Death. Death everywhere.
Death’s Life is a puzzle game made by Umbu Games, a Brazillian indie studio. As the latest apprentice to Death, the Grim Reaper, players must assist in gathering souls for them to be satisfied, except there is a tiny problem. Outright killing people is too obvious — don’t want people to know the Reaper is real, now do we — so every death needs to look like an accident. Time to get creative.
Each scenario players find themselves in Death’s Life represents a standard room slowly being converted into a Rube-Goldberg. There are a set amount of items that can be highlighted throughout the area, indicated by the top magnifying glass. Each colour of highlighted objects does something different for the situation, such as yellow are objects that move when clicked and red ones that can be ‘broken’ when clicked meaning that instead of moving, they alter their state/angle. The blue object is the ‘start’ of the puzzle, as clicking it will begin the sequence of events that will cause the death. Once started, items cannot be altered until the sequence finishes; if successful, players will know as the camera will shift into a cinematic angle. Otherwise, it will be stopped by a misstep in the sequence, and give an end card. This card will give encouragement, list the number of attempts, and also the number of items that are in their correct placement in the sequence to assist players trying again.
I was honestly reminded of the show ‘1000 Ways to Die’ while playing thanks to the sheer absurdity of the outcomes and complete coincidental nature of the deaths. The art style solidifies this amusingly morbid and dark theme, with all of the characters looking like they’ve been transported from a Tim Burton animated film, complete with the grainy hatched shadows. There are 20 different individuals that can die, many of them in reference or containing references to other horror medias such as the killer rabbits, massive venus fly trap, and more. It’s a lot of fun solving the puzzles, figuring out how each setpiece fits into the entirety of the Rube-Goldberg, with some levels even featuring multiple solutions.
It’s not an entirely long game, depending mostly on the speed at which you can slot the pieces together to witness the death of each character. You can brute force each solution thanks to the continuous hints, or you can attempt to see how few attempts it can take to achieve each soul. However you wish to play, if you are a fan of dark humor and elaborate Rube-Goldberg puzzles, this might be a title worth checking out.
Penguins Arena is a FPS arena brawler made by Fro Games, an environmental indie studio out of France. In this cutesy Club Penguin-stylized title, players are penguins facing down the barrel of extinction thanks to global warming, so their god gives them a proposal; only one clan can survive. Not so cute now, huh.
To eradicate those not of the clan, players are put into an iceberg arena to duke it out with snowballs and flippers. The goal is to throw the others off of the iceberg and into the cold, icy water below (ignore the fact that penguins swim) and ensure that the player’s colour clan is the last remaining. Snowballs are unlimited, and each hit will knock back enemies a decent distance. Slaps are too, but obviously that’s due to the flippers not needing to come off to connect. There are also power ups strewn across the iceberg, from bombs that increase the force of attack to a bucket of fish for rapid fire attacks. They spawn at odd intervals, so there’s a combination of luck and skill in order to ensure that the enemy doesn’t grab one and attack. If one is so unlucky to fall off, a life is taken from the player; if there are lives remaining, the player is reincarnated as another clan member and can continue onward. If there are none, however, the dead player will remain an angelic penguin ghost in the sky, watching until a winner is decided. Now players can spend their time playing Penguins Arena alone, or they can jump online and play against others in combat. I’m not certain how active the title is, but the functionality being available to host matches is solid enough to do locally if so desired.
With a strong environmental message, Penguins Arena might be a somewhat sobering game wrapped in a cute aesthetic, but it wants players to know that while the penguins aren’t having to kill each other in a literal sense, their fight to survive due to melting polar caps is causing strife to their communities. Their website contains two links to help them out, and hopefully keep the word spreading so that even you as a player can help out the penguins in a non-violent way.
Yes, you're the new apprentice for Death. The Grim Reaper. It's your job to help gather souls. Only thing is, you can't…