Stephen’s E3 2021 Indie Game Top 5

Stephen’s E3 2021 Indie Game Top 5

E3 has been digital this year because of the pandemic and before it became E503 with a crashing website on Saturday, ChasingXP were there with media access. Dodging the predictable dripping mouths watching Battlefield and Elden Ring reveals we have kept our eyes on the Indie scene with a plethora of games being revealed through the Day of the Devs, the fantastic tongue-in-cheek Devolver show and the Guerrilla Collective’s presentation. In all, the games presented topped a hundred.

Sifting through all of this, I’m bringing you my top 5 indie games featured at E3, most of which are due out in the next six months.

Watch this review on YouTube

First up…

Moo Lander – The Sixth Hammer

A beautiful, looking but mad game based around cows and the pursuit of milk to save your planet. I know…but trust me this is ace. Working like a platformer, it looks very much like GRIS, but unlike that Moo Lander opts for some wondrous humour and then starts throwing in RPG upgrade trees, speech choices and shooter elements.

None of this is overwhelming and all of it delivers a mightily impressive game from the Bulgarian development team who are richly deserving of their showcase spot at E3 this year. I’m led to believe that all the talk of Herd Immunity this pandemic is actually a reference to God Mode in Moo Lander and if that doesn’t help you walk on the sand then you lactose.

Moo Lander is vastly better than my jokes and is out in Spring 2022, but a playable demo is available over on Steam and I strongly urge you Moove over there and check it out.

Second on my list…

Sable – Shedworks

From Shedworks, a two man development team founded in a shed in North London. You play Sable, a young nomad girl. Guiding her from a third person perspective. This 3D puzzle/platformer has been on my radar and wish-listed by me for some time. Showcased as part of the Guerrilla Collective, it is a gorgeous looking game that makes you feel like the Mandalorian on your own land-speeder. Explore the remnants of ancient civilisations, glide, hover, leap your way to the treasures and answers and forge your path through a rite of passage in this strange, beautiful world. Sable promises to be a wonderous adventure when it is released later this year.

Third on my list of highlights is…

Severed Steel – Greylock Studios

A supercool looking FPS, heavy on bullet time, stunts and neon, making it feel like the violent child of Superhot and Far Cry: Blood Dragon. The development team of Greylock studio describe the game as stylised gun violence and bloodshed. It oozes pace and action against a glossy cyberpunk, Matrix-like backdrop. It does not yet have an official release date, but given it was included in this years’ Guerrilla Collective during E3 you can expect to somersault onto your monitor and double tap you in the eyeballs sometime in the next year.

Fourth up is…

GRIME – Cloverlite

A Metroidvania, Souls-like platformer from Clover Bite, due to be released from the ever reliable Akupara Games. You are the product of some form of vacuum collapse in a side-scrolling adventure where you explore your surroundings, meet interesting creatures and destroy them, absorbing their powers to grow with each victory. Surreal, beautiful and with options to vary your playstyle through skill-tree choices – Grime drops later this year and promises to be an action/RPG combat fest. So eyes peeled for this dark fantasy.

Last up on my list is the wonderful…

Last Stop – Variable State

Set in London this is a third person adventure where you play as three different characters all set on a super-natural collision course. Developed by Variable State, who won a BAFTA for the FBI adventure – Virginia in 2016. An unexpected body swap, a game of amateur detective that goes wrong and an ex-spy trying to save her family from the threats of a blackmailer. Last Stop promises to be a rich story of adventure and intrigue. Find out what connects these characters in July, when you can board this ride of discovery.

Be sure to check out Jeff Nabor’s top five from E3, they are completely different to mine, but just as awesome looking.

Jeff’s Top 5 Indie Games from E3 2021

2021 Schedule of Live Streamed Gaming Events

2021 Schedule of Live Streamed Gaming Events

With E3 2021 in the first few days of launch, you might be wondering “What other events are coming up?”

Reddit user u/fettpl has gone above and beyond the call of the r/Games subreddit and made an awesome curated list of all the live streamed gaming events, presentations and important conferences. All laid out nice & simple on a pragmatic, clean website that screams functionality.

The website is lean, mean and updated regularly, and sits high up on my browser bookmarks. Check it out:

Gaming Events 2021

From the website: “Below you will find a list of all upcoming gaming events, conferences, and presentations. Please feel free to share and if something is missing either comment or commit an update. The list will be updated as often as possible. Bookmark this page as it will become your best friend for gaming updates.”

There’s also a handy “TBD” section where you can see what is pending being added to the already detailed list. We love it.

You can visit the 2021 schedule here: Gaming Events 2021

We’re so smitten with it that we’re going to add a sidebar link to the website so none of our readers miss an event!

E3: Drama Over Portal Issues & What The IGDA Partnership Means For Indie Devs

E3: Drama Over Portal Issues & What The IGDA Partnership Means For Indie Devs

Today is an historic day for Chasing XP. We began our multi-platform indie game & game development magazine back in February 2021, and have been tremendously fortunate in working with amazing indie developers and publishers through our podcast, YouTube channel and magazine blog. The incredible talent we’ve shared has elevated our profile to a point we thought would take us years – not just a few months. We’re very proud. Very proud, indeed.

However, being approved to officially cover E3 2021 has just tipped the scales as being our proudest moment. This year’s E3 is incredibly important for indie development and the independent gaming industry as a whole. The IGDA (International Game Distribution Association) has partnered with the ESA this year to give a global, resonating voice and an extremely accessible platform for indies. Developers and publishers are being recognized for their contribution to the gaming industry by the ESA and IGDA, but – more importantly – are being offered a stage on which they can finally feel part of the conversation, rather than on the fringe.

Renee Gittins, appointed Executive Director of the IGDA in 2019, has been flying the flag for indies, making it known that – as an organization – the IGDA is very excited to see the new shape of the industry following this year’s E3.

“The IGDA is thrilled to partner with the ESA to uplift Indies during this year’s E3 and beyond. Indies provide heartfelt stories and groundbreaking creativity that lead progress of our industry. It is an honor to help Indies onto this grand stage for the first time so they can share their efforts and inspiration worldwide.”

Renee Gittins, Executive Director of the IGDA

The IGDA has mentioned that “special packages and opportunities” will be made available to indies, and with this year’s E3 being all-digital, it would seem that accessibility is the primary focus.

The President and CEO of the ESA, Stanley Pierre-Louis has said that indie developers are “a critical part of the video game industry” and also went on to say that the ESA has been “thrilled to expand our offerings to create opportunities to showcase their work worldwide.”

“We are reimagining E3 in a variety of ways,” Pierre-Louis said, “and part of that is engaging with indie developers by offering opportunities to help highlight them and their work on a global stage.”

This partnership effectively means that indie game developers are able to show their games off at E3 2021; one of the most impactful events in gaming. The exposure is not free, however. Indie developers must pay an entrance fee if they want to be part of E3 2021. What’s more, they will also need to be IGDA members. The jury is out on how effective this will be for indies, but for some, it may just prove to be their defining moment.

To the AAA gamer, E3 is a place they will visit with eager abandon, open wallets and a grin on their face that will last through to the Steam Summer Sale. This hardcore gaming audience is the exact demographic the indie developer seeks, so this IGDA partnership could have devs champing at the bit to sign up, one would think.

Chasing XP E3 Indie Coverage

We will be providing our coverage from the June 12th Guerrilla Collective Part 2 and Wholesome Direct streams, but will also be mixing it up with editorial and interviews from June 8th – July 22nd.

We’re already arranging interviews with some of the incredible developers who are attending E3, and stopping by virtual booths from teams such as the minority and veteran-owned indie game development studio Burgos Games. Neka Ghost, Jump! is their first title, which we’ll be keeping an eye on. Freedom Games have a virtual booth at E3, so we’ll be checking out the roguelike, Dreamscaper and the utterly mental twin-stick shooter, Godstrike.

Some of the games featured in the first part of the Guerrilla Collective’s stream caught our eye in a big way. There’s far too many to mention, but here’s a few of our shortlisted games of interest: –

  • Industria
    INDUSTRIA is a first-person shooter that takes you from East Berlin into a parallel reality, shortly before the end of the Cold War. On the search for a missing work colleague, you decypher a dark past in a mysterious parallel dimension.
  • Rubi: The Wayward Mira 
    Rubi: The Wayward Mira is a 2D action-adventure platformer game teeming with lush pixels, featuring ability-based progression mechanics (AKA – Metroidvania) paired with RPG elements in a sci-fi / fantasy setting, where science and magic come together. In addition to a solid core experience, Rubi features non linear gameplay, along with multiple playstyles and endings.
  • The Eternal Cylinder
    The Eternal Cylinder is an ambitious take on survival adventure games where players will need to explore a strange new world like they have never seen before. The game will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and Windows PC via the Epic Games store when it launches later this year.
  • Source of Madness
    Source of Madness is a side-scrolling dark action roguelite set in a twisted Lovecraftian inspired world powered by procedural generation and AI machine learning. Take on the role of a new Acolyte as they embark on a nightmarish odyssey.
  • Chernobylite
    Chernobylite is an RPG survival horror mixing free exploration of disturbing locations with challenging combat, unique crafting, and non-linear science-fiction story. Build your team, survive and reveal the twisted secrets of Chernobyl in the 3D-scanned recreation of the Exclusion Zone.
  • Trifox
    Trifox is a colourful and cartoonish action-adventure featuring a phenomenal fox with a multitude of talents! Choose from a trio of classes – Warrior, Mage, Engineer – or mix-and-match abilities to create a tailor-made hero! Inspired by the golden age of 3D platformers.
  • Tinkertown
    Gather your friends and come to Tinkertown – A refreshing new Multiplayer Sandbox Experience! Explore magical places filled with loot, danger, and creativity.
  • The Lightbringer
    The Lightbringer is a poetic adventure/puzzle platformer with light combat elements, set in a beautiful world claimed by a vile corruption. Guided by your sister’s spirit, you must prevail where she could not. Cleanse the corruption, become The Lightbringer. Coming soon to Nintendo Switch.
  • Retrograde Arena
    Weapons are your ultimate tools, not just for blasting enemies, but for propelling your customizable Drone around the maps at great speed! Mastering Retrograde Arena’s recoil propulsion and the impact of the various weapons is essential for victory in the neon soaked world of Retrograde Arena.
  • Zodiac Legion
    Zodiac Legion is a turn-based tactical RPG featuring lethal combat, squad management and strategic elements. Lead your heroes through daring raids and forgotten ruins, defend your land in a time of conquest and betrayal, and master the secrets of volatile ancient magic to restore a realm beset by the armies of undying fiendish sorcerers.
  • Aeon Drive
    Rush through the cyberpunk landscapes of Neo Barcelona in Aeon Drive, an action-platformer with a speedrunning twist! Whether solo or in up to 4 player co-op, sprint and dash through many areas of the neon-infused city – and use your time and space-bending abilities to get ahead.
  • Beasts of Maravilla Island
    Embark on your adventure as an aspiring wildlife photographer in the hidden, magical jungles of Maravilla Island. Explore this mysterious island and solve puzzles to discover extraordinary creatures, interact with them in their natural habitat, and photograph the enchanting, unique behaviors you reveal!
  • Onsen Master
    Onsen Master is a hot spring customer management game where players must create ingredients to match the various customer ailments, across the fantasy island of Izajima!

All-Digital E3 2021

The experience will certainly be different for all those who attend E3 this year. Though, after the thrills & spills we all had in 2020, surely everyone is used to hearing that things are going to be “different” when it comes to any event.

E3 Online Expo 2021
Online Portal for E3 2021

E3 being completely digital, however, is not such a big leap. It would be difficult to find a development company that does not have their online presence dialed-in. Streaming events live and offering video on-demand for games is going to be an extremely fluid affair for the public, with the main broadcast of the events viewable via the E3 channels on all major platforms: TwitchYouTubeFacebook and Twitter

The ESA announced that the E3 2021 online portal and app is designed to be a key hub for the duration of the show, with virtual “booths,” hosted events, video conferencing, profile and avatar creation, online forums and more.

E3 Portal & App Teething Problems

The online portal and app have been created and developed by three powerhouses in their fields of expertise – Game Cloud Network, HCL Technologies Ltd and Revyrie Inc. Notably, Game Cloud Network is recognized as a pioneer in developing game-based brand engagement, after showcasing its “Tap & Field” game in 2019. “Tap & Field” uses the backbone of Microsoft’s Azure PlayFab services to allow players to race one other in near-real time, made possible by the sheer speed of 5G-connected devices.

One would expect the E3 app to perform incredibly well under pressure, then? The portal on the other hand has received mixed reviews. It would be fair to say that some of the media organizations were less than impressed at the portal outages they experienced, and one Matt Brown has been live-tweeting his experience. Matt was very much unimpressed with everything from the gamified experience through to the avatar creator.

Join Chasing XP For E3 2021

With a monstrous 300+ indie titles on show at E3 2021, we’re not going to be short of games to follow, however. We are going to be showcasing games, developers, creators and publishers in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

Subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our content!

We’re going to have a blast – and we think you will too.

Is Google Stadia Worth It?

Is Google Stadia Worth It?

The console wars have been raging on for decades now, Between Microsoft and Sony vying for power while Nintendo plays with sticks and rocks in the background. Other competitors have come and gone, and the scene has changed as the years passed.

Meanwhile in California, Google decided they wanted to join in on the fun. Starting with a test run in 2018, they would soon launch Google Stadia the following year to lukewarm reception. Offering the ability to play games anywhere, anytime, regardless of what device you were on was a huge promise, but the folks from Google managed to do just that.

Watch on YouTube

What exactly is Google Stadia though?

Well, to address some of the misinformation online, Google Stadia is not “something” you “buy”. That would be like saying you are buying a Steam account. A little further on, we’ll talk about how you access Stadia, purchase games, and get it running with Chromecast, however.

Stadia is Google’s entry into the cloud-based gaming service industry, akin to Playstation Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming. What Stadia offers is the ability to play your games across any device that can open a Chrome browser window. And it does exactly that.

You don’t need to download anything (unless you don’t use Chrome like I do, and you need to install it), but you will need the Stadia app if you want to play on your phone. If you’ve got a Chromecast, you’ll also need the app if you want to play on your TV. Once you’ve logged in, that’s it! No downloads needed, no installation, you just buy the games you want and play them at your lesiure.

Cyberpunk 2077 on Google Stadia

You don’t even need to pay a monthly fee to use the service. You just need to buy the games you want to play. Google does offer a Pro plan, which gives users discounts on some titles as well as a selection of free-for-subscriber games that updates every month.

The Pro plan, specifically, it about all I have ever spent on this. Google even sent me a free Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra thanks to one of their promotions for being a YouTube Premium subscriber. Out of the nearly 30 games in my Stadia library, I’ve only paid for two of them.

Google seems to still be pretty open to getting new players into their ecosystem too, with recent promotions for Cyberpunk 2077 and Resident Evil Village netting you a free Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller if you pre-purchase the game on Stadia.

So….what’s the experience?

Well, before we get into that, I want to explain something to you.

Wifi internet sucks for a lot of people in the world. It’s unreliable, it drops often, there are dead areas, and speeds can be slow. Regardless of how you experience video games, if you’re playing online you will have the best experience if you are hardwired in.** No wifi, just grab your favorite Cat5 cable and plug directly into your modem for the best experience.

Also, for reference: I’ve been playing Stadia on my Desktop PC, my Smart TV (via Chromecast), and my Samsung Note 20 Ultra, all in 1080p. Stadia does support 4k, but my wallet does not.

Playing on Stadia is quick. I can tab out of this article I’m writing in Firefox right now and open up Jedi: Fallen Order right now and be in the title screen in under a minute. It’s lightning fast, and Google improves the platform constantly.

Input lag exists, but it’s nowhere near as bad as you think. I’ve had some UI lag in the Stadia menus between games, but rarely any lag while playing. When my internet speeds suffer (and they do, because my local ISP is terrible), my games will lag and the graphics will pixelate. But in an average day I will most likely have no issues at all. The only in-game input lag I have experienced with Stadia was during my playthrough of Jedi: Fallen Order, which from what I have seen is mostly an issue with the Stadia port of the game, and not Google themselves.

Graphically, it’s identical to me playing on my PC. I’ve got Destiny 2 on Steam as well as Stadia, and playing the game is virtually identical. There are some times where Stadia may drop in quality, but it’s usually very brief and after a time you rarely notice it. When the quality drops, gameplay does not suffer and the input does not lag at all.

Anecdotally, during the rocky release of Cyberpunk 2077, tons of people were saying that the Stadia port was the best version to play it on, in terms of stability and lack of graphical bugs. I can’t attest to this, but it’s been cited on the internet by a lot of reputable sources.

Alright, what are the bad parts?

Well, we all know Google is one to kill off projects willy-nilly. Especially since these games are only in the cloud, you can’t exactly back up your purchases if Stadia shuffles off it’s mortal coil. I don’t know if Google is planning to back out of this anytime soon, but they’ve been showing some strange signs.

The biggest mystery is the sudden departures of a few big employees in the last few months. It started with Google’s launch of Outcasters, the platform exclusive top-down multiplayer shooter in December 2020. In February, Google would announce they were winding down their internal game development teams in favor of “refocusing the platform”.

Google Stadia games

With the closure of Stadia Games & Entertainment, they lost Jade Raymond (who was formerly a producer at Ubisoft an EA), and a few months later would lose their Head of Product John Justice and another six unnamed employees. As of writing this, they lost another big name with the departure of Justin Uberti, who created Google’s Duo platform and joined the Stadia team as a lead engineer.

Playing games on the platform is fine, but the UI for the platform is rough. They only added a search bar to the service within the last two months (which isn’t in the app, only the website version of Stadia), Friends lists and messaging were also late additions to the platform as well.

It’s also no secret that Stadia’s library of games is pretty weak. They’ve been getting better, bigger AAA titles are coming all the time. Larger indie releases don’t normally hit Stadia on launch day, and some big games (such as Terraria) aren’t even on the platform yet. They have big plans for 2021 and there’s a lot of big titles coming to the platform, but I’m not sure if they’re capturing an audience and converting people from console and PC.

What’s the damage to my bank account?

Stadia has me sold on it’s price point, which is honestly pretty fair in my eyes. You can get started right now, for free, before you finish this article. It’s that easy! You more than likely already have a Google account, all you need to do is hop on to Stadia and play one of their free-to-play titles such as Crayta, Destiny 2, and Super Bomberman R. If you’re playing on PC, you can use mouse & keyboard, your Xbox controller, Playstation 4/5 controller, or even your Nintendo Switch Pro controller.

If you want to play on your TV however, you’ll need a Chromecast or a Smart TV with the Stadia app, as well as the Stadia controller (that’ll run you $70 for the controller alone, not counting the Chromecast). The same goes for your phone, most third party controllers will work with Stadia. They also include touch controls, but I wouldn’t be caught dead trying to play Destiny 2 on a touch screen.

Games are average priced, around $60 for new titles with some decent sales here and there. Some older titles are cheaper as well, but nothing I haven’t seen that beats Steam in most cases.

The real bang-for-your-buck is the Pro plan. Not only do you get a truckload of free games, you get new ones every month! It also allows you to play in 4k if it tickles your fancy, and you get some exclusive sales every now and again.

Wrapping it up

Stadia has been chugging along for the last few years, and I don’t think it will go away anytime soon. I feel like it’s still in it’s early days, and in a way it still is. It feels unfinished, and there’s a lot of room to grow.

But Stadia has true potential. I love the ability to play a game on my PC, switch to my TV, and then pick it up on my phone if I want. And the ability to not need to install or update a single time to play what I want to play is oddly handy, even though I really don’t mind them as a PC player.

I’d like to see Stadia continue to grow and flourish. I don’t think it will ever challenge the big boys as the next big thing, but I think it’ll be an example for the next big thing. And for the cheap price of Pro, I don’t mind enjoying it while it lasts.

Don’t forget, you can watch our editorials on YouTube.
Check out “Is Google Stadia worth it” on our channel.

Disclaimer: I received a free Chromecast Ultra and Stadia controller in Spring 2020 through one of their promotions for being a Youtube Premium subscriber. Google isn’t lining my pockets for this, but I did want to make it clear that freebies were involved.

Sunblaze – Review

Sunblaze – Review

I’m back! Back in the New York Grove’, sang Ace Frehley in 1978.

Shortly after, KISS took off their make-up and Ace Frehley then left the band. They had become a bit dated, silly even? So, too, the platformer. They came to be seen as undemanding, linear games; the preserve of younger kids who like the cartoon presentation of these games.

Even efforts to compete with the advent of 3D did little to halt the decline of the platformer from its market share heyday of a third of games sales to 2% by 2006, but whisper it like Ace Frehley… the platformer is back.

Is it worth playing Sunblaze?

Sunblaze, developed by Games from Earth, is a 2D single screen platformer harking back to classic days. It’s title screen opens with a popping tune reminiscent of early Mario music and the soundtrack throughout is top notch.

Cute Ponytail

You are Josie, a cute pony-tailed little girl whose father is a retired old superhero. Better than that though, Dad owns a Superhero training simulator – well of course we’re gonna try it. It is during the training session that we…err train and are taught all the basic moves in the game environment; the double jump, the dash, hang crawling, hitting things or jumping on things causes them to fall and this can break obstacles.

These are all the usual, expected staples of a precision platformer and they are introduced quickly and seamlessly. It’s a joyous start.

Then the training simulator goes wrong and you are stuck inside and have to fight your way through various colourful levels to escape back to Dad. 

Sunblaze Review Screenshot Josie
Sunblaze Review - Games From Earth

One of the starkest things about Sunblaze, right from the start, is how darn quick the game is in almost every respect. Sunblaze treats death in the best way, from red sauce to resurrection in a millisecond. Instantaneous and unforgiving failure is followed by instant play again without even the need to press a button.

Speedrun Death Challenge, Anyone?

There surely has to be a contest for who can rack up the most deaths in under a minute? Then when you complete a level there is no fade screen or load screen, the screen simply melts into the next level like the moment you see a magic eye image…boom it’s there and you are stood right where you were but in a different room, facing a different puzzle.

The pace is amazing, making the experience a pretty continuous one and emphasising the positive part of that, no matter how you are doing.

Sunblaze Review

Pretty soon however, you start meeting those challenging levels where the game demands you put together your newly learnt moves into combinations in order to whizz around the board.

Each level (created by a friendly rainbow unicorn, naturally) needs to be solved and they become more a complex puzzle each time. There is an order of doing things, hitting jedi training robots, dropping blocks, exploding TNT, squashing laser gates, breaking glass barriers and all sorts of other things.

Pretty soon you start each level with a moment of pause to survey the puzzle in front of you and try to figure out a way to the end.  As the game progresses, each new chapter introduces more hazards. There are spiked floors, poisonous coral, explosive oil drums, volcano spitters, and evil computers. 

Sunblaze Review and Gameplay

Played normally, Sunblaze is a pretty difficult game. It isn’t called a Precision Platformer for nothing. You know what you are in for when you see that the game keeps a death counter and a timer. There’s going to be competition with speedruns and lowest deaths (or as I prefer, posting a screenshots of completing a game with an unbelievably high death count).

Death comes in many forms and frequently, you can explode into residue on touching spikes, be crushed entirely by a moving block or fried in classic cartoon style of shocking your skeleton when caught in a laser gate. If it all proves too tough there are a multitude of difficulty settings that operate seamlessly.

Firstly there is a Zen Mode which is, effectively a rookie mode and gives you the whole game and story with fewer levels and a reduced difficulty, so the game can be played by a variety of ages and capabilities.

On top of that you can switch on various cheat functions that remove the game cap or cooldown on abilities such as infinite jumps or infinite dash. You can even make levels easier by giving yourself the ability to ignore volcanos and laser gates by switching on invincibility or to smash glass barriers on contact and avoid the perils of messing with squashing blocks. These accessibility options can be combined in any mode; play the standard mode and tackle a particularly hard level by switching on infinite jumps for example?

A Variety Of Deaths

Sunblaze is a great game with a wealth of accessibility. It knows what the flaws of a platformer are and if gets around them confidently. You will never be stuck for too long, you can always tweak the game parameters a little for one level of the whole game and experience much the same as someone else who plays the more skilful variant. And for those of you who want greater challenges you can try to collect the power cubes in each chapter. Do all this and there are a reputed 700 levels in the game.

All in all you can play Sunblaze from start to finish in a couple of hours using all of the easiest settings and cheat modes or you can take on the full challenge and it will take you days and well over 1000 deaths. That the game can be immensely accessible and extremely challenging at the flick of a setting and lose you nothing in gameplay gives Sunblaze broad appeal.

Sunblaze Review

The plethora of Roguelites around in recent years has given the platformer a lesson in how to present death as irrelevant to gameplay or at least not a setback to progress.

Is It Worth Buying Sunblaze?

During the lockdown of the last year there has been a widely reported jump in playing video games, Platformers are in the top five genres for growth in that period with platform play growing by 25% in that time. 

These days Ace Frehley is back playing with KISS, they still tour and they are back in their daft glam costumes, but what we realised is that we liked it that way after all. Sunblaze is one of a developing new breed of platformers in the line of Super Meat Boy and Celeste that realise the platformer never really left us and know how to give us what we really liked all along. 

You know that feeling you sometimes catch yourself doing in a game whereby you lean hard to the left in your chair, subconsciously willing your character to make that jump, you’ll be doing that a lot here. Like any game, when you put together a series of combinations to travel with speed and fluidity across and around all the obstacles to complete the level, it is glorious when you succeed.

I literally punched the air and let out a holler when I completed things. So, if you ever liked a platformer then you should check out Sunblaze and you too can sing ‘I’m Back’.

Streamer Hub June Update!

Streamer Hub June Update!

Howdy Streamers!
We’ve got some exciting news for the month of June!

Starting off with what you guys really wanna know, here’s our (current) June lineup of games! Two of these games also include multiplayer support, which I know some of you guys have been asking for.

  • Sunblaze drops June 3rd and is already available for preorder on the Hub! Sunblaze is an upcoming precision platformer with pixel art graphics and more than 300 levels. The game is inspired by Celeste but with a heavier emphasis on puzzling, and with different mechanics. You can catch them on the Chasing XP Podcast later this month too!
  • Eximius: Seize the Frontline combines tactical First Person Shooter gameplay with high level strategic decision-making of a Real-time Strategy game. The game features a competitive 5v5 team battles where players square off in a post apocalyptic urban environment. You can also catch my interview with them on the podcast this Friday.
  • Duru is a 2D Puzzle Platformer set in a West African mole rat colony. While solving puzzles with a somewhat unreliable companion, players follow the story of Tuli, a story about the struggles of insecurities, darkness, and friendship.
  • Pyramid Plunge is a game inspired from the classic spelunking platformers, adding a lot of humor for all ages bringing back the handcrafted pixel-art platforming of the 90s. You’ll explore creature-infested, ever-changing pyramids.

We’ve always got new games coming, so be sure to keep an eye out! For other updates, let’s take a look:

  • We’ve split the feedback channels into their own category, just for ease-of-use as our library grows.
  • Keep an eye out on our Twitter @ChasingXP1 for some exclusive giveaways we’ve got planned!

That’s it for me folks, thanks for sticking with us and making a great community!

Blue Fire: A Dim Flame in a Dark World

Blue Fire: A Dim Flame in a Dark World

The golden age of 3D platformers has long since passed on, with only a few straggling titles aiming to fill the void of the classing collect-a-thon exploration games. While Blue Fire is decidedly NOT one of those games, it definitely reminds me of them, if only a little bit.

Blue Fire is Robi Studio’s first game, where you play as a mysterious warrior in the land of Penumbra. You are destined to do….something and then it’s off to the races as you’re dumped into the large open rooms of the game to hop, skip, and jump your way around this world.

Where’s The Story?

One of the first things that stuck out to me is the lack of storytelling. Coming hot of the heels of my first playthrough of Hollow Knight, the world of Penumbra feels empty and bland. The world itself is beautiful and some regions feel huge and imposing, but there is a distinct lack of ambiance in the world.

There’s also very little direction provided, whether it’s narratively or gameplay wise. The story isn’t very well explained, aside from your usual “chosen warrior that finally woke up” trope, which I wouldn’t mind if the game gave me any context clues beyond that. There’s even an NPC that doesn’t know who you are but “knows you are the one he’s been waiting for” and gives no further explanation.

The areas lack detail and character, as there’s no theming to tell them apart. The first area has some bookshelves and statues, but there’s little explanation as to what the area is or used to be. Was this a library? Why are there statues of guys doing emotes (and why do they matter)? Why does only this one room have furniture? That room has a map and a statue, but you’re telling me the map is unreadable. What’s the point?

Run, Jump, Explore

Hollow Knight’s distinct areas make you feel as if you’re in a new area. The lighting and music shift, the enemies may change, and the terrain changes as you progress. Life scuttles around in front of the camera and deep behind you, birds fly away as you approach, giving you a sense that you’re only in a small part of a large world.

Level design is something I felt was very wishy-washy. In the Void areas (which are optional challenging platforming sections that reward you with extra health upon completion), platforming was tight and required some skill to navigate. I loved these sections, and they were pretty frequent. Even the first “dungeon”, where you unlock the ability to run and jump off of walls, was pretty dynamic and interesting, although there wasn’t any sort of puzzles to make it challenging.

The Overworld

The overworld, however, was fairly bland and linear. Either the area was linear with little to nothing to explore, or the smaller side areas offered almost nothing beyond items that the game doesn’t tell you what to do with (I later found out you’re supposed to sell them in the main city, but I never even saw an NPC to sell from).

Some areas just had questionable design choices, which made me confused and a little frustrated to deal with.

For example, to enter the first dungeon of the game, you have to climb a series of ladders to flip a switch and unlock the door. Sure. No problem. Flip the switch, drop down, jump from the platform to the dungeon entrance and voila: you’re in.


If you want to jump from the entrance back to that platform, you can’t. It’s barely out of reach with your dash, so you have to instead jump and dash to a much lower platform, climb some ladders, and then jump back to that platform. Maybe I’m just not properly timing my jump, but I felt that it was impossible.

Entering the first city in the game, the terrain definitely changed but the area felt just as empty as the previous ones. A distinct lack of ambient life made the areas feel dull and forgettable. Even if there was something as simple as rats scuttling around in this broken world would make all the difference.

It’s a true shame that the level design wasn’t consistent, because the platforming felt very tight and well done. You can tell that Robi Studios spent a lot of time working on making platforming feel right, but the game just doesn’t get to stay consistent with it.

Slashing and Hacking Away

Blue Fire is not only a platforming game, but is also an action game. You get to hack, slash, and even cast spells as you challenge the strange looking creatures of Penumbra. Attacking and blocking (or parrying) feels great, and the animations are smooth.

But enemies attack in predictable, stiff patterns that I never had a struggle with. Enemies with swords have slow, simple attacks that are easy to dodge out of the way, and you attack so much faster than they do that combat doesn’t often last very long. Paired with a distinct lack of enemies in the world, combat is almost a non-issue. One monster every few platforms doesn’t make me feel challenged in the slightest.

There are even some rooms where you’re locked in, Legend of Zelda style, to defeat some enemies and unlock a chest. But the game just spawns two enemies, and that’s it. Too easy to dodge and there’s very little on the line.

A Dying Flame

Blue Fire has a distinct visual appeal that is what originally hooked me. Paired with the vibes of a Hollow Knight-like Metroidvania in a 3D Legend of Zelda type world, I was sold from the start. But the game feels like it was split too far down the middle and missed the best parts of both of those games: Exploration, Storytelling, and combat. If Blue Fire had stuck to a more traditional 3D platformer and focused on a larger platforming game, that would have been killer. Or, if it had gotten deeper into the Metroidvania roots and added some more challenging combat, maybe I would have been more satisfied.

I don’t really want to recommend Blue Fire unless you’re really captured by the visuals and want a similar vein to Hollow Knight before Silksong releases. For me, I’ll probably wait. But I will 100% keep an eye out for whatever comes next from Robi Studios, because they’re definitely a studio to keep an eye on.

Becastled – Early Access Review

Becastled – Early Access Review

Checkshirted wearing, waxed moustachioed hipsters, this game is for you.

I mean it’s for the rest of us as well, but especially the bearded no logo uniformers who dream of wielding an axe in the wilds. Mana Potion Studios have produced a fine little RTS, city builder, tower defense game to delight us.

Jaunty music, fishing for food, venison for the people, a proper medieval looking castle designed by you, siege engines, classic big marrow shaped club wielding trolls wearing nothing but slashed hulk shorts and Lumberjacks. Lumberjacks galore. I never wanted to be a barber anyway.

“Oh good, I can feed my village” – Stephen Daughton

There’s a lot to love about Becastled, a wonderful game that is part city management, part RTS. It is like Total War for people who used to play Settlers on wet break in the science labs.

You’re A Lumberjack, Barry. You too, Harry.

You play the master of the Kingdom of the Sun. You guys rule the daylight and life is good.

The deer stroll nearby, the earth is luscious and your people are productive. You begin by placing your central hall or Castle Keep onto a chosen hex and found your settlement. Then you spawn some citizens willing to do your bidding and your first objective is to tell them to be lumberjacks, because almost all of the early currency is in wood. So, site yourself near some trees and get going.

As usual in an RTS management city build you need to get resources and spend them to enable expansion. You will need wood for building more houses to grow your population, you need wood to build taverns to keep them happy, you need wood to build a farm to feed your growing population, you need wood to build training centres for archers or melee warriors to defend the glorious new Utopia you are building, in fact you’re going to need more lumberjacks.

Wood is the currency early game, building, expanding and sustaining that is the key, as it is in any resource management builder.

Here Comes Trouble

As the game progresses you need other things and very much like playing the board game version of Settlers, you need to be located next to lots of varied resources and some of them like stone and gold or a sort of mined solar gem are needed later for upgrading the stockade and towers to stone ones and building a church to restore your dead warriors in the resurrecting power of daylight hours because, you see, you are on a daily clock. 

When the day is over, the Moon Warriors spawn somewhere nearby. They are blue goblins and trolls and they come each night without fail from different directions in ever increasing numbers and with better equipment each night. They march inexorably toward you like the hoards of Mordor, carrying scaling ladders, battering rams, cannon and siege towers to breach your city walls and so you must prepare for sunset each day to go once more into the frey to see if you live or die this day. To survive you must protect and defend your Keep. Citizens and troops may die, buildings may fall, but your founding Keep must survive or the game is lost. 

The controls are delightfully simple, the expansion tree is entirely open, the only thing that holds you back is…lumberjacks. If you can get going fast enough and manage food and housing, then you can get other careers going for masons, miners and engineers.

The first few days are easy to defend against, by which time you need to be up and running with defensive structures and plenty of varied methods of defense. The only help you get is that a blue mist signals the spawning site for the Moon Warriors that coming evening. If you have not planned or do not have a productive enough village then you could find they are due to spawn on the most exposed side.

So, you need a strategy and you need to act quickly and consistently, managing choices and resources to sustain, defend and develop…much like any standard RTS. The difference and appeal with Becastled is the varied nature of how you can play. 

Hoards of Hordes

It has stacks of playability with challenges split into eight difficulty levels, with three levels of combat difficulty, on seven different terrain types with resources either abundant or scarce and most interestingly you can alter the length of the game, effectively your win point.

Keep the Solar Kingdom safe for 10 days in the easiest instance or try for up to 30 days. With each added day of challenge the Moon Warriors get more powerful and more difficult to defend against, but potentially your castle starts to resemble Carcasonne…another fine board game Becastled clearly draws influence from.

And if you are feeling like Henry V then you can take the ultimate challenge of an infinity mode and see how long you can survive the nightly mounting hoards. I have seen some people on YouTube try to build a wall around the entire map and another who fought for 50+ days. That you can alter the challenge so greatly and try to break the game with challenges like walling the entire map is great freedom for a game.

Who Just Died?

There are some problems with Becastled; some men stop working sometimes and it often isn’t clear who has died when you begin the day after an attack and you have to check absolutely everything to reassign workers otherwise the city will start to fail and you need to work hard each day to grow and repair if you are to survive the night.

Pathfinding is another problem, the AI isn’t great at this, when you send troops to certain locations or to engage in combat with a group of the enemy they take the shortest direct path, but this can lead to them being stuck on a cliff edge or behind a gatehouse or something. With a battle raging this can be disastrous and you can be left wondering where that unit you sent to help got to, but it’s now all too late.

Visit The Solar Kingdom Today!

However, these minor problems for a game in Early Access and the devs are patching these sorts of things at least once a month so by the time you play they may even be gone.

On top of this they have published a clear road map of exciting development that includes tech trees, city building expansion and boss fights. I can only hope they make PvP possible in the future.

Becastled offers hours and hours of medieval fun at a bargain price. It proves both accessible and challenging at the same time. You really would be medieval to not go and get this, especially if RTS is your thing. Can you go 50 days without defeat? I can, but then I’m a Lumberjack, so I’m ok.

Marketing For Indie Devs. Simple, Smart Way To Your First 500 Followers

Marketing For Indie Devs. Simple, Smart Way To Your First 500 Followers

Marketing for indie devs is a daunting and somewhat unwelcome task. No developer looks forward to marketing after putting in 2000 hours on their creation. After smashing through bug fixes, Steam release chaos and finally getting that early access level finished… who really wants to spend hours trying to get exposure on Twitter for their game?

Marketing Your Game

We know it is not easy. We understand because we have this conversation at least three times a day. Indie developers are hard working and dedicated people. Seriously. If you’re reading this, and you’re an indie game dev, chances are you just finished coding for the last few hours or just got off Discord after talking to your game artist about that new NPC you have to create animations for. Or you just managed to complete the design on that new game level you dreamt about last night. Yep, we’ve heard it all, and we get it.

As dedicated as these devs are, when it comes to marketing, they usually have zero experience and zero enthusiasm for trying to get exposure for their game. That’s one reason we started our Developer Marketing Hub, but its not all we’re going to talk about today.

Starting Point

Your starting point is long before you have a demo, screenshots or anything else. You need to get your socials in order, and you need to start when the design for your game is in the early stages. Like, just a little idea in your head.

Of course, if you are already knee deep in screenshots, videos and the like, then that’s fine too. This will work whether you have got something to show off or not.

The Basics

Get yourself equipped with a Twitter account, a Reddit account and download Discord. A LinkTree account is also recommended (and there’s others out there that offer a similar service).

These are your tools to gain your first 500 followers, and they will do all the hard work for you.

So here’s your first tasks (if you haven’t done so already):

  1. Get a Twitter account
  2. Get a Reddit account
  3. Download Discord on your phone/PC
  4. Get a LinkTree account

Make sure you get your account on Twitter verified using your phone. Make sure you’ve got a photo on your profile on Twitter, so people can see your glorious mugshot.

Upload a background image, profile image and then complete your profile bio. You’ll eventually add your LinkTree URL here, too.

The beast that is Reddit. Yeah, we hate it. Or love it. That’s Reddit for ya. There is literally no better place on the internet to showcase your talents like Reddit. If they like you, then they’ll be your most staunch supporters and do everything they can to help & validate you. Or they may not like you, or be apathetic. Either way, Google loves Reddit, so we need to use it!

Discord is the way forward. An amazing platform that has thousands of channels that are full of developers & gamers just waiting for you to chat with them and start networking!

Once you get your LinkTree account set up, start adding links to your email, your press page, your YouTube channel, your game on Steam, your Twitter, your Reddit profile – you name it. If you have a link for it, then add it here. This is a great way to get people clicking through and finding out about you & your game. It’s a fantastic link aggregator that everyone is used to using, and you’ll need to post your LinkTree link in your Twitter & Reddit bio too.

Good to go!

Basics Recap:

✅ Create a Twitter account, complete your profile/upload photo, and get it verified
✅ Create a Reddit account, add a bio
✅ Create a LinkTree account
✅ Add all your links & contact info to LinkTree
✅ Add your LinkTree URL to your Twitter and Reddit profile

Where To Start?

Whether you are right at the beginning of your indie dev journey, or you just finished your early access demo and uploaded it to Steam, you are going to follow the same steps. We’re going to start with Twitter.

Twitter is an amazing place for indie devs. The community support is phenomenal. Look at this screenshot from our tweet (#ScreenshotSaturday):

Marketing For Indie Devs
Marketing For Indie Devs

These are the results after just TWO HOURS.

Not only did we get to interact with some of our old indie friends, but we also saw some new games added (thanks to the retweets) and we followed some new accounts. The indie devs on Twitter all retweet each other’s games, and they comment & like too. It’s a great community that you cannot discount if you want success with your game.

Twitter Time

Marketing For Indie Devs

Twitter has become one of our mainstay marketing platforms. Whether we are trying to get developers to appear on our podcast, or looking for the latest and greatest games that have just been released – Twitter is where we go. Moreover, this is where devs go to help each other out and promote themselves (and each other).

Before we get anywhere with the method, you will need to tweet a few things. If you have screenshots, level designs, a demo or whatever – TWEET IT!

If you have nothing to show, just talk about various aspects of what your game WILL be. Tell the world what you hope to build. When do you want to complete your first milestone? Why are you doing it? Who inspires you?

Tweet at least TEN times, and include media like gifs, images, videos or whatever you have. People like to see media in tweets.

IMPORTANT! Use hashtags!

Some popular indie dev related hashtags are:

#indiedev #IndieGameDev #solodev #indiegames #indiegaming #indiegame #MadeWithUnity #indiedeveloper #ScreenshotSaturday

Once you have your first tweets done, you can move to the next step!

Note: You can tweet as many times as you like, but spread it over a few hours (or days).

Basic Twitter Growth Formula

To get your first 500 followers, you are going to need to spend at least one hour every day following a very simple formula. It’s one of the oldest and most viable methods, too.

If you cannot spend at least one hour every single day on this, then you need to find some time. It’s important and it works. Furthermore, once you see it working, you get a bit of a buzz, I won’t lie. You start to interact with new people and you start feeling excited every time you get a notification of a follower or a retweet. So, let’s get started.

Step 1: Start Finding Fellow Developers

You are going to start by searching for indie devs and begin following them & engaging with them.

We do this by searching for hashtags.

Remember, your main hashtags for indie dev are:

#indiedev #IndieGameDev #solodev #indiegames #indiegaming #indiegame #MadeWithUnity #indiedeveloper #ScreenshotSaturday

Go to Twitter and search for a hashtag such as #indiedev.

Select “People” from the search filters. You’ll see the following:

Marketing For Indie Devs

You’re not just going to follow these people. You are going to interact and engage.

“Ok… Mark… this sounds like a pain.” I hear you whisper, grudgingly.

Here’s the thing: There is literally no point in being part of a community unless you are going to support other people and do the things you expect them to do for you. Right? Right.

This is what devs fear the most. The work and the possibility of getting no results for their efforts. You feel like it is a waste of your valuable time, and – maybe because it is out of your wheelhouse of coding/creating/developing – your start to fear the worst.

Step 2: F.E.A.R.R.R: Follow, Engage, Ask, Retweet, Rinse, Repeat

Neat little acronym, right? Why, thank you. I made it myself.

Here’s how it works (and its painless, I promise).


Open up a developer’s Twitter profile in a new tab. Tip: You can log in to Twitter in your browser so this part is easier.

Follow them.


Now scroll through their most recent tweets and if you see any that you like, hit the “Like” button (the little heart)

Marketing For Indie Devs

You need to like at least FIVE of their posts. You can like more, of course, but five is the sweet spot.


You will never, ever find a better way of engaging with another human being than asking a question.

You have a few things in common, remember. You are a fellow developer. You are both on a journey that is (for the most part) pretty damn hard. You are both doing something you loathe – marketing.

So ask a question that is pertinent to the context of a tweet. Find a tweet that you are actually interested in asking a question about. Maybe its some cool animation and you want to know how they rigged their model? Maybe you like a parallax cloud they have got going on in their background. Whatever it is, ask a question.


The humble retweet has so much power. it shows that you are very interested in the person or their game, and you want others to know about it. You are doing something FOR that person. It is super powerful.

You can retweet as many times as you like, but you should retweet at least TWO of the tweets. Not only that, you need to QUOTE RETWEET.

A quote retweet means you can make your own comment on the tweet, and share it on your profile. the comment can be anything that works. “Great level design!” or “This is stunning” will be just fine. Or you can go really in depth… “I love this level design. It makes me think of retro classics like Metroid!”.

Rinse, Repeat

Once you have done all of this, you go right back to your list, and you do it again with another developer!


Let’s talk about what the developer will see. The person will see you pop up in their notifications A LOT.
5 x Likes
1 x Retweet
1 x Quote Retweet
1 x Comment

That’s EIGHT notifications with your name & profile next to them. What do you think they are going to do next? here’s what usually happens: –

  • The developer responds to your question. You can reply, and continue the conversation
  • The developer will engage with your tweets
  • The developer will retweet one of your tweets
  • The developer will FOLLOW YOU

If you can do this for an hour a day, then you will immediately see results. It will take around one minute per person (follow, like x 5 tweets, retweet, quote retweet, ask question). So that’s SIXTY people you can reach and engage with every day.

Here’s where it gets fun.

As developers are retweeting your tweets to their thousands of followers, their followers will organically start checking you out and following/retweeting/liking your stuff. And those followers of followers will do the same. This is the virality of simple, smart engagement with people in your industry. Cool, huh?

Generally speaking, it will take you around a month to reach 1000 followers if you do this daily. But we’re not all robots, are we. Some days you won’t do your Twitter marketing. Some days you’ll be too busy. As long as you do it as often as you can, you’ll see incredible results.

F.E.A.R.R.R. Recap

✅ Follow developers using hashtags
✅ Like min. 5 x recent tweets
✅ Ask a contextual question (using comment)
✅ Min. 1 x retweet
✅ Min. 1 x quote retweet

Reddit Time

Marketing For Indie Devs

Reddit is a fantastic way to get your game out to a massive amount of people and send them to your socials. They will follow you and interact with you. Of course, Reddit is only really useful if you have something to show off and talk about – but it shouldn’t be discounted if you are just starting out and have nothing to show.

If you have some screenshots, game demos, or level designs etc. you should visit the following subreddits and begin posting in the most appropriate ones: –

Here’s an example of Reddit done right:

Marketing For Indie Devs

Simply posting a screenshot or video and asking for community feedback is a great way to get a bunch of new followers & fans.

Every time you beat a bug or get over a milestone, tell Reddit. Every time you hit a snag, go ask Reddit. Every time you add something cool to your game… yes, you guessed it. Go tell ’em.

Reddit is full of interesting articles and very knowledgeable people, so if you see anything you can comment on – do so. This is a good way to build you profile’s “karma” which will help when you start posting your own stuff. Some subreddits require you to have a decent karma before they will let you post.

This is how you build a massive supporter base on the world’s largest evil kindergarten. Sorry, on the world’s largest content discovery & social media platform.

Discord Time

Marketing For Indie Devs

When developers need somewhere to kick back and talk about their game, or ask fellow devs advice, they go to Discord. There are many fantastic communities that continue to grow exponentially on Discord, and we’ll discuss some of the better ones here.

#1. Chasing XP Developer Hub Discord

It goes without saying that The Chasing XP Developer Hub is definitely a Discord server you should join. Our Discord server is a chill place to go and chat with fellow developers, discuss your game and get advice on the stuff you are struggling with.

#2. Brackeys

Started by the YouTube legend Brackeys, this Discord server is a vibrant and friendly community that can help with everything from finding assets to marketing your game. Highly recommended.

#3. GameDev (Reddit)

The Reddit subreddit r/GameDev has its own Discord. No introduction needed here, I feel.

#4. Heiny ‘Indy’ Reimes

This is a superb server that we have no hesitation in recommending. Heiny is more known for his prolific indie dev support on Twitter, but his Discord is growing like wildfire right now.

#5. 3Bit

Even though this might seem like a competitor of Chasing XP, we recommend you join their server. It is a chill place to talk gamedev, but a fantastic place to get exposure, too.

#6. Work With Indies

This Discord is more about working as an indie dev in a freelance capacity – although you will be able to promote your work here, too.

#7. Making Games Together

This Discord was started by YouTube indie game hero, Jonas Tyroller. he is a great voice for the industry, and supports developers of all types. The server is full of useful advice and a great community spirit.

The Wrap Up

That, as they say, is that.

We hope you enjoyed this editorial piece, and we hope you enjoy growing not only your following, but also your friends list on Discord! You are now set up to get exposure for you game, and find people who are in a similar boat as you. Not only that, but you’ll be able to network with developers who have been there, done that and can advise you on your next step forward.

We are, as you know, very supportive of indie developers of all sizes, and we’re only too happy to help you get exposure for your games – or just offer advice.

We’re Here To Help

Chasing XP is a multi-platform indie game and development magazine. We’re here to help you, if you need it!

You can get in touch with us via our Chasing XP Developer Hub Discord, or you can head over to our Developer Marketing Hub and get some serious PR & marketing for your project!

Alternatively, drop us a message by clicking the contact link in the menu.

Happy marketing!

This post was Written By Mark Byrne, Senior Editor & Co-Founder of Chasing XP

Reficul 666 – Early Access Review

Reficul 666 – Early Access Review

Mood is required for this one – Lights out… Headphones on… It’s time for some horror. 

Reficul 666 is a survival horror game from MAG Studios, who seem to specialise in this genre. Taken as an FPS, there is something sweeping the globe as night falls and it is knocking out all communications. You are going to be on your own, in your little part of town, attempting to meet your friends and trying to survive the nights’ terrors. 

Snug in the safety of your house is where you begin your journey to survive, but it just so happens that a portal that leads to the demon lair is in your town, wouldn’t you know it.

“Alexa, How Does My Day Look?”

Pals have left notes to meet you and a local priest has apparently been preparing, so you had best get ready…these things always come down to you to solve. You are armed with a torch, pistol and lighter and you are sent on something of a linear adventure to navigate. 

Live observations at the movies reveal that you should not show the monster too soon. Part of the terror is the build up. The horror movie The Descent did this very well. Sometimes the reveal is a disappointment, sometimes not. It’s a fine line in horror between getting it right and making it naff; Reficul 666 does it right. By placing the character in constant darkness save for the direction of the torchlight or the dim holy glow of the bible most of the surroundings are hidden and you can never be sure of what or where something is unless you are looking at it and when you do catch sight of a demon or a shadow it works.

Was it different when the boss demon appears at the end? No, you can’t see him clearly unless you direct your torch right at him. And what a great job the dev has done on him, he looks like a terrifying version of Dave Grohl’s devil

Reficul 666 does a great job of making your skin freeze. They have incorporated a whispering of demons that increases in volume when you are near them; a nice warning mechanic, but also one that builds tension very well. When the whispering about dragging you into the darkness begins, it drives your anxiety levels up and the heart rate rises, then racing up to you are some shadowy demons and terror overtakes you entirely for a moment.

Peek through your fingers, I am not exaggerating. It is not a jump scare, it’s just an excellent user of tension and delivery. No matter how long I played the game and even when I carried a Holy Bible that would shock the approaching demons out of the way, it still made the hairs stand up momentarily, each time one glided towards me round a corner. 

Maps are good and it has a relatively tight open world environment, unfortunately this is where most of the positives end for Reficul 666. It’s all a little dated graphically, there is little to no interaction with the environment beyond opening doors. The game has almost no colliders at all. Kick a box to reveal a key, knock a chair or a glass of alcohol over, make it smash, start a fire; these are things that make a gameworld feel alive and also provide other opportunities for gameplay.

Step into these rooms and sadly there is none of this here, plenty of areas are just rooms with boxes or a bed in and serve no purpose. There’s too much of this and you quickly learn that investigating this world serves little purpose despite it being possible to enter many of these houses. 

Into The Catacombs, I Presume?

Repaid by understanding this you are left with a linear adventure where you follow notes from one empty house to another until you eventually transport to the catacombs of the demon. It is a little uninspiring, but the catacombs level is planned better and has a decent feel to it, despite still suffering from looking good but having too little interaction. 

Raw music sound is virtually non-existent, it’s just the murmurings of the satanic shadows that stalk you. Most of the time the only other thing I could hear were my clogs snapping heavily on the metal road. At least that’s what they sounded like I was wearing. Perhaps the whispers are all you need in a horror game, but I think people underestimate the subconscious addition sound done well can give a game and there are probably opportunities here. 

Reficul 666 is listed as being in early access and indeed many of these issues could be developed and improved if early access goes well. The issue here is that Reficul 666 is a repackaging of an earlier effort called Reficul VR which was effectively the same game published back in 2018. There have been some improvements since then, but they are minor and cosmetic.

Peek at the core design and mechanics of the gamed and they are pretty much the same and it lacks depth. It needs a clear outline of what it hopes to become and a developer log that tracks progress to have confidence to part with what is a relatively high price for the current available material.

It’s Not All Bad

Now, there are actually lots of places Reficul could go from here to become a good game. You could have safe houses that you need to secure, perhaps some base building elements, meeting some of your other friends could be good, especially if their character is developed and they then get killed. All sorts of things here have potential, but one thing is certain it needs more of something. 

Reficul 666 does have one hell of an atmosphere, but it needs to develop and finish well. Available on Steam in Early Access, you’ll get about an hour or two out of Reficul 666, but it is a long way from justifying the price point in current form.

Of course in another form Reficul 666 read backwards spells something else – Lucifer. Like the first word in every paragraph you just read.