The Indie Shelf: Terraria

Hello everybody! On this week’s addition of “The Indie Shelf” we have the xbla game turned app, Terraria.

TERRARIA

Developer(s) Re-Logic
Engine Software(consoles)
Codeglue (mobile)
Publisher(s) Re-Logic
505 Games
Spike Chunsoft (Japan)
Programmer(s) Andrew “Redigit” Spinks
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Xbox Live Arcade
Windows Phone
Android
iOS
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
May 16, 2011
Xbox Live Arcade
March 27, 2013IOS
August 29, 2013
Android
September 13, 2013
Windows Phone
TBA
Genre(s) Action-adventure

“You feel an evil presence watching you.” The warning message flashes on the bottom of the screen while you’re busy chopping down trees in the forest. Night has fallen over the land of Terraria, a time for evil monsters to wake from their daylight slumber and assert their dominance. You need shelter if you’re going to survive their deadly onslaught, but your time has run out. “The Eye of Cthulhu has awoken!” A roar from the darkness sends a chill down your spine. You equip your sword, ready your healing potions, and dig in for a fierce battle while a full moon gazes down. This colorful 2D adventure keeps you on guard by sending demons and monsters to kill you when you least expect it. You’re never safe in Terraria. Surprises abound, both nefarious and empowering. In the dead of night, you may find your home invaded by a goblin army. But on the next night, you may find a treasure chest rich with helpful items. Terraria is a deeply rewarding adventure that continually urges you onward to see what lies ahead.

This aspect of Terraria is dizzying. You can spend days and days plugging away here, exploring the map in a series of discrete lunges into the unknown – each ending with your hilarious death and respawn back in a safe zone – and you’ll still be seeing new stuff by your 20th, your 30th, your 50th hour. You can spend days digging down into the ground scavenging ore and crystal hearts and accidentally tipping yourself into pools of lava. You can spend days plodding across sandscapes or building staircases up into the sky, or simply refining your home base until you’ve added vanity battlements and encouraged a handy range of NPCs to move in. You can spend days crafting every kind of armour and weapon from the resources you almost died collecting. You can chisel through the endless darkness of the game’s bedrock for whole afternoons and feel like the loneliest person who ever lived, or you can cheer yourself up with a miner’s lamp and a pet to keep you company.

Terraria’s console version will even hold a few surprises for any PC veterans washing up on its shores. The worlds are still huge and riddled with randomised possibility, and you can still explore them with friends, but there’s now four-player split-screen supported alongside eight-player online. There’s a handy opening tutorial, too, which does its best to at least show newbies how to build their first house, even if it struggles to prepare anyone for the fiendish depths that await after its construction.

And there are new pad-based controls, which offer both an automatic targeting system for your axe, your hammer, or your weapon of choice, as well as a manual option for moments when you’re engaged in fiddly stuff. You can switch between the two modes at the click of a thumbstick, and they’re both useful in their own ways. Automatic digging targets blocks fairly intelligently and is great for just pointing the right stick in a set direction and then chewing through the ground with relative ease, while manual digging works best when you’re trying to build things or gather specific pockets of ore. At times, the game can feel a bit like a twin-stick shooter on consoles, and while the setup isn’t quite as elegant as the mouse-and-keyboard approach, it’s still intelligently designed and surprisingly clear-headed.

When hosting, the game runs well enough, but when joining somebody else’s game, the lag can be debilitating. While lag doesn’t matter much during the slower portions, it can be infuriatingly unplayable during tense combat sequences. Worse yet, if you travel quickly enough in a friend’s world, the terrain will not load in time, causing you to fall all the way to the bottom of the map with nothing to stop you.

In addition to online play, the port also allows up to four-player split screen multiplayer, but it has its own problems too. Even with only two players, Terraria suffers from significant drops in framerate at times. Aside from that, the interface works surprisingly well using only a fraction of the screen real estate, but due to the slowdown, local multiplayer can still be a pain for combat or tricky platforming sections.

Regardless of how you approach things, though, the basic rhythm of this astonishing piece of work remains the same. For your first few hours, Terraria will seem like a bewildering – occasionally terrifying – strain of chore. Put in the effort, though, and it eventually reveals its true nature. This isn’t a game or even a toy. At heart, it’s a vocation.

PROS:

  • Expansive world.
  • Crafting system.
  • Controls.

CONS:

  • Lag.
  • Drops in framerate while playing multiplayer.
  • Beginning of game feels like a chore.

SCORE: 7.2 / 10

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The Indie Shelf: The Stanley Parable

Hello everybody! On this week’s Indie Shelf, we have a video game narration game called The Stanley Parable.

THE STANLEY PARABLE

Developer(s) Davey Wreden (mod)
Galactic Cafe (Davey Wreden and William Pugh) (remake)
Composer(s) Blake Robinson
Yiannis loannides
Christiaan Bakker
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s) Modification

  • WW July 27, 2011

Windows

  • WW October 17, 2013

OS X

  • WW December 19, 2013
Genre(s) Interactive fiction

An omnipotent narrator tries to tell a story about Stanley, a silent office worker who one day discovers that everyone but him has disappeared from the office building. If Stanley tries to disobey the narrator, interesting things happen. You will follow a story, you will not follow a story. You will have a choice, you will have no choice. The game will end, the game will never end. Contradiction follows contradiction, the rules of how games should work are broken, then broken again. This world was not made for you to understand. The Stanley Parable is an interesting animal in the gaming zoo. Billed as a “first-person exploration game,” it is honestly much, much more than that. Originally created as a fan modification (mod in gaming parlance) for the popular game Half-Life 2, it was recently given its own HD stand-alone release for Windows PCs. At its core, the game is an existential experience for both the player and Stanley, the game’s pseudo protagonist (but we’ll get to that). The game is also an examination, albeit a humorous one, of choice and free will in video games.

It is difficult to convey The Stanley Parable’s various messages and idiosyncrasies without spoiling its surprises, of which there are many. Behind the snarky narrator and the clever writing is an open-eyed examination of current video game narratives and their flaws. It’s Monty Python meets Call of Duty. When the narrator scolds you for not going in the direction of “his” story, the developers are taking a jab at modern games that, despite a glossy sheen of graphics, voice acting and the illusion of choice, are still basically on rails.

Take one of the biggest hits of this year, Bioshock Infinite. It was highly praised for its story and narrative direction. But in the end, it was a very lead-you-by-the-hand adventure. There were no alternative paths, no choices that really led to a different outcome. This was also the case for The Last of Us, another critically acclaimed game. They were great games and I enjoyed both. But they were very linear in design, and this is what The Stanley Parable takes issue with.

The Stanley Parable even calls into question the “winnable” nature of video games as the natural ending state. Why must stories, which is what non-sports video games are now, be won? Are books always won? Are movies always won? Is the experience of looking at a piece of artwork ever won?

OK, so you don’t really win. But The Stanley Parable is a game worth playing, especially if you are someone interested in game design and narrative storytelling experiments. Just be prepared for something completely different, which in an era of often cookie-cutter shooters and survival horror tropes is a welcome change.

PROS:

  •  Analysis of “winnable” nature of videogames.
  • Non-linear narrative.
  • Secretive and clever narrator.

CONS:

  • Style can easily turn off most players.
  • Some endings are less subtle and stupider than others.

SCORE: 7.2 / 10

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The Indie Shelf: Stairs

Hello everybody! On this week’s Indie Shelf, we have a independent horror game called Stairs.

STAIRS

Developer: GreyLight
Genre: Adventure
Status: In Development

In Stairs, you play Peter Johnson, a journalist investigating the paranormal activity taking place in an abandoned factory. Equipped with a torch, you must wander the factory and try to unravel the mystery it contains. With its tense atmosphere, a soundtrack designed to make you jump and its dark and gloomy atmosphere, Stairs just might give you a scare!

The gameplay is straightforward too. There are no outside gimmicks detracting the player from the demo’s primary intention, which is to uncover the mystery behind the “ghost sightings”.  The storyline runs smoothly and the puzzles are weighted enough to tickle the mind to think, but not too much where it sidetracks the player and becomes a nuisance.

“The idea was to create a “flashback” to old-school horror games, as we believe that most horror games of today have become a hybrid of action and shooters. So we wanted to ‘go back’, so to speak, and what we created was Stairs.”

With a team of only 8 people, the game has been in development for a couple of months now, and what started out as a university project has blossomed into a ready-to-play demo—I’m hoping these guys follow through with Stairs despite the fact that they have accomplished their academic requirements with this project.

PROS:

  •  Tense atmosphere.
  • The soundtrack and the voices.

CONS:

  •  Very basic.
  • Game ends after 15-20 minutes.

SCORE: 4.0 / 10

If you have any suggestions for films/TV/Games/Music for me to review, drop me a comment! Remember: Like Media In Review @ https://www.facebook.com/MediaInReview?ref=hl Follow Media in Review @ https://twitter.com/Media_In_Review.