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VGamingIndies: Vol 3

3 August, 2022 - 1:12 pm by
About 9 mins to read

We don’t need to tell you that there are a lot of video games being released every week and a lot of games simply go under the radar. Indie games in particular are often developed by small teams, usually without a billion dollar corporation behind them and they don’t have a chance to shine. 

VGamingIndies gives us a chance to talk about some of those smaller titles that we’ve played recently. We’re not scoring these games like we would if it was a ‘full review’. An arbitrary number isn’t always the best approach, especially with Indie games. Instead, we’re just laying out what we liked, what we thought didn’t work so well and leaving the choice up to you.

In Volume 3 we looked at feline darling, Stray and Egglien, an arcade-platformer from an impressive BAFTA competition winner…

Egglien

Key Info
PlatformPC – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1994440/Egglien/ 
DeveloperAlfie Wilkinson
PublisherSpacespy
  
Positives  + Nostalgic three-tone graphics
+ Tight and responsive controls
+ Fun boss fights
Negatives  – Plot is a little surplus
– Missing an extra dimension to add some challenge
– Sizeable difficulty spike for the final boss
  
Price £3.99
Played byDrew

I was a pretty standard kid; at 14 years old I was battling my way through the school day before spending my evenings shirking my homework so that I could watch CatDog and play Resident Evil 2 (don’t tell anybody!). A few things that I definitely was not doing at 14 was winning a BAFTA Young Game Designer competition and releasing a finished product on Steam, but that’s exactly what Portsmouth teenager, Alfie Wilkinson, has achieved with his action-platformer, Egglien.

Egglien tells the loose story of Asteri, an egg-laying alien whose body goes into overdrive after she receives a message from the far off planet Earth and being declared as ‘the chosen one’. This leads to a journey across the galaxy alongside her friend, as Asteri battles a plethora of bounty-hunting aliens who are out to make a few quick space bucks by taking down the chosen one. 

The story is pretty trope-laden and nonsensical in parts, but Egglien isn’t looking to win hearts with its plotline, but with everything else. I loved the visuals and sound in Egglien, where the three-tone colour scheme and funky chiptune tracks gave me a blast of nostalgia that landed somewhere between the C64 and the Gameboy Color. 

The action-platform shooter has an old school arcade feel about it – you steer Asteri around and hold the jump button to blast a stream of eggs towards the floor to propel yourself around. That egg propulsion doubles up as a weapon, and flying over an enemy whilst blasting eggs out of your *ahem* will see them off – once all of the enemies in the level have been killed then it’s on to the next one. Each of the five worlds ends in a boss fight that changes things up a little, though the final boss felt like a huge difficulty spike compared to the rest of the game. 

Sure, it’s a simple formula but it’s surprisingly effective; the controls are wonderfully responsive and swooping around to poop death on those below you is good fun; it harkens right back to the early days of console gaming and oozes nostalgia. The only thing missing is perhaps a little wrinkle to mix up the gameplay – something like pickups that alter your speed or controls, or maybe a time trial mode to add a layer of challenge to the otherwise straightforward gameplay.

Egglien offers a simple premise but nails the execution; with responsive controls, throwback visuals and a catchy soundtrack, it offers way more fun than you might expect at first glance. The story is a little hokey, but it throws back to arcade platformers like New Zealand Story, where the plot is just a simple vehicle to offer you a few levels and then a few levels more. With a playtime of just a couple of hours, Egglien is short but sweet, and represents an admirable first foray into game development. I have no doubt we’ll see bigger and even better things from Alfie Wilkinson in the years to come.


Stray

Key Info
PlatformPlayStation 5, PC – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1332010/Stray/ 
DeveloperBlueTwelve Studio
PublisherAnnapurna Interactive
  
Positives  + You play as a cat
+ Press ⭕ to meow
+ Rather well put together story
Negatives  – Controls can be skittish
– Graphical inconsistencies
– Lack of photo mode
  
Price £23.99
Played byJoe

When Stray was announced in the PlayStation Future of Gaming event back in 2020, I knew I had to own it. The cyberpunk city home to autonomous robots instantly caught my eye and the prospect of playing as a ginger tomcat meant that Stray was going to be an instant winner. The game, created by BlueTwelve Studio, stars a feline who is trying to escape an underground labyrinth to reunite with its family. Joined on this adventure is a tiny drone companion, B-12, that narrates the story into a language the cat can understand. 

As I explored the unnamed city, a wholly unexpected story came to the fore, one that revolves around how the robots came to being and why there is a severe lack of fleshy mammals in sight. As with most indie games, Stray weaves in a meaning that permeates the experience. Social commentaries about the classist system and of totalitarian control are not themes you’d expect in a game where you play as a cute, backpack wearing kitty-cat, but here they are. 

The story isn’t as heavy on the player as that though; the themes are subtle and most of your attention is kept on the cat. You’re able to meow, scratch and push certain objects to interact with the world, which comes in handy when it comes to solving the environmental puzzles scattered throughout the world. Puzzles are kept to a minimum, as the game favours fetch quests, but a particular favourite involved a paint can and a well timed mew from the dedicated button that ended up causing more havoc than it ought to have. 

BlueTwelve have perfectly captured what it’s like to be a cat, with gentle purrs that can be heard through the speaker on the DualSense controller, and the finer details that are considered, like the back leg drifting when trying to corner at speed and the absolute stupidity that ensues when you get yourself stuck in a paper bag. The control scheme flips, and for a few moments, our normally composed feline frantically tries to escape by reversing, spinning around and generally having a fit – it’s excellently done.

For all of the hilarity of being a cat, unfortunately Stray does leave a lot to be desired. It only lasts a few hours and while this means the game doesn’t overstay its welcome, it does feel like the world screams out for more exploration. I cannot stress how enjoyable the game is, but something extra once the credits have rolled would have been nice. A photo mode would perhaps have been a nice little bonus that allowed players to take shots of the beautiful environments… and the cat. 

Stray is a charming puzzle game that initially tells the story of one animal trying to find its way back to its clowder. Being a cat is utterly adorable, meowing on demand should be a de facto feature of all games going forward, and the story has a real meaning behind it. It’s a shame then that a game with such a rich world to explore falls as flat as it does, simply because it is too short. As cute as the protagonist is, and how good the game is while it lasts, there’s sadly no incentive to come back to it once the credits have rolled.