Terraria (Review)

Terraria is a creative new action/adventure sandbox game by Re-Logic that encourages players to explore and be creative. While Terraria is often compared to Minecraft by many people, I won’t be making many comparisons between the two games because I feel that they are vastly different from one another. So, let’s dive on in and talk about Terraria.

First off, there is no story. After you make your character (picking a hairstyle, adjusting colour sliders, and slapping a name onto the sprite), you are just dumped into a randomly generated world with no indication as to what you need to do. Terraria does not hold your hand, so it is likely that anyone who didn’t properly research the game before buying it will immediately feel lost. Thankfully there is a “guide” NPC who will at least give players a few semi useful tips when he is right clicked.

The object of Terraria, right from the get go, is to harvest lumber and gather resources from subterrane locales so that you can outfit yourself with forged materials while also constructing a proper house or shelter for your character as well as the guide NPC. This must be done relatively quickly at the beginning of the game because, when night comes, flying eyeballs and zombies prowl the randomly generated landscape and they will not hesitate to tear you a new one due to the fact that players are grossly unprepared to take on either of these creatures upon first starting out.

The underground is where you'll spend most of your time.

To protect yourself for the nights, the game implies that you should use your hatchet to cut down trees and build a house. This is pretty easy to do. The hatchet, along with many other tools such as the hammer and pick, can be used by selecting them in your inventory and just holding the left mouse button down over whatever it is you wish to chop or cut. When you fell a tree, it will turn into about a dozen pieces of wood that you can pick up. Each piece of wood is a single block that can be used for building. If you want to make a square home, you’d need about forty pieces of wood (approximately five pieces for each side).

The wood you harvest can also be used to make objects such as chairs, work benches, and doors. Making the right objects and placing them in your constructed abodes can attract NPCs to live in your settlement. All NPCs have their own special requirments that must be met before they show up (as an example, a merchant will not come to settle unless your currency is equal to or greater than 50 silver coins) but beyond that, all they need is a room with a door, chair, table and sufficient lighting. Make a room with these elements and chances are you’ll eventually have an NPC living there.

There are several NPCs which all serve different purposes. The merchant will buy your goods and sell you various pieces of gear and miscellaneous items while the nurse NPC will heal your wounds. There are approximately six or seven different NPCs who can come to your settlement, and it feels really wonderful to have them show up and settle in your constructed buildings.

Beyond building houses and attracting NPCs, you can use the resources you gather to upgrade your equipment. Your tools (axe, hammer, pick) can all be upgraded, and you will also be able to forge armor and weapons as well. What you can forge depends on what kind of ores you have mined. Low tier ores such as copper or iron will give you pretty average armor and weapons that should enable you to stand up to creatures a little better, while higher tier ores such as gold or hellstone will definitely enable you to stand up and overpower most monsters with ease.

Want to build up into the sky? Not a problem. How about underground? Go right on ahead!

While Terraria’s surface world gameplay is mostly about building structures and staying safe, the underground gameplay is vastly different. With your trusty pick and torches, you will dive deep into caves and catacombs in search of ores and treasures. Terraria is fairly generous when you are close to the surface, giving you an ample amount of copper and stone while throwing relatively few enemies at you, but as you dig down deeper you will begin to encounter many new monster types that will force you to change your combat tactics often.

The underground areas of Terraria are actually far more interesting than the overworld. There are many different “regions” underground such as mushroom forests, underground jungles, dungeons, and rivers of molten magma. The environments that you come across depend upon how far down you are (except for underground jungles which are placed in any random underground location).

Now for a bit of technical aspects. How are the building/movement controls and the combat? They may feel a little peculiar at first since the game handles very much like a retro Super Nintendo game, but it is not hard to adjust. Placing blocks and building is extremely easy as it is just all point and click, while combat pretty much comprises of just pointing your character in a direction and clicking repeatedly until whatever you are fighting dies. It’s not a revolutionary combat system and it’s not at all deep, but it’s good enough and is fun at times. However, sometimes it feels as if monster respawn times are far too fast and you may be bombarded by upwards of half a dozen enemies at once. When this happens, combat may become frustrating or tedious.

Ingame menus can also be a little frustrating to navigate. While the overall presentation is pretty simplistic, the inventory screen is pretty cluttered and gets messy in a hurry. The crafting menu is nothing more than a column that you click through with your mouse. Clicking on an item will craft the item, but if you click even slightly off of the item’s icon, you’ll move the column to highlight another item, which can be a little annoying at times. The health bar is also confusing, as your life is depicted by a series of hearts like in Zelda… However, hovering over your hearts will present you with a numerical value for your life. Since whenever damage is inflicted in combat it is visually displayed in numerical format, wouldn’t it make more sense to just use plain text to display life rather than hearts? It is not always easy to judge how much health you are at. It’s an odd system, but it doesn’t put too much of a damper on the gameplay.

Bosses are large and incredibly epic. Bring lots of health potions!

The graphics are pretty admirable as a whole. Terraria looks a lot like a Super Nintendo game, which may partially be due to the fact that the creator of the game previously worked on the freeware Super Mario Bros. X game. The creator seems to have a deep love for retro gaming, and it really shines through Terraria’s graphics. Enemies are simplistic but nice looking, and environments all look like standard 16-bit platforming fare. Anyone who appreciates 2D graphics should feel right at home in Terraria. 3D enthusiasts, however, are less likely to enjoy Terraria’s worlds.

The sound effects are mostly generic noises that won’t sound too new to anyone. Most of the sound effects in Terraria are bumps, clunks, and thuds. The music is a whole different story. It seems to be widely agreed upon that the music in Terraria is exceedingly pleasant to listen to. Like the graphics, Terraria’s music seems to have come straight out of the 16-bit gaming era. The day time music sounds cute and cheerful while the night theme is spooky and really evokes a feeling that you need to get to safety before the flying eyeballs make quick work of burying you six feet under.

So how much of a sandbox game is Terraria? Well, even though there is the goal of building a settlement and expanding it while keeping it safe, there is no time limit to it and you’re basically free to do whatever you want at any time you desire. For example, rather than working at upgrading gear and attracting NPCs, a friend and I have instead been focusing on turning a floating island into a stronghold that we can live in and store our resources and supplies in, and it’s taking several hours to do this!

Terraria is $10 on Steam and is a real steal at such a price. Free updates over time have been confirmed, promising that this already entertaining and open game will become even better with time. If you like dungeon crawlers or sandbox games, then Terraria is definitely worth checking out.

PROS:
+ Building is simplistic but very satisfying.
+ Insane amount of craftable items.
+ Multiplayer is loads of fun.

CONS:
– Too much time is spent underground.
– Crafting menu and inventory are not user friendly.
– Combat could’ve been fleshed out more.

Final Score

8.8/10

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Dinner Date (Review)

“An immersive experience that doesn’t quite succeed as an actual video game.”

Everyone has, at least once in their life, had to sit and stare at the clock as they wait for someone to arrive. This is usually always a very tense time as we sit and think to ourselves, “Where are they? Are they even going to show up? Did they forget about me?” Imagine a game based entirely around that kind of experience.

In Dinner Date, players assume the role of the subconsciousness of a man named Julian Luxemburg who is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his date, a younger twenty year old Japanese girl who apparently likes dancing. The entire “game” is basically just about listening to Julian talk to himself, as he slowly doubts more and more that his date will even show up. I use the term “game” very loosely with Dinner Date because, even though the player is able to control a few things Julian does, Dinner Date is mostly just a narrated story of sorts and the player is along for the ride.

When the game opens, the player will find Julian sitting in his kitchen as he waits for his date. A few keyboard prompts pop up on the screen, indicating that pressing different keys will make Julian perform different actions as he waits. You can make him stare at the clock, rest his arms behind his head, dip his bread in sauce, and peer into the lonely candle sitting in the middle of the table. This is about all you can do aside from listening to Julian’s ramblings slowly descend into pitiful self-loathing. At various points in Julian’s narrative, he’ll want to have a drink of wine, followed by another a few moments later, and then a cigarette shortly after. These actions seem to progress the story, as Julian’s narrative pauses a bit until the player performs these actions.

As Julian’s ramblings become more and more depressing to listen to, making him perform the various actions that we’re allowed to do becomes very boring and dull. It is at this point that Dinner Date becomes fairly immersive. When I started playing, I didn’t really care what was happening but as Julian waited longer and longer for his date and became noticeably more uneasy, so did I. Julian wanted the girl to arrive so that he could enjoy his date, and I wanted the girl to arrive so that the horrible monotony would be eased. Both Julian and I really wanted this girl to arrive, and I found that we both became more and more irritated over time. It was interesting to listen to Julian’s loathing after several minutes, as it was clear that the character was written to have some pretty significant self-confidence issues. Initially Julian comes across as a nice guy, but by the end of the game he felt like a sorry loser who I kind of pitied. He was just pathetic, and I felt bad for him.

This is pretty much the entire game.

Eventually Julian left the table to smoke a cigarette and watch out his window for his date. The game gives the player a bit of control here, and we’re allowed to freely peer out the window whenever we choose. I found myself doing this because I wanted Julian’s date to just hurry up and arrive. Towards the end, and without warning, the apartment building’s buzzer sounds very loudly. Julian gets excited and proclaims that she is finally here and rushes to the door. I found myself getting excited as well, because I was finally going to meet the mystery girl. The screen faded to black for a moment and then revealed that it was Julian’s neighbour who obviously needed someone to buzz them inside. Julian expressed annoyance at this, and so did I.

After a few more minutes, Julian decides to go outside and look for his date, and that is where the game abruptly ends. I was left with mixed feelings when Dinner Date ended. I wasn’t sure if I should have felt disappointed or impressed. As a game, Dinner Date is pretty poor. The player doesn’t really do very much and the game can be beaten pretty much by pressing the keyboard three times. However, as a sort of artistic virtual novel, Dinner Date does a pretty decent job of establishing some form of identity. What Dinner Date did best was pull the player in and make them detest waiting for the mysterious date just as much as Julian. What bothered Julian also bothered me as I watched the ingame clock. So, Dinner Date fails incredibly as a game, but as a sirt if narrative experience it succeeds pretty well.

The graphics aren’t too fantastic by any means. I understand that this is an indie game, but the graphics are horribly dated and easily look like late last generation graphics. Normally I wouldn’t nit pick over graphics too much, but considering the fact that this game advertised itself as an immersive experience in which you become Julian’s subconsciousness, and that the game is set entirely in one room, I really feel that they should have put more work into Julian’s kitchen so that the game would have had more immersion.

There aren’t really many sounds in Dinner Date, but everything works pretty well here. We hear Julian sip soup, a doorbell chimes, and a lighter ignites a cigarette. All of the sound effects are authentic and are certainly recordings of their real life counterparts. While sound isn’t very important in this game, it’s worth noting that the immersion takes a good hike up if you play with headphones on. When I did this, it almost sounded like Julian sipping his soup was me instead, as the sound of him doing so was going straight into my head. I would definitely suggest playing with headphones for this effect.

Dinner Date clocks in at about twenty five or thirty minutes and, as a whole, is an interesting experience. As I said previously, Dinner Date fails miserably as an actual game, but as a sort of interactive narrative film, it does a good job of pulling the player in and making them relate to Julian. I would not recommend Dinner Date to anyone who commands gameplay from their purchases, but if you are the type of person who takes an artistic approach to gaming, then this might be worth a glance.

Final Score

6.9/10

YummyDrumsticks (aka YDS) Plays Blackmoon Prophecy

No doubt a few visitors have noticed that I have a section for my game called Blackmoon Prophecy on The Review Depot. Whether it’s even enjoyable to the masses in 2010 is something I’m not too sure of, which is why YDS is covering it in one of her “Let’s Try” video series.

“Let’s Try” is a series that YDS started to give verbal and visual feedback to amateur game developers who primarily use Enterbrain’s RPG Makers. Blackmoon Prophecy is made in one, which gave me the opportunity to request a play of Blackmoon Prophecy. She accepted, and here are the videos. Hopefully these may encourage people to try it out!

As a note, she curses a lot and is very critical on purpose. It’s a recurring thing she seems to do in all of her videos. Also the audio is slightly out of sync in the recordings by about 3-5 seconds most of the time.

I’ll put the videos here as they are uploaded.

Stay tuned for more (hopefully).

Return to December 2010 Articles

Super Mario Bros. Crossover (Review)

“One hell of an addicting flash platformer.”

I’m not really too keen on reviewing flash games, but will do so when a particularly enjoyable one grabs my attention. Today I am reviewing one such flash game, which happens to be the quirky (though nostalgic) Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

As one would probably be able to guess, the game has at least something to do with the original Super Mario Bros. on the NES. There is a little bit more to it than that, as Super Mario Bros. Crossover takes the original 8-bit adventure and completely recreates it in Flash. Yes, the complete SMB game that you played as a kid is now available in your browser! There is a catch though, and this is where the “crossover” in the title comes into play. This may be a Mario game, but everybody’s favourite plumber takes a surprising back seat role.

Joining Mario in this excellent flash game are several other iconic characters from the Nintendo era. They are Billy, Ryu Hayabusa, Link, Mega Man, Samus Aran, and Simon Belmont. If any of those names are unfamiliar to you, then shame on you! Billy is from Contra, Ryu from Ninja Gaiden, Link from Zelda, Mega Man from his own self titled franchise, Samus Aran from Metroid, and Simon Belmont from Castlevania. All in all, it’s a very iconic cast of selectable characters, each with their own play styles.

Billy is probably my favourite character. He plays exactly as he does in any Contra game. He jumps high, has a machine gun, and can fire in virtually any direction. Super mushrooms enable Billy to have a slightly more powerful machine gun that has more range, and the fire flower gives Billy the trademark spreadshot gun. I find that Billy is practically unstoppable when he has the spreadshot, and I only had difficulty playing as him in the water levels.

Ryu has several fun tricks. He can wall climb, slash with his sword, and throw shurikens. When you power him up, his attacks become stronger and he can do things such as throw out boomerang shurikens, which are fairly devastating.

Link is a difficult character to use, I feel. He’s very small, his range is terrible, and his boomerang can be tough to use if you are faced with paratroopas and the like. Thankfully Link’s fire flower ability makes up for this slightly, as it allows you to shoot sword beams just as he does in the original Legend of Zelda when he has full health.

Mega Man is a very fun character to use, and he plays exactly as you’d expect him to. He has a ground slide, which I haven’t found many uses for, but it’s good to have it regardless. My only complaint about Mega Man is that he can’t jump high on his own. You need to call Rush down to give you a boost up to higher platforms and, in levels where high platforms are plentiful, you’ll find yourself losing a bit of time to just calling Rush down. Aside from that minor issue, Mega Man is very fun to play as, and he somehow fits into the Mario universe strangely well!

Samus feels a bit plain, but possibly because I’m not a huge Metroid fan. She is able to turn into a ball and roll around, which doesn’t feel as fun here as it does in her native Metroid setting. Her weapons feel a little bit underpowered to me and her range isn’t too exceptional, but her rate of fire is actually pretty fast. Her powered up weapon is a sort of zig-zag projectile that, in my opinion, feels worse than her default weapon.

Simon is a pretty cool character. He has a double jump ability and his whip powers up differently depending on which power-ups you get. His secondary attack is his trademark axe, which he throws diagonally into the air. I’ve had a bit of trouble hitting enemies with the axe, but it’s fantastic for clearing bricks!

I won’t even bother mentioning how Mario plays because, well, it’s Mario! The game even pokes fun at this as well, questioning why you are playing if you don’t know how Mario himself plays.

It’s a lot of fun to play with these characters in a Mario setting. Many fond feelings towards various NES games from my childhood are contained in this game, and it’s great to relive some old sensations that I have not felt in twenty years. There’s so much nostalgia here, thanks in part to each individual character and the music from their own games that accompany them.

Beyond the addition of new characters, everything is reproduced one hundred percent faithfully. All graphics and sound effects are as they should be, and the level design is completely like the original game. Overall, this is a very fun game to play. If Nintendo made this game and released it for a few bucks, I’d definitely buy it. Hats off to the creator, Jay Pavlina (aka Exploding Rabbit). You’ve created a very enjoyable flash game that I find myself coming back to again and again, just to experience various levels with different characters. Good job, sir!

Click here to play Super Mario Bros. Crossover.

Final Score

8.8/10

Game Downloads

Below are a few hosted downloads I have uploaded. If any of these belong to you and for some reason you do not want them here, send an email and they will be taken down.

These games are all covered in my Indie Showcase section or have been reviewed. Check them out if you want additional information on them or to see what the games themselves look like.


Game Review | Download Link

A tough platformer based on James Rolfe’s Angry Video Game Nerd. Plays similarly to Contra. If you’re a fan of AVGN or like tough platformers, give this one a try.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Banana Nababa is nothing but boss fights. Banana Nababa does not adapt to your play style, nor is it different each time you play. No, Banana Nababa instead focuses solely on giving you a handful of exceptionally difficult boss fights.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

In Cave Story, you play as a amnesiac character who wakes up in a cave with no memory of who or what they are. You soon realize that you’re in a gigantic cave network which also happens to be inhabited by bunny people who come to rely on you to save the day.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Hard Hat: The Rebellion has the player control a met turned good on a quest to defeat Doctor Wily on his eight robot masters. Gameplay and overall game design is inspired by Mega Man 2.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Jump ‘n Bump has no modes of play and is essentially just deathmatch for four people. Players hop around the arena(s) in an effort to land on top of one another, which results in one point and a bloody death. I believe that the first bunny to 99 points wins.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Take the old Metroid games and let an amateur game maker have his way with them and the result is Knytt Stories. Made alone from the ground up by a guy who calls himself Nifflas, Knytt Stories is evidence that indie freeware games are alive and well, and also incredibly fun to boot. Also includes a level editor!


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Mario Forever is perhaps the greatest Mario fangame ever. Jam packed with dozens of difficult levels, this one is a true test to the patience of even the most hardcore Mario fans such as myself.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Imagine capture the flag but with jet packs and guns. Soldat takes the most beloved weapons and game modes from such games as Counter-Strike and Quake, and then rolls them up together to form a very competent and very fun game.


Indie Showcase | Download Link

Warning Forever is a very interesting game, as it likes to learn from you. There is no actual artificial intelligence here, but the game makes an effort to learn how you play and responds by countering your tactics. That’s right, in Warning Forever the enemies are quite literally the Borg. They adapt to you.

Audiosurf (Review)

“An entertaining rhythm game that makes you appreciate your music library in a whole new way.”

Audiosurf is an interesting game to review, mostly because essentially determine what your gameplay experience will be like. I’ve played Audiosurf for a few years now, and I think that it’s about time that I review it.

Audiosurf was released in near the start of 2008 on the Steam platform and was a colossal hit, inspiring many rip-offs over the following two years. Audiosurf was such an appealing game for indie developers to mimic because it was the first popular mainstream game that introduced gameplay which changed based upon the beat and tempo of the user-selected music tracks.

In Audiosurf, players control a small space ship that is confined to a course littered with coloured tiles. The goal is usually to pick up and match coloured tiles much like in puzzle games such as Puzzle Fighter. Matching coloured tiles would eliminate all adjacent tiles of the same colour that the player has queued up.

The arrangement of the coloured tiles, as well as the speed at which the player’s ship travels, is determined entirely by the music that the player selects. Audiosurf was among the first games that allowed our own personal MP3 libraries to affect gameplay, and I maintain that it is still the best game at incorporating this sort of feature. If you select a gentle or slow song, then the gameplay experience will reflect that as the player’s ship traverses rather slowly, making it easier for them to collect the appropriate tiles and avoid obstacles. However, if the player chooses a fast song (generally anything classified as “metal” works), they will find their ship to be speeding along rather quickly, and obstacles will come fast and often.

The objective is to amass the highest score possible with whatever song the player has chosen. There are many different ranges that the player’s score can fall under due to the number of game modes present in Audiosurf. In one mode called “ninja”, players do not collect tiles and must instead avoid them entirely. Picking up one of grey tile will immediately hurt the player’s score. Clear runs are essentially the goal of the ninja game mode. Other modes let you control two ships, shuffle the order of your tiles, and more. There are quite a few different ways to play Audiosurf thanks to the impressive number of game modes and difficulties, so there’s something for everyone.

It is hard to comment on the sound in Audiosurf since the majority of what you hear in the game will be music tracks that you manually select from your own MP3s. The game does have it’s own subdued techno-ish music tracks on the menus however, but they’re not very inspired and are actually a little bit on the dull and boring side. Sound effects aren’t much more impressive, but they can be easily modded and replaced with whatever you desire. Overall, the game’s own default sounds leave a lot to be desired, but it’s fairly easy to forgive Audiosurf for this since the game revolves around your own tunes.

The graphics in Audiosurf are pretty neat for a budget game. The graphics themselves aren’t very special at all, but the way in which the game presents them certainly is. As you speed along your Tron-like circuit in your little space ship collecting coloured tiles, you will see pretty nice explosions of colours in the background, as well as effects that look like they came right out of a Windows Media Player visualization. The game is quite pretty with all the colours on the screen at once. It’s sort of trippy, and I dare anyone who feels glum to play this game and say that they don’t feel any better afterwards. Audiosurf’s visual displays are quite nice to look at, and I would certainly classify them as extreme eye-candy.

In terms of replayability, there’s quite a substantial amount. Every single song plays in it’s own unique way, and given how many songs exist and are available to anyone with an internet connection, it’s not hard to see how the different circuit layouts are essentially infinite. Scores from the stages are also recorded and uploaded to Audiosurf’s servers, so there is a bit of a competitive side to the game. Have a favourite song that you play in Audiosurf? Well, you may find yourself feeling a little devoted to at least getting a top ten score for the song. Mainstream artists and bands have songs that have been played by thousands of people in Audiosurf, so breaking the top ten on some songs is actually quite an achievement.

Audiosurf is, overall, a very interesting experience. It’s a bit of a rhythm/puzzle game, though you could almost classify it as an action or platformer game considering how some of the game modes play. It’s a fun game that almost anybody could enjoy with the right music, and there’s plenty of replayability if you have a decent sized library of songs on your computer. The game is fairly cheap on Steam, roughly only $10 or so. For about 20% of the price of a commercial game, you really cannot go wrong here.

Final Score

8.5/10