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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 30 Dec, 2014 At 08:51 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIsabel Heyninck

I love the first Cherry Tree High game. A lot. It set itself apart from most visual novels I’d played because unlike most visual novels it was highly interactive. Usually you just get the dialogue and a few choices, playing more like a pick your own adventure novel. It is a medium with endless possibilities and lends itself to some splendid storytelling. The medium however is only widely used in Japan, with most western VNs being subpar cash ins for anime fan money. Cherry Tree High was a visual novel and a strategic video game at the same time. You can read all about why Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was so good in my previous review.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the follow up I never expected to actually happen. When I saw it in the Steam store I could barely contain my excitement, and from the first episode with the subtle humor I’ve come to expect from the series out in full force I was greatly looking forward to some fun time with Miley and all her friends.

cthcc8

Wait what’s going on? Why are all the names Japanese?” was the sentiment that followed. When I first played the game it was westernized, with the setting in America along with appropriate name and reference changes. This was really alienating after playing through the westernized game. I couldn’t help but wonder if they made an original version of the first game so new players can seamlessly go from the first game to the follow up. Turns out they had.

original or localized

I’ve learned about some wonderful things in Japan by replaying the original version.

Now as to why they’ve deviated from localizing this particular game unlike the previous one can be attributed to an entirely Japanese phenomena. Idols.

idol cherry tree high

As to what idols are; you could equate them to pop stars but the culture surrounding them is so much more different than that of the west, it’s a difficult topic to explain. Unlike the first Cherry Tree High game where the plot involves happenings that can occur almost anywhere, the emergence of an idol in the story now makes it impossible for I! My! Girls! to take place anywhere but Japan.

The events of I! My! Girls! take place where the original game left off with the comedy club’s founding and all potential club members recruited. This new chapter in the Cherry Tree High series involves an idol, real name Ai Fujino, who finds out about the comedy club’s revival and decides to attend Cherry Tree High to pursue her dream of being a comedian. This of course is something that poses a problem since she is an idol.

comedian

The story, while primarily focused on this new character and Mairu the main character, also gives time to tell the stories of the other club members while introducing new characters.

Unlike the previous game, this one is purely visual novel. There are no choices, the story is told and slowly revealed. The game is broken up into “episodes” each with a chapter of some sort.

episode select screen

To me this actually felt more like reading a manga than playing a game since there are no choices. Did I like it? Yes I enjoyed the game for what it was. But do I think someone who knows nothing of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club should buy this game? No, this isn’t a story one would enjoy unless they are already acquainted with the characters and setting. It is knowing the character and seeing them carry on with the promise of the previous game that make I! My! Girls! satisfying.

Mairu faces challenges to her comedy club from rivals, you learn more about the adult characters from the previous game, about the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club’s history, you see character bond with each other, and so on and so forth.

I don’t want to describe the plot further since I wouldn’t want to spoil it but any CTHCC fan would like it. You get the atmosphere of the previous game and the same easygoing slice of life dialogue while being told a new story. The game ends on definite note of  more to come, and as much as I enjoyed this, I hope the next installment is as interactive as the first game. It’s a good companion to CTHCC, but as a standalone game it lacks footing.

What is it that I find most disappointing about I! My! Girls! is the fact that this is not a game I could show to my non-otaku friends as an example of how visual novels can be for anybody, that it is not an obscure medium, and they can tell wonderful stories anyone can enjoy. Unlike Cherry Tree High Comedy Club it doesn’t lend itself to wide appeal outside of Japan.

The creator can’t be blamed. This game was made with a Japanese audience in mind, foreigners are the last thing doujin circles try to cater to. In a Japanese market obsessed with Love Live! School Idol Project and used to simple VNs like these there is no obligation to be innovative. I’m not saying the creator wrote to pander, it’s obvious through his writing he enjoys what he does, but the fact I! My! Girls! was so different from CTHCC disappoints me a bit.

Conclusion, play Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and then Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! If you’re unfamiliar with VNs and not a big fan of slice of life anime I suggest sticking with the first game unless you’re willing to take risks. Luckily, both games come in a bundle deal for max savings. Happy gaming!

 

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 25 Jun, 2013 At 11:39 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
eXceed - Gun Bullet Children

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Gun Bullet Children is a game that bloomed out of Touhou’s instant popularity. Coming from the already established  Japanese indie game developer FLAT, it was the beginning of the series of vertical shooters called eXceed.

eXceed - Gun Bullet Children

Gun Bullet Children is a simple game. As a bullet hell game, you’re going to be subjected to just that, an enormous amount of bullets and lazers coming at you from every way you have to dodge while gunning down the enemies yourself. Your main objective is to get to the boss at the last level and defeat him, the hard part is not dying en route. The enemies have a tendency to shoot in patterns and getting the rhythm down is an essential part of beating the game. Killing enemies will make them drop items the player can collect, these items are either red or blue. An essential part of the game is leveling up your character, which will make their standard attacks more powerful. That is achieved by collecting enough red items from enemies. Both red and blue items will increase your score, and when the score reaches a certain point you get an extra “life”.

eXceed enemies drop items

The game manages to create variation through two means, the difficulty and their characters. There’s not much to say about difficulty, just your standard, easy, normal, and hard. The variation that completely changes the way you play comes from your three main characters.

The three character differ in their three methods of attack: their standard attack, counter-magic, and bomb. With each character comes a new way to play, and mastering all three will require a lot of practice.

Counter-magic can only be performed if the bar that allows it is completely full and is filled the more attacks are dodged. Bombs are only available through lives, and each life allows for the character to use three bombs, once you lose a life you can’t get the bombs from that life back. Bombs have the ultimate advantage, because while they last you are invincible and can get in the line of fire dealing even more damage to the enemy until the bomb stops.

Tinatu Kagaya is the best character to play with because her standard attack covers a broad area which is great because you can indirectly shoot at enemies while dodging their attacks and her other two attacks obliterate every enemy on the screen at once. Every time she levels up the more bullets she can shoot at once, making her standard attack cover a larger areas and cause more damage to enemies.

Tinatu fighting a difficult boss

Sowel Devosiana has a “doll” that assists her in her attacks. Sowel shoots fire directly in front of her which makes it inconvenient when dodging attacks, but her doll shoots the enemy closest to her and doesn’t cause the player or herself damage if she’s in the line of fire, making her a very valuable asset. Counter-magic makes the doll shoot out lethal fire in 8 directions that kill all the enemies it touches and the bomb makes her grow giant and attack all on screen enemies.

Sowel in bullet hell

Now Miyabi Housen is the most difficult character to play with. Her standard attack is just a single column of fire directly above her. Her counter-magic is very unique because it doesn’t cover the entire screen like those of her fellow main characters, it makes two fire orbs revolve around her as a form of support fire and is only ideal when dealing with short range attacks, which makes it less than ideal for boss battles.

Miyabi dodging

The coolest thing she can do however is bomb. Her bomb is said to “fire a massive laser cannon” but it looks more like she harvested the power of fire and is turning the area in front of her into a fiery hell.

Miyabi's Bomb

As simple as the game play is, it’s quite addicting. But as much as I love this game I have complaints. The backgrounds are rather drab and only Tinatu’s bomb seems to last long enough to make the most out of it. Also there’s the issue that the game is an import (in its original Japanese form). To make up for it, Nyu Media has graciously provided a page with a complete translation of the dialogue in the game for those of us that don’t speak Japanese. The game also comes with decent voice acting (Miyabi is super high pitched).

Random symbols, can't understand.

What comes out of a computer without the ability to write in Japanese.

I’m not going to say much but be aware of your enemies, because come the following game you’ll be in for a surprise.

I consider this game a must have, the game play and amazing background music make this game. Getting the game and accessing the background music file will give a great addition to anyone’s video game soundtrack collection.

exceed bundle

As a first doujin game, this is excellent and the following games get better and better. You can get eXceed – Gun Bullet Children by itself for $2.99 but I definitely recommend getting the eXceed collection with all 3 games for $9.99, cheaper than getting each game individually. All these beautiful games are completely DRM free and great bullet hell games that rival classics like Touhou. Thanks to the localization team at Nyu Media Ltd.

The review for the second game in the series, 2nd – Vampire REX, is here.

By otakuman5000 On 11 Jun, 2011 At 01:19 PM | Categorized As Indie Spotlight, PC Games | With 1 Comment

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Wow! Has it been hot! Here in North Carolina it’s been 90 or better all week on the thermometer. If you’re like me and hiding from the heat, there’s no better way than chilling out indoors with some awesome games. This year there have been some awesome releases … Dead Space 2, L.A. Noire, just to name a couple and we’ve just now secured the long awaited Duke Nukem.

 

Decay Episode 4 by Shining Gate Studios

The indie developers have been busy too. Shining Gate Software released the final episode of Decay. This one really grabbed my attention. It’s so well done and you can see the progression of quality throughout the episodes. Some of the puzzles really exercise your brain and thought process.

 

Decimation X3 by Xona Games

My family started a Decimation X3 showdown for highest score. This fantastic game was actually a part of the Winter Uprising set in motion to draw attention to the amazing talent involved in indie games on Xbox Live. We’ve had some good laughs playing this one. It’s great to look at and the concept is a proven success with today’s spin, the perfect combination of retro meets new idea.

 

Inflamous by Milkstone Studios

I cannot thank Milkstone Studios enough for the pure develish laughs I indulged in while setting my colleagues on fire playing their game Inflamous. This is a timed game and the idea is simple, burn everyone in your office as fast as you can to move on to the next level. It was more therapy for a dollar than I could have gotten from any professional.

 

Lylian Paranoid Friendship by Pixel Pickle – Included in the Indie Summer Six Pack

I was really happy to find out today that there’s a chance coming up to catch some of the games I missed at a great price. The new bundle, The Indie Summer Six Pack, has been released and is on offer for $10.00 right now. If you share on facebook it’s only $5. This release price is going up on Monday, June 20. So, now is the time to grab it.

Pixelpickle Games along with Citeremis, Ovolo, Pieces Interactive, Ludosity and Different Pixel all have titles included. For your money you just can’t beat an indie bundle, especially if you’re willing to show the developers a little love and share on facebook. Here is the official press release.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Melbourne, Victoria, AU – June 11th 2011 – Independent studio Pixelpickle Games would like to bring your full attention to the Indie Games Summer Six Pack!

Head on over to http://www.indiegamespack.com to purchase the pack for $10. Or click the Facebook Share button to get it for $5, and help us spread the word.

The Product
Pixelpickle Games has teamed up with Citeremis, Ovolo, Pieces Interactive, Ludosity and Different Pixel. To create an incredible six-pack bundle of creatively inspired and fun indie-games for your PC! Whether immersing yourself in the lush world of the Aztec for a RPG adventure, building ecologically-sound ‘green’ cities, re-building your damaged spaceship, testing your puzzle strategy skills on islands and distant galaxies, flexing your ability to manipulate a magical, colorful cube, or going on a straight-jacket adventure through a creepy children’s hospital—this DRM-free Indie-Games Summer Six-Pack bundle offers fantastic value for your summer gaming interests (or something to cosy up to in the cold days ahead for some of us 😉 ).
The deal ends on June 20th 2011. So start digging around the back of your couch for the spare change!

About Pixelpickle Games
Pixelpickle Games is an independent company focused on creating small yet fun and unusual games initially for the PC with an outlook to develop for multiple platforms.
For more information, please visit http://www.pixelpickle.com .
info@pixelpickle.com

©2011 Pixelpickle Games Pty Ltd. All rights reserved