Escape from Naraka 2

August Review Round-Up: Escape from Naraka, Green Phoenix, Rustler And More

Here’s our monthly bite-sized reviews on some good ol’ indies to round up the month of August. Take a look at these:

Escape from Naraka

Acrobatic fun

One of the most striking features in the first-person platformer, Escape from Naraka, is that your enemies can’t be killed–at least not through conventional methods, such as by shooting a barrage of ice missiles against them and hoping they’ll congeal and break. This makes sense; after all, these are Balinese gods, demons and mythical creatures you’re up against as you traverse through a  temple–like one who resembles the elephant-headed god Ganesha, who will be standing guard at specific entrances. Instead, getting past them requires some quick wits and acrobatic prowess, as you’ll need to time your attacks to stun them–all while traipsing across floating platforms and crumbling structures. Escape from Naraka takes the best–and unfortunately, some flaws–of classic platformers; making precise leaps can be challenging when you can’t see your feet. At the same time, it also injects some of the studio’s own culture and twists into the environments, letting you immerse in a Southeast Asian-inspired universe that’s as mystical as it’s alluring.

[Reviewed on PC]



Green Phoenix

Not much humanity or spirit left

Green Phoenix is an on-rails arcade shooter that seeks to examine grandiose concepts like freedom and the price of humanity. The truth is, however, that the game is just an extensive monologue by the spaceship’s robotic-sounding AI, as it recalls its pilot’s history of debt and slavery, as they’re held captive by unscrupulous megacorporations. Even so, this context feels alarmingly separate from the rest of the game, as you’re simply steering a spaceship through floating debris and sniping at asteroids and flying turrets. The worlds you’re coasting through aren’t particularly imaginative too, and look like they’re simply plucked from the discarded remnants of sci-fi worlds. What’s left, then, is Green Phoenix’s immediate and otherwise most compelling feature: its arcade shooter elements. Even so, that’s still devoid of much pizzazz or spunk. In an attempt to elevate itself beyond just an action-based shooter, Green Phoenix has unfortunately become more humdrum than invigorating.

[Reviewed on PC]



Metal Dogs (Early Access)

Get metal geared up

Metal Dogs has an adorable premise: you play as a shiba inu named Pochi, and is strapped with an assortment of military-grade weaponry to cause wanton destruction amidst a post-apocalyptic universe. Putting aside the perfunctory backstory about humanity going AWOL, you begin by heading to different maps and blasting the bejeezus out of every ridiculous moving thing there: giant ants, heavily armored tanks, robot hippopotamuses outfitted with canons, and more. 

The game is a mix of top-down shooting and bullet-hell as you sought to avoid pellets of destruction and massive rocket launchers aimed towards you; after all, not getting your cute pooch killed as he prances around the battlefield should be a huge incentive in itself. There are also a variety of weapons to collect, even though  the arsenal can be limited, as well as opportunities to tinker and upgrade your guns at a weapons workshop. While Metal Dogs isn’t all that revolutionary, it’s endlessly charming and delightful thanks to its indefatigable canine protagonist–and yes, that includes the two other doggo friends you can recruit during your journey–as well as its frankly exhilarating battles. 

[Reviewed on PC]




Grand Theft Horse

Rustler isn’t shy about its homage to the classic Grand Theft Auto games, as it puts on its persona as a goofy, medieval Grand Theft Auto imitator with unabashed glee. You play as a nondescript dude named Guy, a ne’er do well who spends his days picking fights, stealing horses for gold, launching cows onto rooftops, and a plethora of get-rich schemes. In short, it’s a sandbox of open-ended missions you can choose to partake in. If you’re bored, however, you can also go rogue and do whatever the hell you want, like go on a murderous spree for the local gravekeeper, who is into collecting dead bodies. There’s even an in-game radio, too; you can also hire a bard to follow you around and sing some medieval tunes.

Want to switch channels though? Just punch the bard in the face to get him to play a different melody. And that’s the gist of Rustler’s low-brow humour; there’s even a dedicated fart and burp key you can press, and its jokes can be good for a few chuckles. For instance, the sight of knights chasing after you on horseback, while wearing flashing red and blue emergency lights, never ceases to amuse me. That said, its jokes do wear thin after a while. It’s also a fitting analogy for Rustler: good for a few hours of light-hearted fun, but ultimately not that memorable.

[Reviewed on PC]



Toodee and Topdee

Topsy turvy perspectives

Puzzle games usually have to tread a precarious tightrope between delivering brain teasers of a sizable challenge, versus frustrating players with overly difficult puzzles that would leave them feeling too inadequate to continue. Toodee and Topdee manages to traverse that rope with ease, as well as with ample smarts to boot–all by melding together two disparate perspectives, from two protagonists who see their universe in contrasting ways.

The trick, therefore, is to bend these puzzles to their advantage. You play as both Toodee and Topdee; Toodee perceives their world in 2D, whereas Topdee does so in 3D. Solving these puzzles means having to alternate between them, with Topdee occasionally nudging platforms and boxes towards Toodee from within their own plane. Along with having to perform some well-timed maneuvers, this also makes for several terribly clever puzzles, which also makes me feel very clever at times.

[Reviewed on PC]