There's something for everyone this week, provided you like dungeons, dancing, minimalistic platformers or bees. If that all sounds like a regular Saturday night in your household, then boy are you in for a treat. (Also: what time can I pop round?) Fire up your browser, turn off the lights, put the dog in the kitchen, the cat in the bin, and make a pot of tea while the Unity-based webgames finish bloody loading, because things are about to get
Seedling creator Connor Ullmann has returned to the underworld with a sequel to his brutal platformer, Quietus. This time, the skeletal protagonist has a lost soul in tow; if he can shepherd it through Hell in one piece, he'll be given one final chance at redemption. So no pressure.
The soul doesn't actually help out, of course, so once again you're left to navigate each trap-filled screen under your own steam. Useless spirit aside, there isn't a hell of a lot of difference between this and the original, so Quietus survivors will have a significant headstart over the rest of mere immortals. The secret to conquering the game is... timing. That and perseverance. Not dying would also probably help.
This minimalist platform game may involve a bunch of white squares moving against a blank black backdrop, but it makes full use of every last pixel – or anti-pixel. Where other developers make shapes and leave it at that, Empty Black creator Mary Rose Cook has used them as a novel place to keep the health bar. As you take damage from enemy bullets – or deal damage with your own, identical bullets – the full squares gradually turn hollow, before reverting to nothingness.
It's also a pretty good platformer in its own right, with a robust physics engine – always important – and some annoyingly precise level design. Stripped of its stripped-back approach, there might not be too much to write home about, but sometimes less is more.
Sometimes, of course,
is more. Empty Black may be tricky and visually striking, but it is severely lacking in bees. Let's fix that with by introducing the aptly named Beeserker. It's a little rough around the edges, but the alarmingly high bee quotient just about makes up for it. You're a girl with a bee headband and stripy bee trousers, so naturally you have to collect a bunch of bees. (Don't worry, as long as they don't get anywhere near
you should be fine.)
Bees aside, what really makes Beeserker stand out is the presence of a dedicated 'dance' button. Hold the appropriate key and the girl will do a little boogie – the kind the Bee Gees would probably have enjoyed. It's an act that, as far as I can figure out, has absolutely no effect on the game. Clearly, more games should feature a proper dance button, and I'm not going to rest until they do. In fact, if you need me, I'll be doing the Charleston – endlessly, like that priest on Father Ted.
But the best game this week, by a country mile, is Kinto Games' bit Dungeon, a permadeath dungeon crawler with a few great flourishes and one brilliant control scheme. It's all point and click, which is not exactly novel for the action RPG genre, but feels fresh and entirely welcome in a game that looks to the original Zelda for its dungeon design.
Like The Binding of Isaac, bit Dungeon goes for the gridded approach, its lairs laid out as strictly interlinked squares filled with enemies, who drop keys when they've gone the way of the dodo. Defeat the boss of each area and you move onto the next dungeon, which is pretty much identical in layout. The good thing about this structure is that it forces you to backtrack, giving you the opportunity to witness a small but ridiculously cool feature, and one of our favourite elements of the game.
Upon returning to previously conquered rooms, it's not uncommon to find the ghosts of the monsters you've just killed, or to stumble upon ratlike scavengers feasting on their remains. As I said, it's a small thing, but seeing the consequences of your actions makes the world feel that much more alive. Or that much more dead. Either way, this weekend I will be mostly in bit Dungeon, poking through monster guts for new equipment.
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