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A Hair-Whipping Legacy: An Interview with ‘Shantae and the Seven Sirens’ Director Matt Bozon

In this wide-ranging interview, Shantae co-creator Matt Bozon talks Shantae and the Seven Sirens and how to keep an iconic series fresh.

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Shantae and the Seven Sirens

Not many independent games have as much of a history as the Shantae series. Long before the indie boom of the late 2000s, WayForward‘s hair-whipping heroine has been an indie icon since her first appearance on the Game Boy in 2002. Now, eighteen years later, that legacy continues with the release of the fifth entry in the franchise, Shantae and the Seven Sirens.

After first releasing episodically on Apple Arcade, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is seeing its full console release next month. Given the heritage behind the series, it’s only fitting that this latest game would release in time for WayForward’s own 30th anniversary. And according to Seven Sirens’ director, it represents something that he has long wanted to achieve with the series.

“I’ve wanted to do a Shantae sunken city game for a while, probably since we finished the Nintendo DSi game [Shantae: Risky’s Revenge],” says Matt Bozon, co-founder of WayForward and co-creator of the Shantae series. “There are many Shantae ideas hidden deep inside sketchbooks waiting for the right time to resurface, and it felt like the right time to dig into that story.”

“Development on Seven Sirens started right on the heels of the surprise freebie “Jammies Mode” for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, around summertime in 2018. There was an exploratory phase where we added 4K tile support and worked out core concepts. Then, once we were up and running, it was about a year and a half of game-dev time.”

“Being game #5, we get to shake things up in an exciting way.”  

The Shantae series effectively has two gameplay styles. The first three games were designed with nonlinear structures that focused on exploration and gaining new abilities, whereas the last release, Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, took a more linear and level-based approach. Now, Seven Sirens goes back to that traditional metroidvania style–so what inspired this return to form?

Bozon clarifies that “We figured there were two sets of players: there were the ones who knew about Shantae since Game Boy, and had probably played all three pixel games. And then there were the newer players who started the series with Half-Genie Hero around 2016. Half-Genie Hero, the fourth game, works very well as a get-to-know-ya game, allowing players to test the waters a bit. So, with all players knowing the Shantae basics, it felt like a good time to return to the action/adventure formula as a foundation and forge new paths the likes of which haven’t been seen since the third game.”

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

This has given the team at WayForward room to expand the series in new directions. “Now, for the very first time, Shantae is in a new land, with a new cast of characters, fighting enemies unlike what players have seen before. Even her transformations and abilities are themed to the new setting. Being game #5, we get to shake things up in an exciting way.”  

With this approach in mind, Shantae and the Seven Sirens features the same core gameplay that fans of the series have come to know and love. “Shantae games use jumping and hair-whipping as the basics. You power up Shantae by beating up monsters and finding treasure–gems–to spend on shop items. This way players can build out a version of Shantae that fits their play style; ranged, melee, defense, etc. On top of that, past games also add Belly Dance Transformations, which grant Shantae entirely new animal or mythological forms like monkey, elephant, mermaid, or harpy.”

This gameplay might sound familiar, but Bozon insists that it’s been developed to new levels that haven’t been seen yet in other Shantae games, along with a handful of entirely new ideas. “This time we added the Monster Card idea, which connects the monsters and locations to Shantae and her various forms and abilities. Players can skip the Monster Card concept entirely if they like. But by beating enemies, performing sidequests, and searching for hidden secrets, players can find cards that boost their abilities. For example, a player who only cares about speed can defeat a water-based enemy to get a card that grants faster swimming. A player who prefers to use fire-style magic can equip a card that lowers fire magic cost, and another that increases fire magic damage at the same time. It’s a fun system that offers a lot of ways to play, and replay, the game.”

As much as the gameplay has won players over, it is perhaps Shantae’s cast of characters that has kept fans coming back across the years. From the belly-dancing, purple-haired Shantae herself, to her undead bestie Rottytops, to the pirate captain antagonist Risky Boots–one need only briefly peruse the endless stream of fan art on social media to see how beloved all these characters are. Seven Sirens doesn’t look to be lacking in this department.

“We love the Shantae characters and universe,” Bozon says, “and adding new friends and enemies to the mix is incredibly fun. In this adventure, Shantae meets other Half-Genies like herself, and learns more about her place in the larger world. The other Half-Genies have completely different styles of magic and offer bonds with the island’s creatures. In time, Shantae will learn to fuse her Dance Magic with the magic of her new friends, and also how to transform instantly (no dancing required) into the creatures of the island. In addition to that, we have the new villains, the Seven Sirens, and the many aquatic creatures at their command. So we had a lot of new characters to design!”

While the core art direction remains similar to previous games, Seven Sirens takes a new stylistic approach to its character portrait art shown during dialogue. A wide variety of inspirations went into creating this new look. “To decide on a new illustration style, we did some exploration with artist KOU from Inti Creates, and compared Shantae’s current look against popular anime. Here in the West we were watching shows like My Hero Academia, Kaguya-sama: Love is War, THIGReincarnated as a Slime, Shield Hero, Konosuba, and Dr. Stone, and some of that influence crept in for sure. I think there is some Keeji MizoguchiI (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai) influence on the eye shapes, if you look closely.”

“Typically I’ll do a first pass at new character designs in rough. Then it goes to either our staff sprite illustrators or over to KOU if it’s a portrait or box-style artwork. They take the rough ideas and make them, you know…look good! Then it’s back for comments, edits, and making sure they fit into the greater Shantae universe. We designed around 100 new characters for Seven Sirens, from enemies to NPCs and bosses!”  

“…every day we spent would be on a fresh new idea, not re-creating the same thing again from scratch.”

Fans following the series might notice a quicker turnaround for the release of Seven Sirens compared to previous games. While Half-Genie Hero was announced on Kickstarter in 2013 before finally releasing in 2016, this fifth game is seeing its full release just over a year after its initial reveal in early 2019. According to Bozon, this is because WayForward was able to build off work they’d done previously this time around.

“We wanted to make a much bigger game this time,” Bozon says. “But we also didn’t want players to have to wait five years between games. So we took a cue from the 2D Castlevanias and Mega Mans of the past, and built on many of the systems and assets we had from before. This way, every day we spent would be on a fresh new idea, not re-creating the same thing again from scratch.”

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

“For example, on the previous game, hand-animating Shantae in 2D (some frame by frame, some using Spine), tuning her mobility and hit boxes, world collision, sound effects and the visual effects took the better part of two years. We still had to re-create her basic mobility and several enemies in 4K, but it took less time overall. As a result, we were able to make a much bigger and more complex game that could ship this year, rather than a likely 2021-2022 timeframe.”

While the gameplay visuals might be reminiscent of Half-Genie Hero, one area of presentation that’s all-new for this entry is the animated cutscenes. For the first time in the series, Seven Sirens boasts anime-styled cutscenes throughout the whole adventure. Most significantly, the game’s intro is created by none other than the legendary creators of Kill la Kill and Promare, Studio TRIGGER.

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

“WayForward had just finished 2D cutscenes for River City Girls,” Bozon says regarding the new animations, “and I was excited to try this approach for Shantae! Studio TRIGGER, who had some exposure to Shantae at TGS in the past, had just finished their work on their first feature film, Promare. We were fortunate enough to fill a gap in their incredibly busy schedule. Shantae creator Erin Bozon (Futurama) worked with Naoko Tsutsumi (Little Witch Academia) to create the incredible opening animation. Working with Studio TRIGGER was a dream come true, and I hope we get to do it again!”

Even if the road to release has seemed relatively quicker than previous games, that doesn’t mean that it’s been entirely without event. Shantae and the Seven Sirens was promised to release at the launch of Apple Arcade last year, but it wasn’t quite finished in time; this is what spurred the initial episodic release of Seven Sirens on that platform. “We had previously committed to be part of the Apple Arcade launch lineup. But when launch day came around, the back half of the adventure was still months away from completion. So we released the game in two parts rather than delay it.”

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

At the same time, this allowed Bozon and the WayForward team to make refinements to the game that might not have been possible otherwise. “While Part 1 was live, we were able to hear from fans and make many improvements to the game. As of right now, the Apple Arcade version has been updated to the full version, and the Part 1 and Part 2 distinction is no longer a thing. So, our apologies if that got confusing for a while! You can play the game today using the free Apple Arcade trial, or if you’re waiting for the console version, May 28th is coming up fast!”

Beyond that, development has been relatively smooth. This is the widest assortment of platforms that a Shantae game has released on at once, so optimizing the game to work equally well across a plethora of different formats and devices was a challenge. “It was pretty smooth. But I will say that getting a 16:9, 4K console game to fit into the various screen ratios of iOS was a challenge. Our engine team added the ability to adjust the screen ratio in real time, and the designers added or trimmed based on whichever simulated screen and level of horsepower the game was running on. The end result is beautiful, with full resolutions on iPad Pro (with Xbox or DualShock controller support), 16:9 on PS4 Pro running at 4K, and HD on Nintendo Switch–all at silky-smooth framerates!”

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

“After 30 years, we need a nap!”

In 2020, WayForward is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It might be easy to see Seven Sirens as a grand celebration in honor of this event, but for Bozon, it’s only the latest release in a hectic anniversary year. “I guess it shows how busy we are!” Bozon says. “2019 was insane with original titles that are still releasing from WayForward. We had River City Girls, Mighty Switch Force! Collection, Vitamin Connection, Spidersaurs, Cat Girl Without Salad: Amuse-Bouche, and now Shantae and the Seven Sirens – all original games in development at the same time.” As packed as this lineup is, Bozon nonetheless teases that “we haven’t even revealed everything yet! After 30 years, we need a nap!”

With such a legacy behind it, Shantae and the Seven Sirens is ready to make its big debut at last and continue WayForward’s push towards creating innovative games. From lovable characters to rock-solid gameplay, Shantae has already won fans over from around the world, and Seven Sirens looks to incorporate all the charm and polish that has made the series great over the years while adding ambitious ideas of its own.

“I hope all of you will enjoy Shantae and the Seven Sirens on console (May 28th) or Apple Arcade (right now)! And thank you for your patience and understanding while we put the final touches on the game. You can be sure everyone over here will be watching Twitch and YouTube, reading your comments, and waiting eagerly to hear from you! Stay safe and healthy!”

Campbell divides his time between editing Goomba Stomp’s indie games coverage and obsessing over dusty old English literature. Drawn to storytelling from a young age, there are few things he loves as much as interviewing indie developers and sharing their stories.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tim

    April 20, 2020 at 11:22 am

    So why the heck wasn’t he asked about this game’s lack of full voice acting and amiibo support for the Switch version? Seriously this is about as standard and preconceived of an interview as you can possibly get. Creativity 0 across the board. What a joke. One that’s not even funny either.

  2. Tim

    April 20, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    So why the heck wasn’t he asked about this game’s lack of full voice acting and amiibo support for the Switch version? I was hoping that the questions asked in this “interview” would be a little more creative cause right now it feels more like a giant ad then a real interview.

    • Campbell Gill

      April 20, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks for reading! I’m sorry I didn’t ask the exact questions you wanted, but when I interview game developers, my approach is to provide insight into the process that goes behind making their games. So that’s why my questions focused on the game’s mechanics, art, development, and release structure.

    • Jack

      April 20, 2020 at 8:36 pm

      Dude chill. NINTENDO doesn’t do amiibo support on most games anymore. And voice acting costs MONEY. Wayforward is a small indie developer, those funds will be better spent on other more important areas of development like art, level design, programming etc. Typical entitled moron on the internet who knows nothing about game development.

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Game Reviews

‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ Defines Three Incredible Generations

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently has to offer.

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Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Platformer, Action | Platforms: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch


After nearly half a year of rumors, it was no surprise that Nintendo was going to jump up super high with another compilation title on their red plumber’s next special numbered anniversary. It’s absolutely undeniable to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently have to offer. However, there are still a few pesky problems that persist through its leaking warp pipes. Nonetheless, what you are getting here is three updated masterclass retro classics that I probably don’t have to sell you on.

Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy are not only some of the most critically acclaimed titles on their respective systems, but they’re also among the most influential games ever made. Having all these platformers on one modern console handheld hybrid system sounds certainly promising, but how do they hold up in comparison to other games out on the market today? Is this really the best way to play these three classics? Have they been obliterated by time? Of course they all still hold up exceptionally well, but there are some upsetting answers to be found. Veterans and newcomers of Mario’s three-dimensional adventures will be rather pleased though by what is being offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

3D All-Stars is a great best-hits package that can sometimes skimp out on features and upgrades, but it’s simply exceptional nonetheless.

Taking it all the way back to the past, 1996’s Super Mario 64 still holds a candle to many of today’s modern platformers as it flaunts its rebellious spirit through open environments and selective mission paths. The Nintendo 64’s shining star is just as good as you’ve heard or remember it to be. Despite some of its troublesome camera rotation and weird analog movement, the first three-dimensional Super Mario title still lives up to that high standard you would expect from a Nintendo release. Even after all these years, Super Mario 64 still comes out on top as the king of its generation.

There are plenty of cleaned-up trimmings, including new textures and user interface icons sprinkled here and there that benefit the original game’s noticeably aging areas throughout it’s latest rerelease. In comparison to its bundled successors, however, Super Mario 64 received the short end of the enhanced stick. While I certainly won’t say that Super Mario 64 was utterly cheated out on receiving the gleaming treatment it deserves, in comparison to something like Rare’s remasters of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Bethesda’s recent DOOM 64 port, or even just the other games within 3D All-Stars for that matter, Nintendo’s fifth-generation golden goose has disappointingly been adapted to Switch, to say the least.

Not only is the game not in widescreen like the other titles, but the framerate is still capped at 30 frames per second. Nintendo has created an authentic experience for those looking for the same adventure players witnessed when this groundbreaking masterpiece initially hit the public, but that does not mean these features could not have been optional. Considering Super Mario Galaxy is running at 1080p, sixty frames per second, surely Nintendo could have gotten the more primitive Nintendo 64 title up to that pristine quality.

Revisiting 2002’s summer vacation to Isle Delfino was a tear-worthy experience for me that one could say was fludding with nostalgia. I am not going to lie, Super Mario Sunshine was one of the very first console games I ever owned and it is still one of, if not my all-time favorite titles out there. However, ignoring my deep-rooted connection with the GameCube, objectively speaking Sunshine may perhaps be the Mario game that benefits the most from this compilation. Not only does the game look fantastic in widescreen format and high definition like the other games, but that extra field of view increases Delfino’s sense of scale and vision. It is truly incredible how well some of Nintendo’s earliest library of sixth-generation titles hold up visually despite being almost twenty years old.

The biggest concern longtime fans of Super Mario Sunshine will have going into this collection is how the control scheme would function. As someone who has played through the GameCube release dozens of times, I can happily confirm that Nintendo has done a fine job porting the game over to Switch. For those who are unaware, Sunshine originally allowed you to dictate the amount of water pressure F.L.U.D.D. would power out depending on how far you held the right trigger in. Due to the Switch’s lack of back analog triggers, replicating the original game’s experience was going to be difficult from the get-go. Nintendo’s solution was to make the character operate entirely on full power mode. This may sound like a major change, but in reality, the old control scheme was merely a feature that was fun to mess around with rather than a game-changing aspect. Outside of the late game’s irritating casino pachislot before the King Boo boss fight, there is no other area affected by the alteration.

While Nintendo’s newest GameCube emulation is surely impressive, it may not be entirely flawless for every perfectionist’s liking. Sunshine does indeed contain some minor faults that can likely be fixed in a future patch if Nintendo ever so chooses to release one. There are two notable quirks that will bother longtime fans although it should be mentioned that these are incredibly nitpicky changes in the grand scheme of things. For one, I noticed that a specific sound effect heard multiple times before timed missions had been changed to an oddly annoying censored beep- way to make El Piantissimo and Blooper racing bother more newcomers. Secondly, during some of the Fluddless missions focused on platforming, textured blocks that players are not supposed to see can appear that indicate an object’s trajectory.

Speaking of trajectories, its time to talk about the outer space adventure veterans probably have the most questions about. To bring this library to a close, we have 2007’s astronomical hit Super Mario Galaxy– the most critically praised game in this entire package, with the highest Metacritic and OpenCritic scores out of these three monoliths. Super Mario Galaxy is definitely the closest game to hit the modern standard of Mario’s latest globe-trotting adventures. When it comes to gorgeously designed landscapes and compact areas to explore, there are times where Galaxy could quite honestly stand toe to toe with Super Mario Odyssey from a distance. On top of this, we have what is arguably the most heartfelt Mario story to date as its beautifully constructed narrative never pulls any punches with its wholesome story entirely told through chapters of short text and subcontext.

Galaxy heavily utilized the Wii remote and nunchuck, but Nintendo is offering players with quite a few ways to now enjoy the title. Both Pro-Controller and Joy-Con proclaimers can breath easy because Galaxy supports both formats. While they may not be as pinpoint accurate as they previously were, the latest control schemes are exceptional. When playing with either of these controller options, you will have to utilize either motion or gyro to move the Luma cursor used to collect star bits, stop enemies, or solve various puzzles. Since the Switch lacks the intricately designed motion controls of the Wii, the developers have smartly mapped the right trigger to reset the cursor to the center of the screen.

The only aspect of Super Mario Galaxy that can often become problematic is when the game is being played in handheld mode, but this really only applies to specific sections of the game. In regards to on the go action, the game’s motion controls have been optimized for the touch screen, however, anyone who has played the Wii release can probably tell why this would not always work efficiently. When it comes to specifically collecting star bits, Galaxy can be a nightmare to try and multitask as you have to either pull your hand away from moving the left stick or inputting basic action commands like jumping. Menus and motion puzzles work great in handheld mode and can even be easier to play at times, but it is odd that the docked and tabletop control schemes can not be used with attached Joy-Cons.

Outside of the core three titles, Nintendo has opted out of including any special modes or features, unlike some of their various other notable anniversary titles such as Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars rerelease on Wii. Without the additional extra content that properly commemorates the history of the Super Mario Bros. series, this anniversary can feel dishearteningly shallow as it looks more like a hangout than a massive birthday on the surface. Aside from including each game’s incredible soundtracks that double down as a way to always mix up your main menu experience, there are no art pages, interviews, design documents, or anything significant to glance at in this collection when it comes to additional trincites to awe at.

At the bare minimum, Nintendo could have at least included each title’s original manual for players to browse through, but even that is absent here. Even Super Mario Maker’s physical release came with a special booklet for fans to peruse five years ago. The games are obviously what matters most, but for something made to celebrate such a noteworthy milestone, audiences will definitely be expecting more from a character as iconic as Mario. The Super Mario Bros. franchise has such a fascinating history with a literal ocean of trivia and art worth exploring that you can find across several official artbooks, social media platform pages, and wikis. It is truly a shame that Nintendo did not go the extra mile to include any of this when commemorating 35 years of their mascot, but once again, the games at the spotlight are what truly matters most.

Despite its minor emulation issues and missing opportunities, 3D All-Stars manages to defy three incredible generations in one worthwhile package.

With its outstanding lineup of three masterclass generation-defining titles, Super Mario 3D All-Stars exceeds in a value rightfully way above its retail price tag as it bundles together three incredible journies into one package. Whether it is your first time getting to know Mario’s fantastical world or you are coming back to relive your childhood memories, this is a special title that offers some of the finest platforming adventures the red plumber has embarked on. Outside of the fact that it is literally a limited-time release, Nintendo’s latest anniversary best-hits extravaganza is well worth running out to purchase. If you have not played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to experience every one of these games.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is indeed lacking in bonus content to make this truly feel like a shebang worth celebrating, but its three games keep the entire party from ever being less than exceptional. All three games included still remain tremendously entertaining as they prove to excel upon the passage of time. Perhaps it is not the grand superstar it could have potentially been, but it will put a huge smile on any veteran or newcomer’s face as they explore Peach’s castle grounds, take on a thwarted island vacation, or skyrocket into the cosmos that have brought decades of enjoyment to audiences of all ages. Collect your coins and get it while you can or begin plotting a Bowser-like scheme to score a copy in the distant future.

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PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

Animated GIF

Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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