May 7, 2012 10:16 PM | John Polson
[Colin Brown of Backlog Journey guest reviews the games in the latest Indie Royale offering, The May Hurray Bundle.]
While it may not be labelled as such, this Indie Royale is definitely a tour de force for Digital Eel; you might not have noticed, but five of the games included came from their studio. And while the headliner spot belongs to the well deserving Dungeon Defenders, Digital Eel has plenty of weird atypical goodness to offer alongside Trendy's tower defence. Data Jammers: FastForward is a perfect example of this. Like Digital Eel's Brainpipe, it's a high intensity arcade style game where you need to collect good stuff and dodge bad stuff. But while Brainpipe seems to ape space sims and trippy visuals for its arcade journey, Data Jammers goes in a very different direction.
Data Jammers is all about taking the phrase information highway quite literally. You control a speck of data that zooms down a digitized highway, collecting points and avoiding defensive programs amidst a sea of benign data. When I say highway, I mean it quite literally as the game field is divvied up into a multi lane highway on which you constantly shift lanes. It's a very easy to understand system of green lanes are good and red lanes are bad, but the high speeds, loopy tracks and malicious enemies keep it from being that easy to master.
Since it is the internet after all, the highway isn't exactly the most sensible or cohesive bit of civil engineering. Paths often branch, jump around, loop, twist and reform, with the use of twisted on and off ramps lending a roller coaster feeling to each level. It's not even close to the psychedelic weirdness of Brainpipe, but it serves the same purpose of kicking up the intensity and action beyond the more retro slate of indie arcade games.
Data Jammers is also more of a well rounded package than the arcade purity of Brainpipe. While points are still the biggest incentive, there's more typical game elements included as well like distinct levels, AI powered enemies and even boss fights. Your data speck isn't exactly defenceless, but it is certainly limited. You know the screen killing bombs you get in seemingly every space shooter ever made? Well, those are your one and only weapon here, and they're just as limited. To defeat enemies, you need to outmanoeuvre them, shoving them into alternative routes and other baddies. It's a ton of fun, because you have the bit of strategic positioning and outwitting, but you're still moving blisteringly fast which means good reflexes and improvisation is the key skill.
The mechanics are different from everything else out there and the visuals are fantastic. If you like your games fast and just ever so slightly out of control, Data Jammers: FastForward certainly lives up to its colonized subtitle.
Dr. Blob's Organism:
Dr Blob's Organism is the other bonus Digital Eel game in the Indie Royale, and like Soup Du Jour it's a classic gameplay concept reworked into something new. This time, the developers take the basics of top down shoot em ups and mix in two major differences.
The game takes place on a Petri dish, where your gun is stationary but the field can be rotated to suit your shot. Instead of enemies, there is just a single cell that slowly expands its blobby influence. Let any bits of blob touch the sides and you lose a life. At first it's pretty easy, but as the game ramps up the blob replicates faster and your puny gun slowly becomes obsolete.
The unusual perspective and amorphous enemy are the two main surface aspects of the game that tweak the shump genre, but it's the power-ups that really change the game design. The blob never really changes beyond expanding faster, but the wide array of power-ups and changes to your guns keeps giving you a fair shot. It's an interesting choice where the enemy stays constant, but the player is the one who constantly changes and expands in complexity.
It's a neat early experiment in gameplay from Digital Eel, and a nice bonus alongside all of their other more complex games. And like pretty much every other game Digital Eel included, it gets very hectic very fast. Definitely worth checking out alongside the other arcade titles if you like new ideas on the usual point scoring games.
[These games and more are available in the currently running May Hurray Bundle, on the IndieGames co-created site, Indie Royale.]