Posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 at 8:39 PM by Kimo Kuppe
I’ve said before that the indie game scene is where all the good stuff is lately. And even though that line of thinking makes me a lame-o hipster who just hates things with budgets the recent Xbox One announcement really just cements my distaste for the way things are going. So since I’m not too keen on the Kinect demanding motion out of me and tracking my body temperature I’ll have to turn elsewhere for games. I’ve had good luck with indie games before on PC with things like Cave Story and Aquaria so I thought I’d try out the new darling of hardcore metroidvania people, La Mulana which somewhat recently was remade with updated graphics. I also scooped up the more comedic Unepic off GoG after hearing some good things about it. I haven’t beaten either yet so these are just my first impressions.
Immediately when you start La Mulana your ears are blasted with some truly powerful escalating music that is wonderfully captures the tone of the game, as well as gets stuck in your head. The game is light on hand holding but since it has pretty simple controls it must assume that you’ll figure it out. I will shamefully admit that it took me a few minutes to get my bearings when I first started, guess I lost my sense of gaming. Like Super Metroid you immediately have freedom to go where you want and are really only blocked by your own weakness. Talking to people will give you a bit more insight on the world but nothing too hand-holdy. After much dicking around I finally made it into the temple. To my delight and frustration the beginning of the temple is littered with epitaphs on the wall written in some unknown language. While it was annoying I couldn’t read it I knew that eventually I would be able to and its that kind of carrot on a stick that I love hunting down. The game tells you to inspect the skeletons you see for advice, something somewhat similar to Demons/Dark Souls, and for a while this will be your primary source of intel. Its definitely worth checking what they say too since its often necessary to solve whatever problem the room has. One more thing, I absolutely love the art and animation style, so fluid in movement, and while its pixel art it looks great.
Nigoro included a hand gun as an optional weapon but its really just a trick for casual players. It makes the boss fights a joke but you are ultimately punished for using it. The game is hard, harsh, and unforgiving. I actually really appreciate the challenge in this because I rarely feel like the problem is with the controls, but rather all pain and mistakes arise from my own carelessness. The games a bit harder than Cave Story so prepare yourself if you are going to give it a try. But if you love the classic style of games and the Metroidvania genre this game is right up your ally. Steams Greenlit it finally and GoG has had it for a while.
Similar but different to La Mulana is Unepic. Set in a giant dungeon with heavy influence of Dungeons and Dragons, Unepic piles on things like weapon variety, stats to level up, gear, and other RPG staples put in a Metroidvania gameplay package. While in the bathroom during a Dungeons and Dragons game with your equally geeky friends, your character is suddenly teleported to a mysterious dungeon he has to fight his way out of. Chalking it up to drugs his friends put in his drink you decide to play along with the “hallucination.” The game takes a lot more time to explain things to you than La Mulana but it doesn’t get too intrusive, and there is a lot to know. You gain experience and levels which give you DnD style stats to improve to make your character fit your playstyle and weapon of choice. You have tons to collect such as gear, magic, crafting material and pets that can assist you. The game world looks pretty good and definitely dungeon-like. One of my favorite features so far is that you can write notes in game for each square on the map, something you pretty much had to do on your own in the good old days. There are traps a plenty and secrets galore to discover making the game a lot of fun. Controls feel good and like La Mulana any mistake doesn’t feel like the games fault, but your own.
My problems with Unepic are few. While I’m getting a bit tired of the dungeon setting its tried and true and there aren’t too many alternatives that people can do well, yet. No, my biggest and perhaps only problem with the game now that I think about it is the game doles out massive steaming dollops of “nerd humor” that rarely amuses me. The protagonist is more annoying than anything and everything he says and does is in reference to Star Craft, Warcraft, Star Wars or some other big name nerd franchise. Theres even a god damn Yoda character and the “Navi”-like guide you get is named Zeratul. The hyper-nerdness of your characters dialogue makes him come across as unlikable to me and I’m honestly I’m surprised I haven’t run into Felicia Day at this point to really make this the same horrible “us gamers lol!” crap she’s so often associated with. Bazinga!
Both La Mulana and Unepic are fine games to be sure and I highly recommend them. That rewarding and mysterious old feel of games may be gone from the big titles but is alive and well in the hearts of the indie scene. If you are looking for a challenge and have a few bucks to spare go buy one or both of these games.
The games industry today is abuzz with talk of the next generation of gaming. With the WiiU already with us, the Playstation 4 having been announced a while ago and, by the time you read this, Microsoft being about to or having just announced the next Xbox unit, you can’t move around the gaming web […]
Research has constantly proven video games have wide varying effects on the brain. There’s studies all over the place, each one conflicting with the next. Is gaming that significant on the brain? Good or bad? Though you might be surprised to know gaming can actually do a lot of good for the mental health of many. […]
Computer games, as much as any other medium, are mysterious things. They can stir our souls, hotwire our adrenaline glands or disappoint us to our core. For every person who plays a game there is a valid and varied opinion. It’s one of the things that make the subject of a game’s relative quality a […]
Across every genre of entertainment there are specific titles or releases that become synonymous with failure, that in the eyes of fans and critics alike embody the worst that the genre has to offer. They become the universal butt of any joke in that medium, the yardstick against which every other poorly-received release is measured. […]