We’re kicking off the week with a look at three recent indie game releases – here are reviews of Fueled Up, Unusual Findings and Chenso Club.
Fueled Up review (PS4)
From developer Fireline Games and publisher Gamera Games comes Fueled Up, a new sci-fi take on the popular frantic couch co-op genre made popular by the likes of Overcooked. Luckily this one doesn’t go the overdone “recipe route” with its gameplay, so in that sense it’s more like games such as Moving Out, putting its own unique spin on things. We played the PlayStation 4 version.
The goal in Fueled Up is to fuel and repair space ships that are on the verge of breaking down, and there’s some time pressure involved as a giant space octopus is ready to destroy you and your ship if you fail to complete your challenges in time. You can play with up to 4 players, and both local and online co-op is included.
Fueling your ship is done by picking up and refining crystals so you get the much-needed fuel to power the engine, but it’s not as easy as that. You’ll have to often stop to apply emergency repairs, and the road to your objectives is usually littered with hazards. This can make for an almost slapstick-like visual approach, further aided by the fact that you pick a character from a roster of weird options that include things like a balloon creature and a banana. The soundtrack is fitting of a visual comedy-style presentation as well, with often chipper and stress-inducing tunes.
The controls are simple but the tasks you have to perform are quite diverse, as you’ll spend your time doing manual labor like flipping switches and repairing pipework but also hacking your way into the ship’s systems. It helps mix things up, but that also makes matters more unpredictable, which could make it harder to strategize with friends, especially when playing online and when you consider that there aren’t a lot of instructions to base your decisions around. Levels can be replayed for higher scores, with a maximum of three stars for each level – though even harder levels can be tackled if you’re looking for an even bigger challenge.
Fueled Up might feel overly familiar to veterans of the genre, but its franctic and diverse gameplay and goofy exterior make it a fun option for some multiplayer action with friends. If you regularly play couch co-op, be sure to check this one out.
Unusual Findings review (PS4)
We have a soft spot for ‘retro’, and Unusual Findings from Epic Llama Games and ESDigital certainly taps into the nostalgia factor with its classic graphical adventure gameplay and a 1980s backdrop. It’s out now for all major systems, and we played the console build for the PS4.
In Unusual Findings, you play through the story of three friends who stumble upon an alien invasion when they go to look for a mysterious object that fell down from the sky and crashed in a nearby forest. Before long, they have to run away from an alien robot, and it’s up to these three kids to pretty much stop an alien invasion of earth.
The entire story is essentially an homage to the popular culture of the 1980s, but much to the credit of the writers it doesn’t become ‘gimmicky’ – which is something we were afraid of when we saw the promo art for the game. The relationship between these three youngsters is well developed, and the conversations they have with one another (and other characters they run into) have all been well written. There is some good voice acting to bring everything to life, and the excellent soundtrack is a joy for fans of the era as well.
From a gameplay perspective, Unusual Findings can go a bit too far with the ‘retro’ approach at times, featuring some of the illogical guesswork and overly vague clues that more modern adventure games have done away with. Having grown up around classic adventure we have a high tolerance for this, but your experience might be different. As was the case thirty years ago, you can expect a few of those “oh, so that’s what you wanted me to do” moments – especially when you have to start combining and/or trading items.
And while the pixel art style of the game is absolutely lovely, evoking memories of the early 90s adventure games that are so beloved, it can also make that puzzle solving harder – with items and locations that can be hard to spot, bringing back memories of the classic ‘pixel hunting’ of those bygone days. The user interface has been modernized a bit though, with a context-sensitive approach – though it’s not always clear when you need to ‘use/touch’ or examine something.
Clearly a game by and for lovers of the adventure games that were being played three decades ago, Unusual Findings is a title for a particular crowd of players – we’re happy to be part of that crowd.
Chenso Club review (PS4)
Aurora Punks, the publisher of Chenso Club, popped up on our radar during Gamescom. A relatively new name, they actually have a bunch of interesting releases lined up for the next few months. Chenso Club, developed by Pixadome, is the first of them to launch, with titles like Kung Fury: Street Rage coming in the next few months.
The central premise for Chenso Club is a fairly generic one – earth is under attack from an alien invasion and it’s up to you to stop them. You’re not alone though, as you gradually unlock more and more characters – the Chenso Club. Each character has a unique moveset on top of standard abilities like jumping, dashing and a (special) attack, but no matter which one you choose you’re in for some frantic action platforming with a lot of combat during which you can chain your moves together.
As you progress through the game’s (randomized) stages, you’ll unlock upgrades that you pay for with life force (which you regain by killing enemies), but you’ll lose the upgrades if your run ends prematurely. If you’ve unlocked a new character you can have another go with that character, but you can always try again with an old favorite too. As with any roguelike, things eventually get easier as you unlock more and more, but you also have the option to play at a lower difficulty level.
We found that Chenso Club is the most fun when played together with a friend, as solo it’s a bit too hectic with a few unfair deaths inevitably popping up on a somewhat regular basis. With its retro visuals and almost arcade-like gameplay that throws up a challenge, this is one to play together with a friend.