Be Mine Impressions – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my mini-review/impressions of the games in the Be Mine Indie Game bundle, covering Beep, a physics-based platformer by Big Fat Alien, The Ball, an action-puzzle game by Teotl Studios, and as a bonus for achieving the first goal of $3,000, a point and click adventure game called Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals, by White Birds Productions.

Part 1 can be found here, with thoughts on Wasteland AngelSideway New York, and Xotic.

Beep, a physics-based platformer by Big Fat Alien, is the fourth game in the bundle.  In the future, robots are sent out to explore the galaxy.. small expendable robots, which are dropped off onto a planet’s surface to explore before being beamed back up to the ship again.

The level selection was done through moving a little rocket ship towards the planet and choosing “deploy”.  There are other planets in the solar system, but they are locked until you’ve collected enough anti-matter, rather like the need to collect starts to unlock islands in Crayon Physics Deluxe.

This was rather cute, but I couldn’t find the target planet right away.. the planets orbit the sun, and I’d managed to miss the planet while it was off on its rounds.. and it turned up a slight annoyance.. there is no way of checking the controls before you get onto the level itself.  Having learned to move the ship with the mouse, I then found the in-game controls were WASD.  Oh well.. once you know them, it’s not a problem.. but I’d like to be able to check the controls before I start the game.

The first levels were very easy.. jumping over gaps, moving objects with the gravity gun, shooting enemies and collecting both nuggets and antimatter.  I loved the graphics.. they’re colourful and interesting, and everything’s really easy to see against the background.

The sounds made by the little BEEP robot made me laugh though.. whether intentional or not, they really reminded me of South Park’s Mr Hanky!

If I’m honest, I don’t particularly enjoy awkward jumping segments in games, especially where a slip means death and repeating a large chunk of the level.  Hunching my shoulders more and more and frowning at the screen, I usually come to the realisation that I’m more annoyed with the game than I am enjoying it, and stop playing.. and with my backlog, that means sometimes I never return.  In BEEP, some of the platforms are tiny little things, but the robot’s wheels tend to grip the edges of platforms fairly well and keep him in place.  You have unlimited BEEPs too, which are dropped off at the last checkpoint.

The gravity gun was a nice idea.. manipulate items from the environment to clear paths or place items for climbing.  However, the control of this wasn’t great, requiring a tight hold of the right mouse button to keep hold of an item, and lacking a way of nicely turning objects once you’d picked them up.  When it came to stacking items, I found it was easy to drop one if you clipped it against something else, and I needed line of sight to pick them up again.  Once the game started requiring objects to be carried through the level over bottomless pits, I started to get annoyed with this lack of control.  I’m leaving the game on one side for now..

The Ball is another game I already owned, an interesting action-puzzle by Teotl Studios which started off life as a mod for the Unreal Engine 3.  I really like this one 🙂

After falling into a network of caves, you discover a mysterious artifact.. the Ball, a massive, ornate sphere which you control with pushes and pulls from a jackhammer-type device called the Hammer.  Despite the size of The Ball, it doesn’t interfere with your view as you might expect.. holding down the button to charge up the Hammer makes the Ball become see-through.  Gameplay consists of solving puzzles and unlocking doors by placing yourself and/or The Ball on pressure plates, pushing The Ball into switches to trigger them, or crashing it through walls in order to open up new areas, with a few more tricks later into the game.

The environments are rather nice looking.. lots of detail, and enough variety to be interesting.  Some of the maps are quite large too, so you can send the Ball quite a distance, then using the Hammer’s attract functionality, have it come rolling back.. but you won’t want to let it get too far away!  You aren’t alone down in the caves.. there are zombies, and The Ball is your only defense.  That is, it is your only offense: you use it to crush your enemies!

Combat is only a small part of the game though.  This one is all about the puzzles.. well, maybe a little bit about the secret areas too.  There is also a handy hints system in case you get stuck, which I certainly appreciate.  Getting stuck in a puzzle game is par for the course, and I don’t always have the patience to leave it and come back later.. but I’m really not keen on tracking down walkthroughs as they often reveal far too much of the solution where a hint would do.

Once the story mode is complete, there are a few survival challenges which you can complete alone or with friends.. there’s even a set of Portal test chambers! 🙂

Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals, by White Birds Productions was the bonus game added to the Be Mine bundle.

I fired up the game knowing it was a point and click adventure, but the environment looked so good I tried to walk around the apartment the game started in.  The game environments were all really detailed and had a great atmosphere.. there was lots of random clutter in the apartment and this made it feel real, but also made it hard to spot items needed for the puzzles.

The intro and cutscenes were a mixture of comic-book style frames mixed with animated sections to tell the story.. the game is set in a future version of Paris, with a great pyramid hovering in the sky and tales of a previous UFO having landed some days before.  There was also a glimpse of a scary man-bird thing.. Horus, an Egyptian god, who notes that “the mortal” seems pure..

You play as Alcide Nikopol, a painter and would-be-rebel, having joined an underground resistance.  Paris is currently governed by the dictator-prophet Choublanc, and it seems any sort of opposition to him, or his ideals, is illegal.

Nikopol’s initial aim is to go and meet his contact, Gorgon, and give him an image of his father, as his initiation task.   Nikopol mentions the old vacation reels when you first click on the letter from Gorgon, which might include pictures of his father.  From there it was a matter of clicking various things to set up the projector and find a suitable image.. then a few more clicks to set up the easel (which was previously non-interactive) and a fresh canvas.

However, Nikopol then wouldn’t paint, claiming it would take too long.  This sent me off looking for pencils instead of the paints.. no drying time needed.

After mousing-over nearly everything in the bedroom and studio, I gave up and looked for a walkthrough.. and oh.. the puzzle wanted the projector to be turned to beam the image onto the canvas.  But..that doesn’t change anything in regards to the time taken to paint it!  Nikopol is an artist, so he should be fully capable of eyeballing the regular projection.. so.. urgh.

Maybe somebody who doesn’t draw wouldn’t even think about looking for pencils instead.  Maybe they’d also instantly think of setting the projection onto the canvas.. but from my point of view.. when you can actually draw, you don’t need a projection.

Anyway.. I got my picture and tried to leave the apartment, but there was something on the stairs..

That thing.. it could speak, and it claimed to be police, but when I fled through the apartment hoping to get out of the window (it was chained earlier for a reason, right?) it followed me and instantly killed me.  I had to find something to bar the door, then flee.. lock myself in the bedroom.. not climb out of the window.  Lots of re-takes as the thing caught me, and another step in the process that didn’t quite feel right.. doubling back on the creature to shut a door instead of just running away.. I had to resort to Google again for that one, as I thought I must have missed something in the studio but couldn’t find it.

I’m really not keen on resorting to walkthroughs.. but the only hints in Nikopol come from the icon you get on mouse-over, or what he says when you’ve got him killed.  Once it feels like I’m hitting the buttons without any plan behind it.. well, I might as well use a walkthrough and get on with the story.

Some puzzles were great fun.. I especially loved the ritual task, placing chalk drawings on the wall and various items in a grid on the floor, all based on a few hints such as “The Salt is under the Cup” and “The Urn is between Two Pieces and the Black Cross”, and the decoding task, where symbols had been used to make up a phrase, with the key being the ritual room itself.

I found I didn’t really want to put the game down, and despite the nagging feeling that really I should be getting on with my posts here, I ended up finishing the whole game first.  Some of the puzzles frustrated me, so I either used the walkthrough or hit keys until the right answer seemed to just present itself.. messing with the controls for the train line, and when deactivating an alarm, of all things.. but others were good fun and I felt great when I had figured them out.

Nikopol’s story was a little strange.  The robot that had been guarding Nikopol’s father was now running against Choublanc in the election.. normally, nobody would stand against him as they wouldn’t dare.. and why is a robot standing?  Why would a robot want to?  Then there was the issue of Nikopol’s father’s “insubordination”.. from the clues in newspaper clippings, Nikopol’s father was a hockey player, and his insubordination and 30-year imprisonment was actually just based on his performance during a hockey game!

Overall, I was fairly impressed with the game, and I’m glad it got added to the Be Mine bundle as I don’t think I’d have come across it otherwise.

As for the Be Mine bundle.. it’s definitely worth picking up.  The site seems to be working again now.. and as 20% of the money goes to Child’s Play, you can get some good games and support charity 🙂

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