We’re starting off the week with a look at three smaller releases that came out recently. With a lot of variety in genres, there’s something for everyone here. Take a look at Tentacular, Z-Warp and Catie in MeowmeowLand.
Tentacular review (Quest)
If you regularly follow us, you’ll notice that we discussed Firepunchd Games’ Tentacular before in a preview. The full game is out now though, which allowed us to take it for a spin on a Quest headset. PC-based VR gamers can also find the game on Steam, where it’s compatible with most PC-based headsets as well.
We went over the basics of Tentacular in our preview already, talking about how you’re a giant Squid-like Kaiju who’s been adopted into the island life a closely knit community. Because of this, you’ll spend a lot of the game’s story mode performing a variety of tasks for them, often relying on your massive strength and lengthy tentacles. We really enjoyed this during our demo time with the game, and it remains fun for the duration of a campaign that’s surprisingly long – although the physics-based nature of games like Tentacular means that certain actions will eventually start to feel a tad too familiar. Makes sense, since there’s only so much you can do with a pair of giant tentacles with suckers attached to them.
The Kaiju-based gameplay doesn’t feel like a gimmick here by the way – the physics-based mechanics have actually been well implemented, and you can tell when objects in the game world are heavier than others. Sometimes you need a gentle touch, and at times you need to put serious effort into things and one tentacle doesn’t suffice. And in between the physics-based fun, Tentacular also tells a charming story about a Kaiju who’s out of the water (through not literally) and has learnt to co-exist with the people of the island.
And while our protagonist is a gentle giant, those of us who have more destructive urges can go crazy in the game’s sandbox mode as well. Here, there are no missions and objectives, and you can just play around with stuff – stacking objects and seeing your piles then fall over, or simply tossing heavy containers and causing complete mayhem. Tentacular doesn’t veer far from the path of other physics-based VR titles before it, but with some charming storytelling and very well implemented physics, it’s a ton of fun.
Z-Warp review (PS4)
A lot of Eastasiasoft’s console releases have been ports of games that were previously released on Steam, but Z-Warp is a brand new original arcade shooter that’s out now for all major console platforms. It was developed by Panda Indie Studio, previously responsible for Project Starship X – also released by Eastasiasoft. We took a look at the game on a PlayStation 4 console.
Even though Z-Warp is a classic vertical scrolling arcade shoot ’em up, it comes with a story that takes place in the 22nd century. In it, warping time and space has become a reality, and an experimental ship gets lost in space when they try to use the technology. When a distress signal from the craft is received, you have to head out and find it so the scientists back home can figure out what happened to it. Your mission quickly turns into a descent into hell though, and getting back alive is going to be a challenge. Yeah, we also thought it sounded a bit like the plot to Event Horizon, but in an arcade shooter that’s not narrative-driven we certainly don’t mind.
Gameplay-wise, you’re not going to see much of that story, but you’ll see plenty of bullet hell-type shooting that will evoke memories of this developer’s earlier work if you’ve played it. Boss battles are especially interesting, with huge screen-filling enemies who seem to have limitless firepower, while you have to take them out with a combination of spread shots and charged laser beams as well as a bomb that can also take out bullets heading your way – letting you escape from a tough spot, especially in boss fights. You can also temporarily dodge bosses by flying over them, which doesn’t result in instant death here.
It’s worth pointing out that Z-Warp is a short game though, with only four levels. It also includes a continue system that consistently makes it easier to get further in the game, so if you have a decent amount of experience with the genre then you’ll likely complete the game in less than an hour. And even though it’s a solid shooter at a budget price, that’s something to consider unless you have interest in online leaderboards or the fact that you get an easy platinum trophy to add to your collection. Two, actually, as the PS4 version comes bundled with the PS5 one as well.
Catie in MeowmeowLand review (PS4)
With a title like Catie in MeowmeowLand, you can be fairly sure of two things. This one’s going to be some kind of take on Alice in Wonderland, and it’s not going to take itself too seriously. Developed by ARTillery and published by Blowfish Studios, we went down this particular rabbit hole on a PlayStation 4.
That creative takes on Lewis Carroll’s story can work in a videogame context is something we saw earlier in Down the Rabbit Hole for various VR systems, and this one strays even further from the original work and the Disney adaptation with a cast full of… you guessed it… cats. Our protagonist is a regular little girl called Catie, but among the creatures you’ll encounter there will be a disproportionate amount of felines.
Catie in Meowmeowland is a point and click adventure, but while most will equate that genre with classics like The Secret of Monkey Island or modern games like the Telltale adventures or Life is Strange, this one is a lot more visually driven than conversation-driven. In that sense, it’s a bit like Machinarium and Samorost, taking you through scenes that each have their own puzzles to solve before you can progress in a relatively short time – where the length gets padded a little through puzzles that are a bit obtuse.
Those types of puzzles are the exceptions here though, and for the most part this is a rather pleasant adventure through a fantasy land with obvious nods to a literary classic. What helps is that the game has a lovely indie art style as well. You won’t find intricate 3D scenes and lavishly animated characters here, but there’s an artful storybook-like quality to the visuals and you’ll run into plenty of oddball characters along the way. If you enjoy off-beat adventure games, this is a rare example outside of the Steam platform for console players to enjoy.