While reviewing Bravery & Greed, Soccer Story, Retro Goal and EDENGATE: The Edge of Life, we were jumping back into the indie dev side of things during a season that is usually dominated by AAA productions. Here are our thoughts on these four new indies.
Bravery & Greed review (PS4)
Team17’s Bravery & Greed, which was developed by Rekka Games, seem to fit inside a pattern for the UK-based publisher. Like with The Knight Witch, it’s a hybrid of different genres, and once again the mixture works quite well. Combining beat ’em up, roguelite and dungeon crawling mechanics, the game is out now for PCs and consoles, and we checked it out on a PlayStation 4.
As with a lot of roguelites, the narrative premise is fairly thin, and involves four friends who decide they want to go ahead and steal stuff from the Dwarven Sky Fortress. To get there, they’ll need to traverse four different themed environments – built around the concepts fire, earth, ice and… death. That got dark quickly, didn’t it? The rewards at the end are plentiful though, so they set out on their quest anyway.
Bravery & Greed plays out like a side-scroller with retro pixel graphics that are reminiscent of the 16-bit era. Our friends translate to four classes once you dive into the gameplay, with familiar ones like a knight and a rogue offering different gameplay styles. After you choose your hero, you’ll venture into room-based dungeons, and after clearing a few of them you’ll be rewarded with a chest full of loot. Some loot will let you build and develop your characters, and some will just let you regain health. Other ways to boost your character come from statues/altars, where depending on the god that it’s dedicated to you can unlock further upgrades.
Most of what you find and gain in a run doesn’t carry over towards your next attempt after you die, except for the gold – represented in a “Greed o’ meter”, which ties in nicely with the game’s title in showing it’s all about the money if you want get stronger. Getting “richer” will give you access to new in-game followers/helpers, useful items or magic cards that can change the rules for your next run – allowing you to push further next time.
It’s an interesting implementation of the roguelite concept, and what makes Bravery & Greed especially fun is that you can also play it in on/offline co-op gameplay – offline being especially nice as you battle waves of incoming enemies together. It adds lasting appeal to an already engaging single player adventure, where even an individual run can last an hour or more. If you enjoy roguelites, this is one that manages to stand out in a crowded genre.
Soccer Story review (PS4)
A title we couldn’t resist with the world cup soccer currently going on is Soccer Story from No More Robots (previously responsible for games like Descenders). Out for pretty much all console systems and PCs, we tested this soccer-RPG hybrid on a PlayStation 4.
Despite the success of games like Captain Tsubasa and Inazuma Eleven, blending RPG gameplay with soccer still feels like a breath of fresh air – possibly because the market’s been so saturated with FIFA and PES games during the past few decades. And even though neither the RPG part or the actual soccer gameplay are especially great in Soccer Story, we’re quite forgiving just because it tries something different.
On the surface, Soccer Story looks like an NES-era role playing game, one in which you have to bring soccer back to a town where it’s been banned. It’s kind of a silly and not too memorable plot, and the bulk of the gameplay revolves around either a soccer minigame or simple fetch quests – many of which have you just searching for random objects on the part of the map you can currently access.
You’ll also regularly switch to a small arcade soccer game. This filled us with anticipation and excitement when we first played as its retro visuals reminded us of games we enjoyed decades ago, but it’s quite rough around the edges, and there are better arcade soccer games out there. That makes Soccer Story a game that ultimately fails to deliver on both ends, but it’s a nice curiosity that looks charming and you might want to pick it up during a sale.
Retro Goal review (Switch)
There clearly were more developers/publishers who thought it’d be a good idea to release a soccer game during the World Cup, and New Star Games ties into the event with Retro Goal for the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re somewhat nostalgic, then you’ll instantly appreciate that the game looks like the soccer games that were being released in the very earliest parts of the 1990s, just before FIFA emerged onto the scene. Home computers in particular were home to tons of soccer games, and Retro Goal is very visually reminiscent of those, though it adds a lot more depth on and off the pitch.
One novel idea is the use of a passing mechanic that slows down the game when you’re about to pass, giving you more time to aim and power where you want your pass to go. This also gives more importance to the option of being able to change formations and thus build different types of attacks. It’s familiar, but different enough to feel like it’s not a carbon copy of what came before, despite the similarities in graphics.
Surprisingly, Retro Goal also features a lot of managerial mechanics, so you can spend a lot of time making sure players and fans are happy, improving your squad and facilities, and dealing with the club’s owners. For a game that looks (and sounds) like a retro arcade-style soccer game, there’s a lot to it if you decide to jump into the career mode. A very pleasant surprise and a nice little indie exclusive for the Switch.
EDENGATE: The Edge of Life review (PC)
Developer HOOK’s EDENGATE: The Edge of Life is one of those indie games that catches your eye because of its production values. Although its visuals are more like a big studio production from the PS3 era than something that wants to compete with today’s AAA titles, it feels ambitious in its scope.
It explores familiar territory with its core plot though, as Edengate’s short story (the game only lasts about two hours) is mostly set inside an abandoned hospital where protagonist Mia Lorenson wakes up. But while that’s usually the kind of setup you’d associate with a survival horror type of game, this one unfolds more like a walking simulator that slowly unwraps the mystery for you – providing clues and triggering some of Mia’s own memories.
With a strong sense of visual atmosphere and a cheap asking price, we’re not too bothered by Edengate’s short runtime and linear structure – this is the type of game that’s fun to play during an evening where you feel more like playing a game than watching a movie, but you don’t have tons of time to spend. Its shorter runtime has also allowed the developers to make sure that for those two hours you get production values you rarely see within the indie scene, which is another plus.
Strip away those elements, however, and Edengate has a few underwhelming gameplay elements that feel like they detract from the narrative rather than add to it. More specifically, this is about the puzzles you’ll come across, which tend to be either too easy or have the solution right there for you to see in the next room – taking away the satisfaction of solving it. Minor issues considering the game’s short length though – and if you’d like to try an indie game that leans more into the cinematic side of things then Edengate could be for you.