THE CO-OP CHRONICLES: IBB AND OBB

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The players:

Andrew – Mathematics student, patient, logical.

Jasmine – English Language student, complex intolerant, occasionally dopey.

ibb and obb is a two-player puzzle platformer which perfectly merges sights and soundtrack to create a beautiful and atmospheric fantasy universe. This stunningly designed game from Sparpweed does away with unnecessary introductions and tutorials, and without so much as a cut scene, you and your partner are immediately cast into the adorable roles of ibb and obb. The only slight difference between the characters is their height, although this element is barely emphasised. It seems a shame not to utilise this character design more in the solutions to the puzzles. If the differences between the characters served some functionality, this would create a more coherent story; the players would understand why ibb and obb need each other, and why they must work as a team in this delicate, beautiful world.

The fact that ibb and obb are very similar characters is somewhat democratic. Because they don’t have special abilities to distinguish between them, players are unlikely to fight over who gets to be ibb and who gets to be obb. Unless you are overly fond of either pink or green, it’s really not going to matter which character you play as. That’s not to say that the differences between ibb and obb don’t ever matter. The game incorporates some areas which permit only the entry of either ibb or obb. Although this is largely arbitrary due to neither character having a distinct ability, the use of these coloured areas strengthens the teamwork elements and adds a lot of complexity to the game.

The puzzles in ibb and obb can be immensely difficult, and you really have to think in a certain way to figure them out. However, if you have some patience, and logically go through all your options, you’ll eventually work them out. This is a real strength of the game. The difficulty of the puzzle allows a greater sense of satisfaction, and makes for a much more fulfilling experience than a simple fetch quest.

How can a game about two blobs be this difficult? Despite its overwhelming cuteness, ibb and obb is often frustratingly challenging. The game certainly requires a lot of thinking, and most of the game involves ibb and obb just standing still for 20 minutes while you’re trying to figure out how the puzzle is even possible. So many times I would sit there and think, we can’t actually do this one. There is no possible way. However, once you manage to work out the solution, it always seemed so simple and obvious. The puzzles aren’t contrived in any way; they’re just extremely mentally taxing. Although this does allow for satisfaction when you figure out the solution, the game does get pretty tiring, and playing for too long can make you frustrated.

There are only a small amount of mechanics within ibb and obb. It is much more beneficial to choose a few mechanics and to focus on developing them, rather than to clutter a game by introducing gimmicky mechanics that are rarely used then rapidly forgotten about. This is what ibb and obb aims to do, and although the mechanics are quite in-depth and sometimes complex, there really isn’t much progression. The repetitiveness of the game may leave players discontented, as it frequently feels like you’re just doing the same puzzle, with the same mechanics, over and over again until you complete the game. Moreover, ibb and obb sometimes does fall into the trap of introducing then swiftly abandoning mechanics. For instance, the game features a dark level in which players must remain close to each other to keep the world illuminated. This is a fantastic mechanic, and the dark level is certainly a highlight, yet it is swiftly cast aside in favour of the familiar colourful, happy levels.

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Yeah, the game often feels a bit samey, e.g. there is only one type of enemy, and most of the puzzle can be solved in very similar ways. The similarity of the solutions makes it surprising that the puzzles are so consistently difficult. Though maybe they aren’t, and it’s just that we’re bad at the game. The art in the game is incredibly sweet, and the fantasy-like world is beautiful to look at, however there is little variation between the style and setting of different levels. Whilst this adds atmosphere and immersion, levels sometimes feel exceptionally long, and gameplay can quickly become dull. Also, if you happen to be a player with little or no patience, the visually similar levels make it tough to find walkthroughs of the particular level and puzzle on which you are stuck. This is exasperating when you’ve already been stuck for an hour and you’re on the verge of a mental breakdown.

The game’s controls are very simple and they feel incredibly responsive. This aids you in completing the puzzles where jumping accuracy is required as it minimises messy landings. The puzzles are difficult enough without having to attempt them multiple times due to slippy controls. As the controls help minimise player annoyance, so does the games checkpoint system. Saving progress frequently, the checkpoints are fairly frequent, meaning there isn’t much to redo if you die. Additionally, the checkpoint system is very fluid. There are no flashy signals identifying checkpoints to spoil your immersion in this fantasy world.

The checkpoints could be a little more visible, though. I understand that the game’s atmosphere and artwork doesn’t permit giant flagpoles that label checkpoints, but it’s almost impossible to know when you’ve reached one. This isn’t often a problem, but sometimes it would be useful so you know how careful you need to be when approaching particularly difficult areas. Also, sometimes you kill enemies and collect the rewards, yet going backwards, on the off chance that you’ve missed something, involves going past previous invisible checkpoints. This means that if you die, all the extinguished monsters reappear, only this time without dropping the rewards. As the game recognises that you’ve defeated these enemies before – because they produce no reward points – then why can’t they just stay dead? There is nothing rewarding about having to kill the same set of monsters multiple times once you’ve already reaped the benefits.

Teamwork is truly a necessary element of ibb and obb, and this should be true of all good co-ops. Many co-op games are extremely exploitable, meaning that it is often easy for players to complete levels on their own by abusing the game’s mechanics. A stellar example of this is Battleblock Theatre, in which many puzzles involving both players can be solved individually, with the clever use of some in-game weapons. Yet, with ibb and obb, you do really have to communicate with your partner. This is brilliant, as it is rare to find a co-op game so genuinely and fundamentally reliant upon teamwork and communication. As the game is so dependent on interaction, if you and your partner have different ideas and approaches to the puzzles, it can however be difficult for one to grasp the other’s thought process.

It can also be difficult to get your partner to try out your ideas when they’re always so convinced that their way leads to the correct solution!

Sorry, but if you were right more often, I might have more confidence in you!

ibb and obb does feature Steam achievements for collecting all rewards in each level, but this is a very difficult task. The levels are just too long for you not to make a mistake at some point, therefore the sheer difficulty of this task can be off-putting. This can easily lead players to dismiss the possibility of accomplishing the achievements, and somewhat removes the want to play the game again. As it offers little replayability, ibb and obb works out at £8.99 for 5/6 hours of content; quite an expensive game.

This is what I find most frustrating about the game. I love platform games, because I love collecting all the things. If I can’t collect all the things, then I’ve failed and I’ll do it again. The collection element of ibb and obb feels comparably unfair. The levels are too long for you to be able to go back and do it all again without any mistakes. Also, the rewards are on a timer and they disappear very quickly. Sometimes you have to kill an enemy to avoid dying, but neither you nor your partner can reach the rewards in time. Sometimes you kill an enemy to release the reward, but your oblivious partner is messing around somewhere else and foolishly dies. This reward is then gone for good, unless you fancy doing the WHOLE level again. ibb and obb is a very unforgiving game, and this can lead to frustration. Since I can’t collect everything, I feel much less involved and therefore much less impelled to actually complete the game.

ibb and obb is a beautiful, atmospheric and fulfilling game promoting teamwork and logical thinking. Though not one for the collectionist, ibb and obb is a rewarding two-player game if you think hard and work through the frustration. The game isn’t too demanding on systems and should run comfortably on low end machines, making it a great game to play with your friends. I heard the single player of the game is controlling both ibb and obb at the same time using the twin-sticks. That’s no fun!

FILM REVIEW: THE PURGE: ANARCHY

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Starring: Carmen Ejogo, Frank Grillo, Zoë Soul, Kiele Sanchez 

Genre: Action, Horror

In a near-future America, all crime is legalised for one night each year. This sequel depicts the struggles of a group of strangers on annual purge night, though the film lacks the suspense needed for a horror film that’s truly terrifying.

Set in 2023, The Purge: Anarchy retains the same premise from the first film, whereby the legalisation of crime for one night a year is used to keep crime rates down. The film provides little background information, telling audiences only that the annual Purge was sanctioned by the New Founding Fathers. This mystery adds a much more frightening tone, whilst the lack of detail protects the somewhat thin, unrealistic premise; the notion of the purge is often, quite fairly, dismissed as ludicrous, so much so that attempts to justify or explain it are unlikely to be viewed as satisfactory.

As the film begins, we are introduced to waitress Eva (Carmen Ejogo), who is struggling to pay for her father’s medication whilst providing for her plucky teenage daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul). As purge night gets underway, Eva’s father secretly sells himself to a rich family as a sacrifice; news which saddens the family for a grand total of two minutes before being swiftly forgotten. Both mother and daughter find themselves forced to the streets when their building is raided by a SWAT team working for the machine gun toting Big Daddy (Jack Conley). Elsewhere, troubled couple Liz (Kiele Sanchez) and Shane (Zach Gilford), in an act of extreme stupidity, decide to do their grocery shopping 20 minutes before the legalisation of murder. On the most dangerous night of the year, the couple also find themselves stranded out in the open after their brakes are cut by some creepy masked skateboarders. The two groups are brought together when the morally ambiguous Leo (Frank Grillo) helps to defend them until they find safety. After the characters meet Leo, most of the suspense disappears from the film. Leo appears to be some sort of superhero, eradicating almost all potential danger, e.g. Leo easily defeats several armed hunters equipped with night-vision goggles in complete darkness. With his bare hands. Although by being outside the characters are more vulnerable to opportunistic purgers, they are also too well protected, and, for the most part, too free from peril. This leads to a film which is overly tame and subsequently not frightening enough to fit into the horror genre. While this in itself is not a criticism, The Purge: Anarchy is certainly marketed as a horror, and thus the film is likely to disappoint cinemagoers expecting to be scared.

The Purge: Anarchy has a very different tone to its predecessor. The traditional suburban-family-in-a-home-invasion plot employed in the first film led to the criticism that an original premise was wasted on an otherwise familiar and conventional horror film. Admirably, the filmmakers listened, and aimed to give audiences what they wanted with a less conventional, more anarchic sequel. The term ‘sequel’ is used loosely, as there are little or no references to the original The Purge within the film. With a whole new cast and a vastly different setting, The Purge: Anarchy seems like less of a sequel and more like the filmmakers had another go at making the premise work. Sadly, it seems as though they still didn’t get it right. The film opened up many possibilities by choosing to focus on a group of strangers fighting to survive outdoors. This should have led to more grisly deaths, more purging maniacs, and, ultimately, a sequel far more terrifying than the original. However, yet again the filmmakers have not made full use of the horrific and unique premise. In contrast to the genuinely sinister, sadistic villains of The Purge, this sequel omits creepy antagonists in favour of faceless beings who like to shoot a lot. The whole film was simply a battle of bullets, consequently appearing more akin to an action film than the horror film it claimed to be. Similarly, although offering us a better view of what purge night is really like, The Purge: Anarchy simply does not seem anarchic enough. The film focuses only on the main protagonists, and, even though they were out in the open, audiences saw very little of the ‘anarchy’ taking place around them; another missed opportunity which could have added both realism and horror to the narrative.

Unlikely to satisfy either action or horror fans, The Purge: Anarchy makes a desperate attempt to gain audience approval by turning into The Hunger Games for ten minutes in the middle of the film. Much like The Hunger Games, the film depicts a dystopian society in which the slaughtering of citizens is permitted annually. The dystopian elements of the premise are emphasised much more in The Purge: Anarchy compared to its precursor. A political agenda behind the purge, i.e. the poor and the homeless are eradicated, is discussed within the film, and the addition of anti-purge activists adds some realism to the movie; the original film seemed to portray everyone blindly accepting this horrible, unfair new law. Despite how obviously terrible the idea of the purge is, the film does become a little too preachy, and the character of Cali seems to only have dialogue in order to directly tell the audience just how bad and wrong it is. The film’s script is fairly poor, and the characters only ever talk about their current situations and their feelings on the purge. Of course, it would be unrealistic to have the characters telling each other personal stories and having interesting conversations whilst their lives are at risk, yet the dialogue was often dull and extremely repetitious; within the first five minutes the phrase ‘stay safe’ is uttered an unforgivable amount of times. The actors in the film are largely lesser-known – a departure from the first film which features big names such as Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey – and they put in decent performances in spite of the weak script. While the acting is not terrible, the characters are the typical mix of dull, annoying and stupid, making it difficult to care about any of them. Much of the plot revolved around whether or not Leo would purge his son’s killer, but the film made it very difficult for audiences to care either way. The fast paced plot and the setting of the movie leave little room for character development, and thus, as with many modern day horror films, bonds with the characters are not formed. Although not conforming as a horror film – mainly by not being scary – the film borrows many cliché’s from the genre, notably exemplified by illogical character decisions and the three broken down vehicles encountered within the first twenty minutes.

SUMMARY: More like a second attempt than a sequel, The Purge: Anarchy fails to fully utilise its premise and ultimately flops as a horror film. But don’t worry, there’ll probably be another one. Third time lucky, maybe.

THINGS LEARNT FROM THE FILM:

The purge is definitely, definitely a bad idea. Got that? It’s bad.

Purge night is absolutely the best time to stay late after work and ask for a pay rise, delaying the safety of both you and your boss.

People can go a whole year without committing a crime, yet they can’t wait an extra 20 minutes until the purge actually starts before cutting someone’s brakes.

5 OF THE: BEST ROGUELIKES & ROGUELITES

ROGUELIKES ART

5 – Spelunky

Spelunky is an incredibly hard and borderline unfair sidescrolling platformer. The game requires you to explore increasingly dangerous underground tunnels in search of luxurious loot and damsels (or dogs) in distress. Although not a true roguelike, the game does include many key features of the genre; procedurally generated levels, a high base difficulty, and, most importantly, permadeath. What does separate Spelunky from roguelikes however, is that it lacks some important RPG elements, such as hitpoints, in favour of a more simplified approach.

An incredibly addictive game, Spelunky really evokes that “just one more go” mentality. Nevertheless, the game’s addictive nature is often left battling the urge to throw down the controller and swear never to touch the game again. Spelunky is often rage inducing, and a particularly affluent run can be cruelly and abruptly concluded by that one spike which hidden just out of sight. These instadeaths may lead to the conclusion that the game has a lack of respect for the player’s time, whilst verifying IGN’s description of Spelunky as the game that is “as easy to love as it is to hate”. You will love the game when things are going your way and you’ve managed to collect enough loot to buy some cool gun from the shop. However, this adrenaline fuelled run is cut short a mere second later when you accidently shoot the unforgiving, super angry shopkeeper who then proceeds to murder you with his own shotgun.

Spelunky is also a relatively expensive game compared to others in this genre, but at £11.99, if you have the right attitude, you will get a lot of game time out of it. There is also a daily challenge which helps to keep the game fresh. If you still think that’s too expensive, you can play the original version of it for free, before all of the graphical remastery.

Official site | Wiki | Reddit | Steam

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4 – Dungeons of Dredmor

Made by Gaslamp Games with the intention of making true roguelikes more accessible, Dungeons of Dredmor is genuinely funny, jam packed with hilarious descriptions and references to older games. The dungeons are procedurally generated in this top down, dungeon crawler with masses of loot to be found. Being a roguelike, of course it has permadeath too, but in this case it can be disabled. Why would you want to do that though?

The game has a retro art style, which, in addition to the brilliant sound track and comedic sound assets, creates a fantastic immersive experience. The humour is all in brilliant taste, and the references incite heaps of nostalgia, which you’ll no doubt be thankful to be reminded of. The game, however, is a bit more difficult than other games on this list, and will require you to play through the tutorial to understand what’s going on. After you’ve persevered with learning the basics, you’re in for hundreds of hours fun. It’s an incredibly hard game and it will take you a lot of play time in order to progress. With a price tag of £3.49, you’ll certainly be getting a lot of value for money.

If for some reason the base game isn’t enough to keep you going, there is plenty of DLC available. This can be acquired inexpensively in the form of a bundle, which also includes the base game. Add to this an amazing set of achievements and a Steam workshop full of user created entertainment, and you’ll never get bored of this game.

Official site | Wiki | Reddit | Steam

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3 – Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy is another modern roguelite in which you are in control of an adventurer spelunking his/her way through a castle. The objective is to take control of the castle, fighting many mobs and bosses and collecting loot on the way. You begin Rogue Legacy very weak, and it will take a bit of time to get into the game. Nevertheless, the game soon gets interesting once you have collected enough coins and opened enough chests; allowing you to make your hero stronger. This can be achieved through buying skill-ups, or by finding or purchasing special armour and magical runes. The powers of these items range from vampirism to gold boosts, and some even grant the power of flight.

The amount of game play Rogue Legacy offers without becoming tedious is amazing, and there has recently been a free update adding an incredible amount of variety. You will grind your way through the castles for hours to get this loot. But what if you become too strong for the castle? Well just keep exploring; there are multiple areas with varying difficulty. Enter The Maya or The Darkness for more loot and harder mobs. What if you die? Then pick your new heir! This where the fun begins, and this is what helps make Rogue Legacy unique. Different heirs have distinctive traits, some which effect game play, some which just make you laugh.

Rogue Legacy is relatively expensive, being priced at £11.99, but there is enough content and play time to make it worthwhile.

Official Site | Wiki | Reddit | Steam

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2 – FTL: Faster Than Light

FTL is intense, Sci-Fi roguelite that delivers a high-octane mix of strategy and adventure. You jump at light speed from node to node trying to outrun the pursuing rebels that are causing havoc in all sectors of the universe. But like all good road trips, this game is more about the journey as opposed to the destination. Throughout your travels you will encounter many different ships, aliens and atmospheres. Aliens will join your crew and help defeat the rebel mothership, after jumping through eight different sectors of space, upgrading your ship and weaponry. The game allows you to kill ships in return for scrap which can be spent on lasers, drones and ship upgrades. In FTL there are many different ways to approach the combat by using the different skills of your crew or the quirks of your ship. It really enhances the experience of the game when you give your ship a personality. Is it a menacing mantis cruiser that boards enemy ships or is it a stealthy ship that cloaks and dashes? It’s up to you: you are the captain.

Recently the game has had a free update and if you buy the game now you will be playing FTL Advanced edition, which adds a ton of new content. New interactions, new ships, new weapons. This adds a lot to the universe and it makes the combat much more indepth. Priced at £6.99, you’re getting a lot of value for money as this game will easily give you hundreds of hours of fun. If it does ever get boring, there is an extensive modding community for you to check out.

Official Site | Wiki | Reddit | Steam

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1 – The Binding of Isaac

The Binding of Isaac is probably the best Roguelite game around today. It offers the most replayability per penny and it couldn’t be more fun or more addictive. You play as Isaac, a frightened boy who has fled to the basement to escape your mad mother who wants to sacrifice you to God. The basement is randomly generated with random mobs and random rooms. You enter a room, kill all the mobs with your tears (what else?), get some loot and keep going until you reach heaven or hell!

The best bit about this game is how varied each run is. Isaac gets different items, trinkets, cards and pills with each run, this hugely shapes how your run will play out. Some runs are very powerful and some, well, aren’t. The most interesting part for me is how the items augment Isaac, and how his character changes throughout one run. Not only does Isaac become more powerful, his physical appearance changes with every new item; creating strange looking characters. The artwork is wonderful, and its quirkiness is what really gives the game its soul. One of the main drives of The Binding of Isaac is the achievement system. Achievements give you items but they are also fun to try and get regardless of the reward. You will play different types of run in order to get each achievement, and that really makes you not want to stop playing. What’s more? There’s DLC and that adds many many more items to the game.

The game is unbelievably cheap at £3.99, with the DCL costing only one pound more. For that small price you’ll easily get hundreds of hours of play. However, if you haven’t played the game before, you may want to wait just bit long as there is a new version coming our very soon, and The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is definitely one to lookout for.

In the meantime though, you could play the demo for free on Newgrounds.

Official Site | Wiki | Reddit | Steam

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