourself!

Score: 8/10

Buy Down to Hell from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Freedom Finger (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: The Waffinator

Developer: Wide Right Interactive

Publisher: Wide Right Interactive

Category: Shooter, Action, Arcade, Music, Indie

Release Date: 9.27.2019

Price: $19.99

It’s a Bird… It’s a Spaceship… It’s Both?

I consider myself a well-rounded gamer, and I enjoy all kinds of games, but for some reason, when it comes to “shmups”—or shoot ‘em ups—I enjoy ‘em, but get bored rather easily. I never find myself addicted to a particular title, but Wide Right Interactive's Freedom Finger has me addicted, or at least very entertained. I am a big fan of music. If there is one thing I really enjoy aside from video games it is music. This one of my favorite aspects of Freedom Finger. Not only is the overall soundtrack to the game edgy and raw, but for each level, the specific song that is playing during the level determines the length of the level as well as the timing of the enemy interactions.

The whole time I was playing, I felt like I was playing an Adult Swim-style game, which made me enjoy it even more. I love the hand-drawn, cartoonish-yet-very-artistic layout of the game. It is all hand-drawn and reminds me of doodles I may have doodled in the back of a history class to keep from falling asleep. There are 37 different levels that expand over a couple of different worlds that mostly end with a boss battle—all to stop the Chinese from stealing the moon!

The best part of the game is that your ship is one giant middle finger, so as you are blowing sh*t up, you are giving one big F-U. You can make it kid-friendly by going to the settings and changing it so there is a censor bar blocking the bird. I played with it on to add to the funny factor, which made it more funny to me, being censored. You can also censor the dialogue of the game, which would be a swell idea If you plan on having little ones play it—keep it more on the family friendly side, seeing as how the Colonel has a nasty mouth on him and says some pretty jacked up stuff. I have a sick humor though, so, to me, he is a riot.

The overall gameplay of Freedom Finger is pretty straightforward. Because it is a shmup, you are using the D-pad to maneuver and dodge enemy fire and other debris or objects trying to kill you. You also have the grab button and punch button. Aside from blasting all your enemies, you can turn into a giant fist and punch them as well. You can also grab enemies, and if they have a weapon, you can use it against other enemies. If they don’t have a weapon, you can just throw the enemy you grabbed at other enemies like throwing a rock.

Freedom Finger is one hell of a ride. From the edgy and raw background music to jam out to, to blasting all kinds space-like enemies, this game is very enjoyable. Oh yeah, another thing: once you have completed a level via the campaign, you can go back and play it over in Arcade Mode and try to get on the leaderboards to compete with many people on the online leaderboards. Are you ready to flip off?

Score 8.5/10

Buy Freedom Finger from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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