PEGBRJE: Tiny Dangerous Dungeon, A Nightmare’s Trip and Semblance

Wait, how many titles are in here?

Not going to lie, really digging the hat.

Tiny Dangerous Dungeon is a little pixelated Metroidvania made by Adventure Islands, indie dev name for Jussi Simpanen, and featuring Nik Sudan for the music. Based around the browser title Super Dangerous Dungeon (also made by Adventure Islands), this title follows Timmy the treasure hunter in a small adventure to find all of the loot.

Gameplay follows a very familiar style of running, jumping, platforming and avoiding enemies as Timmy attempts to find that treasure players are hunting for. As with many Metroidvania lite titles, Timmy starts off with only their ability to jump; nothing else. There are obstacles that look to be interactable, but need some kind of power up to do so, which means players need to start exploring to find some treasure chests that hopefully include some useful items. Once an item is acquired, such as the Power Glove (cue Nintendo copyright strikes), players will be backtracking through much of the dungeon to find the previous locations that those power ups could be put to use so that they can find the hidden items or passageways to follow. There are hearts to collect as well to gain extra health, because dying resets progress back to the last save point — so just, don’t die y’know.

It’s not a long game, I was able to get through the majority within an hour or two, and there’s not a lot that will confuse anyone that is familiar with the genre or the previous titles made by Adventure Islands. Still, it’s a solid platformer with a very catchy soundtrack to accompany it. If you’re looking for something that anyone would be able to play regardless of age in the realm of platformers, Tiny Dangerous Dungeon might be what you are looking for.

A Nightmare’s Trip is a visual novel made by Sky Hour Works, an indie dev team of friends working on narrative novel games. In this instance, players follow Adrien, a curious entity formed from the nightmares of a child as they go on vacation; because even terrors need a break sometimes.

As with many visual novels, A Nightmare’s Trip is about the journey itself that Adrien takes, from the initial terrifying introduction to the character to the revelation that they just really want to play video games — something I feel many can relate to. Throughout the story, there will be many different choices for Adrien to pick, yet unlike many visual novels it’s not entirely apparent what changes are made to the plot. Traditionally, decisions result in directions that are taken which can be expected by the player; go to the super market, meet a new person, pick a food and find out if it’s their favourite, continue forward. There are many like that here for the player to choose, such as whether or not to go out for food with the first individual Adrien meets upon landing in the big city, or what formed Adrien in the first place. There are, however, many that seem to be more for personality and ‘flavour’, that some may deem inconsequential such as choosing what food to eat before boarding the airplane. It’s these little decisions, however, that alter what the play will learn about the world and help them inform decisions moving forward.

With Adrien’s adorably flustered attitude not reflecting the terror that created them, and a visual unique artstyle I can’t quite put my finger on (with some seriously terrifying imagery at times), A Nightmare’s Trip is a short jaunt through a world vastly differing from our own. The characters always have twists up their sleeve, from Adrien’s inability to remember a specific individual from their dreams to Orange and K the literal space foxes, and many more that can be found from exploring the city. Of course, Adrien can just ignore them, but where’s the fun in that? If you have some time and wish to go through a supernatural world to explore and make friends, this is definitely one to try out during some down time.

Hang on, isn’t this supposed to be the end?

Well no, we’ve got a third title today. More on that later, but in the mean time…

Semblance is a puzzling squishy platformer made by Nyamakop, an indie dev team out of South Africa — which I believe is the first studio out of Africa thus far in the bundle — and is their debut title with publishing assistance by Good Shephard. In this game, players play as a gelatinous protagonist who, along with their kin, are threatened by the emergence of these bizarre rigid creatures who have seeped in and crystalized much of the world. With their tree threatened, it is up to this little individual to free the trees from their crystallization and bring the world back to the shapeless and moldable.

At it’s core, Semblance appears as a really cute platformer, dedicated to collecting glowing circles in each level to clear their connected tree, which will help out the great tree at the beginning of the game. That is, of course, until one realizes that this is a world of amorphous creatures; even the platforms don’t have to be rigid. With enough force by the dash button, players can alter the shape of platforms in the direction that they are pushing, altering the map itself to allow for players to maneuver more freely. This can include pushing little holes out of a massive pillar to scale it, stretching out small sections so that crystals are no longer touching it, and even moving entire platforms to different areas of the map. These powers give creative freedom to our little friend as challenges become more and more difficult by introducing weird and strange new super powers to combat the protagonist. There are lasers of death, strange flying crystal creatures, rigid walls and even spores of crystals removing the player’s ability to dash. The trick is, of course, that players can only dash once, and a platform can only be moved in one type of direction at a time. Once a dash is complete, it cannot be used again until landing which can lead to some awkward moments of overextension before players will catch on. Thankfully, the second trick can be remedied by the ability to reset the platform to its original position, but it does revert everything about it so be careful that doesn’t result in our little friend being dropped off.

While not explicit, there is a story embedded into the world that hints at something more complicated than a simple ‘crystal bad, blobs good’ within this gorgeously crafted world. At many instances, there are backsplashes along walls that tell of a tale of a before time when they all seemed to live in some kind of harmony. Now, normally I’d put a spoiler warning, but if I’m completely honest I’m not actually sure I figured out the story — this isn’t a slight against the title, I just was kind of busy having a bit too much fun tunneling the entire ground out. The inclusion of such a hands off story is quite in the spirit of the title, however — I’m reminded of other platformers such as The King’s Bird that told their story in a similar way within the walls of the game itself. It added some sense of immersion, that these people (in this case, squishy people) had carved their story out and the player was reclaiming all pieces of their history and understanding as they travelled. How much stock one put into these tableaus is completely up to the player, and then players can make their own judgement on what is going on.

Put all of these elements together, and add in a massive sprawling 5 sectioned world to save the great tree and there’s more than enough content within Semblance to make it a treat of a platformer. The concept alone is fantastic and fun, but to include so much of it while still feeling challenging as new obstacles are added is fun to overcome, and I can confidently state that this is the first platformer so far that I nearly made it to the end of the entire first section without looking up how to solve a puzzle.

It was the literal last orb. So close.

Regardless of my own shortcomings, this is definitely a fantastic cap to page 10, and if you’ve been looking for a pleasant and fun experience within a comfy and squishy aesthetic, then this is definitely one to try out.

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That’s it for page 10, which leads to this mild announcement: at my current pace, I’m going to finish this in roughly 2.5 years. And that’s if I somehow keep this pace up for that long. Perhaps I can keep that up, because I’m not a fan of the alternatives; seriously shortening the overviews to fit 3–4 games in or updating on weekends feel a bit overbearing.

I’ll figure something out. Oh and there’s a spreadsheet now.

Page 10 over, software up later and page 11 will either be started tomorrow or Friday depending on a few things.

Links to all!

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.