PEGBRJE: The Tower: The Order of XII and Lazy Galaxy: Rebel Story

Page 22 starts with pixels and an obsession with subtitled games

I appear to be stuck with some bats.

The Tower: The Order of the XII is a narrative puzzle adventure made by Sword Garden Studios, an indie studio spearheaded by a solo dev in Spain. Players are following a warrior named Eleven, a descendant of the legendary twelve heroes that saved the realm from the Void, who has found that perhaps the Void hasn’t entirely disappeared.

The Tower is a movement/sliding centric puzzle game to which Eleven will be moving at a rapid pace in towards a single location that has been given by the player. There are only the cardinal directions to utilize, and Eleven must not hit any of the hazards lest they wish to return to the previous checkpoint. This isn’t the first time a sliding puzzle has been featured in the bundle — nor do I believe it to be the last — but it does expand on the ideas of what makes these puzzles so interesting while helping to alleviate one of the core issues; visible puzzle complexity leading to confusion. See, in a traditional sliding puzzle the difficulty is separated in to two parts: the player’s ability to discover the maze-like patterns to reach the escape, and the number of possibilities generated by the number of blocks to land on. While the first simply requires patience and practice, the second is a tactic to provide numerous possibilities to cause the player to take a wrong turn due to indecision and confusion. Think of it similarly to a maze, for the more dead ends and turns there are to witness the more a player can get ‘turned around’ so to speak and become confused. While this isn’t inherently a problem, when expanding on sliding puzzles by adding new mechanics and features this can cause the complexity to skyrocket unintentionally, making it hard to scale in size and in features.

The Tower helps fix this by adding hazards to certain sides of different blocks, effectively narrowing the number of possibilities for players to choose between, ones that cannot be landed on by any means but can be ‘passed’ by so long as the landing pad is not a hazard. At first this makes the game quite easy in comparison to the standard, indicated by how quickly I was burning through the earlier levels, but this is intentional so that the new mechanics added later do not become cumbersome and confusing. Things such as crystals to destroy bats, portals to warp to different regions whilst retaining momentum, time-based spikes and blocks that form after passing them all require a bit of forethought to traverse and organize properly. Without the ability to narrow down possible routes quickly that won’t cause them to get stuck in an infinite loop, these new mechanics would be much more difficult to implement.

This is where The Tower shines, being able to expand the routes that each map may take thanks to the level of interweaving that can occur while still having different features to further the complexity. Yet even then, with its 5 levels it squeezes within an hour of playtime, even with its 6 gorgeous cutscenes to give some context as to Eleven’s struggles. For those looking for more, the Challenge mode features 25 puzzles to complete with one major caveat: no checkpoints. Being able to finish that unlocks 5 even more difficult levels to attempt at your leisure. Thanks to the fantastic music and pixelated art, you’d be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable sliding puzzle title to play to pass the time. If you love this style of puzzle, then give this title a spin.

I’d have my own pic if I LIVED LONG ENOUGH :’(

Lazy Galaxy: Rebel Story is a co-operative party shmup made by Coldwild Games, an indie duo based out of Latvia. Players are a derelict robot named H-34-RT, awakening from an unintentional 93 year slumber to realize that everything known is lost. Realizing his directive, he sets out to defeat the invading enemy force with the hopes of finding some familiar faces and new allies along the way.

In a twist of the system, Lazy Galaxy has players doing traditional shoot ’em up gameplay with more than a single fighter. The default and captain H-34-RT leads the squad of potentially three through eight different maps, blasting across different regions while aiming for the invading O’Xelg comms base. Coins can be picked up along the way, randomly dropped from enemies to increase the points total, but the true ‘drops’ are found in storage ships, for this is where the captured allies are found. Usually once per segment, a storage ship will arrive to be destroyed and release a new individual to assist the our lovely robot friend; at least, they will. They don’t show up the round they are grabbed, and will instead join on the next run regardless if it is a win or loss. If players do die and restart a region, then that storage ship will instead drop a weapon power up. Does this sound a tad familiar? Yup, this adventure is also a roguelite for death resets everything but keeps the companions gained to start a fresh new adventure. The farther the player achieves with these companions, the more they level up and upgrade their skills but be warned for if they die they are dead permanently — well, unless the player dies as well. Then they’re back.

What’s interesting is how this also translates in to combat, for H-34-RT is also in control of the two formations that can be assembled. Since the allies fire at the same time that the player does, it becomes more about the spray pattern gained depending on if the team is in a flying V or in a straight line. This can also be updated on the fly to avoid damage from projectiles, and is crucial to do so to ensure that damage is maximized while damage is minimized. As stated, allies die permanently and ceases to return if the player beats the boss of a round and moves forward, so keeping them alive is crucial to keep as much fire support around as possible. There’s also a special that players can activate, indicated on the bottom, which default creates a shield that blocks projectiles to further assist in keeping everyone alive. These are necessary because this game is hard and I mean it. I know I’m not the best shmup player around — it is definitely not my best genre — but I was struggling to even get to the second boss on normal mode. The sheer number of things that can fly in to the face of the squadron is enormous, and coupled with the randomness of a roguelite’s weapon acquisition and some runs feel almost impossible. But that’s the point; continuous play gives points, which unlock new abilities to acquire, and eventually break through that barrier to move on to the next round.

Lazy Galaxy: Rebel Story is definitely a unique way of blending shoot ’em ups and narrative roguelites, but thanks to the brilliant execution and polish makes it really hard to pass over. The special effects are crisp and clean, the UI pops in when necessary to draw attention to important events such as the Special Meter being charged, and the sheer amount of detail in each backdrop picture is staggering. The soundtrack is rocking out while bullets fly across the screen, and every action feels responsive and impactful no matter what. This level of polish helps to push it over the edge, making a game that was already pretty fun a fantastic experience, and it somehow has local co-op to boot! If you love bullet hell experiences that want to bridge the gap and enter roguelite territories, then this is definitely one to grab.

Links

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.