Isle of Arrows developed by Gridpop is a card based tower defence game made by a single developer. The game presents a fairly simple concept of randomised cards that allow you to place new paths or towers onto your island (also randomised each game) and defend against the incoming waves of enemies. There are 5 different classes that can be played, each with different abilities or lack thereof. Aesthetically it’s a pleasing simple low poly and pastel colour palette.
Between each wave you are presented with a new free card to place and can purchase more additional cards for an extra 2 gold. Some cards will have water tiles attached which require some forethought and strategy when being placed as removing them isn’t always easy. There are also random events and relics that can help or hinder you as you progress through the game. As you build up your reserve of cash, every 10 gold, you will earn an extra 1 gold per wave (ie if you have 10 gold, you will get +2 each wave, if you have 30+ gold you will get +4 each wave). There are 3 main game modes to play: Campaign which features 4 main areas, Gauntlet which presents increasing difficulty and challenges and a daily defence challenge.
Isle of Arrows is both an an aesthetically pleasing and beautifully simple game with a good amount of depth and some potential for further development and features. The PC version will set you back around £10, whereas the mobile version is around £5. The game has a few core levels and the gauntlet and daily challenge give some additional gameplay options after you’ve completed those – it would be nice to see even more cards and areas added in the future. Some more customisable game modes would also be interesting, for example custom card/event/relic selection or increased random event frequency. There is a slight issue when trying place paths that may end in a solid block (or blowing them up with bombs).
Overall the game is nicely balanced, providing a good challenge while also remaining fun and interesting. There’s a good deal of gameplay to get stuck into, the game can be played offline and in portrait – making it a perfect mobile game and definitely worth
Try not too spend too much money until you reach around 30 gold, then you can spend each turn provided you don’t dip under 30 gold, so you can ensure you’re getting +4 gold per turn.
Think about where you’re placing towers and paths and how they’ll be affected in by future cards.
When you get a 2nd or 3rd spawn point added, you can get away for 1-2 waves before you need to add more towers or paths to them – just ensure you don’t overinvest in them, but also be weary of leaving them unprotected – in an ideal scenario you want them to come close to your existing towers and paths.
Try and place traps on corners where they can hit at least 2 paths, likewise try and maximise the number of paths that each tower hits.
High ground can be very useful with most towers to increase their hit areas.
Not all cards are worth placing – gardens or cards with water tiles can make the late game quite difficult if you don’t have enough bombs to remove them.
Graveyard Keeper developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by tinyBuild is an indie game that revolves around managing a graveyard (much like the title suggests). The game is comparable to Stardew Valleyin many ways: the aesthetic, the fun characters, the crafting, combat to name few. Graveyard Keeper starts you off in a world you are unfamiliar with (you’ve come from present day) , it seems you are stuck in some sort of medieval fantasy world and you need to figure out how to return home to the present day. As it turns out you are the new keeper of the village’s local graveyard, after the previous one mysteriously disappeared. You are introduced to various characters in and around the village and their weekly schedules and quests (the game has 6 days with various events or NPC appearances being tied to each one).
Over time you develop and fix up the old graveyard and your house, you unlock farming, beekeeping, wine and beer making. As the graveyard gets nicer and filled with better “quality” people you will unlock the church which is where the game really takes off. You will be tasked with doing a weekly prayer, this will help you generate faith which leads to the most powerful unlocks in the game. Doing tasks and work generates points – there are three types of points – red (generated by wood/stone/metal work), green (generated by doing farming work) and blue (generated by researching things and high level item crafting). These 3 types of experience points are used to unlock things in the research trees, and there is quite a good amount of things to be unlocked.
The game is incredibly addictive. It has that typical element of “just one more day” or “just one more task” that keeps you on it for crazy amounts of time. What makes the game even more clever is the way the days work – often times quests will require you to do something that’s basically 5 days away, meaning that you have to wait almost an entire week to complete a phase in a quest (during that time you’re obviously doing other quests or tasks). This has the effect of keeping you super busy all the time, following NPCs schedules and working around having a corpse delivered to you every so often as well. The game’s aesthetic is well delivered and can be very eerie at times (especially when the fog roles in). It’s perfectly matched by the sound design of the game and some of the rather dark and funny humour.
Graveyard Keeper will generally set you back around £10, which at first may seem like quite a lot, but the game really offers quite a lot, it’s also cheaper than competitor Stardew Valley. If you can grab it while it’s on sale for around £5, then you’ve got yourself a steal; it’s worth noting the game is also free with PS Plus Extra. While the game’s ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered and there are 3 DLCs that attempt to answer those, each of the DLCs will set you back around £7-8 and add a variety of new stories and gameplay mechanics (like being able to make zombies to automate tasks). The game is highly addictive and will keep you hooked for a considerable amount of time – overall the story can take around 40 hours to complete, but that could easily stretch towards 50-60 depending on what you end up doing.
Get the teleport stone from the Dark Horse tavern as soon as you can afford it – it makes moving around the map so much easier
Try to only put high quality corpses in your graveyard, red skulls reduce the appeal of a grave
Focus on opening the church in the early game so you can unlock the weekly prayers – these will generate faith for you and unlock the church basement where you can do alchemy and craft new types of items
Meet Clotho to unlock the alchemy workbench and skill tree
For a perfect 12 skull corpse you will need to have unlocked and use the various embalming injections
Blood and fat always remove 1 red skull, organs will account for a random amount of red/white skulls in each body, flesh will always remove 1 white skull
The Quarry lets you set up a little base where you can mine iron, stone and marble for extended periods of time – just make sure you have enough materials to build the workstation and storage there
Save blood – there’s a late game quest (and speed potions) where you will need quite a lot of it
The dungeons save your progress – so if you’ve killed half the mobs on a floor and exit it, that will be saved when you return
Throwing bodies into the river is ok, but if you have a poor quality body you’re better off burning it as you still get the burial certificate
Once you unlock alchemy and the tier 2 bench get speed potions – but only take them after you’ve had a sauerkraut (as it increases the duration of buffs)
Gravestones and fences generate a lot of blue points when being researched
You can purchase books containing a specific number of red/green/blue points from the astrologer
I have always been a massive fan of the Pokémon series of games – especially the older GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS versions of the game. Games like Pokémon Sapphire or Pokémon FireRed were my childhood. Recently I have replied a lot of them on emulators (which I will review in a separate post) on my phone and it has been an amazing nostalgia trip. As I replayed these games I started discovering ROMHack versions of the games. I have known these exist for a while but never bothered giving them a go, and I was really missing out.
Pokémon Gaia is a FireRed ROMHack made by Spherical Ice. The hack completely alters the game with an amazing original story seeing you through the typical storyline of beating gyms and the league, defeating an evil organisation all while creating the ultimate team of Pokémon. The game is set in a fictional region known as Orbtus. The game features Pokémon from up to Gen 6 from the regions of Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova and Kalos. The game includes updated move sets, items, mega evolutions, fairy types, reusable TMs and more.
The story follows the established model of a young teen who leaves home in the quest to become an amazing Pokémon trainer. As you and your rival progress through the world you will encounter members of an evil organisation intent on controlling the world by using the power of legendary Pokémon (in this case it’s Regice, Regirock, Registeel and Regigigas). Battle them and the many trainers of the region, discover all Pokemon from newer generations and take on the Pokémon League in this amazing fan made passion project (which might as well be an original release). The region of Orbtus is well fleshed out with a variety of cities, biomes, areas and an interesting history.
Replaying old Pokémon games on an emulator is free and an a great nostalgia trip. Playing these fan-made ROMHacks is also free and an amazing experience. Like many other ROMHacks this was made by fans of the franchise, working for no profit but purely the love of Pokémon games. The game story, the amount of detail and work that has gone in are truly remarkable. Being able to catch Pokémon up to Gen 6 and use all new moves or functionality (like Mega Evolutions) is awesome – especially for those who don’t really appreciate the new style of games as much, who haven’t had a chance to play on DS or Switch or who would like to relive new experiences on the older engines.
Overall, if you have not played any ROMHacks before, Pokémon Gaia is a good introduction. While in its current state there isn’t much of a post-league game, the story, events, gyms and Elite Four are all really well done and fleshed out. It would be nice to see the Regis as catchable after the main story concludes and maybe some additional challenges or high-level trainers. The game really feels like it could be an official entry to the series. The use of the Regis as the legendary Pokémon for the focus of the story is quite different and almost provides a bit of a fictional backstory. For me the ideal way to play is on my phone and a good emulator will set you back around £3, but there are some decent free options too. The game will keep you busy for quite a while, especially if you decide to take your time and talk to people or help out where you can.
You can get Deoxys once you have Strength in the Cosmic Caverns
You can catch Rayquaza once you have waterfall in the Emerald Peak just outside Nestpine Town
The best place to use the VS seeker is in the area just before the nurse on Victory Road – there are 3 Ace Trainers in view which are all quite easy to beat
You can find the coin case inside one of the warehouses in Telmurk city – the same one with the Rotom appliances
You can get the Amulet Coin quite early on by buying it from a guy in Aerous City for $5000
You can turn fossils into Pokémon at the Professor’s house – upstairs
You can play on 2x speed with most emulators which makes the whole experience that little bit better
To set up the ROMHack download FireRed (Squirrels) and then apply the patch to it, then simply load up the newly patched FireRed (you may want to rename it) into an emulator and off you go
Jotun: Valhalla Edition made by Thunder Lots Games is an amazingly aesthetic game based on Norse mythology. Battle your way past gods and figure out weird puzzles on your way through the afterlife. You play as Thora – a recently deceased human wielding a massive two-handed axe. This is quite a challenging game which will have you in potential fits of anger as you face up against some of the later bosses. Each big boss (known as Jotun) fight is preceded by a couple of relatively peaceful missions to find some runes, often accompanied by a puzzle of sorts. Often you will also find special shrines that give you some interesting skills ranging from healing and shields to decoys and even the blessing of Thor’s hammer.
Once you have collected the appropriate runes you face off against a boss, and boy do these bosses pack a punch. The sense of scale is something the game plays with really successfully by pitting you – a tiny human against some truly gigantic deities. Each Jotun will have various phases, attack patterns and timings that you will need to learn and master in order to get past them. These fights can be very frustrating and you will suffer a quick death if you make too many mistakes. The process of figuring these bosses out and beating them is extremely satisfying.
Generally the game will set you back around £12 depending on platform, but is very often on sale up to 75%, allowing you to pick it up for less than £5. At that price it’s a must have. The game is an acquired taste in terms of difficulty, but an audio-visual masterpiece. The narration, soundtrack and artwork are something truly special and a testament to indie game development. If you see this game on sale make sure to pick it up. Overall it’s definitely worth the purchase and while the gameplay itself won’t last you more than around 5-6 hours, the world is so beautiful and the gameplay is extremely satisfying (and also challenging), making it an absolute must have.
Keep on the look out for Ithunn’s Apples – these will upgrade your health bar
The shrines of Mimir will replenish your skills and health, but they can only do so once
Take time to study a boss’ movement patterns and attacks
Heavy attacks will often do different things than basic attacks – experiment with this
Look for openings between legs arms or other bits where you can avoid being hit
The Wanderer is a mobile game made by Jamie Parish, an indie developer. The game draws inspiration from other post-apocalyptic titles (a few nods to Fallout), you will be challenged to survive and wander around the irradiated plains of what used to be a civilised world. At the beginning you are given a base camp where you can manage and store your resources, upgrade certain devices that will aid your survival and generally rest and reset between exploration missions. The core gameplay loop consists of you venturing out from your camp to various points on the map where you hope to find resources. Each hour of movement will cost you water and food, which you must replenish with the resources that you find. You will also have to maintain your health, illness and radiation levels as various foods or events can have an impact on those.
The game gives you some neat customisation options when starting out as well as a list of options that can make your playthrough even more challenging (should you choose to enable them). You will also have skill points to spend and you’ll earn more each time you level up. On your adventures you will often encounter random events where you will have a choice between several interactions – sometimes you may run into someone who requires some items, other times you may get attacked by irradiated monsters or bandits. When you arrive at points of interest you will be able to collect resources, these will reset each time you return to your home base. While there isn’t much to the core loop it can be quite addictive as you try to collect the resources you need to upgrade your tools and the ultimate goal is to repair the old van, which will massively aid you on your journeys.
The game has come a long way from its humble beginnings and there is really very little to fault on it. It’s great as both a casual game or something you spend hours on, trying to gather the right resources. There are some very minor gatcha elements like a log in reward, reward chests and you can watch videos to help boost XP or buy premium currency (which allows you to fast travel or respec), but for the most part these are completely unneeded and not intrusive at all.
Overall it’s a great little game and has all the key elements to keep you engaged for longer periods of time – things to build and upgrade, plenty to explore, some tricky resource management at times, quests, achievements, levels and even things like daily login rewards. It can be great for either a short play where you just go and explore a few locations or for extended sessions where venture much further from your home base or work towards building that van and upgrading your camp as much as possible. Definitely worth checking out as it is still being updated and actively improved,
If you are over exposed to radiation you will mutate – this will prevent you from getting radiation or illness from eating bad food, but you will lose health every hour. This can be easier to manage than constantly buying radiation masks
Revisit places near to your base – these reset every time you go back to your home base.
Focus on upgrading your backpack and base storage Recruiting the dog companion can be very useful as it can do really good damage at a higher level, however you will need to give it food and water
Don’t bother healing the dog as it will restore health provided it’s got food and water
Invest some points in Agility and Strength in order to increase the size of the hitbox in combat, as sometimes combat is pretty unavoidable
Ammo sells for quite a few caps
Karma will affect the sort of things that you find when scavenging – better karma, better loot