SAGE 2021 Review Slew: Indie Games

Since a big part of SAGE is getting feedback and learning to be a better designer, I’d like to help these indie devs with constructive tips on making a Sonic experience.

Hi, Noah Copeland here. I will be focusing on original indie games from SAGE 2021.

Since a big part of SAGE is getting feedback and learning to be a better designer, I’d like to help these indie devs with constructive tips on making a Sonic experience. These are not “bashing sessions” as we all know these are hobbyist projects. Instead, these articles contain my personal game design tips from the me to the developers. The developers are free take them or leave them as they see fit. I think that anytime a good indie game is released, it’s a win for everyone. So I hope this helps make that happen.


Bun N’ Gun

A run n’ gun called Bun N’ Gun. The player character has one arm, so it’s a nice attention to detail that the left-facing sprite is not a simple mirror of the right-facing sprite. The boss fight has some cool, old school faux-3D effects.

My advice:

  • The grappling mechanics favors the players existing momentum over anything else. While this is unique and could lead to interesting level design set ups, it wouldn’t hurt to explore the alternative of a little more player input. You want the player intentions to follow-through on the gameplay and there were a few times where I was aiming to do one thing and grapple hook did another.
  • There was a section in which I was supposed to fall through a cliff and I did not find it readily clear, as platformer experience is going to instinctually steer players away from bottomless pits. So I’d find a way make it more inviting. There are arrow signs point the player is various direction, but nothing pointing the player downwards.
  • The 3D boss effects are cool but it can be hard to tell when the boss is able-to-collide with the player. Perhaps telegraph that somehow.

Midi & Melody

Very nice visuals and pixel art.

My advice:

  • While the pixel art looks pretty, I felt the visual language could be stronger. I often unsure what was collision and what was decoration. Look at how games use color and contrast to highlight interactive elements and de-emphasis background elements.
  • I couldn’t kill the motobug-like enemy with the spikes on its back So it’s either unclear how to kill it or is indestructible. If unclear, find a way to make it clear. If indestructible, consider making it killable as I found that those enemies hurt the pace, especially in an early level.
  • Skidding animation is the same as the spin attack. Unless the skid can hurt the enemy, they should probably be different animations.

Frog Gun

Great, cute game! The main mechanic of using your frog-grapple-gun is fun. The presentation as a whole is very wholesome and charming.

My advice:

  • I feel rather stupid to admit this, but I did not realize you could rotate the game during my first playthrough. I only learned that you can rotate the camera from watching trailer footage later. The Captain-Toad-esque perspective coupled with the fact that the player-character starts the every level facing the camera (as opposed to the more traditional 3D platformer perspective of looking into the level, back to the camera) made me assume that this was a fixed camera game. As silly as it sounds, I’d add a tutorial hint that mentions that you can rotate the camera. Having the ability to rotate the camera in a third-person game seems like a no-brainer, but if I was able to miss it (and I should know better), I’d bet there are others that miss it too.
  • I understand this is a technical challenge, but if the developer is up for it, I would consider adding that Sonic Lost World / Mario Sunshine transparency effect to platforms objects that obscure the player. But remember, I had this though while not know the camera is rotatable, so the technical headache of getting that working may be easily avoided entirely by my above point.

Flocky The Cat

I’m assuming this game is made by someone young, given the simple design and spelling mistakes. This story holds no punches as it opens with your house burning down and your dad’s death (despite Flocky’s sprite smiling the whole time). Pretty sure it’s made in Sonic Worlds or a similar framework. 

My advice:

  • When destroying an enemy with watergun, Flocky stills the upward bounce as if jumping on the enemy
  • When shooting the watergun, the direction in which you fire will affect ALL shots of water, even those you’ve already shot. 
  • The first level does not have enough variety and gets repetitive. Every corridor looks the same so it’s easy to get lost.  Either make it shorter, or add more variety of obstacles and enemies. 
  • Have someone spell check the game.
  • I saw a tease for a “Steam release” with a date. I love the bold promise, though due to Steam’s Greenlight system and quality standards, I’d recommend considering Gamejolt or Itch.io as a good alternatives for releasing the game. 

 

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