It's #loveindies time, which means that TechRaptor is going all in on indie game coverage! That means previews, reviews and a bunch of new Coverage Club entries from our review team all week. Keep checking the site for a slew of articles talking about smaller releases that need more attention.
The First Tree
Covered by Samuel Guglielmo
There are a lot of steps for a game to go through before I'll consider buying it. However, should the game contain a cute dog, you can skip most of the steps and end up right in my playlist. Or, in the case of The First Tree, a cute fox. This open-ended narrative platformer has exactly that. Telling both the story of how the fox is seeking her lost children and a narrative of a man trying to reconnect with his father, is this a tree with seeking out?
The narrative is really the biggest draw for The First Tree, as it's mostly what the game is showcasing. The game has you playing out the fox's story, framing it as a dream a man is describing to his wife. As the fox searches for her lost cubs, the man goes into greater detail of his life, how he got separated from his father, and his attempts to repair the relationship or get out of Alaska. Each new object the vixen finds has some sort of story tied to it, and the man will explain its significance to his wife.
While the narrative may not be thrilling, I did love seeing how it played out. The man is a sympathetic character, as is the vixen he dreams about. At any point in time I could be assured that I would listen to the conversations, and I never actually was certain I wanted to find the cubs without assurance they're okay. What can I say, I'm a gentle soul. There certainly was enough interest to continue on.
Also, the narrative really needed to be good to help carry the gameplay. There wasn't really much to The First Tree's first few levels. There often was little to do other than following lights and occasionally digging in glowing spots. While the fox can double jump, and switch between running and a painfully slow walking speed there's no point in using, that's really about it. Sometimes you need to find butterflies to turn your double jump into a triple jump. That's about as hard as it gets.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with The First Tree, as the gameplay does just enough to keep me pushing for the next bits of the story. It also helps that there's a lovely soundtrack, and at times the game can really be beautiful. Sadly this beauty tends to end when I moved around. The fox's animations are stiff, and the double jump, in particular, looks more hilarious than anything else.
Those looking for another thoughtful narrative driven game should find plenty to like in The First Tree. Those looking for a simple platformer will likely find less. It was easy to appreciate my time with the game and I'll be working to complete the narrative. I just hope things turn out ok for the fox. I want to give her pets.
Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy!
Covered by Courtney Ehrenhofler
Are you a fan of pirates? Cheeky British humor? Birds with peculiarly shaped beaks that sound fictional but actually aren’t? Then sit tight and let us spin you an old pirate yarn of the tale of Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! (Now remastered in HD). A remake of the first Nelly Cootalot game, originally released in 2007, and the prequel to The Fowl Fleet, Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Follows Nelly as she clashes with the infamous Baron Widebeard in her ghost-given quest to save the spoonbeaks on the Barony of Meeth.
Nelly proves once again that she’s an engaging and fun heroine, with enough tongue in cheek humor and subtle jabs at pirate stereotypes, to sink a mighty galleon. Other characters such as bartender Friday and Madame Leatherette help round out the cast, with all but Nelly being voiced by the game’s developer, Alasdair Beckett. The voicework is one of my favorite things about the game, and despite the cheesy joking nature, Beckett gives a quite frankly impressive performance as an island of characters. Nelly’s voice actress still remains a mystery, but she brings the plucky and determined heroine to life wonderfully.
Though the game is now in HD, the art style is still very different from that of The Fowl Fleet. There’s less detail in both the characters and the backgrounds, but it’s charming nonetheless, with bright colors, off-kilter lines and strange character designs that fit right in with the odd little world you find yourself immersed in.
If you’re looking for a game with challenging puzzles and brain benders, well, you’re in the wrong place. The emphasis of the experience is on the humor and the characters, though Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Is thankfully devoid of insultingly easy puzzles. There are a few cute mini-games and puzzles to work out as you go along. It is a mystery, after all, so don’t expect to sail your way through. Nelly needs to do a lot of legwork to save the spoonbeaks, and you’ll find yourself following a trail of information all over the island trying to solve this mystery.
If you’ve played The Fowl Fleet, Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Fills in a lot of information and the backstory to Nelly and Baron Widebeard’s rivalry, and is most definitely worth playing. However, if you haven’t, Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Is the perfect place to start the story. As a fan of the Fowl Fleet, it’s interesting to see what features the second game changed and upgraded. Still, it’s also nice to see the same simple and easy to use point and click interface at work here.
If you’re looking for a light, semi-casual adventure that won’t end up with your brain in knots, Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Is a great choice. With fun British humor and an engaging cast of oddball characters, it’s worth playing for those who have already dabbled in the Nelly Cootalot series, as well as those who haven’t. Now the only remaining mystery is – so when’s Nelly Cootalot 3 going to be released?
TechRaptor covered Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! HD on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher.