Oirbo Preview

Oirbo is a 2-D platformer that takes the titular character to a metroidvania-inspired monolithic spacecraft. Which you must explore to discover its secrets and history. I’ve followed the development of this game for sometime via Imagination Overflow’s Instagram and it’s really nice to finally have some gameplay to further increase the anticipation for this game.


Developer: Imagination Overflow
Publisher:
Imagination Overflow
Genre:  
Metroidvania Platformer
Release Date:
TBC
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Switch


You are introduced to the titular character, a wonderfully hand-drawn robot who must face the threats of the spacecraft. Oirbo must explore the spacecraft discovering why its such a hostile place and collect upgrades to reach new heights. Each part of Oirbo can be upgraded, with various tools to help you progress. Initially, with his dash and jump, you must find new ways to take down enemies and use the environment to its advantage. The controls in the game are well mapped and pretty easy to get used to with few interactions. I’m expecting more buttons to be used in the full game as you earn upgrades.

Upgrade panel of the menu

You really get the feeling of weightlessness in Oirbo as when you jump you will slowly come down, giving you plenty of time to change the direction or alter your jump. Although this makes platform jumping easier, fast-moving enemies can be slightly tricky to land on top of, especially when dealing with multiple.

Most of the enemies are presented as obstacles or part of puzzles rather than actively aggressive in the game, making you think about how to interact with them and how they can benefit you in your progression. There’s one particular AI that got me a bit excited. A couple of minutes into the game, you are met with hornet-designed robots who harmlessly float around the platforms. However, once one is attacked, you are chased by a swarm until you can find cover. I thought this was a charming touch.

The health system ĺThe health system can be easily exploited by continually respawning enemies as they offer you a bar of health upon their destruction. There were many times I was caught farming to refill my health gauge. With the layout of the health bar, it would be interesting to see whether Imagination Overflow intends health to disappear between checkpoints when three bars are lost permanently. This would certainly add another level of difficulty to the game. These checkpoints are few and far between which again adds to the challenge of the game. Upon losing all health, you are respawned at one of these mechanical repair points.

Oirbo is undoubtedly an exciting and beautifully hand-drawn game. There is a particular element of cuteness to the game that seems shrouded in mystery as you travel through the spacecraft. With some attractive AI designs and some challenging puzzles, I think Oirbo could be an excellent game, and I’m excited about the full release. I am certainly excited when this hits Xbox, Switch and Steam soon. You can follow Imagination Overflow on Instagram and Facebook to keep updated.

The Steam Game Festival: GhostRunner Preview

First up in my Steam Game Fest preview series has to be GhostRunner from One More Level. A hardcore FPP slasher which requires you to build up momentum to avoid your enemies and slash them down. I got my hands on the free demo last week, the demo only last around about 10 minutes or so but it’s got me excited to get this game later this year.


Developer: One More Level, 3D Realms, Slipgate Ironworks
Publisher:
All In! Games
Genre:  
Hardcore FPP Slasher
Release Date:
2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One


Set in a grim cyberpunk world, you a cyborg assassin must ascend tower-city to take on the tyrannical Keymaster. The Dharma Tower is humanity’s last hope at survival, but the Keymaster shows little regard for his subjects and chaos assumes in the fight for resources. The demo takes places during the tutorial phase of the game, where you must escape the prison, presumably at the bottom of this tower. On your way, you must rescue the whisper.

The demo shows off some of the basic skills which are available in GhostRunner you can wall run, jump, slash, dash and even manage to slow time to dodge your enemies. You must combine these skills, to not only slay your enemies but also build up speed. You must always be moving. The enemies can lock onto you, and one-shot means your down, so the stakes are high. The skill in GhostRunner is very much based on your reaction times and choices made under pressure.

The press release states, “As the most advanced blade fighter ever created, you’re always outnumbered, but never outclassed.” This is very much the case, your move set feels flawless, as you can quickly come out of time and slash down your enemies. Despite its frustration, you the player must look around for different ways of taking down the multitude of enemies.

I really enjoy the cyberpunk setting, and GhostRunner has a stunning version of it. Combining it with a slashing game takes it away from the shooters that are typically associated with the genre, makes it something different. While the combat is somewhat akin to what we’ve seen before, it is still enjoyable, and I really enjoyed the sword vs gun take on the cyberpunk world. However, it feels like the sword is used as a ranged weapon, due to the speed of your character.

I’m certainly excited to see what other skills you can have in your arsenal to progress the game. In the demo it is said that your hardware is damaged, so it’s going to be interesting to see what your fully able cyber warrior is capable of.

With further delays to Cyberpunk 2077GhostRunner may be the perfect cyberpunk filler to keep you going till November. With an absolutely stunning setting, some excellent combat and hopefully a phenomenal story, GhostRunner can be one of the top releases of 2020.

Steam Games Festival: Grounded Preview

Since Obsidian announced Grounded back in April at the Xbox Series X event, we’ve been super excited to play the game. Steam Games Fest offered us a 30-minute preview at the brand new survival game that will be released on 28 July 2020.


Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher:
Xbox Game Studios
Genre:
Survival
Release Date:
28 July 2020
Platforms: PC, Xbox One


Taking influence from Honey, I Shrink I Kids and The Ant Bully, Grounded introduces you to four characters, all of who, have been shrunk and wake up in a garden. It seems that you are on a search for a way to get back to full size and return to normal life. Of course, the garden now presents new threats, ants, ladybugs and spiders. You must lead these characters to survival through day and night of the garden.

You can play as a group of four, selecting one of the characters, to aid your journey or you can choose to play alone. I’d assume that the enemies are levelled depending on the number of players, therefore meaning it is not any more challenging to play on your own if you wish. You must maintain your hunger, thirst and tiredness levels to ensure you are ready for all the dangers that come your way. But you must be careful to make sure you are eating the rights foods and drinking from the right source to make sure you stay healthy and avoid poisoning.

Grounded is a very cartoonish game but looks incredible as you get overshadowed by the common grass and critters that lay within. The scenery allows you to climb up and down while you can use objects such as dandelions as a parachute to move freely around the garden.

Obsidian has done an outstanding job with the AI, with each creatures having its own behaviour. Ants, for example, tend to sniff around you rather than an attack on first sight and only do if you attack first. While mites will only attack in dark places. Grounded is a fresh take on the survival genre, moving away from forests and zombie Apocalypse but managing to create that feeling of danger and anxiety but in a more child-friendly manner.

I love the building mechanics in this game. You must collect items around the garden which in turn give you new recipes to aid in your survival. Things such as plant fibre, sap and rock pellets all give you new tools, and it’s a pretty simple menu system. Selected into different groups, medical and food, crafting tools and weapons, it is straightforward and accessible.

However, you must build an adequate shelter to survive through the tough nights in the garden. This requires more abundant building materials such as grass and weeds, these don’t fit in your backpack. Instead, you must carry planks back to your base and store them for use. As you can only carry five planks at a time, the game introduces a unique building mechanic, where you can partially build parts of your structures dependent on the materials you have and then come back at a later time to finish them. For me, this is such a fantastic mechanic, as you no longer have to horde millions of items around with you to complete a piece of a wall. This a welcome change from games such as Fallout 4, where fitting anything in your backpack based on weight meant that often you were left stranded without the necessary resources such as health and water.

Obsidian has made sure that Grounded was accessible for all by including an arachnophobia setting, meaning that those with the phobia can still play the game. It also states that players who chose this setting will not lose out on the lucrative rewards that Spiders give as high levelled NPCs.

Treachery in Beatdown City Review

Treachery in Beatdown City is an over-the-top take on an American city which is plagued with several issues. On the surface, it is a tribute to the 80s beat-em-ups and wouldn’t go amiss in any arcade collection. From the off you can tell it offers so much more than its arcade appearance suggests, it manages to blend beat-em-up and RPG combat mechanics to create a fun experience while simultaneously tackling some contemporary issues. It is arguably one of 2020 most relevant games. 


Developer: NuChallenger
Publisher: NuChallenger
Platforms:
PC (Steam)
Genre:
Street Fighting Thriller
Release Date:
31 March 2020


The game opens up to a cinematic trailer for the game explaining that the president, Blake Orama, has been kidnapped by the Ninja Dragon Terrorists. The city succumbs to a scramble. Where the corrupt millionaire mayor doesn’t know what he’s doing, disbands the police to make his security force. With a lack of power now, the police chief calls on the only three people he knows who can solve the situation; Lisa, an MMA fighter and Boxer; Bruce, a Jeet Kune Do fighter and Brad, a former pro-wrestler. You’re able to rotate between the three to utilise their unique skills, move sets and banter.

Each character comes with their strengths and weaknesses which are effective against the different types of enemies. Which leads to a more focused and strategic take on beat-em-ups as you must consider which combos can effectively take down your foe. While in-fight mechanics mean you can use RPG elements to pin together a combo of different moves, considering your fight points and action points, taking into consideration that counter-attacks cost action points as well.

The game keeps the high amount of combat you face but introducing new moves as you progress. These can help develop your combos and make it easier to instigate more powerful moves learnt earlier on. While certain combos can boost stats, Bruce’s combo of wing strikes and a jab is commonplace in the way I approach his fights due to that combo increasing accuracy, which allows you to get over the harder combos inflicting some severe damage. While Bruce’s ‘toe kick’ increases the chances of successfully executing a grapple move, which is Bruce’s speciality and often quite challenging to execute early fight.

NuChallenger has done an excellent job of balancing these characters strengths and weaknesses out to add challenge to the game. For example, Brad, who is ineffective early fight due to his grapple speciality having higher health, so he can focus on counters and small jabs. While the introduction of ‘Revenge Fights’ force the player to play as one of the three against enemies, you may not have chosen to fight with that character. ‘Revenge fights’ encourages the player to approach the fight differently than they may have done previously. Following these fights, you are rewarded with new moves.

The enemies you fight are over-the-top parodies of societies worst, racist guys who flinch at the sight of black people, corrupt cops, social media-obsessed students and bikers who think they own the road. Every person you fight has it coming for them, often needlessly provoking the crew. One guy feels threatened and gets defensive when Bruce, a successful businessman and stoke broker, tries to pet his dog. At the beginning of the game, one of the gym members assumes Lisa is a janitorial staff member, based on her Hispanic ethnicity. Everyone is the worst in a way that makes it enjoyable to fight back. Racism isn’t the only issue brought up in the game; others such as the gig economy, self-important companies and the addiction to social media.

While your characters are standing up for what they believe, they are far from innocent of overreacting in certain situations. There is one scene where a character is asking “what is wrong with you people”, where Bruce responds in shock at the term ‘you people’ and engages in a fight. Although the game tackles contemporary issues in quite a hilarious and smart way throughout the most, at times some of the gags can become quite monotonous and often repeated.

However, this should overshadow a game that has brilliantly combined beat-em-up and RPG combat mechanics, while simultaneously bringing light to contemporary issues. I enjoyed the action movie take on the brawler and would like to see the story concluded. It’ll be interesting to see how NuChallenger looks to do this and see if they’ll continue to do it hilariously and cleverly.

Future Game Show Reaction

Yesterday we got to witness the Future Games Show from Games Radar, which contained a lot of content and new games to look forward for this generation and the next. This is the first show, where we have seen a lot of games that we’re excited to play. While some continued to give us games that were previously revealed at other events. Here are some of my top picks from the game

The Captain is Dead

For those Board Games enthuasists who can’t meet up with their friends due to the lock down, The Captain is Dead, maybe the best new addition to your collection. Thunderbox Entertainment revealed the digital version of the game which is accompanied by ‘state-of-the-art AI, amazing digital graphics and a bitching synth soundtrack’ (note: this clearly satire). Your ship is boarded by aliens, each of your crew has their own unique which you must use to regain control of your ship. The game will have a top down view and will zoom in on certain sections of the ship as certain actions take place. Having a look at the physical board game, which has some impressive reviews, you have to balance your time for keeping systems online, which keep getting knocked out, defeating the aliens while simultaneously completing your objective. This will be released later this year.

Liberated

Now I love platformers and I love comics, so Liberated has to be here on my list of games the got me excited. Liberated is a platformer that is presented as a Noir comic and it looks awesome. It looks really well presented with missions literally taking place inside the comic pages, the style used just looks phenomenal. Coming with the typical gimics of a comic book with onomatopoeia appearing when you do critical damage and head shots, while the game will have a full voice-over of the narrative. There is a demo currently out on steam while the full game is out on Switch.

Dustborn

Another comic book styled game that I love the look of, is Dustborn. A post apocalyptic game, where you take control of a crew led by the protagonist, Pax, who seems to be some sort of super human. The crew are being hunted down by a military organisation, their motives unknown at this time and they must engage with the last remnants of humanity for their own safety. The developers at Red Thread say that each action has consequences and how you deal with people is important, I feel when this is said it’s not actually the case and the choices are often trivial. The game seems to be going either one of two ways, an open world game, as their is much focus on road trip or a narrative driven game. Dustborn will be coming our way in 2021 on PC and next gen consoles.

Maid of Sker

This next game from Wales Interactive is a survival horror is influenced by Welsh folkore fusing physiological, Gothic and British horror. Based in 1988 you investigate a manor that has all sorts of dark secrets. You must control your breathing and movement in order to maneuver around these creatures, while there are also options of sound-based weapons. Wales Interactive also announced 3 new levels, which won’t effect the level of scare but impact the focus on AI actions and limit the number of saves. Maid of Sker will be coming to all consoles and PC later this year.

Operation Tango

This retro cheesy spy couch co-op looks like it could be a lot of fun. You must take control of either an agent or hacker who must use each others skills to complete the missions. Not much was shown but I do love a good couch co-op so hopefully we’ll see more before the 2021 release.

Kena Bridge of Spirits

Kena Bridge of Spirits was revealed at the PS5 reveal on Thursday but we got an exclusive interview with Michael and Josh Grier, two of developers at Ember Labs. You play as Kena, who is a spirit guide who travels to a forgotten village. She must gather a group of companion called the Rot, who skills will help you investigate the forest, in combat and puzzles. Kena is a story driven action game which focuses on the evil spirits who are corrupting the forest and it’s up to you help free the trapped spirits. In order to do so you must understand what happened in their past life. It looks like this will be a timed-exclusive for the PS5 and maybe coming later in 2020.

Call of the Sea

Another that saw its reveal earlier this year, this time at Xbox Series X event back in May. A first-person narrative driven game set in the South Pacific. You play as Nora, in search of her husband in the 1930s. This looks like a stunning game as you explore an island in the south pacfic, you are limited to the technology of the time but only limited amounts of this tech. Every time I see this game I get a little bit more excited. There’s been no release date as of yet but I look forward to see more in the coming months.

Paradise Lost

Set in an alternate history, where World War II doens’t end in 1945 but rather in the 60s, after the Nazi regime destroy Eastern Europe with a nuclear attack in the hope of stopping the Soviet Union. The Nazis had hope of surviving this destruction through Project Ark, a series of self-sustaining tunnels that will host the Aryan Race. A 12 year old boy, who stumbles upon one of the bunker who goes dark, adventures in. This mystery adventure looks like it going to be a powerful story that’ll make the hairs on your arm stand up and one that truly puts the players in the driving seat. A press release reads: “Your choices will gradually affect the game’s characters, but also its visual style, environment and sound effects”. Paradise Lost will be coming to PS5 and Steam but no official release date is yet to be given.

Disintegration

A debut game from V1 Interactive which blends FPS and real time strategy mechanics. Set in a future where humans struggle to survive so integrate their brains into robots. Disintegration is a multiplayer game, where each player has a crew of 5 and must face off. The players must consider not only their ground crew but also their own Grav Cycle, abilities and weapons. V1 Interactive look like they could be on to something quite unique and I’m certainly excited to find out whether this is the case on June 16.

Conclusion

There were so many games announced yesterday, so I could go through them all but I’ll leave all the trailers below for your own viewing pleasure.

Time for brands to put their money where their mouth is

On Tuesday 2nd June, Blackout Tuesday hit social media by storm and video game companies were some of those involved in the movement. Studios, Publisher and other companies such as ActivisionBlizzard, Ubisoft and EGX. were some of those who spoke out.

While other companies such as YouTube and Ubisoft stated, they were going to donate to the causes. Others such as PlayStation and Activation postponed presentation and launches to “allow more important voices to be heard” (PlayStation). Despite these many were criticized for just being words. Many went against what they have done and said in the past. Blizzard, for example, suspended Ng’ Blitzchung’ Wai Chang after he showed support for the protest in Hong Kong last year and banned three players following for the same reason.

It is great to see these companies support the Black Lives Matter movement as they extend the reach of these messages. Their message is reaching an audience who may have tried to ignore them or show people that there is support. Not only this, but it ‘normalizes’ the conversations. Large companies have an adequately large scale of influence and can help to encourage people to discuss these issues. However, it’s too soon to give the companies a round of applause until they show commitment in the long run.

Upper Echelon Games rightly said that companies don’t care about these movements or the people involved, often going for the path of least resistance. This statement is very much the case; companies were reluctant to get involved with the Black Live Matter movements back in 2016 when it started. Primarily due to its controversy with right-wing political parties and media often brandishing terms such as “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” in response. While companies often change their social media profiles pictures to represent the pride colours in their logos, in all countries except for the Middles East or other countries with an open prejudice towards the LGBT+ community. 

Blizzards ruling openly state that they don’t wish their participants to act on these issues, specifically in Hearthstone ruling their prize total can be reduced to zero.

Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD, in addition to other remedies which may be provided for under the Handbook and Blizzard’s Website Terms.”

Hearthstone Grandmaster Asia Pacific Rulings

We need to hold these companies accountable for these statements. We need them to take actions. Companies need to start to diversify their workforces, ensuring that all are given a fair chance and not just in the near future but in the long run as well. There is no quota for a diverse workplace, there are no stats which can be brought to show how diverse it is at your place, there is no completion. This is ongoing. These games or employees shouldn’t be treated any differently to any other, just by simply promoting or hiring companies will be doing the right thing, there doesn’t need to be an award ceremony for doing the right thing. Just offering everyone the same opportunity naturally a diverse place should go ahead. But hiring different people is just one part of the puzzle.

We need to know build for a future where diverse workplaces are commonplace. Companies should use this time to not only looking at their diversity rate but their community reach programs. There needs to be more encouragement for the younger generation to see that there is a place for them in any industry they may dream of being part off. If companies continue to hire diverse workforces in the future, we will see children will see that they too can join these industries and this will become almost second nature in the world.

There is already some fantastic work being doing, GamePad, an annual event in London, whose focus is to bring communities together. Mayamada co-founder, Lao, gave a great speech at EGX last year discussing what GamePad offer. They offer volunteer positions to people, supporting the development of their social skills and helping fighting isolation, looking to make gaming something for everyone to get excited about, new and experienced gamers. Mayamada are Manga Anime artists, so it goes to show that anyone can start these types of events. GamePad is sponsored by Nintendo, Ubisoft and Bandai Namco Games but this is something that is needed on a consistent scale. Conventions like EGX and E3 have a focus on game development which is great but having a focus on community development can encourage these younger generations to get more hands-on in the industry.

I honestly believe that if every company, not just the small, could promote games by diverse developers, hire various people for their workforces, get involved with a range of different communities and continue to do this in the long run, we could see a completely different industry landscape soon. This is the next step from the social media statements and posts for all companies large and small. We need to see lasting change and we need it too start now!