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Well, it’s time for another Kickblunders, a look at what games to avoid and support from May 2017. It felt like after Yooka Laylee’s release and Nintendo releasing the Switch and making bank, Kickstarter dried up a bit. Luckily, a lot of good Kickstarters are up now, and while some bad ones popped up, I think I found enough to warrant which ones to avoid and which ones to invest into. The only honorable mention I have is for the Kickstarter success Blasphemous. While I was working on this editorial, it got funded right off the bat. Still, if you like 2D action-heavy Dark Souls-style games, then you should keep supporting Blasphemous.
Now, before we officially begin, just a heads-up. Kickstarter games are not always going to be fruitful, and end up as amazing games just because they don’t have to deal with a major publisher (not yet at the very least). Make sure you do your research, look for the signs of good and bad Kickstarters, and wisely choose which ones to support. Hopefully these comparisons can help split the bad eggs from the good eggs. This is going to be a long article, so let’s begin!
Avoid!: The Cypher
Listen, it might just be a Kickstarter for a demo, and it might at the very least have a video, but once again, you can’t be showing off a Kickstarter project anymore if you don’t have good legit footage or something playable. Yeah, I get that you want another game like Def Jam to exist, but do you know how much it would cost to do what you want with this type of project? It’s not only going to cost a lot in terms of making the game itself, but you will also be paying for royalties for the rappers to be in the game. I just don’t think this one was well thought out.
Instead, You Should Back: Project Rap Rabbit
What’s this? A brand new rhythm game with an emphasis on rapping made by the minds behind PaRappa The Rapper and Gitaroo Man? Sign me up! While I am concerned that it won’t get funded because of people’s growing concern about Kickstarter projects from big names, I do think this one is worth supporting. It’s not just another Rock Band. It’s basically an RPG dialogue-based rap system, where you listen to the rap, choose your dialogue, and then rap back in rhythm. I love the art style and personality the game is bringing to the table. I do wish they had some actual gameplay, but I would rather support this project by vets who know what they want to do rather than a developer who has no idea what they are doing.
Avoid!: The Rise of Mooncrest
This one hurts to talk about because it started off with a lot of promise when it was originally uploaded to the site two years ago. It also hurts because it’s from my home town of Austin, Texas. There are so many red flags about this re-upload that it isn’t funny. First off, the art is horrendous. Yes, in the end it doesn’t matter how pretty your game is if the gameplay isn’t good, but this looks like a flash game some sleazy two-bit developer would throw onto the app store. The Advance Wars-style gameplay isn’t the problem, it’s the visual presentation. You can tell a lot changed from the two versions of the Kickstarter with the budget being lesser and the four-person team is now only one. It doesn’t bring up a lot of good signs. I hate to say this one is a blunder, because it’s not the worst that I have seen. It does do a lot of things right, like have footage and a demo, but when a pretty similar style game is coming to the Switch called Wargroove, or other digital board game-style tactic games, then you need to step it up. I feel like this needed more polish in the art department and some clarity as to what happened with the other three people on the team.
Instead, You Should Back: Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This is developed by RetroEpic Software, the newest Fig campaign (sorry for not getting to Phoenix Point in time. It looks great!), where you play as a group of fire fighters as you strategically make your way through different houses putting out the fires and saving civilians. You better watch out because fire can be rather unpredictable. The game has a great art style, and looks like a rather in-depth system of tackling every level. I hope they can bring it to consoles, since I feel like it could do well on something like the Switch.
Avoid!: Alpha’s Theory
Once again, when there are other games in this genre like The Binding of Isaac, you need to not look like a fairly early-in-production flash game. It’s not like we can’t have variations of the same genre, but you also can’t simply go to Kickstarter, not have a video, and show off super early gameplay anymore. You need to look like you are far into development, with more polished footage and actual gameplay. It doesn’t look appealing, and there are obvious signs no one is backing it. It needed more time on the development table.
Instead, You Should Back: StarFlint: The Black hole Prophecy
Back again for a second attempt of getting funded is the 2D point-and-click adventure game StarFlint by Sunmason Games. Once again, you play as two dashing young space heroes named Trixie and Flint, as you traverse the galaxy solving puzzles, enjoying a bit of comedic dialogue, and stop a large conspiracy taking shape. The game promises to offer multiple branches of where the story goes, depending on what you choose to do with multiple endings. I’m a tad concerned since a lot of games try to have the “choose your own adventure”-style gameplay mechanic, but they don’t feel fleshed out enough to warrant selecting other choices during the game. I think I would rather just play a good linear adventure game, but if they can pull it off, it will give the game a good amount of replay value. If you like your 2D adventure-style games, and want what could become the next big adventure game, definitely go support StarFlint.
A lot of the time, when developers show off footage for their Kickstarter project, you have to realize that it could be in a good alpha or beta state and not entirely finished. Some put their blood, sweat, and soul into it to make a good first impression, and some definitely show some flaws within the first step they take. This 2D platformer is yet another project that was way too early to show off. The art is amateur hour, the gameplay looks flat, and it’s not really that impressive. The game itself seems decent enough, but this was nowhere near ready to put on the last remaining months of Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter. It also doesn’t help that on their Greenlight page, they have been called out for deleting negative comments. Yeah, no one likes it when you can’t take criticism. When you put your product out there, you are opening yourself up to be criticized for being mediocre. Personally, I wouldn’t even give this developer the time of day right now. They might change and improve later down the line, but I could be too optimistic.
Instead, You Should Back: Ash of Gods
One of the most impressive Kickstarters of the month of May 2017 is definitely Ash of Gods by developer AurumDust Studio. Want a tactical RPG to back and sink your teeth into while The Banner Saga 3 (a game they were heavily inspired by) is in production? Well, Ash of Gods is that game that you should support if tactical RPG-style games are your thing. It has beautiful 2D art with isometric characters that move fluidly and are full of great 2D art and cut scenes. I mean, this game is very impressive in terms of visuals. The game has elements of more typical tactics games, but also combines collectable cards and a nice online multiplayer component for those who need more after the main game is finished. Granted, some of the buzz words/comments used concern me, like how the game’s world and story are defined by your decisions. Being a roguelike always brings up concerns with how well the levels and encounters are executed, and the game wants to be hard. It’s fine if they want to make a hard game, but they need to make it fair that you lost, and not because of the game, but for the player’s own foolish moves. Developers who make hard games need to start realizing that they need to respect the player’s time, and if the player feels like they are wasting their time because of the difficulty, then they won’t want to pick it up again. If you like The Banner Saga, tactical RPGs, and beautiful art work done by a dev team that put their all into the end product, then definitely go back this project.
Well, that was May 2017. It was a pretty good month for Kickstarters. Now we shall see what happens to them. Hopefully, my editorial talking about them will get them some time in the spotlight.