South Africa :: Pixel Boy and the Ever Expanding Dungeon

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Shedding some (neon) light on the dungeon…

Finding a game from South Africa was not a challenge. Choosing one instead was. The association “Make Games South Africa” (http://makegamessa.com/) is a vivid forum of motivated game makers and was immediately helpful by pointing me to interesting games. A first link-list could be found on their Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/curator/5025202-makegamesSA/). This list is full of all sorts of games. Violent bunny games, sci-fi horror games, dark dungeons, and more violent bunny games. Many games are developed in Johannesburg or Cape Town. All of these games are pretty young and were published between 2013-2015. The South African game developer association seems like a vivid and growing community. More games (also many free ones) can also be found on https://itch.io/c/39646/south-african-games-on-itchio. Intense colours, top-down view, pixel graphics, and a good prize at Steam Sale (0.99€ instead of 4.99) made “Pixel Box and the Ever Expanding Dungeon” a very attractive choice for my game from South Africa.

The game starts with a very unique narrator-voice telling me how to play the game (or rather commanding me how to play the game). The tutorial is very well and interesting designed. For every new command, they have designed a separate room in a dungeon. The commands and how to use them are displayed on the floor in shiny blinking red. After the tutorial you start the actual game in a town (which reminds nostalgic-me a lot of Game Boy top-town Pokemon towns) where you would encounter other characters, some puns, and jokes. This is the starting point for the different dungeons, all of them procedurally generated, full of different monsters (chosen by the mob maker 9000), items and keys to collect,… and colours. Elements you would collect in the dungeon can be used for crafting new items, weapons, and armours.

The game itself is a rogue-like game. Since this is the first rogue-like game in my article-series, I’d like to shortly describe this genre. Rogue-like games are inspired by or similar to the prime father dungeon-crawling-DOS-game “Rogue” from 1983. Rogue was one of the first games, where items, monsters, and dungeons are randomly and dynamically (procedural) generated. Dying in the dungeons means usually losing a lot of items (in the case of evil Pixel Boy: ALL :-( ) and starting over at the entry again. (So while playing Pixel Boy I suddenly found myself stuck playing 1984 DOS Rogue again. Just another awesome dying screen inspired me also to create the page of the Hall of Pain with my “favourite” game-over screens I’ll see during my project.)

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Back to Pixel Boy! The art style of Pixel Boy is really interesting and colourful. While the dungeons are styled in a dark and dull way, the monsters and the entire combat is designed with intense, contrasty colours. Many styles are mixed and an intense fight feels like “disco disco”. The soundtrack of the game is fantastic. Even though many reviewers would especially praise the option to turn off the narrator’s commentaries, this is definitely one interesting and unique part of this game.

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Release 2014
Genre RTS, Shoot ’em up
Developer Giant Box Games
Publisher Giant Box Games
http://store.steampowered.com/app/263080/ 

Zambia :: SCND Genesis: Legends

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SCND Genesis: Legends – Handcrafted RTS meets a fistful of 2d fighting

Looking for a game from Zambia I first thought I would have a rather hard time. But after a very short period of research, my attention was drawn to Sithe Ncube. She is part of the GGJ (global game jam) organizers from the Zambia GGJ location, and part of ubongogamelab.com. She told me about the growing game development scene and pointed me to some games. One of them was SCND Genesis Legends by Ifunga Ndana. Seeing some screenshots of this game and knowing it is based on a web comic already convinced me that this is the kind of game I’d love to play today.

The game is a hybrid of a fighting and an RTS game. It combines an interesting comic-style with 2d “street fighter” fighting games and anime-inspired animations. The developer has created an entire story as environment for different fights. Every character has unique special skills and you would choose a chain of attacks for your next strike. The first fights were pretty frustrating. The game doesn’t explain any controls or the gameplay. I didn’t win any fight. Not one. Not even close. So I had to do something.. totally.. new to me: I’ve started the game tutorial from the main menu. Apparently I’ve missed the wonderful secret weapon – the FURY STRIKE. After learning this extremely helpful super-skill I was able to win some fights and concentrate on the main attraction of the game: the graphics.

The developer, who has also created a web-comic around this story, has created his own world with loving attention to details. Very nice hand-drawn graphics and animations make this game an extremely nice experience and one can feel how much effort and commitment the developer put into this game. Even though the game is not perfect and one would come across minor bugs, this game is a thoroughly piece of work, developed by a guy combining his love for stories, comics, and (fighting) games.

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Release 2011
Genre fighting, RTS
Developer Ifunga Ndana
Publisher
http://www.scndgen.com/