PEGBRJE: ERTH and Rex: Another Island
Small worlds with a lot of time within them.
ERTH is a 2D sandbox survival title made by Benjamin Mastripolito, indie dev and digital explorer of cellular automata (no I didn’t have to look that up, trust me). Players are treated to a generated world in which their character now inhabits, dropped in to begin surviving in this fairly large RPG world with no real direction as to what they ‘need’ to do. With the world at their finger tips, players are given little to figure out the systems and explore this world in a unique fashion; with two control inputs and a turn-based system.
I should probably explain that ERTH isn’t really a two-input control system, but it sure is different. Players use the arrow keys to maneuver through the world, but combat and ‘destruction’ based interactions (mining, foresting, etc) are all done via the WASD keys. This gives players that dual-input feeling as they can move in one direction while interacting in the other. Not particularly useful, but it does allow the game to be played almost exclusively on the keyboard, with my hand only reaching for the mouse a few times to read through the notebook out of familiarity. Combat scenarios also can be another good example of this system, as players can disengage and fire/swing at the same time, although this may not be as useful as the entire game’s system is in simultaneous turn based. Every action player’s make is considered a ‘turn’, meaning that if enemies or NPCs wish to move, they do so during that turn. Thanks to this, players can set the tempo of the entire game at different intervals. If they need to strategize on how to get around an enemy or maneuver through a dungeon, they can simply move infrequently and plan. For some of us this wasn’t an option, as I just held the move button at all times so it nearly felt as if it was in real time.
Like with all open world sandboxes, ERTH’s learning curve is steep thanks to the large amounts of ‘stuff’ there is to do upon entering into a world, and the only true way of understanding it all is to experience it. This is somewhat assisted by the notebook given to all players, which outlines a detailed explanation of many of the mechanics and gives an example of what players should do during their first night. There were a few hiccups along the way attempting to execute this plan, however, as I found the crafting system to be a tad unruly. Learning new items usually required crafting said items before, which felt a tad redundant at times, and I had to rely on the well done sprites in order to figure out which items were needed. Nevertheless, once I got the hang of the system I was off to the races exploring the tiles and finding unique landscapes.
ERTH gives the fundamentals to those looking for a new sandbox adventure to explore; a varying world, characters to interact with and hundreds of items to collect and craft. I’m an extremely picky person when it comes to sandbox titles, as the lack of direction rarely appeals to me personally. However, I can definitely see the appeal for this title’s unique approach in turn-based movement and crafting. If this sounds like something you’d love to sink your time into, definitely try this one out and check out Ben’s twitter as it appears that there is a new sandbox title in the works.
Rex: Another Island is a retro platformer made by shysaursoft, a solo indie dev out of the United States, and features a soundtrack by Peter Gresser. Players follow the tale of Rex, a small magenta dinosaur, as they explore a vast yet tight world full of ‘dangerous’ beasts and traps in the hopes of collecting coins and making it out.
Rex: Another Island is a product of a simpler time, containing platforming mechanics seen in many prolific titles throughout the 80s and 90s. Rex has the capability to double jump, allowing for safer leaps across chasms. Jumping on an enemy’s head will remove them and give a little hop as well to keep momentum going so that interesting maneuvers can be made throughout the map. This jumping is all in the quest to collect these coins, littered throughout the world and dropped off at shrines (checkpoints) so that they can be permanently added to the point counter. Death resets players back to the last shrine they stopped at, and respawns all coins that they were carrying back to their original position. Thing is, the more coins Rex is carrying the more points each new one becomes worth, so it becomes a gamble as to how confident players feel they are. I am not confident in my platforming at all so I dropped them off at every chance I got.
What made me most intrigued with Rex: Another Island was in the island world itself that we traverse. The coins are not just indications of points but also directions on where to go, similar to the old video game logic of ‘if there are enemies, you’re going the right way’. There’s no intrinsic path that players must follow, as the world is completely open to them immediately; the only thing that gives any semblance of direction is these coins. The developer planned for this, not only specifying this on the itch.io page but also with the fact that a coin’s silhouette remains after collection as a way of indicating to players that they had been that way already. It’s a really small addition, but so clever in ensuring that players are given assistance in understanding the paths they’ve been without the need to memorize the entire world to find all 777 coins. Granted, they are not all needed to finish the game, but the completionism in me demanded it.
With the ability to warp between shrines and zoom out the screen, Rex: Another Island delivers on creating a retro experience with design principles that have learned from the past to improve on the formula. It wants players to explore this cute land full of different areas while ensuring that they can find their way regardless of how stuck they may feel. I’m not an expert on platforming, but it felt consistent enough that I didn’t fear for my life every jump which was a bonus. To those that may be nostalgic for this era, or just really like a cute magenta dinosaur running around, this is definitely a game to try out.
Links to both
Click here for development blog! Erth is a large 2D Sandbox RPG Exploration Top-Down Turn-Based Adventure game where…