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Hugh Likes Video Games: Downwell

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Downwell
Created by Ojiro Fumoto
Published by Devolver Digital
Played on PS Vita
Downwellgame.com

On the surface, “Downwell” is a very simple game. The Japanese indie shooter/platformer has very simple controls, a limited color palette, and low-resolution sprites. But there is something very charming about the mashup of ideas that comes together elegantly to make an experience that his easy to pick up, and extremely challenging.
The player controls a figure who jump into a well full of monsters with only his ‘gun-boots’ for protection. He can shoot monsters below him, and landing on ledges reloads. The randomly generated levels stretch down, with a few side caverns full of upgrades or shops to try and reach. Like in old-school shooters, the gun-boots can be upgraded to a number of different weapons, from spread-guns to shotguns, to lasers. Players also can snag upgrades like jetpacks and health refills between levels.
Even with these bonuses, the difficulty is very high, although not really cheap. Monsters such as bats and ghosts fill the well, and they all have their own patterns the player can learn. Sections are split into three levels each, but there isn’t really any save system, so players are booted back to the top with each death, which is a bit disappointing.
The player unlocks new palettes and slightly different game modes based on cumulative score, but most of these are just slight variations or aesthetic changes.
“Downwell” is a clever mashup that will certainly fill your time on the train, without sucking you in to a 100 hour adventure. But you may be surprised how long you think “Just one more run,” while playing. You can play it on Steam and a variety of platforms. It’s also available in Playstation Plus this month.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Type:Rider

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Type:Rider, A Typographic Videogame
Created by: Cosmographik
Played on PS Vita
Type-rider
What if “Limbo” was about fonts? This is the premise of Type:Rider a combination documentary and puzzle-platformer from Cosmographik. Players take control of a humble colon as they roll through levels based on the history of typography, from cave paintings all the way to desktop publishing. The level architecture is made up of huge landscapes of letters.
Type:Rider isn’t particularly challenging, but it is very clever in its design choices. For the most part, your : handles like an implied motorcycle. You can move forward or back, and you can rotate clockwise or counterclockwise using the L and R triggers to navigate terrain. If either of your periods hits certain obstacles, usually shown in red, you die and have to start again, usually close by. For the most part, all of the collectable goodies are easy to spot and collect, although a few require some thought or dexterity, particularly the hidden ampersands. But this is a game that wants you to collect its secrets, and the main game is quite casual.
Each World is devoted to a different style of font, and collecting asterisks scattered throughout the levels unlocks short articles about notable figures or events in the development of print.
There is a “Speedrun” course for each level that is much more challenging once you complete each one for more skilled players. The music in each level is thematic, but the compositions are short and have a droning quality that gets annoying after a while. The only other downside is that the game is very Eurocentric. Outside a few short sections in the “Origins” chapter, the game focuses entirely on Roman characters. I would’ve loved to learn more about typography’s development in other languages.
Type:Rider isn’t a longterm commitment of a game, but it is quite clever and the subject matter is unexpected and interesting. Playstation Plus members can pick up this curiosity for free this month. It is also available on Steam and for mobile devices.

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Hugh Likes Video Games: Broforce

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Broforce
Free Lives/Digital Devolver
Steam & PS4

Broforce is a fun and frantic action game that combines the military run-and-gun platforming of games like Contra and Metal Slug with the try-and-fail puzzle gameplay of Super Meat Boy.  An over the top sendup of 80’s and 90’s action movie cliches, it provides steep challenge but the amount of variety, and the speed with which hte game resets after you lose a life make for an addictive combination.  This is a game that I often started intending to play only a few rounds, only to find that several hours had passed without realizing.
The player controls a small army of ‘bros,’ each of which is a parody of a recognizable 80’s or 90’s action move hero, with part of their name replaced with ‘bro,’ such as “Commandbro’ and “Brogeiver.”  Each has some kind of projectile, a melee attack, and some kind of special ability.  The goal is to navigate levels filled with Terrorists, Satan (yes actual Satan,) and Xenomorph-like aliens.  Players can free caged prisoners to get extra lives, but each time they do their player character changes to a new Bro, who plays slightly differently.  So if you are playing with a character you really like, rescues present a neat little risk/reward.  The goal is to reach the end of the level, which is sometimes difficult because just about every bit of 2D pixelated ground is destructible, meaning you can easily blow up ladders and bridges you need by firing wildly, which the game encourages with the hoard of enemies you’re up against.  You are rewarded with blasting guitar riffs and flashing red white and blue lights on the PS4 controller as your Bro flies to safety hanging from a helicopter, as you do.
Broforce is so commuted to its bro-tastic, jingoistic stance that, much like Paul Verhoevens “Starship Troopers,” I’m only mostly sure it’s a parody.  The general who gives you command briefings says things like “I’m pretty sure this is a country.” and “Explode them with Freedom!”  And there is a dedicated button which makes your little pixelated character flex.  There is also a local and online multiplayer function, so you can play this game solo, or with your own bros.
Broforce is a downloadable video game from Steam and Playstation network.

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