The Cerebral Bundle – Impressions Part 2

Here’s the somewhat delayed follow-up to The Cerebral Bundle – Impressions Part 1, with Banov’s Phantasmaburbia, CBE Software’s sci-fi epic J.U.L.I.A., Phoenix Online Studios‘ point-and-click thriller Cognition, Episode 1: The Hangman, and the undead-ridden innovative puzzler Vampires! by CBE Software.



Ironsun Studios Launches Fathom Kickstarter

Ironsun Studios today announced the launch of the Kickstarter campaign for Fathom, a 2.5D action adventure game that combines puzzle solving with combat and exploration in a beautiful neo-gothic Steampunk adventure.

Fathom - Lockhard and Bathysphere


Indie Royale’s The Alpha Collection Impressions

Indie Royale’s latest bundle, The Alpha Collection is now available, featuring three currently-in-development games: Towns by SMP, 3079 by Phr00t and Wyv and Keep: The Temple of the Lost Idol by a jolly corpse.

Towns is a city building and management game where you organise your villagers to gather resources, build a town, craft weapons.. and then try to withstand the forces that come up from the depths, because your town is built on top of a dungeon!


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. (more…)

Rexaura – a mod for Portal

Rexaura is a mod for Portal by Mevious, featuring a full sized campaign, unique dialogue, and plenty of puzzles including some new types featuring plasma balls, which you can deflect using cubes, send through light barriers and so on.

You can download Rexaura from moddb.  To play this mod, you need to extract the file into your sourcemods folder, and restart Steam.

The author of this mod has previously created another Portal mod: Portal Pro, which can also be downloaded from moddb.

The Oil Blue

The Oil Blue is an indie action sim by chubigans of Vertigo Games, where you drill for oil and sell it on the world market in order to remain profitable, as well as completing missions for your employer, the United Oil of Oceana Company.  I picked this one up in the Indie Royale’s Xmas Bundle, along with a few other games.. they’ve now added greenTech+, an earlier game by Vertigo Games which has you save the world from global warming using a hurricane!

The tutorial shows you how to use your first drilling machines: the Groundwell and the Oil Derrick.  Keeping the Groundwell running seemed easy enough.. strike a balance between speed and power consumption, and keep an eye out for flat batteries.  The Oil Derrick was a bit more complex..

While the drill is working, you get oil signatures coming up on the right hand side.. these are revealed as either pockets of air or oil.  When you see oil, you have to slow the drill down, move it left or right to position it above the oil, pump the oil, then re-start the drill until the next pocket of oil appears.  You also need to watch the Pressure and Stress gauges.  Pressure can be vented at regular intervals, and increases more quickly while the drill is slowed down, while Stress accumulates through use, until it reaches critical levels, where you have to shut down the machine and go for repairs.  Pressure also increases Stress.  Not venting pressure leads to the machine breaking down..

Repairing the machines involves mini-games.  In the tutorial I saw two types, one to keep a laser within a moving red circle, and another to make a set of four target lights come on simultaneously by turning on different adapters and switching between different levels of lights until you hit the correct combination.

Once in the game itself, “Rotary Misfire” came up as my repair mini-game three times; I managed to complete the puzzle by chance on my first two attempts, but I couldn’t get it the third time.  This puzzle requires you to hit the spacebar just before the lights complete a full circle.

I had to actually come back to the tutorial and have this puzzle appear in the set of three to see the instructions.. whether they were obscured by previous messages on the right.. or whether they just don’t appear all the time, I don’t know.

The next two machines, the Pumpjack and Drill Rig, were unlocked as I played, with brief tutorials showing how to use them.  The Pumpjack requires less interaction than the Oil Derrick, with plenty of time during setup or calibration, where you can check on the other machines and the market.  The Drill Rig follows a path you plot for it onscreen, and will gather oil as it travels over it.  To get all the oil from a bubble, the path has to be set to go back and forth over it: two options here, then.. to be efficient with a short path over a bubble to maximise oil collection, but have to watch the machine while it does it, or plot longer paths and be able to flick back over the other machines.  As the Drill Rig is a rare machine, it doesn’t appear on every island.

On the islands I played, my set up was a Groundwell, an Oil Derrick and a Pumpjack.  I started up all the machines, then parked myself over the Oil Derrick because of the pressure release requirement, as well as needing to catch the oil pockets as they were revealed.  This was also the machine I found most likely to blow up, as the pressure led to stress if I wasn’t fast enough in venting it.  In fact, I found the Oil Derrick needed so much prodding that I kept missing the Pumpjack’s window of drilling opportunity!

I can see it getting even harder to adequately manage when there are more machines,.. although they level up with use.  When a machine levels up, parts are added or replaced, improving performance.. an example being the Groundwell’s additional batteries which allows you to go faster.  The improvements are only effective per mission.. you leave the machines behind when you move to the next island.

You do keep your own rank though, which increases as you sell oil and unlocks more machines and different challenges.. You also get some funny titles as you increase too: eg the Rank 40 title: “Useful Bum”! 🙂

This was a triumph..

Peer Review, the new DLC for Valve’s Portal 2, came out almost two months back, and somehow, we didn’t get around to playing it till very recently.

The new co-op campaign, Art Therapy, takes place after the events of Portal 2, with a slightly crazier than normal GLaDOS telling us that everything is fine.. the humans are all fine.. 😉

The first level had us separated to start with, with turrets, lasers and refraction cubes.. after the initial worry that I’d forgotten how to do it all, we destroyed the turrets, helped each other fly across acid pits, collecting the new ball along the way and escape!  It’s great to be back in the test chamber 🙂

The second level took a while as we missed the small room high up the wall with the hard light bridge.. otherwise we didn’t really struggle with the levels for long.  I enjoyed our solution to the puzzle in room number 5.. once the white goop was close enough, I made portals underneath the turrets guarding the exit, so I could grab them and throw them down into the depths 😀

I was glad to see more use of the goop, and I found the balls a great new addition, even if they had a tendency to bounce away and into danger.  In the final chamber, it took us a while to figure out how to get hold of the cube.. and once we did get it, it bounced away into the emancipation grid as soon as we’d put it down!

The appearance of the bird, and GLaDOS’ fearful reaction to it was really funny.. and I rather liked the idea of the avian killing machines.. though I can’t imagine a sequel using them 😮

On the official site for Portal 2, there’s a sneak peek of the Puzzle Creator.. which will allow all players to create and upload their own levels.  It could be worth a look! 🙂



I picked Frozenbyte‘s Trine up in the Humble Bundle a few days back, and although I’d seen the name before, I had no idea what the game really was beyond “puzzle action”.

So when the game launched, I wasn’t expecting something quite so pretty and well-polished..

The story is told by a Narrator with an awesome voice, with some rather nice graphics to illustrate the decline of a magical kingdom beset by evil, with the dead rising from their graves until it was abandoned..

This is where the Thief came in.. like all thieves she wants treasure, and having learned of an ancient object hidden within the Astral Academy.. here she is!  The Thief is an acrobatic, agile character, equipped with a bow for ranged combat, and a grapple hook to get around.  Finding the treasure itself served as the tutorial..

On entering the Shrine and touching the object within, she was frozen..

The next character introduced was the Wizard, who wanted to escape the armies of the Undead.. but he saw a light from within the Shrine, and entered..

The Wizard has the ability to move objects, using the right mouse button, as well as create boxes by drawing them using the left mouse button.  This allows him to create a way of climbing up onto high ledges, or interacting with puzzles to clear a path or gather experience bottles which appeared during this level.  He eventually made his way to where the Thief was trapped.. and ended up touching the object and being frozen too!

The third character was the Knight.. he had been training to fight the Undead so he could join the King’s Army.  He also noticed the light within the Shrine, and headed on in.  The Knight is a more offensive character, and on his run to the Shrine I met some Undead skeletons to try my sword out on 🙂

Eventually he made his way to the object, and touched it too..

This then caused the three characters’ souls to be joined together by the object.. the Trine!

From here, you make your way through the Academy, playing as one of the three characters at any time.  You can switch between the characters as you want or need them by pressing 1, 2 or 3 for Wizard, Thief or Knight.

For travelling around, I preferred the Thief.. the grappling hook allows for fast movement and getting over large gaps, and just feels rather nice to use..

Her bow is great for ranged attack, so long as you power up the shot, but for any real combat I preferred to switch to the Knight.. he has the added ability of being able block damage with his shield, whereas the Thief is just too vulnerable at close quarters.

The Wizard has no direct offensive capability, although he can conjure a box in just the right place to land on an enemy and squish him!  I’ve only done that on single enemies so far.. mainly to see if it would work! 🙂

The characters have their own health and energy bars, and it is possible for the active character to die if they take too much damage.  If this happens, you can carry on with your remaining characters till you get to a checkpoint, where they return to life and all characters receive a health and energy boost.  Health is also dropped by some enemies, but first you have to kill them 😉

It appears that you can manage for a short while without one of your characters, as most puzzles can be dealt with by jumping, grappling, or climbing on conjured boxes.. but I wouldn’t like to try taking on waves of Skeletons without the Knight, and the Thief is the only one who can grapple over long jumps, so there will be some places where you’d have to go back to the last checkpoint.

The first boss I met was a giant Skeleton!

I used the Knight almost exclusively here, as the Skeleton moved too quickly for ranged attacks, and hacked through conjured boxes too easily to use them as a barricade.

The three characters are constantly gathering experience, and when they level up you can improve an ability or purchase a new one.  The improvement for the Wizard’s conjure skill allows him to have two boxes at a time.. and later he’ll be able to conjure boards and bridges!  I also found some pieces of equipment such as the Necklace of Life, which improves maximum health points and therefore went to the Knight, and the Ring of Spellcaster, giving the Wizard an energy boost.. this character is the only one who I’ve managed to run out of energy so far.

I might not have completed the game, but I’ve already discovered that it has a local co-op mode allowing two or even three people to play, though apparently it requires game controllers and some configuring.  This allows each player to take control of a character, with all player-characters active at once.. easier in terms of combat, but more difficult as all need to be able to get through the puzzles.  When I’ve completed the game, I might just have to grab someone to try this! 🙂

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