Indie roundup: Cannibal Cuisine, Jack ‘n Hat, Jentrix & Circus Pocus

With Cannibal Cuisine, Jack ‘n Hat, Jentrix and Circus Pocus we’re looking at four recent indie scene releases, with a little something for everyone – even VR users.

Cannibal Cuisine

The number of games that have been inspired by Overcooked has really skyrocketed over the past few years, and Cannibal Cuisine from Rocket Vulture is the latest take on the successful formula. Out on all major system, we checked out the PlayStation version.

From the overhead perspective to the colorful visuals, this is a game that doesn’t try to hide where its developers drew inspiration from. And just like in Overcooked, you’ll be preparing meals using the ingredients that each scene provides – though there are a few important differences. Your patrons aren’t the usual clientele but hungry gods, and what they most like to eat usually involves a rather special ingredient: human parts.

So as you find yourself on a tropical island, what do you do? You serve up the tourists! It’s a bit of a grim twist and chopping up people in an Overcooked-type game won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s certainly a fresh new approach – and the colorful visual style makes sure it’s not as dark as it sounds. The game definitely rolls with the theme as well though, because recipe names are often humorous, and combining brains with some fruits and veggies can result in a “Vitamind”.

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As per the norm for games of the type, Cannibal Cuisine is best enjoyed during a local multiplayer session, and support cooperative play for up to four players – though a competitive multiplayer mode is also included. The game’s a bit more accessible than Overcooked in terms of its core mechanics, with simplified recipe that don’t require a lot of prep before you can put ingredients into a dish. That doesn’t mean things don’t get challenging though, as striving for three star scores on levels can feel difficult to the point of being out of reach.

The campaign is relatively short though (again, comparing to Overcooked 1 and 2), so although the core mechanics are instantly familiar and fun there’s limited lasting appeal, unless you want to aim for those three star ratings. If not, then the campaign, albeit short, at least has plenty of diversity to it, with changing mechanics and even a few boss fights. For Overcooked fans, that makes this a nice, if perhaps short-lived, alternate take on the formula.

Jack ‘n Hat

2Awesome’s Jack ‘n Hat, developed by Cross Game Studio, launched simultaneously on PCs and consoles last week, and looks like a fairly generic 2D retro platformer that gets its inspiration from the NES/8-bit era. Is it worth playing? We checked out the PlayStation version to find out.

With its colorful visuals, Jack ‘n Hat takes us back to classic platforming with protagonist Jack, a repairman who somehow gets caught up in a situation where he’s the only who has to rescue a princess from the hands of Dr. Voo Doom. From the name alone you can already infer that the plot is silly more than anything, but the titular hat does factor into all this. It was made by Dr. Expo Zicion, and can be thrown at enemies as a weapon, after which it will return to you.

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Over the course of the game you’ll also acquire other abilities like a slide/dash, but this is a fairly generic platformer that genre enthusiasts will feel right at home with. There are a few tricky sections that will require you to combine a well-timed slide with a jump and you’ll meet your end at the hand of a few spikes a handful of times, but most platform fans won’t need more than an hour to reach the platinum trophy for the game.

Jack ‘n Hat is a fun little platformer that ticks a lot of boxes, including the chance to take on a few bosses. It won’t wow you, but it’s a solid game that’s out now at a budget price point.

Jentrix VR

We’ve been following Arcadia’s Jentrix for a while now, as it popped up on the Oculus AppLab a while ago and has now launched on Steam as well. As the title suggests, it’s a mix of two familiar and classic formulas: Jenga and Tetris – though we’d see that match-3 is a bigger factor than Tetris is because you’re not actually working with those familiar Tetris shapes here.

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The Jenga inspiration is clear to see though – Jentrix features a tall and often wobbly tower made up of rectangular blocks that are stacked in a 3×3 manner with gaps to add the excitement of a possible fall when a piece is removed. But unlike Jenga, here you’re not just removing pieces until one player makes the tower come crashing down – here you score points by making matches, match-3 style.

Pieces are colored, and putting three pieces of the same color together makes that layer disappear from the tower and gives you points. If the layers above and below don’t go together well then you’ll risk a collapse though, so you have to be careful. Using motion controllers, you can play with two hands and remove a piece from one spot, opening up a hole, and then insert another piece there to try and make a match.

The tower grows while you play and try to keep removing layers by matching blocks (which we’ll admit is somewhat Tetris-like even though it all looks like Jenga and Match-3), so things can get rather stressful at times. Adding to that is the fact that some blocks are crocodile-shaped, and will not hesitate to come alive and try to bite your fingers.

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Jentrix features four different game modes, with a 40+ level campaign mode being the main attraction. It makes excellent use of motion controls to create a Jenga-like gameplay experience that simply wouldn’t feel the same with gamepad controls, and the VR perspective reminds us of one of our favorite VR gems: Tumble. If you liked that one, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Jentrix as well.

Circus Pocus

Circus Pocus, developed by HugePixel and brought to consoles by ChiliDog Interactive, a short action adventure with a circus/horror theme. You sure don’t see that every day, so we checked out the PlayStation version.

The plot of Circus Pocus is about two boys who, venturing into the woods, come across an ominous looking circus. When one of them gets captured, his brother goes in to try and save the day, but will have to contend with the bad guys that are found inside – mostly creepy looking clowns with green hair.

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Where a lot of indie games go in the direction of a 2D platformer, Circus Pocus uses an overhead perspective – something you often see in a twin stick shooter. This game plays more like a platformer though, and the overhead perspective is a go-between solution for a game with mechanics that you’d normally expect to see in a 3D environment.

Circus Pocus features stealth, as at first you’re unarmed and will need to stay away from the clowns and their vision cones. When you do gain a weapon, it’s best to hit them from behind with it, so you’re often trying to swerve around them to get a good vantage point for an attack. You can also whistle in order to lure them away, only to surprise them from behind a moment later – it’s mechanics like these that make the overhead view helpful, letting you see windows of opportunity as they arise.

There are a few other enemies, including bosses, and puzzles and environmental dangers also need to be overcome, but ultimately Circus Pocus is a very short game that shouldn’t last most players more than an hour or so. It mostly features rather generic though diverse enough gameplay with circus-themed bad guys, though the inclusion of a ball you can walk on as you roll around is a nice circus feature indeed. For most, this will be either a quick diversion or a nice quick platinum trophy, as one is included at a budget price point.

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