Time for another look at a couple of indie game releases, as we tackle Bounty Battle from Dark Screen Games and Swordbreaker – The Game from DuCats Games Studio, which was originally released on Steam back in 2015 but has now been released for consoles thanks to ports by Sometimes You.
On paper, Bounty Battle feels like a great idea. It’s essentially Super Smash Bros or PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale in how it brings familiar characters together, but with a range of indie characters making up the roster (and gameplay that’s more akin to Street Fighter than SSB). As such, it’s a great testament to the indie scene and how developers let each other borrow their creations, but we’re not quite sure the game does them justice.
This isn’t the first time that the indie scene has come up with a mashup game by the way – Team Indie, which we reviewed back in 2014, applied the same approach to a different genre. It’s great to see indie developers sharing and co-creating like this, and having access to the likes of Owlboy and Juan from Guacamelee in a new game certainly was something I was looking forward to.
Seeing the character roster, which includes no fewer than 30 characters, is a warm welcome and a lovely overview of part of the indie scene, and I spent a few minutes just reminiscing over the games that had introduced me to these characters and wondering about the games where the characters were new to me. Oddly enough, the character selection screen also features a glitch effect that looks like an arcade machine booting up, a strange choice considering that none of these games have arcade origins and it’s not the easiest thing on the eyes either.
In-game, sadly, the experience feels undercooked. I would get it if characters had jerky animations because of the source material they were lifted from, but when you get the same sensation from characters where it feel completely out of place you know something is amiss. Maybe the gorgeous animations in games like BlazBlue and Injustice have spoiled us, but since these are both titles that the developers mention as inspirations for Bounty Battle it’s hard not to be disappointed in what’s on screen. The combat itself doesn’t fare much better than the animation does, with imprecise hit boxes, a lack of attack variety and generally clunky combat despite mostly responsive controls.
Bounty Battle just ends up feeling like an unfinished project, like a prototype that was put together to show to a publisher as an indication of roughly what you’re aiming for. For a finished game, however, “roughly” isn’t quite good enough.
Swordbreaker – The Game
Sometimes You, with their ports for various consoles and handhelds, has certainly introduced us to a few hidden gems over the years – mostly games that were originally on Steam for PC users. Swordbreaker – The Game is another example of this, and one that’s out now for Xbox One, PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4.
Although we’ve seen plenty of visuals novels on the Vita and the PS4, it’s rare to see them set against a fantasy backdrop, and Swordbreaker does that while also tweaking the gameplay to feel more like a ‘choose your own adventure’ type than the traditional text-heavy approach of visuals novels. Rather than read page after page of text, the wrong choice here could lead to a swift death. Another difference is that, instead of just rotating between the characters that are speaking, the on-screen display is often that of a brand new scene – the game featuring over 300 of them.
The end result is a dynamic and non-linear story in which you decide the course of the narrative and the outcome, and it invites multiple replays more so than any visual novel I remember playing in recent years. The stakes are high with many of the choices that you make, and as a result the game constantly engages you with its story, which revolves around an ominous castle, dark forces and hidden secrets. It’s a relatively short story, but one with replay value and something that’s great for a shorter gameplay session.
The visual style of the game, which has a lower emphasis on text and features excellent hand drawn/comic book style art, is another breath of fresh air. We really enjoyed Swordbreaker and have our fingers crossed for more of DuCats’ games heading our way through Sometimes You – there’s another Swordbreaker game out there, so here’s hoping…..