Punching Robots Club

With your host, Rob Remakes

New Rally X64

Absolutely love the look of this new homebrew conversion of New Rally X for the Commodore 64. The chonky C64 pixels and its distinctive palette are a really, really good fit for the game.

via Indie Retro News.

Indie Retro News: New Rally-X64 – An Arcade conversion of Rally X for the C64 gets its first release candidate
Jake79 with music by Merman and sound effects by NM156, has made available the first release candidate of their Arcade conversion of New Rally-X64
www.indieretronews.com

Top 5 Cutlery Videogames

A fancily dressed skeleton with a fine pipe and hat introduces the top 5, an occasional series of lists of 5 things not to be taken entirely seriously.
  1. Sonic Forkses
  2. Shovel Knife
  3. Prey: Spooncrash
  4. Transformers: Rise Of The Dark Spork
  5. Mount & Splade

Read: From Outsourcing To Storytelling (via Eurogamer)

Think of Asian games, and Japan as well as China will likely come to mind first. But the industry extends to the rest of the continent, as we have seen with India and Taiwan. Perhaps less known to Western audiences, however, is the impact of the industry in Indonesia, despite it being the fourth most populous country in the world and having had a development boom over a decade ago during the Flash era.”

The Emergence Of Indonesian Indies, Alan Wen for Eurogamer

Tesla Force

A screenshot from the game Tesla Force. It is a floating stone Island, lit largely in purple and blue. Red Lovecraftian creatures roam and enormous glowing crystals break up the stone edifices.

Tesla Force has one of the most immediately disarming structures to a twin stick shooter I’ve played. In a good way, mind.

Picking up from the also wonderful Tesla Vs Lovecraft, Tesla Force reimagines the game as a more open, customisable, less guided experience. With co-op. I really like it but yeah, it certainly caught me off guard at first.

There’s a familiarity there, sure. If you’ve played Tesla Vs Lovecraft then you’ll be instantly at home with the menagerie of beasties, the mech/on foot/mech rhythm and the large array of weaponry, upgrades and whatever you can acquire. It’s all really solid, filling the screen with bullets and colourful explosions hasn’t gotten old yet and I’ve been playing this on and off for ages and ages now.

The surprising part is just how much freedom 10 Tons have built into the progression and how generous it is.

Sure, you’ll be exploding monsters into pretty colours in order to collect gems in order to spend gems to buy more ways of exploding monsters into pretty colours and repeat – fairly standard stuff – but unlike 10 Tons previous twin stickers, Tesla Force is (for want of a better phrase) a roguelike.

Each playthrough has you work your way through a procedurally generated map, moving from node to node until you reach the inevitable final boss. The first few rounds limits the choice of routes the player can take but a few upgrades later and the map is positively sprawling. So far so roguelike! I mean, it works doesn’t it? So, why not!

However, with the exception of the boss nodes, the stages don’t actually end. I can keep playing each one, rinsing them for gems and pretty colours until I decide to leave. As I say, it’s disarming at first. Even the lootiest of looter ARPGs tend to have a point where the player has exhausted things to do in a stage and they’re forced to move on yet Tesla Force leaves that up to the player.

Of course, there’s a wrinkle! This is a videogame after all and they’re tricksy things at the best of times. Once I begin the first stage, a countdown begins – the ominously named death clock – and each time the countdown reaches zero, the game gets a little bit more difficult, harsher, more abrasive. So the longer I spend on a stage, the more things get tricky, the more the stage will require more firepower, more health, more skill to survive.

Sure, I can keep grinding stage after stage but the longer I spend doing that, the more difficult the later stages are going to be. The more difficult the stage I’m grinding is going to be, never mind.

Whereas this would be a pretty oppressive system in most games, when combined with the brevity of each stage and the huge amount of skills and upgrades available to buy with your gems, it’s the other one. It’s remarkably freeing and lets me control the difficulty from stage to stage. If I fancy an easy ride? Get in, complete the objective, move onto the next node until done. Fancy testing myself? Stick around. No matter what happens, I’ll be collecting gems to spend on more upgrades or weaponry, each completed stage hands me a new weapon or ability to add to my arsenal, each game over nudging me closer to another unlock. In Tesla Force (as with a number of other recent roguelikes) a game over is an interruption, rather than an end.

There’s always progress and it’s hardly stingy, there isn’t an unlock that doesn’t make some tangible difference to the game and there is a lot to unlock. I’ve been playing for ages now and haven’t even got round to giving any of the other characters you can unlock a shot. I’ve been far too busy buying more weapons, more abilities, more slots to pop abilities into, more firepower, more time in the mech and on. I’m sure I’ll get round to giving them a go soon but y’know, I’m having loads of fun as it is. No rush!

Tesla Force is a wonderful game. I’ve been playing it on PS4 (and more recently on the Switch) and it’s not got any less enjoyable for all the (many!) hours I’ve pumped into it. In fact, I think I’ll just sneak another go in now whilst no-one is looking.

Forget-Me-Not

I like a lot of things about Forget-Me-Not but the thing I like the most is that it’s the videogame as fishtank.

Pic from Arcade Life.

It’s the sort of thing that I could just stare at for hours as these boggle eyed creatures inside my monitor go about their business, entirely oblivious to my ingame existence for the most part.

Of course, we all know that it’s just a few simple systems and rules really but it somehow feels like peering into somewhere where there’s life. There’s few games that manage to pull this sort of videogame ecosystem thing off and due in no small part to being inspired by the old C64 game Crossroads, Forget-Me-Not manages it really quite skillfully.

It’s rare I’ll use the term for most videogames but Forget-Me-Not is fascinating. It’s fascinating to watch and it’s fascinating to see how a few simple but well considered rules make for something so special.

Forget-Me-Not is out on so many things now it’s likely you’ll have a device that can run it. If you’ve not ducked in before, well, get on that.

(First published in 2015, post updated April 2022)

Zeroptian Invasion

You know, I was absolutely convinced I’d put words down on Zeroptian Invasion some time back but perhaps I should have double checked that one sooner because no, no, I had not.

I am really fond of Zeroptian Invasion.

I’ve long nurtured an appreciation of the single screen shooter, from Space Invaders, Galaga and the usual suspects through a whole bunch of home computer games, PD, homebrew and indie titles. In my old age, I’ve lost none of my love for the things and Zeroptian Invasion is no exception.

The opening stage presents the player with a really quite lovely Space Invaders-esque game in a gorgeous 70’s arcade meets ZX Spectrum style. Over the course of a fair handful of stages, it adds a wee bit more complexity to the mix, not a great deal because the game stays wonderfully true to its aesthetic and videogame inspirations, but certainly enough to ensure that it keeps the player on their toes.

Think a modern Gorf, you know? It’s that sort of deal.

It’s the kind of game that had it actually existed in the eighties, I’d have fallen in love with it pretty easily and would probably bend your ear off over even now. Given I’m still every bit as awed by similar games today as I was then, it was pretty easy for me to fall in love with it now, nevermind.

It helps in no small part by it being an absolutely gorgeous game! The sprite work is often wonderful and I’m a real sucker for the bezel artwork too.

I’ve been playing it on the PS4 and Switch. Other formats are available.

Zuzu: Lie To Myself

Hard to pick a fave from Zuzu’s recent stuff but for today I’m going to go with Lie To Myself for skillfully, and perfectly, getting the lyric “that was a dick move” into a slice of indie pop perfection.

Anyway. Go listen to Zuzu. They’re great.

Dungeonoid

After so many years playing Breakout games with a whole bunch of modern conveniences, whether that’s flipper bats as in Gunbarich or more curvy bats as is the trend in casual (and the excellent Shatter), Dungeonoid’s lack of such things certainly ensures I find it a wee bit more challenging than a lot of more recent efforts.

It doesn’t help that my enjoyment of Breakout games is matched only by how rubbish I am at them and Dungenoid is no exception.

My problem, largely is one of impatience. I enjoy a lot of the more hands on arcade games because I am constantly pressing buttons, they’re as much something to fidget with as to play. Breakout, by design, includes plenty of moments of downtime as the ball bounces from brick to brick. I get twitchy waiting and when I get twitchy I inevitably muck stuff up.

Dungeonoid does compensate for this somewhat. Clearing a level is not necessarily a matter of clearing all the bricks, nor a matter of taking out all the enemies or or treasures littering the place, instead it’s just a matter of reaching the exit. Get your ball through the door and whoosh, next level. You won’t score so much in a game that’s about scoring the most but at least it can mean a level is over quickly if need be.

Despite my impatience though, I do love a good Breakout game and have done for a long time now, pretty much since Thro The Wall had me hooked all those years ago and Arkanoid and the lovely Batty cemented it. I’ve been really enjoying Dungeonoid even though my progress through it is incredibly slow.

It absolutely is defiantly old school in its design (and yes, that does include the dreaded ‘reverse controls’ power down), tough as old boots and asks for a lot more patience than most modern takes do. I must admit, this is largely why I love it. I wouldn’t want every game to be this tough for me to progress through but every now and then, the right one comes along and that’s Dungeonoid alright.

Dungeonoid is on the Switch and it’s quite cheap, really. Recommended but with the caveat that it is far from an easy ride.

Robyn Hitchcock: The President

I can almost hear it raining.

Nothing ever cheers me up faster than listening to some Robyn Hitchcock, from The Soft Boys to The Egyptians and now it’s been a steady run of songs that just hit that magical spot. Some more than others.

Element Of Light (1986) has some of my favourite lyrics of all time nestled amongst it (“I’m going to burn your bongos tonight” is an unreasonably special one to me) and my favourite Hitchcock song in Airscape. It’s one of those albums without a single duffer on it and runs the gamut from power pop to prog and so much in-between.

The President is one of a couple of the more “serious” tracks (it’s all relative) on the album and one of those I should really stop trying to sing along to because I completely strangle the thing. Ditching much of the surrealism and storytelling present in the rest of Element Of Light for a much more abrasive, heavier, sound and a kick at Reagan, it ticks along alright for a bit and then the chorus hits and it’s just sublime.

As an aside, I still remember a bearded guy at the table opposite the first time I rolled up to a Hitchcock gig. He leaned over and asked if it was my first time seeing him, to which I answered yes. Moments later he followed it up with “if you can leave here without him becoming a favourite, you’re a better man than I. Have fun!” and returned to his pint.

I was categorically not the better man. To be honest, I don’t want to be either.

Cataloguing The New Arcade: Debris Infinity

Whilst the high bar for Asteroids reinventions remains a tie between Spheres Of Chaos (I prefer the older version over 2012’s rejig but YMMV, they’re both available for free now) and Echoes (Again. I prefer + to 3 but honestly. It’s so close in quality as to be unimportant), Debris Infinity (available on Steam too) is certainly worth a mention also.

After being mildly disappointed by the recent Asteroids Recharged (it’s not a bad game but it did very little to excite me, I wouldn’t not recommend it but I’d not enthuse over it in a hurry either) I’ve been on the look out for a fresh & decent new arcade take on Asteroids and stumbled onto Debris Infinity pretty much by accident whilst rummaging for something else I’d forgotten the name of.

It’s a game that fuses, surprisingly successfully, Echoes style arena based asteroid shooting and familiar Geometry Wars enemy wave patterns across a handful of modes. So twin stick asteroids with bolt ons, essentially. I doubt anyone going into this, even having not played either of the games it borrows from, would find many surprises here.

It’s definitely scrappy! The art is a bit all over the shop both in style and in coherence, the asteroids and smaller enemies are great, it’s sort of just the rest of it that doesn’t always come together.

Which is fine, you know? I’m not complaining so much as just stating something rather obvious. I can’t say it bothered me even for a moment because I was far too busy trying not to crash my spaceship into things but it does mean it doesn’t present quite so well in a single screenshot.

So, it all kind of adds up to a game I enjoyed a lot but also, don’t really have all that much to talk about with it. It’s a good, solid, enjoyable Asteroids variant where everything glows really nicely and has enough flashing lights to keep me quiet.

I’ve been dipping in and out of it on the Switch but the game’s available most other places, except for PlayStation for whatever reason. Definitely worth a punt.

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