PEGBRJE: Brathian and Skeletris

I couldn’t get my own screenshot because I’d normally die too fast to this guy 😭

Brathian is a retro platforming adventure made by pangake, a solo indie dev out of Brazil. Those who venture forth will follow a tale of two siblings who set out to defeat whomever awakened the Crystal Guardians and defeat them to save their homeland.

Retro is the name of the game for Brathian, and it shows from the start. Players have basic abilities between attacking in front, above or below to clear out enemies while jumping across platforms to find new paths to take. Killing enemies has a chance of dropping a small or large heart to replenish any lost health, but entering an area after leaving it will cause all enemies to respawn. This makes decisive extremely important as going back to old areas without reason can feel very sluggish until a quick route has been discovered or players have really fast fingers and can dodge all of the enemies. That decisive action will be crucial as well, for in traditional fashion there is no true direction on where players need to go to find any of these guardians. The map is full of areas that cannot be traversed without certain upgrades, but the ambiguity of the layout means that players might not realize this until they’ve walked quite a long ways. For reference, I spent the majority of my early playthrough not heading towards that Crystal Guardian shown above as I instead went the complete opposite direction. This is a Metroidvania-esque after all, so exploration is key to finding things out and defeating bosses is how players upgrade their character to continue onwards. Interestingly enough this can be done co-operatively, so grabbing a friend to play as one of the two siblings is a fun way of exploring together.

Brathian definitely carves a niche for itself thanks to its retro-centric gameplay and style. Unfortunately, due to my lack of familiarity and nostalgia for the era, it makes it difficult for me to truly connect with what many would severely enjoy. I can definitely see why many might enjoy it, but my immediate disconnect made it challenging to grasp; therefore, I encourage you to look for others that may be more familiar with the era or are mega fans of retro gaming and see what their opinion on the matter is. If you think that what I’ve said is enough, Brathian will definitely deliver on its retro promises.

Skeletris is a dungeon crawling roguelike block-based adventure made by Ghast, a solo indie dev out of the United States. Within this tale, players are a survivor of some terrible event, and upon finding the local outpost realize that the main city of Skeletris has gone dark. Using wits, strategy, and the power of organization, players will march through regions of dangerous creatures in the hopes of uncovering what is going on.

Normally I would cover the basic parts of the game, ones that are the most familiar to players, but due to how important the unique aspect is I’m going to change it up and talk about the draw of Skeletris; the blocks. See, players are actually playing two games at once in an odd way, for on top of the roguelike action they are also playing a spatial management game with their inventory via ‘artifacts’. These artifacts are found in chests and dropped by enemies, and are what allow for players to gain different types of stats to bolster their little skeleton. Players can then use these artifacts by putting them in their equipment, or store them for later in their inventory; but they must fit. While the title is an obvious nod to Tetris, I personally made more of a comparison to the board game Blokus as instead of worrying about time or fall speed, I had to worry about which blocks were most important and where I could fit them into my two grids. Weapons and potions must also fit in this grid as well, and it becomes a juggling act to ensure that the important items can be slotted into the equipment and the backups properly fitting in the inventory. I actually found myself spending a good 15 minutes just resorting my entire inventory thanks to a new block I received with fantastic vitality, only to realize I had 3 blocks of poor vitality in storage. The above picture is the result, and let me say it was not satisfying to see that many holes; I needed it to be FLUSH for my happiness.

Once the block management has been sorted, Skeletris continues forward in a turn-based approach to exploration and combat. Each move that the player makes is considered a turn on the global scale, with a bias to the player; if they attack an enemy, the enemy will attack back afterwards. This also means that enemies that are slower or have resting cycles will wait until after the set amount of turns the player has, so attacking and then moving a square away will help to dodge many attacks. Items used — as in thrown at the enemy — also take a turn, but interestingly enough many items on the ground that could be picked up can also be thrown without being in the inventory.

This doesn’t even mention the worldbuilding that Skeletris manages to achieve, with interesting characters that help point the player in the right direction (The mayor wants my mushrooms and I REFUSE) and a dang good soundtrack to accompany the adventure. It seems odd at first to be managing almost two titles at once, yet it is this duality that makes it so compelling to push forward. If you’re looking for a roguelike that keeps you performing serious inventory surgery every so often and actually enjoy it, then this is definitely a title to try out.

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Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.