Day 11 - Hammerwatch 

What's not to like about a bunch of heroes of four different professions in a dungeon filled with vile worm creatures and other nasty enemies? Of course, we all heard this kind of story before, and yes, you have to have some kind of nostalgia virus going on to appreciate it fully, but Hammerwatch is worth it to just try it out even when you don't.



We (the same group of four enthusiasts that played Cube World) downloaded the free beta version and were delighted from the start. Hammerwatch has a nice presentation, with optional fullscreen effects for the extra retro feel (like scanlines) and pixelart to drool about it. It also helps that the gameplay is quick, easy and intuitive, and very rewarding, especially when you disable permadeath. ;-) It's delightful to hack'n'slay your way through the well crafted levels – at least in co-op multiplayer mode. I can imagine that the game is a bit dull when you play it alone, but in my opinion Hammerwatch shouldn't be played alone, just like its spiritual precedessor Gauntlet.



Of course, the game has its quirks, as does every other game. For example there is no story at all – you just get thrown in the dungeon, and you have to figure it out for yourself why exactly you want to kill animals and get a lot of loot from barrels. And I'm sure this is fixed in the buyable version, but when we played the game through (the first dungeon), the end boss didn't have any balancing at all, you just needed persistence. On the other side, even when we respawned constantly and endlessly tried to dodge a giant laser, just to decrease the end bosses' health by a laughable 1% each time - it was fun!

What I really want to try out soon is the level editor that is now included even with the free beta version of the game.
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Day 10 - The Sea Will Claim Everything 



Games appeal to me through their style. I care about gameplay and story mostly in second place. And this adventure has a very special and notable art style rare to be found: the children'S book drawings with crayons by Verena Kyratzes.
Together with Jonas Kyratzes and two cats (who seem to be particularly involved into the development for they got their own Twitter account!) they create very personal, political and picturesque adventures. Not in the usual sense, as the graphics are rather static, but in the way of storytelling which is much more evolved and detailed than you might know until you played Kyratzes' games. And they do without the stupid and typical combination of stupid and typical object combinations!
But as every good children's book there slumbers a heavy subtext that is often in contrary to the naive and colourful adventures.




In The Sea Will Claim Everything you play the visitor on the Fortunate Isles, arriving in Underhome. The place where 'The Mysterious Druid' and his fellow creatures live and recently suffered the attack of a hoard of creditors. Although 'The' (it's his forename) never had a credit, Underhome is insolvent. But its not just Underhome's problem only, but of the whole islands surrounding the place. Greed has taken over. People's work isn't worth anything and they got accused for being lazy. And soon you will realize that this story is not about a fantasy island, but a land that appears in the newspapers every day.

But instead of dragging you down with hard facts and numbers, TSWCE achieves to carefully take your hand from humorous, absurd entertainment and mushroom puns to a deep and very personal view on the sad reasons for the economic disaster the Greek people are suffering from.

If you love well-written amusing as well as sad as well as absurd stories with one of the finest soundtracks by Chris Christodoulou I call my own since recently, combined with an unique art style, this is your game!

Get the game here.
Watch the trailer.


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Day 09 - Tolles Spiel III 

TGGC is a fellow German game developer, and he is very humble person. (That's probably why his name means "The Great Game Coder".) He works for Related Designs, which isn't called Related Designs anymore, but they still don't have a new name, so we might want to still call it Related Designs. He worked on a lot of the "Anno" (or "Dawn of Discovery") titles there, and still does it as far as I know. Also, since some months, he irregularly livestreams when he plays German indie games and calls this SpieleKost ("GamesFood").

The Devmania is an annual event in Mainz, Germany, and it is about hobby game development. As the scene became smaller over the years, the event (called "Dusmania" up until five years ago) also lost a lot of visitors, but it still is a highly entertaining and interesting meet-up of individuals with the love for games and development. There are project presentations and talks, but also a game jam. This game jam is the oldest game jam I know, as the first Dusmania happened around 1999 or so, and its game jam always was called The Overnight Contest.

TGGC participated in this contest (and won 1st prize) more than anyone else, and as he is so humble, his games are mostly named "Tolles Spiel" (= "Great Game") from the beginning. In a sense, TGGC is one of my heroes, as I take part in many game jams nowadays.



A game that particularly stood out for me was Tolles Spiel III (Download). It was made in 2006, using sounds and graphics handed out before the contest began (that's the reason why the snakes are skulls and spiders). So yes, it's a bit ugly – but it is pure fun, if you play it against at least 2 or 3 other people. (The problem with single-system multiplayer games of course is that the situation of having 4 people playing a contest game is very unlikely outside of a game jam.) It's a Snake inspired game where not only the players' tails get longer and longer, they also create permanent walls or become faster depending on power-ups. The great fun we all had playtesting "Tolles Spiel III" for hours, while TGGC polished it bit by bit until it was perfect, is one of my fondest memories of any Dus- or Devmania.
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Day 08 - Shelter 



I knew that I would love this game from the moment I saw the teaser for the very first time. Who can say 'no' to cute animals and an art style that you probably haven't seen before. Shelter is the perfect symbiosis of minimalistic animal characters that will find a place in your heart very soon and a tight atmosphere, which will feel - maybe in contrast or because of the look - very lively.

In Shelter you play a mother (or father?) badger that is guiding her five pups out of the den into the open world to grow and stand on their own feet. Your task is to feed them, hunt down foxes (noooo!) or voles and keep the little ones hidden from dangers like huge flying birds or waves of water.

The gameplay is very simple, whereby you will dive directly into the skin of badger mom. And if the animated series “The Animals of Farthing Wood” is still evoking warm nostalgic feelings, this is your game!
And believe me: Every child you lose because of carelessness will leave a hole in your heart! Awwww.

Get Shelter here.


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Day 07 - Delver 

I could never deny it (and why should I): I love Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds. I love the game because of the atmosphere and the story, because of it being so immersive, deep and manifold, and because it was one of the first PC games I ever played. Some years later I bought and played the first part, Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss. It was a rather strange experience, as a lot of the cool parts I liked about UW2 were missing, and the game screen was much smaller and I also thought it was too hard. Nowadays I enjoy it as much as the second part, main reasons being that I appreciate its origin as one of the first 3D games much more, and that I also understand the developers' game design choices much better.

So, Delver. Delver is very obviously inspired by Ultima Underworld I, and that's why I bought it for my Android tablet! Of course, the game really is something else, much more arcade action (a real dungeon crawler, so to speak), and with roguelike elements; the latter meaning it has randomly generated dungeons (for a higher replay value) und permadeath (for a higher replay enforcement). It also doesn't have a deeper story other than "find the magic orb and bring it back to the surface". On your way you slay a lot of enemies with swords and fireballs.



Although I like my RPGs mostly because of the story, there are reasons why I would recommend Delver nonetheless. Foremost it has a great atmosphere, as the dungeons feel quite natural and spooky and the music is awesome. The gameplay is balanced well enough to not be totally frustrating (although the controls on the tablet are cumbersome, as with all games in first-person perspective), and even though I seem to die instantly when I finally get the Orb, I would play it again.

By the way, all that I write from the perspective of an Android user. The desktop version of Delver already got a major graphical overhaul, and as far as I know, additional gameplay, like a skill tree and a level on the outsite, and so on. I just hope the developer doesn't add too much stuff, because for what Delver already does, it does it very well (and I'm not a big fan of the new SD style of the characters).
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