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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Indie B-Sides Review #015

It's that time again: Indie B-Sides time! This time, we take a look an a love letter to the dungeon-crawling of The Legend of Zelda, a waiting room simulator that really nails the whole doctor's office experience, a 90-second free-for-all retro-style brawler, a D&D-lite card-based survival game, and a tale that follows a blind kid with surprisingly nimble feet. Sit back and enjoy!

Knightin’+ (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Allan Jenks

Developer: Muzt Die Studios

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Action, Adventure, Arcade, Role-Playing

Release Date: 2.21.2020

Price: $5.99

Don’t Think Too Deeply About It, Just Enjoy

When it comes to the latest “Modern Retro” style of many indie games these days, there are good efforts, and bad ones. It’s easy to make a game look retro, but to make it fun at the same time, well that takes actual talent on the part of the developers. Go figure? With Knightin’+, the one-man, Ukraine-based developer, Muzt Die Studios, has answered the call and created a game that is both fun to play, and hits that retro aesthetic. Knightin’+ doesn’t take itself too seriously either, which it makes known right off the bat when explaining the premise of the game in the opening, as the narrator basically says that they just want us to enjoy the game and not think too deeply about silly things like the story or plot.

So what is the premise, you ask? Well, you are a knight, you enjoy looting dungeons for treasure, and you have some dungeons to explore. That’s pretty much it. The dungeons are in the same style as classic NES The Legend of Zelda, where you make your way through four different dungeons, each divided up into several floors of single-screen rooms. Most floors have different puzzles that you must solve to move on. There are two types of puzzles: puzzles where you have to step on the correct light panels in the correct pattern, and block-moving puzzles where you must push different puzzle blocks around in the correct order to get them all situated atop different beams of light.

Both puzzle types are fun, though the light panel puzzles usually require that you re-trace your steps through the dungeon floor to look for the hidden hints. The hints are always found on the same floor as the puzzle, but they are not always very easy to find. Thankfully they are on the same floor though, because each time you move to a different floor, the enemies you previously defeated will all respawn when you go back to that floor. The block-moving puzzles though, while they do not require searching the rest of the floor for hints, are equally as challenging to solve. I solved most of them through a sheer trial-and-error method, though admittedly, I used the puzzle guide for a couple of them after spending way too much time head-scratching.

As far as the rest of the gameplay, there are several different enemy types throughout the dungeons, each with a unique pattern of movement and attack, and as you learn new skills (i.e., sword dash, a charged sword strike, a shield reflecting shot, etc.) you will begin to encounter enemies on whom these new skills can be used effectively. The difficulty felt very balanced, and though some of the boss fights felt cheap as hell at first, once I discovered the attack patterns, I was easily able to exploit them and earn a quick victory.

Overall, Knightin’+ was an unexpected great time. I didn’t expect the game to be horrible, but I was not thinking I would enjoy myself quite as much as I did. There’s really not anything bad that I can say about this game, other than wishing the dungeon map was a bit bigger. If you enjoy a good LoZ-style dungeon crawler, then you will absolutely want to pick up Knightin’+ for your library!

Score: 9/10

Buy Knightin’+ from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Help Me Doctor (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: IceTorch Interactive, Angry Angel Games Publisher: Ultimate Games

Category: Adventure, Other, Puzzle Release Date: 1.16.2020 Price: $7.99

Almost as Much Fun as Waiting at a Real Doctor's Office

Help Me Doctor starts with a solid premise: task players with running a medical clinic under the close scrutiny of the ministry of health; allow them to diagnose patients, but also force them to experience the bureaucracy of the health industry by making them check paperwork in addition to their medical examinations; to wrap it all up, players will have to keep their clinic afloat by managing their finances while also dealing with unexpected moral quandaries related to choosing who gets treated and who doesn’t, based on political and financial criteria. It’s all a very interesting idea, especially considering the place healthcare currently occupies in the American national political conversation. Sadly, that promise is not fulfilled at any point during the game.

Every day, patients come to your clinic, and you see them one at a time until the workday ends. At the end of the day you are charged daily expenses, which are taken from the profits you make diagnosing patients. Again, it’s a solid start, but Help Me Doctor basically boils down to a lackluster matching game. You have to first match the patient’s date of birth, name, ID number, and insurance policy number across all of their documents. Then, they give you three different symptoms they are experiencing, and you cycle through a list of diseases and symptoms until you find the one that matches. If you get everything right, you get fifty bucks and you can go on to the next patient. If you miss an inconsistency in the paperwork, you are fined. If you turn away a patient with an inconsistency, you get nothing and lose some time. If you mistakenly turn away a patient with no discrepancies in their paperwork, you get an even heftier fine.

If that all sounds pretty boring, that’s because it is. Making matters worse, on more than one occasion, I was penalized for turning away a patient with inconsistent info, but the game dinged me for bouncing a patient with correct info. For instance, one patient I refused had different ID numbers on his documents; the game told me I sent away a patient with good info and dinged me 200 bucks. So, not only is the gameplay no fun, it’s inconsistent too. Occasionally, a special scenario will pop up; you choose your reaction and live with the consequences. Some can provide bonus money, surprise fees or fines, or have no effect; however, the effect is rarely, if ever, related to the morality of the choice. Picking the “good” choice is as likely to end up in a fine as a reward or some other condemnation from the health minister.

Rounding out the extremely lackluster experience are some very rough graphics, and music that gets repetitive, and after a very short time, kind of grating. The dialogue is very rough; it’s rife with typos, misspellings, and grammatical mistakes. But worse than all that, it’s just freaking boring. It’s an endless cycle of comparing documents, matching symptoms, and submitting diagnoses. The special scenarios break things up a little bit, but they just boil down to rolling the dice on a random outcome that has no bearing on what comes next for you. Help Me Doctor is a soulless, pointless experience that I prescribe avoiding.

Score: 2/10

Buy Help Me Doctor from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

UBERMOSH:OMEGA (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: The Waffinator

Developer: Walter Machado

Publisher: QUByte Interactive

Release Date: 2.21.2020

Category: Action, Arcade

Price: $4.99

It Sounds Better Than It Looks

This game has me completely lost for words. I don’t even know where I want to start. UBERMOSH:OMEGA is very action packed, and has a great arcade feel to it, however, the overall gameplay did not sell me at all. There are six different characters you play as. Each one has their own weapon, and you are trying to survive swarms of enemies that come at you from all directions, but you must stay within the boundaries. Every time you play, the timer starts at 90 seconds, and you have six hits that you can take before you die. So, either you last the whole time, or you die.

Once you die or manage to survive the whole 90 seconds, that's it; you go back to the main screen and pick another character to play as. The music to the game is very punk-like, and in my opinion, the best part of the game. The artistic approach is not very visually appealing at all. I'm not saying it makes the game less enjoyable, though, as the very punkish BGM and the action-packed killing of enemies completely makes up for the cheesy graphics.

Some characters are harder to play as, and give you a good challenge, and some are a bit easier. The fact that a round will last 90 seconds at the longest gives it the great arcade approach, and makes it somewhat good for quick plays if you need something that's on the short side to play. Overall, for being an action and arcade fan, this game was fun, but as far as replay value, it's just not there for me.

Score 6/10

Buy UBERMOSH:OMEGA from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Please the Gods (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: Spawn Point OSK, Surma Games Publisher: Ultimate Games Category: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing, Strategy Release Date: 2.3.2020 Price: $9.99

Kill Monsters, Save Family

Please the Gods is a great example of a game that starts off feeling fresh, but ultimately isn’t deep enough in any area to maintain player interest. In a medieval fantasy setting, players assume the role of a father desperate to save his destitute family from starvation. You set off on a quest to assemble a magical device called the Sampo, and along the way you run into creatures based on Finnish mythology (the game devs are Finnish, btw). Different deities give you different sets of tasks to complete before they reward you with their piece of the Sampo. The story is pretty barebones; there are a few expository text boxes to guide you, but nothing in the way of deeper character work or anything more complex than “kill monsters, save family.” It’s a simple goal for a simple story, which isn’t a problem in and of itself, but kind of becomes one when in conjunction with the gameplay.

The game world is a series of three maps, and you can move your character to different tiles on the maps to encounter either battles or resource-building scenarios. You have both health and food meters; if you run out of food, you lose health every time you move. Battling is a combination of dice and card game mechanics. You and your opponent take turns attacking and defending; you start with two dice for each, but you can play cards to gain additional dice and/or special effects. It’s an interesting concept for a battle system, reminiscent of board games like D&Dor Risk. The problem is that the story doesn’t have enough depth to compare to D&D, and the strategy pretty much boils down to stockpiling defense dice until your foe gets a bad defense roll and playing your best attack-dice-enhancing card. Once you figure that out, the battles lose a lot of their intrigue and can even get a little boring. Although, even if you do crack the formula, the game’s random number generator can still screw you over if your defense dice rolls all suck.

The game’s brightest spot is its pixel art graphics. Please the Gods features a really cool old-school aesthetic that fans of retro gaming will absolutely love. The game’s visuals are a little limited by a lack of variety, in terms of opponents and backgrounds, but on their own, all of the game’s graphical assets are fantastic. A deeper story or maybe a more varied random encounter system (I’m thinking something akin to FTL) would have made for a more interesting and replayable game. As things stand, Please the Gods is a good-looking game that provides some challenge until you figure it out, but gets a little frustrating if the RNG gods aren’t on your side.

Score: 6/10

Buy Please the Gods from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

EQQO (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Akio Kahoshi

Developer: Parallel Studio


Category: Adventure, Puzzle

Release Date: 2.7.2020

Price: $6.00

Less Danger, More Puzzle

The tale of EQQO is about a mother leading her son through a pilgrimage, and as she is the storyteller, she can affect the world within it. That is the premise that supports the gameplay, where the player sits from afar and interacts with the world, moving objects or guiding Eqqo. The story is told by the mother, with a constant story-like narration of every action Eqqo takes.

To solve the game’s puzzles requires triggering pressure plates, sticking Eqqo’s hand in the mouth of statues, and using the godly egg he obtains, just to start. This hands-off approach to solving puzzles actually felt different than other puzzle games, though honestly, I probably spent more time finding the right camera angle to see what I needed than actually solving puzzles.

At first, everything feels very laid back, with its storybook narration and lack of danger. Eventually, it adds danger, specifically shadow creatures that try to steal the egg when Eqqo puts it down. To be honest, I found these shadows to be more annoying than interesting, as it took away from me trying to solve the puzzle to also have to throw rocks at the shadow beings. I think the game would have benefited from focusing on the puzzles and not introducing ways for the player to fail. EQQO was at its most fun when I was just guiding Eqqo through the beautiful landscape.

One thing I found odd though, is that Eqqo is supposed to be blind—represented by the cloth he wears around his eyes—yet his movements often seemed fairly certain, climbing up cliffs and interacting with objects as if he could see them clearly. Given the visual disconnect, and how little him being blind actually adds to the story, it probably should have just been omitted. I think those that suffer from blindness could certainly use more representation within games, but EQQO is not an example of how.

Ultimately I found this game to bring some interesting ideas to the table, but it offers little in the way of substance. The controls using a controller were not as streamlined as the touch (it kept resetting my cursor position to the bottom right corner). Views are limited to preset locations, which usually are all that is needed, but it left me wishing I could view things from a different angle. I suspect a younger audience might enjoy the storybook feel to the game, and leading a child through it, but I do not think many adults would get much from playing EQQO.

Score: 6/10

Buy EQQO from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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