In the last Indie Scene, platformers ruled the day. And while I kick off this edition with another hop-n-bopper, we finally spy some new scenery as I move on down the list. That said, let’s kick-start this trip and see what the letter K has in store.
I like a lot of things about Knytt: the monkey-esque
displaced alien who fills the lead role. The sticky feel of the controls as he connects to
walls (complete with satisfying squishy sound effect). The way he slowly slides
down these vertical surfaces, giving you ample opportunity to make impressive,
sometimes intricate wall leaps. In fact, it’s this base control setup that
gives Knytt an interesting mix of quick action but with time to think — or, to
provide a weird analogy, it’s similar to how the Halo games feel slow
yet deceptively fast.
The terrain also constantly evolves, from a crash site to clouds
to lakesides to caves and jungles. Sure, you’ll encounter backdrops like these in
countless games, but they’re not a drag here. I think this is in part because
you move through them at such a quick clip that overexposure doesn’t become an
issue. Also, the associated ambiance helps; a steady wind and lapping water
sounds — not to mention some minimal music — accompany the action.
It’s that action that can be uneven,
though. It’s great as you make progress and cruise along, scampering up sheer
cliffs in seconds and mixing in the occasional leap of faith on your search for
ship pieces. The challenge comes from locating these pieces. You’ll often hit a dead end, at which point you’ll need to backtrack, find a higher or lower entryway,
and then continue moving forward.
At times, finding that
alternate route can be tough, and I actually put the game down for a few weeks
at one point. But when I came back and finally found a pathway through the
clouds, I had a hop in my step until the end of this charming game.
Kung Fu 2 (PC,
I came across my next game browsing indiegames.com,
thinking it looked familiar from the screenshots. Indeed, Kung Fu 2’s creator
makes no bones that he made this game in honor of, and as an unofficial sequel
to, the Nintendo version of Kung Fu. It’s a
similar game, perhaps a little smoother, and just as shallow.
What earns bonus points from me is
that in addition to paying homage to the NES classic, it also unabashedly loops
in Street Fighter 2 as well.
You play as a character named Ryu, who, over the course of the adventure,
learns such moves as throwing fireballs and pulling off rising fist uppercuts.
With a little dedication and some
skill, you can get through the main nine levels pretty quickly, at which point
you open up a harder mode and unlock a bizarre but fitting (or perhaps
“forced-fitting” would be more apropos) secret character.
My desire to continue playing soon
drained, though, as the same problems that plague the original return here. Namely,
repeated enemies and generally unsatisfying attacks start to grate: their short range mean you
often miss enemies, who immediately grapple you.
But as it goes with each Indie Scene
letter, when I get knocked down, I get up again…
Reader Nicholas Garboden pointed me in the direction of Karoshi , a game
that forces you to go against everything ingrained in your gamer DNA. The
object of each stage is simply to find a way to end your pixelized life. Jumping
on some spikes will do the job, or you could set up a crate so it can land
on you for the rare “death by boxing.”
Hoo-boy, those crates….
At its heart, Karoshi’s a puzzler, and not a terribly difficult one, although a
few crate-manipulating stages can lead to frustration. The graphics could use
some work, too. Just because they are simple doesn’t mean they have to lack
character (see: Knytt), but here they just seem uninspired. At least Karoshi
delivers a satisfying splatter when you die, and I was entertained enough to play
through the game.
What I don’t get, though, is that when you nab a gun you can’t
just turn it on yourself — even though you can ricochet a bullet off a few blocks
and back onto yourself to do the job. Is this game about killing yourself worried
about being too morbid?
The good thing about all these games? You can find more of
them if you enjoy what you find here. Karoshi and Knytt have sequels, and Kung Fu
2, of course, has its predecessor on the NES. Also, thanks to Nicholas Garboden
and Bitmobber James DeRodsa for the Knytt recommendation. As always, put more recs
in the comments below. Up next: the lovely letter L.
The Indie Scene Interview: The Odd