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Review: Blackhole

Mar 02 // Conrad Zimmerman
Blackhole (PC [reviewed], PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One)Developer: FiolaSoft GamesPublisher: FiolaSoft GamesReleased: February 27, 2015MSRP: $14.99 Blackhole tells the story of the star ship Endura and its crew who, tasked with saving the Earth from impending doom, find themselves trapped inside a multi-dimensional entity. Only the ship's most menial laborer and its artificial intelligence, Aluria, can rescue the crew, repair the Endura, and finish the mission. As "the coffee guy," players will explore the entity's varied dimensions, collecting "selfburns" (nanobots capable of fixing the ship) while looking for critical ship components and missing crewmembers. The writing in Blackhole is surprisingly good, with an intriguing mystery behind the origins of Aluria and the true purpose of the Endura's mission slowly revealed as the player progresses. Peppered liberally with jokes riffing on pop culture and sci-fi tropes, conversations with the crew are fully voiced with solid performances throughout. Occasionally corny but never dull, it scores big on charm despite suffering a bit in presentation due to its stage-based progression. [embed]288460:57582:0[/embed] Each dimension in the game contains a central hub area with about ten stages to explore, each containing multiple selfburns to be collected and ending with levels in which a crewmember can be rescued and a missing ship part retrieved. And this is where the plot progression becomes a bit of a hassle, as finishing a level opens up a new dialogue with a crewmember (who is supposed to be locating the next part or crewmember), but the player is expected to travel back to the beginning of the hub area to speak with them and get an update on their progress. It isn't mandatory that you speak with crew members immediately, and the hub stages are designed to loop back to their origin point (so the player will get to them eventually if they just keep moving forward), but then those conversations just stack up and the player has to sit through them all right after the high of accomplishing a dimension's most challenging stage. It kills the pacing and has the potential to turn what should be a light break from the action into a chore to be endured. Blackhole offers puzzles and platforming through its central mechanic, gravity platforms. Touching a gravity platform rotates the world around the player, usually opening a new route through the same environment they just traversed. Every stage in the game features this mechanic as a central component, tucking selfburns into areas only accessible when approached from the proper stage orientation. Only one selfburn has to be collected from a stage to unlock the next (and there's usually one that's significantly easier to nab), which allows the player to progress past levels which present a struggle. Eventually, stages will have to be revisited to collect more selfburns, as each dimension has a minimum requirement before allowing progress to the next set of levels. The gravity platform mechanic puts a tremendous demand on level design, and Blackhole delivers brilliantly in this respect. Every stage brings a new challenge that feels fresh and each dimension is unique, with its own stage elements that utilize gravity platforms in new ways. These include pulley systems, climbable walls, trampolines, and more, all of which function in different ways based on the stage orientation. The variety is broad and each environmental object is explored thoroughly, as levels squeeze every bit of potential use for them through the course of the dimension. It's a thinker's game, but equally demanding of platform skills. Knowing how to reach a selfburn is one thing, while actually executing that plan can be quite another. Simply collecting the selfburns isn't enough either; the player must also exit the level from where they started it and death returns the coffee guy to the stage entrance to start all over again. Only the selfburns collected in the best run count toward the total, meaning that to actually earn all of them requires a perfect, single run through the stage in which all selfburns are picked up and the exit reached. It often means executing a variety of difficult maneuvers, one after another, and completely finishing a stage feels like a real accomplishment. Packed full of challenges in an endearing package, Blackhole is an excellent 2D platform adventure which succeeds in nearly every aspect of its design. It's polished, visually attractive, and doesn't skimp on variety or difficulty. While the story could be delivered in a more convenient fashion, its writing is of a quality rarely seen in action/puzzle titles, performed skillfully by its actors and accompanied by catchy stage music. In a time when there seems to be a sudden rush of 2D platform titles, Blackhole is a cut above the rest. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Blackhole review photo
In space, no one can hear you giggle
There certainly have been a lot of creative 2D platform games releasing over the last couple of months, enough that there seems to be some genuine competition in the genre. If you're finding yourself in a position where it has become difficult to choose, allow me to make it easier.  Get Blackhole. Problem solved.

Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge debuts on PS4 in late March, other versions to follow

The spirit of Metroid lives on
Feb 23
// Jordan Devore
There are plenty of upcoming Metroid-like games, but there is only one Axiom Verge, and it's almost here at last. Creator Tom Happ shared new details in a blog post today including the PlayStation 4 launch date (March 31, 201...
Greedy Guns photo
Greedy Guns

Greedy Guns fires out fast-paced metroidvania action

Rapid-fire pew pew
Feb 18
// Darren Nakamura
Independent developers have really been delivering with metroidvanias lately, though with titles like Chasm or Paradise Lost on the horizon, it seems like they lean toward slow, methodical gameplay. Greedy Guns goes in the o...
Terraria: Otherworld photo
Terraria: Otherworld

Terraria: Otherworld trailer shows an alternate dimension to the sandbox

'Not Terraria 2'
Feb 16
// Darren Nakamura
Whoa. What's this? A new game in the Terraria universe? I have just recently been getting back into the similar-but-unrelated Starbound, so this is especially interesting news right about now. Re-Logic released the above alp...
Broforce x Aliens photo
Broforce x Aliens

Broforce fulfills my dream of fighting aliens as Kurt Russell

The Alien Infestation update is live
Feb 12
// Jordan Devore
With Steven "I don't care for Aliens" Hansen out traveling for work, it's the perfect time to talk about today's free Alien Infestation update for Broforce. We knew to expect good things after seeing the explosive Bro Dredd ...
Remember Vectorman? photo
Remember Vectorman?

True fact: Shooting the Sega logo in Vectorman is life's greatest pleasure

Also, what was up with level two?
Feb 11
// Jordan Devore
It's been almost two decades since I first played Vectorman, BlueSky Software's treasured run-and-gun game for the Sega Genesis, and I still can't get over how absurd its second level is. That's what I had intended to write...
Sneaky Ninja photo
Sneaky Ninja

Sneaky Ninja does stealth without any messy throat slashing

Family-friendly ambush and murder
Feb 10
// Darren Nakamura
If you played through Mark of the Ninja thinking, "This is nice, but my word, it is quite gruesome," before dabbing the corners of your mouth with a handkerchief, then Sneaky Ninja might be worth looking into. It has the bus...
Nicalis platformer photo
Nicalis platformer

Ready for punishment? Castle in the Darkness awaits

Precious coins ease the pain
Feb 05
// Jordan Devore
I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be for Castle in the Darkness. It's out today for PC from publisher Nicalis and developer Matt Kap, who was also the lead artist on The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This super-challenging adven...
Luckslinger Kickstarter photo
Luckslinger Kickstarter

Luckslinger blends 2D shooting, westerns, and hip-hop

With an interesting luck mechanic
Feb 05
// Darren Nakamura
Luck is a concept rarely addressed directly in games. Sure, there are tons of games that use random number generators for everything from environment generation to damage calculation, and luck does factor into those. But the...
New Monster Boy photo
New Monster Boy

Wonder Boy creator working on new Wonder Boy-esque game

Jan 30
// Jordan Devore
While covering the action-adventure platformer Flying Hamster II last year, I said that fans of the Wonder Boy / Monster World series would want to take a look, and that's even more true today. The Kickstarter may have failed...
Starbound update photo
Starbound update

Starbound update includes new race, new combat, new universe

First stable update in almost a year
Jan 28
// Darren Nakamura
Wow. It has been a long time. I thought that maybe I had missed a stable update somewhere along the line, but by Chucklefish's own admission, this is the first one since last March. To take a step back, development on Starbo...
Oblitus photo

Oblitus is coming soonlitus

That's about it
Jan 27
// Robert Summa
Adult Swim Games has officially announced that their fantasy 2D roguelike scroller Oblitus is coming soon. How soon? Hell, I don't know, and I guess Adult Swim doesn't know either, since they're not telling us. At the very least, the trailer has some decent music and the art that has accompanied the game appears to be cool as fuck.
Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge does speedrunning and gifs right

Separate mode for when you gotta go fast
Jan 26
// Jordan Devore
I had Axiom Verge on my mind earlier today when writing about Ghost Song, another promising Metroidvania. This slick gif ensures the game will remain there for the rest of the day. Designer Tom Happ included it in a blog post...
Moonman photo

Moonman looks like the appetizer to a Starbound entre

'He looks inside friends' is the best euphemism
Jan 14
// Darren Nakamura
It feels like Starbound has been in development for a long time now. Sure, it's playable, but it is not complete. Perhaps a similarly styled game that is not quite so ambitious may tide us all over. Perhaps we want to contro...

JumpJet Rex revels in old-school charm, hits Early Access January 14

Jan 13 // Alessandro Fillari
[embed]286050:56864:0[/embed] JumpJet Rex (PC [Previewed], Linux, OSX)Developer: Tree FortressRelease Date: January 14, 2015 (Early Access)MSRP: $9.99 "I always refer to it as the 'golden age of gaming,'" said Tree Fortress CEO Grant Skinner while discussing the team's influences. There is a clear respect for the 8-bit and 16-bit era in JumpJet Rex, and the developers wanted their take on an old-school 2D platformer to keep with the style and design of the period. During Early Access, which will feature the first dozen stages, they plan to keep a close eye on the community's reactions, which they see as a key part of the title's success. Taking control of the titular space exploring dinosaur, players will travel through the galaxy visiting unique planets that feature their own challenges and scenarios to tackle. With his jet boots, Rex will be able to hover, dash, and boost through stages while collecting coins and dodging obstacles. Along the way, Rex will encounter baddies and other nefarious foes that'll task players to use quick thinking and clever use of the jets to get the best of them. And, depending on performance, stars are acquired which unlock new planets to explore. "I have a lot of respect for the early '90s," said lead designer Shawn Blais. "They really had a refined mastery of platforming in 2D games." Much like titles in the vein of Mega Man and classic Sonic, JumpJet Rex features a simple control scheme that is easy to get into, but difficult to master. While the early planets were rather elementary, the difficulty quickly ramped up as the environments and enemies became more devious. As the jet boots also work as a weapon which fire blasts of energy toward enemies and boost Rex at high-speed, platforming skills are the player's greatest asset. To further add to the challenge, some planets feature secret rooms that yield great rewards but will lock the player out upon death. Though its love of the period is evident, the developers were keen to show off features that are common place in modern games. Taking inspiration from the community's interaction and sharing of content on their previous game, the folks at Tree Fortress implemented an extensive level of customization and co-op features. Players can compete against the ghosts of others in stages for the best times or work together in co-op to conquer challenging planets that will put anyone's jumpjet skills to the test. With every coin collected, players can purchase new outfits for their character and decorate their home base with knick-knacks and other oddities. Many of the outfits and designs are clever nods to classic 2D titles, and with over three-million unique combinations, the devs hope that players will share their designs and outfits for others to see. In addition to customization options, there are also plans to offer challenges to the streaming community with the upcoming (and appropriately named) Ragequit Rex mode. In it, players are given only three lives and must complete the entire game (over 40 stages in the final release) without checkpoints. After its Early Access launch, the developers plan to gradually release more content and modes until its official release. After that, Treehouse anticipates a slew of post-launch updates. One feature the devs were excited to talk about is Arena mode, which pits players against each other a la Smash Bros. Moreover, holiday themed content packs are also in the cards as well. Even though titles that seek to relive the early period of gaming are increasingly more common, JumpJet Rex does an admirable job of blending the best of old and new. To see a throwback title implement online modes and other neat customization options is really special. I had a blast during my time with it, and if you're one that's missing the style and design of old-school platformers, then you might want to keep this one on your radar. JumpJet Rex - Early Access [Steam]
JumpJet Rex photo
Dino ride through outer space
There's just something about the 8-bit and 16-bit eras of gaming. Even after decades, it's still a remarkable and enduring period that's managed to stand the test of time. With a slick focus on charming visuals and deeply ref...

Rogue Legacy photo
Rogue Legacy

Xbox One inherits Rogue Legacy

And that's all we know
Jan 08
// Brett Makedonski
Xbox One owners can plan on plundering many a castle with their extended lineage sometime in the future. Cellar Door Games has confirmed via Twitter that indie treasure Rogue Legacy will eventually release on Xbox One. T...
Hollow Knight Kickstarter photo
Hollow Knight Kickstarter

Hollow Knight has about a day left to hit some stretch goals

Snug as a bug in a treacherous dungeon
Dec 17
// Darren Nakamura
Hollow Knight's Kickstarter enjoyed a healthy beginning, keeping up a pace to hit the base funding goal of $35,000 AUD well within its run. For the final week of the campaign, developer Team Cherry has released the above tra...
Dynamite Bomb photo
Dynamite Bomb

2D fighter Dynamite Bomb is getting localized

How effective is a dynamite bomb?
Dec 12
// Chris Carter
Into 2D fighters? The flashy Dynamite Bomb is getting a localization, according to the game distribution company Playism. It will arrive in English, and it will be a full port of the 2013 edition of the game plus all th...
Fossil Echo Greenlight photo
Fossil Echo Greenlight

New Fossil Echo trailer shows off its Oddworld influence

Shadow of the Colossus influence still apparent
Dec 12
// Darren Nakamura
When we first saw Fossil Echo earlier this year, all we really had to go on was its sharp cartoon art style and a list of influences: Shadow of the Colossus, Studio Ghibli films, and Oddworld. Some of those influences were a...
Rivals of Aether photo
Rivals of Aether

Two new characters revealed for indie brawler Rivals of Aether

Wind and earth join the fray
Dec 08
// Darren Nakamura
I am a little surprised that we have not yet properly talked about Rivals of Aether on Destructoid. Aside from a brief mention among dozens of other games, we have not looked at the 2D pixel art Smash Bros.-like fighting gam...
Electronic Super Joy photo
Electronic Super Joy

Hot Sticky Mess is the 'hardest' Electronic Super Joy DLC to date

Your buttless ass is in for a world of hurt
Dec 07
// Jonathan Holmes
[Update: The levels in Hot Sticky Mess were designed by Don Nguyen and Cassie Chui, not Michael Todd and Cassie Chui as originally reported. Apologizes for the error.] Electronic Super Joy is a happy, scary game about a...
Hollow Knight Kickstarter photo
Hollow Knight Kickstarter

Ironically, the Kickstarter for Hollow Knight looks solid

Alternate game title: Just an Empty Suit of Armor I Guess
Nov 26
// Darren Nakamura
I have had my eye on Hollow Knight for a few days, but had not yet pulled the trigger on highlighting it. It is a pretty 2D action game (though the color palette is a bit muted for my taste) starring some sort of insect-pers...
Crossing Souls photo
Crossing Souls

Devolver Digital's new title Crossing Souls looks like an '80s cartoon

'You've got the touch!'
Nov 17
// Darren Nakamura
Part of me wishes that a game called Crossing Souls would be an Animal Crossing/Dark Souls crossover, but I am still pretty pleased with how Crossing Souls actually looks anyway. Will we ever get sick of the totally tubular ...
Spelunky PlayStation photo
Spelunky PlayStation

Spelunky updates: PS TV support, replay fast-forwarding, Daily Challenge ghosts

New features for the PlayStation ports
Nov 10
// Jordan Devore
A reason to bring up Spelunky again? Yup, better jump on that. The PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Vita versions of the game have new updates that are worth a look. PS4 Fast forward replays Misc. fixes PS3 L...
Terraria photo

Had enough yet? Terraria headed to PS4 and Xbox One next week

Just remembered that I own Starbound
Nov 06
// Jordan Devore
There's no stopping Terraria. I played, and I do mean played, the 2D sandbox game years ago on PC, and it was quite the time sink. Back then, I didn't imagine it'd come to any other platforms, but it has -- to consoles, handh...
Snot photo

This seems like a bad title for a game, but it's Snot

But seriously, don't name games after bodily fluids
Nov 06
// Darren Nakamura
I'll admit: I very nearly deleted the email about Snot without a second thought. How could a game named after nasal mucus be worth even a few seconds of my time? Still, I did my due diligence and played the video attached, a...
Risk of Rain update photo
Risk of Rain update

Risk of Rain's new engine should mean less slowdown

Update brings characters, items, and challenges
Oct 22
// Jordan Devore
Risk of Rain is a great little action platformer that'll make you feel like garbage before building you up into an unstoppable force of destruction. Try it, sometime! You can even bring friends along. Developer Hopoo Games ha...
Hyper Light Drifter photo
Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter preview extended until October 31

It's not too late to try it out for yourself
Oct 10
// Rob Morrow
You may remember that Hyper Light Drifter's three-day preview for backers at the $25 tier and up was rescheduled to run from October 3rd through the 5th. That brief window has been extended until the end of October, giving Dr...
Castlevania photo

The other two Castlevania GBA games are also coming to Wii U

Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow Next hit next week
Oct 09
// Jordan Devore
As Chris reported this morning, Konami added Castlevania: Circle of the Moon to the Wii U Virtual Console today, priced at $7.99. This is good news, but it gets even better: the remaining two Castlevania titles for Game Boy A...

Chasm feels like a love letter to Super Metroid and Dark Souls

Oct 07 // Rob Morrow
When I make reference to Discord's homage to Dark Souls, I don't mean it as an indicator of the game's difficulty as one might assume; moreover, I'm saying that those familiar with From Software's action-RPG will most likely feel right at home playing Discord's title due to some familiar mechanics found within the game. From the very first time you sit down to rest at a bonfire that resets all the previously dispatched enemies of an area, to when you inevitably begin the nerve-racking trek back to recover the swirling mist of your hard-earned experience points left behind where you were last killed, you'll feel like you're putting on a favorite pair of jeans. As a fan of From's brooding RPGs as well as the other titles that Chasm draws inspiration from, I was immediately grounded in its world. I felt like I had a sense of what it was going to ask of me, and how to best approach it from the very start. [embed]282119:55858:0[/embed] For example, as Darren Nakamura mentioned in his earlier article, if you intend to go in mashing buttons and hoping to brute-force your way through, you'll quickly come to a nasty end. As in Dark Souls, swordplay is best approached with caution. Getting the feel for and learning the timing of each of your weapons is crucial if you want to avoid leaving yourself open to a counter attack. You'll also be putting to use the lessons you've learned from the precision platformers and the sprawling metroidvanias of yesteryear as you explore the beautiful, subterranean world of Chasm. Discord's take on platforming is immensely satisfying. Landing a jump never felt like luck was involved. The character's movements feel very precise, and are easy to get the hang of. Good examples of this can be seen when traversing the vanishing blocks and moving platform sections on the map. I never felt like the controls were at fault when I took a tumble. With a bit of practice and proper timing I was leaping over the dangerous terrain with ease. The maps, reminiscent of the aforementioned Super Metroid, are an absolute treat to explore. As you make your way across them, you'll periodically hit familiar-looking vertical shafts, which open up new paths to the east and west. And, staying true to its inspiration, Geemer-like creatures will attempt to spoil your fun by patrolling the blocks spaced throughout, forcing you to time your jumps carefully or plummet down the shaft only to begin your ascent all over again. I found myself searching out every inch of each new area, hunting for better pieces of gear, or new skills that would unlock even more areas that were previously inaccessible. What I took away from my time with the game this weekend is that Chasm is a beautifully-crafted love letter to all the games and genres that I've mentioned in this article while at the same time, stubbornly staying true its own unique identity. Even in this early state, the game feels extremely polished, and if it weren't for new areas being locked off it would be easy to forget that it's still an unfinished game. Chasm's alpha build currently contains two of the six areas that are planned for the complete game, with additional areas unlocking at a rate of one per month throughout the fall and winter. If you'd like to learn more, or if you're interested in getting in on it early make sure to pay a visit to the title's official page, or head on over to the Humble Store.
Chasm alpha impressions photo
After exploring the first two areas, I'm ready for more
Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to check out the alpha build of Discord's enchanting procedurally generated action-RPG platformer Chasm. Now that I've finally had some hands-on with the game, I'd like to share my imp...

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