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Indie Review Roundup 01: In darkness, there is strength

Published: 22:26, 02 March 2020
Updated: 22:57, 02 March 2020
Paintbucket Games
Characters gather in Through The Darkest Of Times
Ahhhhhh seeeeee. There's a resistance brewing seeeeee.

In our first indie review roundup, we cover numerous titles, including a dive into the heavy, oppressive world of Through The Darkest of Times, indulge in rampant absurdity with Table Manners, and choose our own adventure in Deathtrap Dungeon.

Necronator: Dead Wrong

Developer Toge Productions have unleashed the early access version of Necronator: Dead Wrong, a quirky strategic mashup featuring card battle style mechanics and a tongue in cheek approach to combat. At this initial stage, the game is still very rough around the edges, and a few aspects (including UI elements) seem like placeholders for future polish. But there's definitely something here, with nice animation and a technicolor aesthetic that breathes life into a genre that has seen quite a resurgence in recent years.

One thing worth noting is plans for extensive support going forward, with an early access roadmap laying out future additions, including new modes, boss types, and tweaks to weather and environmental effects. Although they have a long way to go, this is definitely one to keep an eye on.

5/10

Toge Productions Making your next move in Necronator: Dead Wrong Lemmings just went HARDCORE.

Bookbound Brigade

With its booming voice over narration, effortlessly endearing character design, and tight platforming, Bookbound Brigade has a fair amount going for it. It's by no means a perfect effort; combat is an extremely basic, button mash affair, and mechanically speaking the 2D level design tends to play it safe. But your motley crew of famous literary figures, ranging from Dracula to Robin Hood, help maintain a certain breezy tone that keeps things moving along at a pleasant speed. 

This was clearly a passion project for developer Digital Tales, with a hand drawn art style that evokes memories of Ubisoft's seminal Rayman reboots, and hopefully a sign of good things in their future.

7/10

Jumping over obstacles in Bookbound Brigade. Got a case of nasty woodland spikes? Send in the brigade!

Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure

Anything that attracts the intense performance of one Eddie Marsan is enough to pique our interest. Deathtrap Dungeon is a fairly simple "choose your own adventure" effort, with a large number of alternative narrative paths and sporadic dice roll mechanics that keep the story on its toes. The production value is rudimentary, with an intimate but basic set and extremely simple UI. There are moments where developer Branching Narrative's ambition didn't always translate to the finish product, with intermittent stuttering during scene transitions.

Still, Eddie Marsan's delivery is that of a seasoned pro, and he brings a level of gravitas to an unashamedly silly romp. Still, games like this are few and far between these days, and Branching Narrative should be commended for their effort.

6/10

Branching Narrative Ltd. Eddie Marsan in Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure I'm not sure why, but... I think he knows more than you think. Must be the dramatic lighting...

Through The Darkest of Times

A thoughtful and somber experience, developer Paintbucket Games haven't shied away from tackling difficult moral quandaries and the harsh reality of war. Through The Darkest of Times isn't mechanically complicated, being part text adventure, part turn based strategy, but the art direction is absolutely fantastic, and the writing is great. There's a lovely set of character customisation options,  and a story that, although very deliberately paced and may progress too slowly for some players, is absolutely worth seeing through.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the game, and remain intrigued by future titles from this emerging indie team.

8/10

Paintbucket Games A cutscene from Through The Darkest Of Times That's some fierce eye contact.

Table Manners

If utterly bonkers physics simulation and slapstick humour are your jam, then look no further than Table Manners, a witty and completely ridiculous dating simulator (of sorts) that sees you attempting to impress your date with skilful manipulation of cutlery. This game knows exactly what it is, and doubles down on its premise by taking the silliness of Surgeon Simulator out of the hospital and into the restaurant. The controls do take some serious getting used to, and that high learning curve will likely frustrate some players.

Still, there's something to be said for a lighter, "wink at the audience" gameplay loop, and there are genuine moments of hilarity to be had. It's a fairly small offering, and it might only be good for a couple of hours. But you're guaranteed to have a good time. 

7/10

Echo Chamber Games Pouring a drink in Table Manners. Insert inappropriate joke here.

Review code for each title was provided by the relevant publisher.

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