Mini-Review Roundup #2
Today’s roundup features another batch of Curator Connect titles, this time of overall higher quality than the last group. The first three games I’ll talk about might even be worth your time, if the subject matter appeals.
FURIDASHI is a driving game about drifting. It’s not a racing game, mind you, because there are no races to the finish. Instead, every match is a timed exercise in how long you can keep your car sliding all over the track like a pat of butter in a hot pan. Your drifts are scored by points, with bonuses for cutting across specific spots on the track and other tricky maneuvers, and at the end whoever has the most total points wins. I have pretty much no talent for drifting unless it’s Mario Kart or Burnout so staying on the track here felt like a pretty big accomplishment. I can’t speak to the quality of the simulation, except that it felt like a pretty hardcore representation of drifting mechanics and would require significant practice to master.
What I can speak to is the remarkable amount of customization the developers have crammed into the game. Competing online or against ghost recordings of other players earns you cash, which can be spent on upgrading just about every facet of your drifting machine, from the engine all the way down to the suspension. There’s additional tuning that can be done across a dozen different diagnostic screens, and then a whole world of paints and decals you can apply to make your ride stand out on the track. Again, it’s a game solely about drifting and you likely won’t be finding any online matches right now, but the quality and detail are there for a decent driving sim.
FINAL VERDICT: Sure
I wasn’t sure what to expect out of this one, considering how manic the screenshots are. Starting the game dumps you out in a pastoral little platform world filled with clouds and trees and produce that wants you dead. Right away your little slime will start accumulating powers, the most useful being weapon eyes that let you shoot fire or ice or other things. You’ll find a ton more items on top of that though, most of them adding extra effects to your attacks. After a scant ten minutes my ice shards would sprout scales, seeds, phoenix feathers, ice cream cones, and tiny ambulatory gingerbread men, all of which do damage to enemies. Needless to say I felt like a tiny, slimy, coked-up god.
I managed to beat the boss, a giant angry carrot, and that took me to a pastel block world of murderous tetris pieces. I got lazy and died (you get plenty of health), and got thrown back to the main menu. Turns out this one is a bit roguelike in that you have to do all four worlds in one go without dying. While it doesn’t feel like a super tall order it’s not really a game that’s designed for it, since enemies and bosses can have some pretty challenging patterns. The Risk of Rain-ish item chaos helps a bit, and there are unlockable characters to try out, so overall it’s a decent little experiment. Just be prepared for some rough edges and a translation that’s only going to make the weirdness more impenetrable.
FINAL VERDICT: Cute
I like new takes on classic genres like shmups, but sphereFACE takes it a bit too far. All the Asteroids-style action happens on the inside of spheres, forcing your little ship into dizzying orbits of the arena to combat foes. By default the camera doesn’t follow your movement which makes the game unplayable in my eyes, but fortunately it’s an option you can (and should, my god) enable immediately. That doesn’t help with the UI, which scrolls by at breakneck speed outside the sphere you’re in. Despite the muted colors and simple wire-frames this is a tough game to follow and comprehend, unfortunately.
The lack of feedback has made it hard to understand what I should be doing, but I’ve picked up that destroying the white asteroids in each sphere opens up the warps to other spheres. Enemies are in red and useful items are in pea green, though the weapons are so imbalanced you can forget about collecting things once you pick up the beam laser. The particle effects can get super busy and the pace of the game doesn’t really fit with how small you and your shots are, but you can still come to grips with it prettu fast. Ultimately it’s a hot mess of a game with not much depth to offer, but for frenetic action and a unique gimmick you could do much worse.
FINAL VERDICT: Whoa
What I thought was going to be a 3D dungeon crawler turned out to be a speedrunning game in disguise. The Dungeon Power pits your bulbous little gremlin-thing against timed levels of moving platforms, spikes, collapsing floors, and other deadly traps you’ve seen a million times before. Movement is nice and responsive, and you actually pick up momentum from moving platforms which allows you to pull off some pretty neat moves once you master controlling it. However, it’s still just a plotless speedrunning game, the kind of thing that exists as a bonus mode for a more ambitious, complete title. Plus it runs into that classic problem of levels eventually getting several minutes long and one misstep sending you all the way back to the start. I’m not a fan of that frustration in better games, so I’m definitely not going to tolerate it here.
FINAL VERDICT: Ugh
So here’s the thing: If you decide to imitate a classic like Mario or Mega Man or Sonic, your gameplay needs to be at least as good at those. That’s not a tall order, because they’ve existed for years, they still exist if people want to play them, and you’ve got the example RIGHT THERE to work from. So when you get a game like In Between Games that attempts to ape all three and get absolutely nothing right about any of them, it’s a pretty depressing experience. In Between Games commits all the cardinal indie platformer sins, in fact. The controls are sluggish and floaty, the hit detection is spotty, the art mixes different styles and resolutions, and the difficulty is all over the place. Worst of all, a lot of the things you would expect to work from these classic games don’t, like the warp pipes and level transitions after hitting the flagpole. Really this game is little more than a reminder that three entire decades ago, people were making better games than most of the indie scene on Steam.
FINAL VERDICT: No