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  • Writer's pictureAllan Jenks

Indie B-Sides Review #018

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

Welcome to another edition of the Indie B-Sides Review! This edition, we have shooters, shooters, and more shooters! (And a fishing game...) Check 'em out!

Red Death (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: WoodmanFLG

Developer: EastAsiaSoft

Publisher: EastAsiaSoft

Category: Shoot Em Up/Bullet Hell

Release Date: 3.19.2020

Price: $4.99

A Bullet Hell of Gameboy Color Proportions

Are you ready to dodge hundreds of on-screen bullets while gawking at beautiful, stylized graphics? What about saving the world? Do you have what it takes to stave off the invading alien force hell-bent on eradicating the human race? What about fighting actual gods? Well, if any of that tickles your fancy, the $4.99 Red Death is SURE to give you plenty of entertainment! This game channels the aesthetic of early handheld games with a few colors and big pixels; but hidden behind that aesthetic are PLENTY of things that would never be possible on the Hardware it emulates—and I love how it handles it!

This game just plain LOOKS great, with the bosses and otherworldly creatures being highlights of great, low-tech pixel art. This is your classic vertical shoot ‘em up, with a leaning towards Bullet Hell—and if you don’t know what that means, then no, I was not joking about hundreds of on-screen bullets! This game will have you sweating bullets, as you stare at your tiny ship, making minute adjustments to dodge waves of screen-filling deadly bullets—and man, does it feel good when you kill a boss a pixel before you mess up and die!

It's a shoot ‘em up, so if you're here for the story, there isn’t a ton—even if this is a prologue to Project Starship, a game I haven't played—but it certainly gives the game some excuses for giant bosses and huge levels. This is not an easy game, I’ll tell you that; it lands on the harder side right out the gate, so less skilled players of the genre will have to get used to it a little before they start to really move forward in the game.

You have your usual shot, which you can upgrade in various ways, giving you more powerful shots, more shots, or an entirely different attack (I love the laser!). On the side of the screen, you will see your Overload Gauge increasing through normal gameplay, and this mechanic takes the place of the traditional screen-clearing bomb mechanic in most games similar to this. Once you fill up that bad boy, you will be able to overload all of your systems in your ship and fire a MASSIVE sustained shot, enough to clear out swathes of enemies, and even outright kill some bosses, with the correct power ups. This is actually a kind of nice mechanic that rewards skilled play, since your Overload Gauge resets after a death. Gone are the days of dying, spamming your two or three bombs you start a life with, and then dying again. Red Death will ABSOLUTELY kill you rapidly without the ability to catch a breath, but it will also make you feel like you CAN save the world by rewarding your diligence with extremely powerful, visually-impressive assaults.

This game is just a great time, and for five bucks, you could do far worse! I love when a game does something like this: small and digestible, good, and cheap! This game has solid music and sound, great graphics, and after you beat the story, it even includes an arcade mode with randomized challenges, if you want more! Love you some bullet hell? Get this game! Got an extra $5 and you're looking for something new? Get this game! I give Red Death a strong 8/10!

Score: 8/10

Buy Red Death from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Rack N Ruin (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Marcos Martin

Developer: LifeSpark Entertainment

Publisher: Secret Item Games

Category: Action, Adventure, Role-Playing, Arcade

Release Date: 3.13.2020

Price: $12.99

An RPG with Bullet Hell Elements:

Commanded by the evil overlord Ruin, you play as Rack, Ruin’s underling whose mission is to corrupt and enslave the world, or else he will be cast into the void for all eternity.

If you have just seen the game being described as “bullet-hellish” on my description, this is not entirely the case. I say this because the game is not fully-fledged in this aspect, as these moments are somewhat few and far between, with a tendency for not filling the entire screen with hazards, as the genre is notorious for. The majority of the power-ups you come across are either too uninteresting, or too useless to care for them. I personally stuck with the starting fireball weapon, and it did the trick for slaying enemies, only having to switch to different weapons for the puzzle sections. Most of the enemies you encounter die with only a few hits, with this rule having some exceptions that include bosses. While on the topic of bosses, it is good to mention that most are fairly easy to beat due to the simplicity of their attack patterns, which were a bit too easy to read. This combination of easy-to-kill mobs and easy-to-predict bosses makes for an unchallenging experience that, while it has its ups, can also be a bit tedious and repetitive at times.

During my playthrough, I found myself wandering aimlessly more than a few times; this can be attributed to the inefficiency of the map provided, and the lack of a quest log we are commonly used to on RPG games. The dungeon-crawling sections of the game reminded me of some classics such as The Legend of Zelda, but a bit more lackluster, given that the puzzles in Rack N Ruin were confusing at first sight, but straightforward once you stared at them for only a few seconds, not requiring me to use my brain much; but I enjoy a good challenge and using my brain—just my personal preference. There are item shops in the games which are rather pointless however, as the amount of power-ups you collect as you inflict terror throughout your journey is more than enough to beat the game without ever needing to visit one of these merchants.

The art style was rather enjoyable for my eyes and gave me some Tim Burton vibes. Rack’s personality made me think of Invader Zim more than a few times, and the humor, while not consistent throughout, offered some jokes that even made me chuckle—not all, but a good majority. The sound effects were good, but the music was great, especially during boss encounters when you hear those guitar riffs! It is possible to play the game twin-stick shooter style, but I strongly recommend using the lock-on feature the game offers, which makes the game easier, but the controller a lot more comfortable in your hands, depending on which controller you use. Overall, Rack N Ruin is a solid title with a few things to admire, but not enough that would make me recommend it, unless it’s on a decently good sale.

Score: 5/10

Buy Rack N Ruin from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Follow Secret Item Games:

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Super Destronaut: Land Wars (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Mat Benson

Developer: Petite Games

Publisher: Ratalaika Games

Category: Action, Arcade, First-Person Shooter

Release Date: 3.13.2020

Price: $4.99

Shooting through the Rave

Super Destronaut: Land Wars in an action-packed, rave-music-blaring thrill of a game. It’s pretty simplistic in nature, but boy is it awesome! The premise of this game is simply to survive wave after wave of incoming enemies by shooting them with a variety of different weapons—while, of course, listening to a constant rave song that somehow ads the arcade flavor of the game, without being overtly annoying. It consists of 30 levels in a Challenge Mode that basically wants you to complete various challenges as quickly as possible. Speed is the key in this mode, if you want to get a coveted gold rating.

This game screams 80s-style arcade. The music, as well as the graphics’ aesthetic, aim to create an almost old fashioned 3-D arena that looks close to what virtual reality was believed to look like, if it existed in the 80s. The enemies are reminiscent of Space Invaders and other classic arcade baddies, and the guns also give off the same feel. You blast your way through countless enemies who drop coins you can use for upgrades and better weapons, which will help to destroy even more enemies in a faster way. I would say the difficulty in this game is pretty easy, with it actually being more of a challenge to actually die in the challenge mode, as that is more a race against time. The Arcade Modes are a bit different, with endless horde modes where your goal is just to get a high score, which is just quintessential arcade-like to me.

To be fair, this game may look cool and be fun, but it does suffer from getting too repetitive and boring. The endless horde modes are pretty easy, as long as you upgrade your weapons, and the challenges can be a little tough if you are a perfectionist looking for all gold ratings, but otherwise are pretty simple. Other than that, the game retains its value at the very least, being that it is so cheap; however, in my personal opinion, this game should have been a VR game. I checked around, and it is available on all consoles, but it is not available on VR, which is where I think this game would shine.

Super Destronaut: Land Wars is a great old fashioned 80s arcade nostalgia trip. The only thing it doesn’t bring from the 80s feel is the challenge that those old school games brought to you. That thrill of a game being so hard, you would just keep pumping quarter after quarter into the machine to get a high score. As said previously, besides its low difficulty, it should have been a VR game; however, there are many positives, and it is a fun game. I think, at its price point, it’s definitely worth picking up to enjoy the challenges and mindlessly wade through horde after horde of enemies.


Buy Super Destronaut: Land Wars from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

Fishing Adventure (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: The Ghostly Gamer

Developer: Ultimate Games

Publisher: Ultimate Games

Category: Adventure, Sports, Simulation

Release Date: 2.21.2020

Price: $9.99

Somewhere to Fish Other Than Animal Crossing

I have always had a slight interest in fishing games/simulators. I find them peaceful and a good way to just pass some time in a less stressful environment—and a good way to escape. I saw the trailer for Fishing Adventure from Ultimate Games, and I was rather pleased at the game it was pitching, but little did I know how tiresome the game would quickly become. I am not saying the game is awful—no sir, not at all—but this is not the fishing game that it could have been, it is something a little different.

This game offers nice and peaceful locations for fishing and all kinds of different fish to catch, but it is way too repetitive, and can get on the boring side a little too easily. You have all kinds of rods, lures, and equipment you can upgrade and get, but to level up takes a lot of grinding—yes, I said grinding. In order to level up for newer equipment, you must fish, and fish, and fish the same fish in the same location to gain experience points. Once you level up enough, though, you can finally carry on to a new location. You can walk around the areas and enjoy the scenery, and even hop in boats to fish from the lake itself, which was rather nice and relaxing. The controls were super easy, and I really liked the fact they didn’t go too technical with the controller.

Overall, I did like the artistic layout of the game and the overall design, and I loved how relaxing the game could be, I’m just not a fan of the grinding. If I want to grind a game, I will go play old school Final Fantasy VII or WoW. They should have made it a little easier to unlock other locations—and quicker, so it didn’t get so tiresome so easily. But, if you are looking for a decent fishing game (besides fishing in Animal Crossing) to pass the time in a relaxing atmosphere, this game delivers.

Score: 7/10

Buy Fishing Adventure from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: WoodmanFLG

Developer: M2

Publisher: SEGA

Category: Cute ‘Em Up (Shoot ‘Em Up)

Release Date: 1.23.2020

Price: $7.99

AGE Old Fun

All of you know I love me some shoot ‘em up action, but did you know I love me some cute ‘em up action as well? This is a popular sub-genre of shoot ‘em up that changes out dark colors, realistic planes, and spooky enemies for bright pallets, and goofy bosses and enemies! Fantasy Zone is an extremely early iteration of the cute ‘em up—you could even say early adaptor, since it is one of the first! You control Opa-Opa, a winged ship with a ton of power underneath its cute exterior. You have entered into the Fantasy Zone, and it's up to you to find out who is building a massive fortress there and stop them! SEGA AGES has tuned this release up with lots of options, and even another mode: Upa-Upa mode!

Gameplay in SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone is that of a Horizontal shoot ‘em up, but instead of progressing in one direction like you usually do, each stage is a whole area that wraps around, and you can go either left or right at will, which is a big change from your average horizontal shoot ‘em up, and I really think this is something that sets Fantasy Zone apart from the others. Your objective is to traverse the level and destroy all the bases on the stage so you can summon up the stage boss and take him down; and to help you do that, you will collect plenty of money from defeated enemies to get speed upgrades, more lives, or awesome weapons and sub-weapons!

Aside from your normal shot, with the right upgrades, you can be shooting lasers or shooting giant wide shots and more, and your sub-weapon can go from a single bomb to double bombs, dropping weights on enemies, or screen-clearing mega-bombs! Don’t forget to upgrade your speed too—but not too much, because sometimes it can be a little overwhelming and imprecise at the higher levels of speed upgrade, honestly. Upa-Upa Mode has you actively accessing your full spectrum of upgrades, but your weapons take away money PER USE! It's a nice change up that gives some different strategies in this game, and fans of the game will appreciate more gameplay.

This is a faithful way to play this absolutely classic SEGA game; the sound is great, the graphics crisp, and that little extra coat of paint and features makes all the difference. This game was already great, and SEGA managed to only make it better! This is a great starting point for shoot ‘em up fans trying to get someone into the genre, but the later stages will keep the shoot ‘em up fan busy. Combined with other modes and trying to get the best score, there is PLENTY of gameplay in this bad boy! I give SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone an 8/10!

Score: 8/10

Buy SEGA AGES Fantasy Zone from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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