top of page
  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Indie B-Sides Review #012

We're back again with more indie goodness! We have a post-Skynet ninja tablet, a corporate dystopia, a broken home, a bite-sized creep show, and a masochist's retro dream game. Let's take a look!

KUNAI (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: WoodmanFLG

Developer: TurtleBlaze

Publisher: The Arcade Crew

Category: Metroidvania, Action, Platformer

Release Date: 2.6.2020

Price: $16.99

High Speed Ninja Tablet Action

KUNAI is a highly stylized Metroidvania action-platformer in which you play as Tabby, a sentient ninja tablet set in a world where a traumatic event—an evil AI essentially taking over the world—has nearly wiped out the entirety of humanity. Robots roam the Earth, free from human enslavement, but a small sect of resistance robots unearth you and bring you to life, empty-handed and weaponless; but it is up to you to uncover the secrets of the world. Will you save the Humans, or let them be? Only time will tell in this action-infused game, and the game wastes no time introducing you to its fast-paced gameplay and its pretty art style. I love that each area in this game rocks a color palette, almost like I'm playing a Gameboy game. It lends to lots of atmosphere injected into each area, and they really build off of the colors they choose for each area in a great way. Let's talk more about this high-octane gameplay, shall we?

Tabby has it all as you move into the game; all the usual ninja weapons, such as an energy-draining katana, electric shuriken for activating switches or stunning enemies, grappling kunai for flipping around levels, and… a pair of sub machine guns!? Just what kind of ninja are we dealing with here!? Well… it actually turns out to be a tablet ninja, so maybe those are just what they use? But importantly, he is a highly efficient killing machine with an insane amount of mobility! I absolutely love the kunai! They give you SO much freedom of movement and are just fun to use in general; and you get them early on, so you end up with PLENTY of time to learn how to use them well.

Combat is fun and very fast paced, and you will be forced to use everything you have to progress past some robots you will run into. Your sword recovers your health on kills, so they manage to make each encounter feel dangerous with generally high damage inflicted on Tabby; but you can get that back from easier enemies in between the harder ones. It’s a good way to go about it!

The sound is also lots of fun in this game, with satisfying sound effects and catchy tunes. Mix that with the beautiful pixel art style and the thematic pallets of each area, and you have a retro love letter wrapped up with a pretty bow on top of it to bring it all together. KUNAI is a difficult and fun romp that has very few problems. I found myself chasing switches back through areas a little bit more often than I would like, though, and I’d rather have some kind of power-up to move me around areas. That’s honestly one of my only complaints. It does feel very gratifying as you move between your next goal, though, because you get to play with your new ability or equipment. This game is well designed, pretty to look at, and great to listen to. I give KUNAI a strong 8.5 out of 10!

Score: 8.5/10

Buy KUNAI from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow KUNAI

Website / Instagram

Follow TurtleBlaze

Website / Facebook / / Discord / YouTube

Follow The Arcade Crew

Website / Facebook / / YouTube

*A game code was provided for review purposes

Mosaic (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B.

Developer: Krillbite Publisher: Raw Fury Category: Action, Adventure, Puzzle Release Date: 1.23.2020 Price: $19.99

A Splash of Color in a Dreary Life

Mosaic for the Nintendo Switch tells the story of a lonely office drone in a contemporary dystopia. As you progress through the story, you experience the dull monotony of this man’s life; you feel his dread at waking up, the unrelenting pressure of his rapidly declining financial situation, and his growing isolation from an increasingly cold society. There are some rays of hope, however; small rays of light shine through, providing much needed warmth and relief. And you do all of this while accompanying this man on his daily commute! Mosaic isn’t a long game, or a very complex game to play, but its story packs a weighty punch that will resonate with anyone who feels disconnected with the values of a modern, increasingly corporate society.

I said the gameplay was simple, and that may not describe things well enough. I hesitate to use the phrase “walking simulator” due to its negative connotation, but the descriptor fits. You really just walk forward the whole time; occasionally you can interact with something and there are a few distracting apps on your phone, but, yeah; mostly you’re just walking around. It can get a little dull because of the repetitive nature of the start of every new day; you wake up, brush your teeth, and leave your building. While the story struck a chord with me, the gameplay recreated the monotony of being stuck in a crappy job just a little too well; things felt stale very quickly. Furthermore, the controls are a bit janky; turning is a little herky-jerky and positioning yourself to interact with buttons or other items was inexact, and sometimes took a little too much maneuvering.

Luckily, we’ve got Mosaic’s art direction to save the game from its worst elements. While I got tired of seeing the apartment every day pretty quickly, the game managed to create some absolutely stunning dreamscapes. From colorful, welcoming daydream sequences inspired by encounters along the commute, to cold, terrifying dreams of drowning haunting every night, Mosaic is chock full of striking imagery. The music is a master class in minimalism, featuring quiet, contemplative sounds that swell with hope or languish in despair as needed. The only issue—and unfortunately, it’s a big one—is the game’s constant slowdown and/or graphical stuttering. Ultimately, we end up with a beautiful game that provides a powerful commentary on the isolation of modern society, but is marred by its technical issues.

Score: 6/10

Buy Mosaic from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Krillbite

Website / Facebook / / YouTube

Follow Raw Fury

Website / Facebook / / Instagram / YouTube

*A game code was provided for review purposes

Lydia (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: The Waffinator

Developer: Platonic Partnership


Category: Adventure, Lifestyle, Education

Release Date: 1.17.2020

Price: $4.00

Right in the Feels

I'm going to go all out and start this review off with WOW! Lydia is one of the darkest and most psychological games I have ever played, and it hit me right in the feels. The game is about a girl growing up in a broken home, and what it can do to children mentally. Growing up in literally the same situation, this game hit me right in the childhood memories. This game does have a lot of adult language, and would not be recommend for kids. Lydia is a game I would recommend for those that are into laid back decision-making story-like games, however.

The background music is very captivating, and the scheme of the overall composition fits the darkness of the game very well. The overall display, however, reminds me of a dark and twisted version of Winnie the Pooh meets Alice in Wonderland, in an excellent way, but the gameplay, to me, was a bit lackluster; but that's because I'm more into different genres of games, and not the story type. With that said, the story itself and what happens in the game did keep my attention all the way through until the end of the game—that's how well it was put together as a final product.

The game is only about an hour long, and broken into chapters, just like a book. The monsters and overall darkness you encounter as the child's imagination is being corrupted from the broken home is well thought out and interesting. If you are into story-type games, or grew up in a broken home, this game won’t disappoint, and reminds you that even in darkness, you can find the light.

Score 8.5/10

Buy Lydia from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Platonic Partnership

Website / Facebook / / Instagram / YouTube


Website / / Discord / YouTube

*A game code was provided for review purposes

Red Bow (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: Stranga Games

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Adventure, Horror, Role-Playing

Release Date: 1.17.2020

Price: $4.99

Short and Creepy

The horror/adventure genre didn’t really reach its stride until the 3-D era of gaming, as it’s a lot easier to creep someone out when something can jump out from behind you without being in your direct line of sight. That being said, now that we have advanced so far in graphical capabilities, the next logical step in the genre is to skip backwards to the top-down, 2-D, 8- and 16-bit era of gaming and see what happens, right? Ok, maybe not the most logical next step, but when it works, it works! Red Bow does just that, with a bite-sized “modern retro” tale of a little girl who finds herself in what could only be a bad dream.

You awake in your bed, not sure what just happened, and each time you try to leave your house, you are transported to a different creepy locale with some seriously unnerving happenings. In order to get back home, in each scenario you have to figure out how to help out the lost soul trapped in said scenario. The gameplay mimics that of an SNES-era top-down RPG, mixed with a sort of point-and-click adventure. You must explore the area, looking for different items that can be used to help you, such as keys, TV cables, gasoline, etc. I won’t give much away beyond that little bit, because, honestly, there’s not a whole lot to this game. My initial playthrough took a little under two hours. Initially I thought maybe I got a bad ending that cut the game short, but it really is just that short. It almost felt like I had just played a demo version of the full game.

While it was short, it was still enjoyable, and for the price, you still get your money’s worth here. The game doesn’t really have any jump scares, but it does still have quite a few parts that will make you feel a bit uneasy. The soundtrack is minimal, but appropriately so, lending to the creepy factor with the mostly quiet atmosphere. The sound effects that are there are done well, and overall, though a bit shorter than I would have liked, this is a fun game. I would recommend picking this one up if you enjoy a good creepy story.

Score: 6.5/10

Buy Red Bow from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Stranga

Website / Facebook / / YouTube

Follow Ratalaika Games

Website / Facebook / / YouTube

*A game code was provided for review purposes

Reknum (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi

Developer: Nape Games

Publisher: JanduSoft

Category: Action, Arcade, Platformer

Release Date: 1.31.2020

Price: $4.99

Take the Good with the Bad

Right off the bat, Reknum opens with a charming opening scene, intended to mimic the pixelated cinematics of NES-era games. It becomes quickly apparent that replicating the NES is the experience on which the developers lean heavily. Simple character sprites, scenery, and music all feel like they could be dropped onto the retro system and work. Certainly, I do not consider this to be a bad thing, as when well-executed, it can make for a fun game without the visual distractions that are just expected in AAA titles. However, I found that, with the good, the developers at Nape Games also chose to bring the bad from that era.

I should first note that the controls work fantastically, and the game runs very well. For me, it was the actual design of the levels that brought the game down. In the first area, for example, campfires are spread out on the map. Touching them causes instant death, making you restart the whole section over again. I also encountered traps that would instantly kill me but were initially out of sight—and the final boss of the area also one-shot-killed me. All this despite having health.

In a later area, the whole section is dark, requiring precision platforming while only barely being able to see the next platform. While this is decidedly not fun gameplay at the best of times, I still was able to progress fairly far—after many, many deaths. Then, near the end, a ghost came out of the dark and knocked me off of a platform, killing me and forcing me to start over again. It was at this point I lost patience with the game.

Even then, I would not have minded the restarting as much, if the game did not also force the player to collect crystals from treasure chests. Every five hundred collected give a bonus, but these crystals are lost on death or when moving to a new area. To add insult to injury, the chest that produces these crystals does so over several seconds. This makes redoing the level after death far more tedious than it needed to be.

The game also sends you back to previous levels randomly, for no particularly good reason. In the second area, I was sent back to the end of the first. Here I actually was stuck, because it told me a bomb would open the way, so I spent a while trying to get back to the first area’s bomb. It turned out I was supposed to simply fight the first boss again. The same boss that could kill me in a single hit. This was unnecessary and did not at all make for a better game. Overall, I found Reknum to be a game with a solid core, littered with poor design choices. Even a few minor changes would have made for a significantly better game. As is, I can only recommend the game to those that like old-style games that are needlessly difficult.

Score: 6/10

Buy Reknum from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Nape Games

Website/ Facebook / / Instagram / YouTube

Follow JanduSoft

Website/ Facebook / / YouTube

*A game code was provided for review purposes

0 views0 comments
bottom of page