Reviewing Astral Flux, a Retro 2D Platformer With All The Tools to Succeed

As part of our Steam Next Fest coverage, I decided to try out the demo for Astral Flux, an upcoming action-adventure 2D platformer set to release on October 28th. If you want to try it out yourself, I suggest playing through it now and coming back later to read the rest of this article; there will be minor spoilers! Steam Next Fest is still running until October 10th.

The demo is relatively short, my run clocking in at 48 minutes including pausing to take notes. Regardless, it does a fine job at conveying what the game is about, how it feels to play, and what you can expect from the full version. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

astral flux demo level start
Even in space, one must master the skill of parallel parking.

Structure

The demo is divided into one tutorial level, a cutscene, and the entire first level of the game. The tutorial is your usual, run-of-the-mill obstacle course that teaches you the various movement mechanics you’ll have to deal with as well as how to interact with objects, climbable surfaces like ladders and nets/vines and so on. So far, so good.

Then, there’s the cutscene. It serves to set up the reason you’ll be going into the first level: looking for a resource to power your space ship. Your partner goes to the nearby planet while you stay behind to defend the ship, but eventually you go after him after he’s been gone for too long.

The cutscene does an alright job of leading you into the first level without taking five minutes to get to the point, which is great, however the way the cutscene was edited felt a bit off. Now, the sequence is composed of still images which are cycled through one after the other, with dialogue running at the bottom of the screen. With a relatively static scene, it felt jarring when, five seconds after your partner leaves for the planet, the next frame has your character saying (paraphrasing here) “he’s been gone for quite a while, I better check on him”. There could be space for another image in-between those two that shows the passage of time.

The entire first level of the game is the actual selling point of this demo. The level itself is thematically divided into three sections: Getting to the boss, defeating the boss and getting back to your Space DeLorean. It’s not as straightforward as you might think!

astral flux space ship
Why do you always get in trouble, Bob?

Gameplay Loop

Without getting into the individual parts of the gameplay, like monsters, combat and loot, just yet, I want to take a moment to talk about how the level runs.

The environment is procedurally generated, meaning you’ll always have to navigate a unique landscape when you start over. Yes, you will most likely start over: Death resets you to the beginning of the level, and you want to avoid dying for two reasons: To save time as well as to avoid the truly ominous experience of dying. I don’t go into what happens when you cross over, for I fear they will find me as they found the main character.

My first death came rather unexpectedly. Once the level booted up, the first thing I did was take my sweet time to try and see if there’s anything above the main screen, as numerous other platformers taught me that’s a great place to hide loot. Only when my vision started to blur did I see the little countdown timer on the left side of the screen telling me I was about to asphyxiate. That’s when I realized the gameplay loop is: Rush through the first section, getting as many power-ups as you can, defeat the boss and only then, if you’ve got enough time left, try and find some secrets.

Astral Flux became a time-management game. My seventh run was where I managed to beat the level and, consequently, the demo, after becoming comfortable enough to dash my way through the whole map in record time. Once, I made it to the boss and then just ran out of air next to him before we even fought.


Monsters, Powers, Loot, Systems & Mechanics

There’s no shortage of cool ideas to find in Astral Flux, and this is comes from playing just one level. There’s lots to unpack, especially in terms of monster variety, and while I can’t speak for the rest of the game, I get the vibe there’s still a lot of design space left to incorporate even more unique monsters as the game ramps up in difficulty, without having to rely on just buffing existing ones and changing their color to something more threatening, like purple.


Monsters

Small blue jellyfish, long yellow jellyfish, orange worm, spiky turtle thing, frustrating flower and even some you can only find in a special arena, like a swarm of mini-wasps and a drone thing. I was very pleased with the variety of encounters which push you to approach each one differently.

What works against these encounters is the oxygen time limit. As these monsters drop no loot, your best strategy for each encounter is to dodge it rather than engage and waste precious time. It is, in fact, the reason I haven’t figured out how to defeat the aforementioned spiky turtles, although I’ve got a feeling it has something to do with all these explosive barrels.

One situation where the procedurally generated map works against monster design if when encountering the ‘frustrating flower’. The flower’s attack is to release a circular ‘nova’ of petals around itself, slowly getting bigger as they decay into nothingness. The gun can make quick work of the flower if you’re able to find a platform with the right angle to shoot from and it’s far enough away.

However, I did stumble upon a couple flowers that were spawned in a very cramped space, meaning I’d have to get real close to deal damage. With how tight the window to strike in near-melee range is (before the flower disperses another set of petals), I started avoiding the flowers each run and trying to find pathways around them, dodging yet another encounter.

astral flux gate to level
There’s also a few transparent, blue jellyfish, and my gut tells me they’re hiding something.

Powers

As far as I could find, there’s two instances in the demo level where you can get a power upgrade. One is inside an arena (which we’ll get to later) and another right before the boss fight. The powers come in your usual flavors: increase melee damage, increase gun damage, increase gun rate of fire. The real fun stuff are the powers that augment your dash ability. Considering the mechanics of the boss fight, as well as the game pushing you to speed through the level, of course I always picked the powers that made my dash deal damage, as well as make me invulnerable during dashing.

It should be noted you don’t always get the same selection of powers. You always get to pick one of two, but they seem to be sorted into random pools. I always received one option to empower the dash, and one to empower some aspect of my weapons. Without having access to more levels, I am also unsure if the powers you choose stick with you throughout the entire game.


Loot

There’s three ‘common’ things you can pick up (hearts, oxygen bubbles and coins) as well as a few unique drops, like a map that reveals the entire level and a heart that increases your maximum number of hearts by one.

The hearts and oxygen bubbles are found in jugs scattered throughout the environment and are common enough that you should always bump into one in every ‘chunk’ of the level. It should be noted that oxygen bubbles are noticeably rarer than hearts.

The coins tend to just hover about, but you can also find them in chests. Chests also contain the +1 max hearts and the map reveal loot, and they are rarer but still findable if you take a bit of time to explore (what are you, an oxygen baron?).


Systems & Mechanics

We’ve already gone through movement mechanics (which feel good) and monsters (which are varied but but the game makes you want to just skip them). Now, let’s talk about the arena.

There’s a green rhombus you can find somewhere in the level that teleports you to an arena, where you fight “wave 1 of 1”. Defeating the wave, which in this case spawns two random monsters, awards you with a choice of two power-ups. We can only assume there’s going to be a… green rhombus arena in every level of the game, with an increasing number of waves. Regardless of the oxygen time limit, you should always look for the rhombus!

I mentioned there’s coins to collect, but I didn’t say what they do. This one took me several runs to figure out. Across the map, you may bump into several water tank-looking things that have a random number on them. Pressing E next to them consumes that number of coins from your inventory and gives you that many seconds of oxygen. If you don’t have enough coins, however, you just wasted a few seconds trying to get that button to turn green for nothing!

Something I haven’t touched on is the door to the boss fight. To open the door, you need to find and activate three switches. Thankfully, due to the randomized level generation, there’s more than three switches you can find. Activating the first three you find will open the door and the rest of the switches will disappear, ensuring you don’t spend too much time looking for badly-spawned switches and you don’t stop and wonder “why are there more switches?” after the door is already open.

astral flux switch
A mild-mannered, nicely-spawned switch.

I also talked about looking for secrets! In one of my middle-of-the-pack runs, I remembered that the explosive barrels you can find scattered throughout the environment are able to damage any ground tiles, including those you can’t smash with your sword. As time-consuming as it was, I eventually managed to both drag these barrels to the bottom of the map, and blow them up in the right spot to tear a hole through the ground. Well, what do you know, there’s a whole secret zone underneath the map, with a lot of platforms chilling above some lava, and a whole three chests to crack open!

Naturally, as I made my way back to the opening I’d just carved a minute ago after looting all the chests, I was wondering how I was going to get back up – an upward dash may have not been enough – when I fell into the lava. Nonetheless, I enjoyed figuring out how to access this secret area and got a good dose of Atomic Bomberman nostalgia doing it.

astral flux lava lake
There’s always lava in 2D platformers… and I’m here for it.

Art

Just from looking at the pictures in this article, you the reader can probably agree Astral Flux is a beautiful game. There’s good ways and there’s bad ways to do pixel art, but I reckon this game’s done the former. Aside from the environment looking pretty, it also does well to convey that this planet has life; I’ve seen my fair share of pixel art that, while good-looking, misses the mark on blending together with other elements of the overall design.

I’d also like to give a special shout-out to whoever had the idea to let me chop up the bits of dead boss into heart loot. So satifying.

The music is appropriate as well and managed to stay ‘fresh’ in my mind as I tried and tried to pass this level several times. It is of key importance for music in games to complement the gameplay experience rather than take center stage. Were this a heavier, more oppressive tune, it would get old faster and become a distraction.

Speaking of distractions, there was one element of sound design I’m a bit torn on: the sound effect for sliding off a wall. I absolutely love the crisp textures that were woven together to create the effect, but I do wonder if it’s just slightly too loud and might end up being too noticeable after playing for a few hours.

astral flux slide
The crisp, crisp sound of sliding. Now that I think about it, I still haven’t figured out how to kill those blood pustules either…

Stray Thoughts

  • Encountered a bug, twice, where I wouldn’t be able to use the melee attack upon beginning the level after dying. I think it may be related to “windows key-ing” out of the game to take notes before a level restart.
  • The keys for melee (Left CTRL, Z) and shooting (Left ALT) felt weird to my permanently WASD-curled hand. I know this is a demo and there’s no real need to include key binding options, but I hope they can be changed when the full version comes out.
  • If the first boss fight is any indication of what’s to come, I’m feeling very positive about the next bosses. The fight itself introduces its mechanics in a staggered, well-telegraphed way and after at most a couple of tries you should understand the ‘rhythm’ of the battle well enough to be victorious.
  • I do feel there should be a throwaway line somewhere about how your time in the level is limited by the oxygen you have, as well as some quick explanation regarding how to use the water tanks which are actually oxygen tanks.
astral flux boss fight
This boss isn’t in the beta, but I really want to see what it does.

Conclusion

While the demo was short, it did manage to convey enough for me to form an idea about the full game. Honestly, I think it’ll be good. My main gripe is with the time limit and scarcity of oxygen – I’m used to spending ridiculous amounts of time in platformers looking for secrets – as well as the consequences of this system (pushing you to skip fighting altogether where possible), but I do think the game can still work even with the time limit.

A suggestion on this front would be to at least give more oxygen on the first level. Many players may not even think to look for the secret lava zone when pressured to keep going. It’s important that the first level of a game gives you time to interact, explore and learn all the mechanics and systems that were left out of the tutorial. Someone may not even consider looking for secret areas if they don’t find one in the first level!

Overall, I think the developers nailed the general vibe they were going for with Astral Flux. Monsters are well-designed, the loot you find is relevant, the boss fight is fair and (arguably one of, if not the, most important aspect of a platformer) the movement mechanics are tuned to perfection. I can’t wait to see the rest of the game.


Astral Flux is being developed by Cosmocat and Studio VDS (van der Stoep) and is set to release on October 28th on Steam. It is made in Unity.

Have you played the demo for Astral Flux? What’s your opinion on the game? Let us know in the comments below!

Looking at The Eternal Cylinder, a Surreal Survival Game Where You Must Outrun a Planet-sized Cylinder

Steam Next Fest continues, and this time we’re taking a look at a very unusual title: The Eternal Cylinder. You must adapt and survive in a surreal world, avoiding predators and outrunning the titular Cylinder before it crushes everything around you. The game launches on the 13th of October. Let’s take a look!


Story and Gameplay loop

You hatch from your egg. You notice a Cylinder the size of a mountain coming your way. You run for your life. After getting to safety, you realize you can’t go further because of some rocks. Some creature comes by, dropping… something, so you eat it. Your legs grow larger, so now you can jump higher.

You are a Trebhum, a very adaptable little fellow that can mutate depending on what you eat. Not every edible thing will change your body, but there’s plenty of stuff that will. After some more exploration, you come across an elder member of your species that gives you the ability to activate towers that can stop the Cylinder… for now.

That’s pretty much the gameplay loop of the game: Find tower to stop the Cylinder, find locations of interest on the safe side of the tower, proceed to the next tower before you’re squashed by an impossibly large geometrical object. The Cylinder won’t start chasing you, at least on the lowest difficulty, until you pass a certain barrier.

Don’t think you’re completely safe, though. There’s plenty of predators in the world that can and will eat you. And the Cylinder somehow has followers that can take away your mutations (more on that in a bit). You’re not alone, though, as there’s plenty of Trebhums scattered across the world that can join you so you can stick together.


Unique Elements

There’s two major aspects of the game that make it unique. The first is the art style. The whole world is very surreal, with all manner of off, odd fauna and flora. It’s hard to describe in text, so your best bet is to play the game for yourself. The demo is pretty long, too; we clocked in at about an hour and there was still more to do.

The second thing that sets the game apart is the mutation system. As mentioned, eating various objects in the world will transform your Trebhums, granting them new abilities and changing how they look. As you have control over multiple little critters, your best bet is to split those abilities between them, as they can cancel each other. I had a high-jump and a larger inventory that I lost because I ate a fruit that turned me into a cube.

In terms of music, the game’s soundtrack is good, but it’s pretty quiet most of the time. There tends to be no music when exploring the overworld, kicking in only when the Cylinder moves or when there’s some story developments happening.

Oh, yes, there’s a story! As you have a trunk instead of a mouth (surely there’s something one can eat to fix that), everything is narrated. The narrator has a smooth and pleasant voice, perfect for telling this kind of surreal tale. We won’t go into details here, it’s best to find everything out for yourselves.


What do you think of The Eternal Cylinder? Anything in the Next Fest that caught your eye? Let us know down below!

The Knight Witch Is a Metroidvania With Bullet Hell Elements and a Cute Hand-drawn Art Style

As Steam Next Fest continues, we take a look at another Metroidvania, this time with a unique twist: The combat is full of bullet-hell elements! Move freely around the map and blast your enemies to pieces, all while avoiding their endless projectiles. The game is slated for release on the 29th of November. Let’s see what’s in store!


The Knight Which, the War and Time Skip

In a fantasy world filled with a variety of creatures, the residents have united under a single banner: the house of Daigadai. All was well in the world, until this house started draining the planet dry of all resources, and used mechanized golems to keep their hold over the world.

Only the Knight Witches, powerful spellcasters with a deep connection to the world, were able to stop them after a long and excruciating war. But it came at the cost of their leader, Robyn, and it was too late to save the planet, forcing everyone underground.

Fourteen years have passed, and people are celebrating the anniversary of the end of the war. You play as Rayne, a former knight witch in training who didn’t get to participate in the great war. Your first objective is to meet up with you husband before the festivities begin (Show of hands: how many games where the protagonist is married do you know? I can count 3 others).

However, the peace doesn’t last. Just as your husband leaves for the market, golems, the same type from 14 years ago, start attacking the city. It’s now your job to figure out what’s going on and find your husband (spoiler: we don’t see him for the rest of the demo, so he’s likely dead), before being inevitably dragged into a larger conspiracy.


I Was Supposed To Dash PAST the Bullets, Not INTO Them!

As mentioned in the intro, the game is a mix of bullet hell and metroidvania. You actually start the game playing as Robyn in the final days of the great war, giving you a taste of what a full-powered knight which can do. It’s a commonly used trick, to get you hyped for the endgame. You then switch to a far weaker Rayne after the time-skip.

The way the two genres mix is actually quite clever. As a knight witch, you can fly, so you’ll be able to move freely in any direction with the left stick. This is a bullet-hell, so enemies will fill the screen with projectiles you need to avoid. If you take damage, all projectiles on screen vanish, giving you a small break.

You get to fire back with the right trigger, and are able to aim with the right stick. You can fire without aiming, targeting the closest enemy, but you deal less damage that way. Seeing as this is a bullet-hell, there will be A LOT of projectiles on screen. You’ll want to let the game do the aiming for you so you can make sure you don’t get hit.

The face buttons (X, Y, and B on Xbox) will cast various spells (different bullets, screen-wide attacks, a shield etc.), which take the form of cards randomly selected from a deck. You’ll be able to edit your deck at save points, and casting a spell will automatically replace it with another. Each spell has a mana cost, and you gain mana from crates or by damaging and killing enemies.

The game plays very well, and exploring the world while avoiding enemy fire is a lot of fun. The two bosses in the demo were a bit of a challenge, but that might just be my inexperience with the genre. Art-wise, the game sports beautiful hand-drawn sprites and has a great soundtrack.


Not Quite So Magical

The spell system is probably the weakest part of the game. For one thing, the spells you get are random, so you have no idea what you’ll get. You may want to activate the machine-gun mode, but are stuck with two seeking daggers and a weak explosion spell.

But the real problem is visibility. The 3 spells are in the lower-right corner of the screen, so you’ll need to take your eyes off your character and look at them instead. And if there’s a bullet coming your way, that’s not a good strategy.

One thing the devs could try is (also) put the spell icons around the which, so you don’t have to look in two places at once during combat. We don’t know how much this would clutter the screen, but the current implementation is less than ideal.


Despite our complaints about the spell system, the game is still a ton of fun and a unique spin on the Metroidvania genre. We’re looking forward to seeing the game release later next month.

A Quick Look at 9 Years of Shadows, a Gorgeous Pixel-Art Metroidvania Set in a World That Literally Lost Its Color

Steam Next Fest is in full swing, and we’ve taken a look at a few games from the festival. Today we’re delving into 9 Years of Shadows, an absolutely stunning Pixel Art Metroidvania set in a world that literally lost its color, and you must fight to bring it back into the world. The game is slated to release later this year. Let’s take a look!


A World of Black and White

We start we a prologue that explains the events up until this point. 9 years before the game starts proper, the world is cast into shadows, with the color of the world going away. Most people either succumb to madness or, as is the case with our protagonist’s parents, outright die.

Nine years later, the player character, Europa, ventures into the cursed castle in order to stop the curse and banish the shadows that plague her world. After you explore the castle, you come across a big monster that… pretty much beats you up and leaves you for dead.

Things seem to be lost, until a ghostly companion shows up… in the form of a teddy bear. This is Apino, who brings the color back into your life and will act as your literal lifeforce (see next section). After he heals you, you start exploring the castle some more, slaying monsters and meeting some more characters.

The characters you encounter have a strong musical theme about them, being singers or part of the band. The composers of the games are actual NPCs, which will grant you upgrades in exchange for musical notes. The game allows for a bit more exploration afterwards, until you fight a boss with a big hammer and the demo ends.


A Treat for Your Eyes and Ears

The game absolutely nails its presentation. The very beginning of the demo is all black and white, until you find Apino, at which point it goes full color. The colors are very vibrant and the artwork is detailed and gorgeous. We kind of wish there were more B&W sequences afterwards, since it’s quite a unique style that’s not often utilized.

The music in the game is great, which is fitting, since the theme is present in the NPCs and power-ups. The score is composed by Michiru Yamane, who worked on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the GBA games, and Norihiko Hibino, who composed for the Metal Gear Solid and Bayonetta series. Needless to say, the OST is gonna be a banger!


The Teddy Bear Protects You… And Shoots Lasers!

So far, the game has been a fairly standard Igavania fair (those are games similar to Symphony of the Night). Your main weapon is a halberd, and you have a 3-combo quick attack, a heavy attack, and a charged attack. There’s also some elemental power-ups you’ll find in the game, with the demo including the electric one.

What the game uniquely brings to the table is Apino, who acts as both your shield and your long-range attack. Europa has only two lives when starting the game, but has a large shield bar that can be depleted to fire projectiles. You regain it by hitting enemies with your weapon or, if it’s fully consumed, by hugging Apino. Aww!

The enemy variety is pretty good, with a nice mix of sizes and melee vs ranged attacks. Some even have elemental weaknesses, so you’ll be able to change your element for extra damage. Currently, this seems to be differentiated through a colored outline, though hopefully more effects are added to make them clearer and help color-blind players.


That’s Not Quite Right…

Unfortunately, the demo has a few technical issues. It crashed when I tried to run it the first time, the map marker doesn’t seem to work properly, and at one point the Pause menu couldn’t be brought back up. At the end of the demo, while I was able to bring the pause menu up, it became completely unresponsive afterwards, forcing me to close the game the hard way.

Hopefully these bugs are sorted out by the time the game comes out. Despite the issues mentioned above, we had an absolute blast with 9 Years of Shadows, and are looking forward to the full release later this year.


What do you think of 9 Years of Shadows? What games have you been playing during Next Fest? Let us know down below!

5 Interesting and Promising Games We Played During Steam Next Fest

Steam Next Fest just concluded yesterday, and there were hundreds of demos available for people to try out. We played some of them, and are here to give you our opinion on 5 of the most promising ones. This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are a plethora of other great games we just didn’t have the time for. The demos for all of these games are still available, so give them a try and wishlist any that you enjoy!

If you want to read more about other Next Fest demos, we have dedicated articles on Cult of the Lamb (whose demo is still out) and Lost in Play. Also, make sure to come back to the site after the 23rd, as we’ll also be covering the Steam Summer Sale.


Anger Foot

  • First Person Shooter/Kicker
  • Clear rooms full of enemies either by kicking them or shooting at them
  • Developed by Free Lives and published by Devolver Digital
  • Planned for release in 2023

The first game on our list is a fairly weird one. The premise of Anger Foot is that you’re a guy in a rubber mask (is it a mask?) that goes around shooting and killing people. The small glimpse of a story we got with the demo (we made it to level 4 out of 11) is the bad guys blackmailing you by stealing one of your shoes.

The gameplay is fast and frenetic, with you going around and kicking people to death. You can also use guns starting on the second level of the game, but there are bonuses for finishing using only your feet. It gives us strong Hotline Miami vibes, another gem from Devolver Digital. The levels consists of various rooms that you barge into by kicking the door in, which is always extremely satisfying.

We expect speedrunners to have a field day with this one, seeing as the levels are very short, the enemy patterns don’t change, and the fact that it’s all timed and there’s a ‘feet only’ bonus encourages replayability. We look forward to seeing this game at GDQ.


Potion Permit

  • Top-down 2D Adventure game with a few other genres sprinkled in.
  • Gain the trust of a small, old-timey town using your knowledge of medicine and chemistry.
  • Developed by MassHive Media and published by PQube
  • Planned to release on the 22nd of September 2022

Let’s calm things down a bit with a chill game. Potion Permit is a game where you are a Chemist from the capital. You were sent to the town of Moonberry at the request of Myer, its mayor. His daughter has fallen ill, and you must figure out why. However, Moonberry has a history with chemists, so the townsfolk don’t like you. At all.

The game’s character is fairly customizable, with you being able to change their gender, skin color, hair, and name. Once you’ve made your character, the game begins proper, with you on the train to Moonberry. This is also where you meet your wittle puppy! You can’t customize it, but you can give it a name. You’ll have to pet and feed it, and it’ll follow you around anywhere that’s not an enclosed space.

Two important activities in the demo were potion brewing and diagnosing patients, which come in the form of mini-games. The brewing is done by adding the correct ingredients in a pot, with each ingredient being a specific shape, and you having to fill a special grid. The diagnostic is done via a rhythm game.

Once you get in town, you’re given your own home. You can customize your room a little, but the home is mostly set in stone (well, wood). Once you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep, you must go out into the wild and gather some ingredients. You have 3 tools at your disposal: Sickle for herbs, Axe for trees, and Hammer for rocks. All these tools can also be used in combat against various enemies.

What we’ve seen of the game so far is great, and we cannot wait to spend more time in Moonberry. This one has the potential to be Stardew Valley’s more brew-y, less farm-y cousin.


There is no Light

  • Top-down action RPG
  • Make your way through a dark and unforgiving world to save your daughter
  • Developed by Zelart and published by HypeTrain Digital
  • No planned release date

Completely opposite mood to out previous entry, we have a dark action RPG where There is no Light. You wake up in the middle of the night, your little camp under attack. You find your mother, dying from her wounds, and with her last breath she tells you the Solar Corps have taken your wife and child. With only your sword and your will, you embark on a mission to save them… while an unsettling figure aids you from the shadows.

The game takes place mostly underground, with the world’s narrative informing us that the surface is a bad place to be. The atmosphere is dark and sinister, with long stretches where your character is alone, save for the enemies you have to face. The environment in the demo is mostly made up of underground settlements built around metro stations.

The one exception is the Central Station, which has some trees around it. It also has a lot of moving eyes on various structures, reminding us strongly of H. R. Geiger. The first (and likely overarching) boss of the game also leans strongly into the horror aspect, being a collection of hands in a robe.

The RPG aspect comes in the form of various settlements. Here, you can interact with NPCs, mostly listening to their dialogue for worldbuilding. A few of them will give you a Yes or No choice, which will dictate the course of their life (not that you’ll see it) and will affect an alignment meter. There’s a good chance you can ignore all of this if you only care about the action.

The game’s combat consists of 3 main weapons: claws that can do a 3-hit combo, but overheat after you use them; a greatsword that you can throw at your enemies; and your basic sword. The first two weapons have various conditions that put them on cooldown, forcing you to swap on the fly. There’s also special abilities you can use and a skill-tree.

This looks like a promising, if a bit depressing, game that we can’t wait to see fully fleshed out!


Nitro Kid

  • Roguelike deckbuilder with movement on a grid
  • Fight your way up INIFINITY tower and save the titular Nitro Kids in a neon 80s’ setting
  • Developed by Wildboy Studios and published by tinyBuild
  • No planned release date

Roguelike Deckbuilders are everywhere these days, but a lot of them have something that sets them apart. For Nitro Kid, it’s the combination of martial arts, 80s neon, a synthwave soundtrack, and a grid for your character to move on. The demo doesn’t give away much in terms of story, all we know is that you’re climbing the tower of the INFINITY corporation to save the titular Nitro Kids.

If you’ve ever played a Roguelike Deckbuilder, you know what to expect. You start off with a deck of cards with various abilities that gets reshuffled every time you run out of cards. Then you make your way through a level, fighting your way until the end, and improving your deck along the way. Rinse and repeat until you finish the run, at which point you try another character.

There’s a few things Nitro Kid does to set itself apart. One of them are various passive and active abilities you can collect along the journey. The demo starts you up at what would be the second level of a run, and you can choose one of 3 pre-defined decks. Those decks already have a number of passives attached to them, and you gain new ones during a run.

There are also active abilities that you can trigger during your turn. Those have limited charges that you refill at certain points, and you can only have 2 at a time. You can do without them, though, as we forgot they were a thing until late in a run.

Another unique aspect of Nitro Kid is the grid system, allowing both you and your enemies to move on it. Unfortunately, we feel that the game makes a few design choices that go against that system. For one, the grid is very small, so there’s not many places you can go. You also usually only get one move per turn, in the form of a card you’re guaranteed to draw, which increases its cost when you play another card.

We’ve found that moving doesn’t do much anyway. The enemy rotates in your direction, so it still hits you. You want to be adjacent to hit them anyway, so going on the diagonal isn’t helpful. And every move we’d make would usually still result in getting hit by the same number of enemies.

As for how to improve it, removing the cost increase and giving the players two movement cards would help a lot, but the fundamental issues would still be there. We wonder if a hex grid would be better than a square one, but that would likely require huge amounts of rework.

All that said, the core of the game is still fun to play. The turns are quick, even if the battles themselves take some time, and you get breathing room (literally) between every fight in the form of shops or quick encounters that allow you to upgrade your deck. We’re looking forward to see what the cards hold for this one!


Ghostlore

  • Diablo in a modern setting
  • Fight monsters from Southeast-Asian folklore to ensure they don’t overtake the human realm
  • Developed by Andrew and Adam Teo, published by AT-AT Games
  • Available in Early Access for 19.99 USD or your regional equivalent

If you’re looking for the classic Diablo II experience and Immortal doesn’t do it, we might have the thing for you. Ghostlore starts with you needing so save your Master from the forces of evil, while your village is burning to the ground. After beating the boss of the first area, the Master gives you his Homing Compass, which allows you to return to your home city of Seaport.

The game currently has 6 classes you can choose from:

  • Adept – Has psychic powers like telekinesis, teleportation, and psychic weapons.
  • Exorcist – Place glyphs and symbols on the ground to trap enemies, and use spirits and talismans in combat (oddly enough, feels like an engineer class in other games)
  • Geomancer – Controls the forces of nature in battle.
  • Hashashin – Hides in the shadows and uses quick attacks to defeat their enemies (basically a ninja).
  • Feral – Use blood magic to attack your enemies at the cost of your HP, or turn into a weretiger to maul them.
  • Sentinel – Conjure light to attack your foes, or call upon animal companion to do it for you

Each class has 4 active and 4 passive abilities you can unlock. Some active abilities have counters, so you can use them multiple times before they recharge. We played around with each class, and they all feel very different. Interestingly enough, you can unlock another class to play at level 15, and a third at level 30. This means there’s theoretically 120 combinations for you to try out.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the Glyph system. Throughout the game, you’ll find various Composite Glyphs that you place on a special grid, then you add Simple Glyphs in its area of influence to gain various passive boons (see the screenshot below for an example). This adds another layer of customizability to the game, letting players mess around with different combinations.

There’s a few problems, though. Currently, just clicking on a spot on the screen does nothing, when you’d expect the character to move to that position. The color schemes of the game also sometimes make it very hard to see what’s happening.

And while the aforementioned Glyph system is interesting, the grid where you place them starts locked out. While you do get to unlock it, you don’t have any control over it, so you might end up with a shape that you can’t use. We’d like to see the player have control over how the Glyph grid gets unlocked.

Even with these issues, the game shows a lot of promise. Ghostlore is currently in Early Access, so we hope the devs will listen to their players’ feedback, and we look forward to the full release of the game.


What do you think of out selection of games? Anything fun you tried during Next Fest? Let us know in the comments below!

It’s a busy time of the year for gaming! The GOG Summer Sale is taking place at the same time as the nearly-finished Steam Next Fest and will be coinciding with the Steam Summer Sale. Stay informed by reading our other articles for good game deals, upcoming releases and demo reviews:

Steam Next Fest: Lost in Play Preview

Steam Next Fest started a few days ago, and, like previous iterations, it brings with it a massive number of demos for people to try out. We here at Out of Games decided to take a look at a few of them, to give out readers a small taste of what’s available.

For our first game, let’s take a look at Lost in Play, a very cute point & click adventure from Happy Juice Games, published by Joystick Ventures, coming out later this year. The game follows a brother and sister as they make their way through a world full of magic, whimsy and frogs. Let’s take a look!


Story

The game starts off with you controlling the sister, making your way through a wheat field, encountering all manner of oddities and credits, until you arrive at a small tea party with a duck pilot, a frog king, and a gnome with a chicken… hat? After you pour and drink the tea, things start floating around, revealing… that you were asleep the whole time.

You guys bring the party, I’ll get the tea.

Since the story is such an important factor for point & click games, we won’t share any more here. The demo is available on Steam, and takes about an hour to complete. There are 4 chapters to complete, with the last one really leaning into the fantasy side of things. Whether the game’s plot is ‘real’ or simply imagined by the siblings, the demo leaves ambiguous.

Me, my sister, and a random frog.

Gameplay & Controls

If you’ve ever played a point & click game, you know what to expect. Click on stuff to see what happens. Get items added to your inventory. Use those items to make the earlier clicks do useful stuff. That kind of stuff.

Aside from clicking on things, there’s also a few mini-games that mix things up a bit. The demo contains 4 such minigames that stood out:

  • One where you must rotate two overlapping disks to make a sun.
  • One where you repair a clock and must move blocks one by one to align the gears
  • One where you control a dog and must move sheep on a grid in the right spots.
  • A surprisingly difficult game of checkers.

The game can be played using either a controller, the mouse or the keyboard. Yes, the keyboard and the mouse are separate control schemes, though only the latter makes this a point & click. The game recommends using a controller, though all 3 methods are adequate.

Visuals & Audio

Presentation is paramount for a point & click adventure game, and Lost in Play delivers in spades!

The game goes for a cartoony art-style, reminiscent of Disney’s late 00s-early 10s Saturday morning shows, like Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls. The comparison with the latter is very apt, as the game follows a set of siblings going on a wacky and magical adventure.

The game has voice acting, but the characters don’t speak English or any concrete language as far as we can tell. The voices are simply there to add to the experience, with any relevant information being given in thought balloons.

Give me these items 3, and the clock will go reeeee.

The animation itself is very fluid and all the characters are very expressive. You can tell the mood a character is in just by looking at them, and those expressions never feel stiff or out of place.

The music in the game is great! It’s usually fairly upbeat and happy-go-lucky, except in the last chapter. There it’s a little creepier, fitting for the environment you find yourself in. And the main menu theme is an absolute bop!


Lost in Play is slated for release on the 10th of August this year. You can wishlist the game on Steam, join the community on Discord, and follow the devs on Twitter and Facebook.

What do you think of Lost in Play? Are you excited for the full release? Let us know in the comments below!

There’s loads of games being released in the upcoming months! Stay informed by reading some of our most recent reports: