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vaudy
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PostSubject: Game Demos!   Tue Jul 14, 2009 3:24 pm

Okay, so I thought I'd create a space for reviewing demos, for when I'm either not going to play the full game, or am waiting until I have more fundage to afford it. WaveformDelta, if you happen to purchase and play any of these games, feel free to create an independent review thread for the full game if you are inclined to do so. I was thinking along the lines of specifically commercial game demos, rather than demos for WIPs that may not even be completed and are probably going to be freeware. But if you think it makes sense to include all demos here, that's okay, too.

If you come across and play any demos I haven't seen, feel free to add those, too.


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PostSubject: Deadly Sin   Tue Jul 14, 2009 4:00 pm

Title: Deadly Sin
Website: http://www.deadlysinstudios.com/
Game engine: I'm not sure. Either XP or VX, but uses graphic resources from both.
Demo type: Time based

The "spiritual successor" of an RM2k3 game called "Legacies of Dondoran," which I have not played (but probably will soon, now that I know about it). You play as the "missing princess" and true heir of Dondoran, who must overthrow the evil regime in power.

Original features: A "threat" system in battle, which determines how likely your characters are to be targeted by enemies, skill trees that allow you to invest points in the skills you want your PCs to learn, and monster nodes, which turn off monsters on a current map.

Comments:
Original sprites, which seem to be a combination of regular XP style sprites and half-Kaizers (like Ethereal Dreams, so a little taller). I'm not entirely certain; at any rate, the protagonist's sprite has an XP styled head, but the body style is slightly different. Generic NPCs are XP RTP. Original, animated battlers. Classic console video game style, and quite well done. Facesets aren't as nice as the promotional art, which is disappointing, but decent, nonetheless. Original music, which is quite good.

I played through the demo twice. Very Happy Once with the old computer, and once with the new. On the old computer, there was a horrible, horrible lag. To give you an idea, I probably got through about a third more game content (at least) when I played through on the new 'puter than the on first run-through. The takeaway for us, I think, is to make sure we design a game that still runs reasonably well on an older machine (because a certain number of casual gamers probably have older machines like I did), which is totally possible, seeing as I played many an RPG Maker game on my old 'puter with no problems (I'm not sure how we'll test that, though, seeing as I probably won't be keeping the old machine).

Anyway! This game gets right into the action. Just a short cut scene to start off, no backstory (some of that is revealed later). And you get right into exploring. The initial wooded area you walk is pretty straightforward with easy battles, which I think works in a demo, because you don't want to be too bogged down with exploring right off the bat; you do need to get the next part of the story, so the player has a reason to want to keep going. After the woods, you have a short cutscene, which reveals a bit more backstory, gives you a new character, and sets you off in your first dungeon--a mausoleum.

The first dungeon is really well done, I think, complete with secret passages that you have to find your way through to get some extra loot. But it's just extensive enough to feel like you're really exploring (the path isn't just laid out for you), with a minor puzzle to move on, without being too overwhelming for the beginning of a game. There's also a boss battle that you must get through before getting to your first major destination: a city. Once in the city and find the person you need to talk to, you trigger a cutscene that provides the main story hook.

Story-wise, I think it's an interesting set-up; there were a few wobbles in the character interaction, but overall, good, believable dialogue, not a lot of grammatical errors.

I gotta admit, when I first played the demo, I did sort of want to continue, because the game just seemed really well put together (except for the lag), but I hadn't gotten through enough of the story to get to the big hook, so I wasn't that invested in it. The second time, when I got far enough for that big cutscene and a little beyond, then I really wanted to keep playing.

Will I buy this game?
I may have to wait until the new school year, when I'm subbing again, but almost assuredly.


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PostSubject: Science Girls   Tue Jul 14, 2009 5:05 pm

Title: Science Girls
Website: http://www.hanakogames.com/
Game engine: No idea. Not RPG Maker
Demo type: Level based!!

You're the president of the School Science Club. While you're waiting after school for your friends to show up for your meeting, strange creatures start attacking the school.

Comments: This is very different in game play from an RPG Maker game. It has a similar turn-based battle style, but there's no exploring, at least, not like in a traditional console-style RPG. You move around on a grid, enter new rooms, and sometimes you get attacked when you enter a room. Once in a while there's some dialogue, complete with the occasional science question. But not a very heavily story-based game, or at least, not that comes out in the demo. The story is more of a loose skeleton to hang the gameplay onto, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It really depends on what you're looking for in an RPG.

It's cute, and will appeal more to girls than boys, I think (unless they're really into Japanese schoolgirls). Art and spritework are anime style, even more so than usual for indie RPGs. The graphics are middling to good; the sprites are pretty good for an indie RPG, and almost certainly original, since I don't think this was made on any DIY system like RMXP. The school map is really just a basic grid to navigate through, and the classrooms are just static background images. The angled perspective on the battle screen is interesting, and the battle sprites are nicely animated, but there's no battle background to speak of. The art is good and looks professional. Music is appropriate for the game. Overall, it's pretty polished.

I wish I knew how the level-based demo was done. There are several spots where you will see a "buy game" button to click on, which opens your browser to the game's purchase page. You can save in the demo, but I don't know if, when you download the full game, it simply installs over the demo version and allows you to continue from an existing save, or if you must start from scratch (it does not, that I noticed, offer a save option when it comes to the "end of demo, please buy me!" page). I don't like the idea of having to start over when purchasing the game.

Will I buy this game?
Eh, it's only $10, so I might if I had a little extra cash to play with, but to be honest, the story isn't that compelling, and the gameplay isn't really what I'm into. The only thing that really motivates me right now to play the full game is to see how the transfer from demo to full game is handled.


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PostSubject: Dark Souls   Tue Jul 14, 2009 7:26 pm

Title: Dark Souls
Website: http://www.warfarestudios.com/
Game engine: XP
Demo type: time based

A jaded mercenary, dogged by the law, is contracted by a powerful church to protect a young priestess and deliver her to an important temple.

Special features: None

Comments:
I'm gonna go ahead and say it: I'd rather play a game using RTP-standard character graphics and generic faces made on FaceMaker, or no facesets at all, than bad original work. In fact, I almost didn't play this demo because the screenshots were so terrible, but I figured it wouldn't cost me more than an hour of my time (plus whatever it takes to do this write up). Most of these graphics here are awful. The sprites are completely original (even the NPCs, for a change), probably pixel-by-pixel hand work, but they are ugly. I guess you get credit for trying? The facesets are, if possible, even worse: tiny, blurry, not very detailed. The promo art isn't too bad, but it isn't too good, either. However, the character art that appears in the profile menu is pretty decent, and the animated battle sprites are actually quite good. Enemy art is middling good, though both battlers and enemies look odd against the RTP battlebacks. They don't match in style. Music is all RTP, and not necessarily used well, but could be worse.

The story shows promise, but is not executed very well, at least in the early stages you get to see in the demo. The protagonist is an anti-hero, and from the moment the next two characters join the party (the priestess and her mentor/protector), there is character conflict. The protagonist doesn't really want to do the job, and the mentor doesn't want him there. The protagonist is also ideologically against the church, so there is an interesting conflict there.

However, the beginning of the game seems very rushed (and not just because I was trying to go through it quickly because of the demo time), and the dialogue is stilted and awkward. The text is rife with grammatical and spelling errors (I don't mind a few, and no one's perfect, but this is like, nearly every piece of text that comes up on the screen, seriously). I think the game developer is probably not a native English speaker, from the nature of some of the errors, and would have done well to recruit a native speaker to proofread. The early plot events don't feel very organic; they feel like they're happening because they're supposed to.

The initial adventuring areas are very short, and you get to your next destination way faster than you expect you should, but the first "dungeon" is expansive and easy to get lost in. Fine later in the game or in a free game, but not so good in a time-based demo. Gameplay is fine, and relatively balanced (skewed toward challenging), but nothing special. Menus are, perhaps, even more basic than the standard, and there aren't any special features to set it apart from other games.

Overall, this game simply isn't polished and doesn't look professional compared to most of the other commercial RMXP efforts out there.

Will I buy this game?
If this were a freeware or donationware game, I'd probably play a little further to see if it improved. If it were priced a lot lower, I'd consider picking it up as a gesture of support for indie game developers. But no, it's not worth $20. You can't put it next to another RMXP or RMVX game, especially some of the recent ones, and say it's the same quality. You simply can't tell me that this game holds the same value as, say, Deadly Sin, which is very polished and includes some pretty sophisticated features (and costs $5 less!). Sure, I've played worse games, but I didn't pay for them.

Just for some balance, I'll go ahead and link to a couple of generally favorable reviews. WaveformDelta, you may notice a note about music in one of them that speaks to one of our recent discussions.

http://www.gametunnel.com/dark-souls-game-review.php
http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/Dark_Souls/index.html
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PostSubject: Eternal Eden   Sun Jul 19, 2009 2:04 pm

Title: Eternal Eden
Website: http://www.blossomsoft.com/
Game Engine: VX
Demo Type: Time-based

Two young boys commit a sin that threatens their idyllic existence, and they must venture out (joined by an annoying hanger-on) to save their world.

Special Features: A special treasure chamber where rewards appear once you've cleared a dungeon of all enemies.

Comments: I've not played enough VX games to know whether the tilesets are RTP, original, or a combination. I think it's mainly RTP, as I did notice some tileset elements that are definitely RTP, as they are very similar to XP's RTP, and I've seen them used in some XP games that combine graphics. Also, from the couple of VX games I've tried, its tilesets have a blockier look to them than XP, and these have that same look. Anyway, it's a fresh look, and a nice change of pace, even though I prefer XP's RTP.

The sprites are wholly original; they seem to follow the general VX proportions, i.e., small body, big head, but they are not based on the chubby chibis (see what I did there?) in VX's RTP. And they are very nicely done, very reminiscent of SNES. The facesets also seem to be original art, though one of the NPCs seemed to have an RTP face graphic, but it was just an NPC; it was stranger that the character had a face graphic at all, since none of the other minor NPCs had face graphics. The only real complaint I have regarding sprites and facesets is that the the sprites and face graphics for each major character didn't seem to match up completely. I mean, if you're going to take the time to do original work (or have it done), you should try to get a high degree of matching, right?

I don't know about music; again, haven't played enough to be familiar with the RTP music, and the game's website doesn't mention original music. But the music does seem to be used pretty well. Actually, I don't remember the music very well, which is good and bad. Good, because that means it was unobtrusive and generally enhanced the environment, and bad, because clearly, it didn't wow me.

The story set-up is okay; there's not a lot of backstory, and what you do get is mostly from short comments by NPCs, but with the whole "Eden" set-up, it doesn't seem like there's much backstory to reveal. There are blatant Judeo-Christian overtones (even more so than Dark Souls had), which make me a little concerned that the story as a whole is going to be heavy-handed and preachy. The IIC comes about halfway through the demo, so you get to explore the starting town a bit, have a few interesting character interactions (there are few real cutscenes, and they are short) get to the story hook, and then head straight to the first dungeon. I barely finished the dungeon before the demo ended. The dungeon difficulty was just about right for the beginning of the game, but I would have like it to be a bit shorter. That may only be because I knew time was running out, and I would have like just a glimpse of what came next.

Most of your items are found, and unlike most games, which put everything in treasure maps or put an icon on the map where there's something to pick up, common items (primarily healing items) on the map in this game are "hidden." They're primarily located in corners, and there's a little character animation to show when there's something to pick up (more important items, like equipment, are in chests). While this is a little different, and I appreciate that, it did seem like a bit of a time-waster for the demo. I was searching every corner of a room when I could have been moving the story along (and you can't simply purchase any healing items until well into the dungeon, so if you don't waste time searching for them, you'll waste time later dying in the battle). I can see it get aggravating real quick when playing the whole game. I quite like the treasure chamber idea, though.

Will I buy this game?
Probably, eventually. I didn't blow me away, but it seems pretty well put-together and polished, the gameplay is balanced and enjoyable (so far), and the original graphics are nice.
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