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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Indie B-Sides Review #009

Hello again, and welcome back to another Indie B-Sides Review! Today we look at a game with a Mario Maker take on Minecraft-styled dungeon building, a horror game that starts out by making you kill your dog, a definitive expansion on an already great puzzle platformer, an upcoming game with a really difficult-to-say name, and a dreamy party game that may have fallen a little flat. Check it out!

BQM BlockQuest Maker (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi

Developer: Wonderland Kazakiri

Publisher: Wonderland Kazakiri

Category: Role-Playing, Action, Puzzle

Release Date: 1.9.2019

Price: $14.99

Build A Better Dungeon

The premise of BlockQuest Maker is fairly simple: players must construct miniature, isometric RPG dungeons, which other players may challenge. While the mechanics available to build each dungeon are simple, they can be combined to make some incredibly complex dungeons. To showcase many of the building concepts, the game comes with premade dungeons players can attempt, and challenge dungeons that give higher than average gold rewards for completion. The actual building of a dungeon is fairly straightforward, consisting of map parts and event parts. Once the map is designed, the player can place various items, monsters, and NPCs around the map. A switch may be reachable only with arrows, or a key may be held by a monster, and NPCs can wander the area giving out information or quests.

The map editor is fairly easy to use, with the grid design allowing you to quickly and easily place tiles. While the isometric view is useful for seeing what the challengers will see, I definitely preferred building in the top-down view. Using only the items that are unlocked by default, I was able to make a fairly simple dungeon within a few minutes. A set of gates requires a pressure plate to open, and setting up this connection took almost no effort. Linked items are also shown in the design UI. New map tiles and items are unlocked via gold, which can be earned by completing dungeons or by having other players challenge your own dungeons. The potential variety is actually fairly impressive, with not just fantasy themes, but sci-fi themes as well. Once a level is ready, it must be play-tested, and then a small gold fee paid to post it online. The creator can choose how much a challenger must pay to try it, and they will receive a portion of the fees.

I found two issues with the fee system: 1) the creator gets paid more if the challenger fails to complete the dungeon; 2) this leads to many maps having a 99% death rate. There is no incentive to create anything but the most challenging dungeon possible, which in turn means dungeon challengers have few easier dungeons to play if they do not want an extreme challenge. On the flip side, though, many dungeons charge no fee at all, so those that do charge a fee are less likely to be played anyway.

Like any game that relies on player-made content, the level of creativity in many of the maps is incredible. Sometimes I found the controls not as intuitive as I would like, likely a side effect of being ported from PC. The real issue was just the difficulty of most of the more popular dungeons, as, upon death, the player must start the level over again—and in some of the longer and more complex dungeons, this can be a significant amount of playtime. Thankfully, the premade dungeons and challenges are plentiful and have a wider difficulty spectrum. For anyone who enjoys building content for others to play, this is definitely a title to look at. While it lacks some of the mechanical complexity bigger name games might have, it is still a deep system that allows for endless interesting map builds. The player made maps will also provide a significant challenge for those that wish to try them. If not, the premade dungeons still provide for fun puzzles to solve.

Score: 7/10

Buy BQM BlockQuest Maker from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Darkwood (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Brad E. “The Waffinator”

Developer: Acid Wizard/Crunching Koalas

Publisher: Crunching Koalas

Category: Adventure, Role-Playing, Horror, Indie

Release Date: 5.16.2019

Price: $14.99

Well, Now I need New Pants…

When you hear horror game, you most likely think of jump-scare-style gameplay where they seem to suck in your full attention, and you know something is going to pump out, so you anticipate it, and then something pops out and you’ve either soiled your pants or you just blink it off because you don’t scare easily. Jump-scares are very popular with horror games, but what if you could be freaked and creeped out the whole time playing a game without the overplayed tactics?

Darkwood is just that; it is a horror survival game that is sick and twisted, and doesn’t rely on jump-scares to make you feel creeped out. Heck, right in the prologue—the only part I'll give away, due to sensitive content—you get out of your house and your dog is lying on the ground, dying. You then pick up an axe. You can either leave your dog suffering or end his misery. This is next level type horror for gaming. What I like is the top-down view perspective, like old-school Grand Theft Auto. So, when you end the dog’s misery—if you decide to—you see it, but it’s not too bad. The part that makes it horrific is the dog’s cry as you chop it in half. I wish it had just been a quick thud sound, and that's it. The only downside to the top-view camera is that, in portable mode, it makes it slightly less pleasing and hard to see, so for best results, I would recommend playing in docked mode.

Sound… Sound is your ally and friend. The overall atmosphere of the game is dark and eerie. Pay attention to the music and sound effects and you will know when something is close to you or is about to happen—but that doesn’t mean it will save your life! One thing I'm not a big fan of is the mapping. You have a map you can check for reference, but it never shows exactly where you are, which can make it more difficult. The game already barely gives you any clues on where to go and what to do, so the unhelpful map can make it a bit frustrating.

Overall, Darkwood is a horror survival game that definitely earns it’s place within the genre. You have to search for items, craft newer items and weapons and stuff for survival, set traps, and even barricade doors and windows to help get through the night when night falls. It will push you to your limits. Will you escape the woods, or will they consume your soul?

Score 7.5/10

Buy Darkwood from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

The Adventures of Elena Temple: Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: GrimTalin

Publisher: GrimTalin

Category: Platformer, Action, Arcade, Puzzle

Release Date: 12.24.2019

Price: $4.99

The Little Platformer That Could

The Adventures of Elena Temple is an old school Rudy­-esque tale of a great indie game that just couldn’t ever catch a break. As the story goes, after several less-than-successful launches on multiple platforms at the worst possible times, the game finally finds itself on the Nintendo Switch, with several other versions of consoles and PCs now available to switch between while shooting and platforming your way through different one-screen rooms in a temple filled with puzzles, booby traps, and enemies. Our fellow JPSM reviewer, Frank (a.k.a. WoodmanFLG), reviewed the original Switch release here, and I definitely recommend you check it out!

Today, we take a look at the newest release, The Adventures of Elena Temple: Definitive Edition. This is not a sequel, but rather an expansion on the original. The good news is, if you already own the original, you can pick up the Definitive Edition at a discount, and if you buy the Definitive Edition first, you get the original for free, for “historical” purposes.

So what’s new, you ask? Great question! In addition to some tweaks throughout the original temple rooms—which is now called Chalice of the Gods—you now have two new temples to explore, The Golden Spider and The Orb of Life, each of which come with their own unique rules of gameplay, and are still available for play in all of the different virtual port versions, only now, the different versions of the ports are able to be switched instantly during gameplay by pressing the shoulder buttons, which was a pretty cool feature.

Additionally, there are now unlockable game modifiers like double jumps and unlimited ammo. The third temple, The Orb of Life, added an element of checkpoints you would return to after a set number of deaths, which really threw me for a loop, as I tend to die a lot in this game—but hey, it changes up the gameplay a little bit, so it keeps it fresh! If you have already played the original Elena Temple and enjoyed it, then you should go get your discounted Definitive Edition right now and play it! If you have never played it, then you should go get The Adventures of Elena Temple Definitive Edition right now, and then get your free copy of the original. It is a really fun platformer with excellent gameplay and storytelling—admittedly, more so the storytelling on the title screens about the game’s past failures than the gameplay story itself, but still great storytelling nonetheless. I really enjoyed myself with this short and sweet little piece of nostalgia.

Score: 8.5/10

Buy The Adventures of Elena Temple: Definitive Edition from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B Developer: Bare Knuckle Development Publisher: Bare Knuckle Development Category: Action, Arcade, Multiplayer Release Date: 1.14.2020 Price: $4.99

What If Asteroids But Better

The battle for the most overcomplicated game title on the Switch heats up with the release of Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo from Bare Knuckle Development. Luckily, the game itself isn’t nearly that complex, but it still stays pretty darn fun. It’s basically Asteroids, but with some extra layers on top that make things a little deeper and a whole lot more engaging. The controls are pretty simple; your ship is always moving forward, but you can change direction and either speed up or slow down as the situation demands. You fire your ship’s guns at incoming enemies, like asteroids, missiles, rocket ships, and a weird centipede-target thing. In an interesting twist to the Asteroids formula, your gun has a limited number of shots, but you can collect extra bullets from defeated enemies. It nominally adds some resource management to the game, but honestly, I always died way before running out of bullets became an issue, so it didn’t add a whole lot of challenge for me.

The game features five game modes, all of which can be played multiplayer, but only three of which can be played single-player, which came as something of a surprise for a twin-stick shooter. I would have thought that the emphasis would be on single, but what do I know? The three modes that can be played single are survival (where the goal is to survive), protect mother (where you have to protect the mothership), and save the colony (where you have to save the colonists). The two multiplayer-only modes are one shot (where you only start with one bullet) and to the death (where you fight your opponent and their mothership to the death). Each one provides its own challenges and requires its own strategies, but they’re all pretty fun.

The game has some unlockables, namely new ships that can be purchased with coins granted for completing challenges or randomly dropped during battle. The challenges are pretty cool; they kind of create an achievement system to the game, which the Switch needs. I need a gamer score to let other people know how much I do gamering! Help a brother out, Nintendo! The graphics are pretty standard for what you can expect from a higher-quality indie release. I was surprised by the quality of the sound design; the music is great, which isn’t that surprising. Many indie games find great indie composers. No, I was surprised by the amount of voice acting in such a small game. Yeah, it’s only a few lines for a few game types, but it was still an unexpected bonus. Overall, we’re looking at a top-notch indie arcade action shooter for just five bucks. What are you waiting for?

Score: 8/10

Buy Super Mega Space Blaster Special Turbo from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

DreamBall (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: WoodManFLG

Developer: JanduSoft

Publisher: JanduSoft

Category: Sports, Physics, Multiplayer

Release Date: 12.23.2019

Price: $4.99

A One-Note Multiplayer Sporting Adventure

DreamBall is a Multiplayer physics-based sports game that has you controlling a floppy fellow on one of two teams, with a goal of throwing the ball into the opposing team's goal. Your characters can jump, make a fist, and by extension of that, grab the ball, and punch each other to defend. You swing your character around to generate the momentum to throw the ball or throw a punch, so there is lots of spinning in circles in this one. The game has a few arenas to play in, as well as a few power-ups that can help influence the battle in your favor—and… that's about it.

There is a training mode and there are achievements, but this game mostly boils down to playing with your friends in the normal mode. Honestly, I don’t see that holding out too far, though. The gameplay is pretty one-note, and gets old quick. The visuals are cel shaded for the characters, but nothing too fancy and with some ugly textures to be had; and the music is forgettable. For 5 bucks, you could probably do worse, but I don’t see myself revisiting this game. I give DreamBall a 4/10.

Score: 4/10

Buy DreamBall from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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