Game Finds: Cosmic Collapse

We love it when we find weird and unique indie games to tell you all about! Our alien friends to the left herald these occasions.

A fair amount has been said about Suika Game, an inexpensive and addictive Switch game that has players dropping fruit into a physics-enabled bin. Two fruit of the same type that touch immediately merge into a larger fruit, and the goal is to join them together like this until you create a mighty Watermelon. You can keep going at that point, although with one of those majestic spheres in the bin it won’t be much longer before one or more fruits extends up out of the bin, which brings the game to an end.

The history of this unexpected Flappy Bird-like phenomenon is laid out in an article in the Japan Times. Until recently the game was exclusive to the Japanese eShop, although that needn’t actually a barrier. People from any territory can create eShop accounts for any other, and play all their purchases on the same Switch, but now I notice that Suika Game is even on the U.S. shop. And of course, as often happens when a simple and elegant game blows up out of nowhere, a horde of imitators has arisen, which a quick Googling will reveal. I count six free web versions just on a quick perusal of the search results.

But what might actually be better than Suika Game is the Pico-8 recreation of it, Cosmic Collapse.

Cosmic Collapse is more expensive than Suika Game, but that just means it’s $5 instead of $3. Instead of happy fruit, you merge together planets. They go up in size from Pluto (an honorary planet), through Mercury, Mars, Venus, Earth, Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter and then Sol herself. If you’re wondering, all planets are presented without rings. If joining two suns causes anything to happen I don’t know. (In the comments on the itch.io project, the developer says that there are objects beyond the Sun.)

Cosmic Collapse could be played just like the original, but it adds some extra features. Scoring is modified by a simple combo system: successive planets merged due to one drop have their points multiplied, encouraging the planning of sequences. And, at certain score awards, you’re granted a missile that can be used to destroy any one object in the bin. Used judiciously, it can allow your game lengths, and scores, to greatly increase. My highest so far is nearly 15,000.

The biggest advantages it has over Suika Game is in the polish and the physics. The many web clones tend to play like they were hacked together in an afternoon, but even the original is clearly a low-effort production, right down to its generic, non-looping music. The celestial orbs in Cosmic Collapse bounce around in a lively manner after merging in ways that take some practice to master, and even the smaller planets have their uses. The tiniest of space rocks, dropped at the right spot, can be just what you need to knock two other planets apart from each other, or separate one from the wall of the bin. You see? Pluto’s good for something after all!

Both Suika Game and Cosmic Collapse suffer from a certain unfairness. You don’t get to control the order in which fruit or planets get dropped into the bin. It’s been observed that even a lot of skill and practice can only get you so far if the orb-selection dice don’t roll favorably for you. The best advice I can offer, in the early game, is to try to sort the circles in size from one side of the bin to the other, which at least will make it easier to find a good place to drop things. Also in Cosmic Collapse, keeping the surface of the bin as low as you can helps a lot, since the propulsive force of the spheres, especially the smallest ones, is increased the further it falls, and that can be a marvelous prod to shaking up a static bin.

Cosmic Collapse (itch.io and Steam, $5)

Next Fest Showcase 12/30/23

I heard everyone here likes indie games.

The games in this video:

Homestar Runner: Dangeresque in The Roomisode Triungulate

Every time Homestar Runner releases something new, it’s cause for celebration. They’ve been doing this for 23 years, and that’s not counting the original Mario Paint thing with the characters they made, long ago, that kicked off their merry legacy. Even though the days of them updating weekly and Strong Bad popping off sarcastic answers to emails left, right and center are long gone, every few months another new thing comes out of the Brothers Chaps’ content grinder, and we love that kind of sausage.

Of course making free stuff doesn’t pay the bills, and Adobe Creative Cloud is hella expensive these days, so much of their more recent stüf takes the form of little paid projects, like the Trogdor board game. So it is with this, a quite nifty collection of three point-and-click adventures. One of them came from their website long ago, but it’s now remade in that Unity thingy. it’s joined by two completely new games, and the three of them have better animation and full voice acting now! All are full of the wit and fun that Homestar Runner-branded contentTM has long been known for.

I managed to finish it in a night, but it was a very entertaining night! This thing is packed full of more jokes and character even than the Telltale series they did back in the Wii days. It’s amazing how many obscure interactions have unique voice lines, so be sure to try everything, and using everything on everything else.

Dangeresque: The Roomisode Triungulate, on Steam and itch.io (Windows and Mac, $8)

Trailer: New Homestar Runner Dangeresque Games!

They’re not out yet, but the Brothers Chaps, creators, maintainers, and sometimes even makers of Homestar Runner stuff, have some remakes of their old Dangeresque Flash games in the works, now with updated (in some cases completed in the first place) content, and full voice acting! Have some strong & bad Strong Bad:

Nothing says awesome earlyweb goodness like Homestar Runner, even though technically he’da say “awesome eallyweb goodness,” because he doesn’t do Rs too well. Here’s the itch.io page, where it’s still listed as only “in development.” Looks like (we’re gonna have to jump) it’s set for Steam as well!

Pizza Tower!

It must seem like we have the indie gaming spaces hooked up into our very veins here, but truthfully it’s very easy for games with even a lot of buzz to slip through our greedy fingers. So it is with Pizza Tower (Steam), an extremely cartoony and entertaining platformer heavily influenced by Wario Land 4 (3h,22m). All kinds of people have been praising it, and saying that it does basically nothing wrong.

Here’s Polygon raving about it:

Take a good look at it. The loose animation is actually perfect, which it should be because the game took five years to make. The pixel art has way too many frames. The music jams so much. All of its jokes are funny. It even parodies Five Nights at Freddy’s throughout one level with jumpscares.

Its hero, the amusingly-named Peppino Spaghetti, isn’t Wario, but has his own vibe. He looks like he might have an aneurysm at any second. But like Wario he’s mostly invincible when he’s not fighting a boss. In normal levels enemies may slow him down, or cause him to lose points, or even give him temporary abilities, but they can’t stop him. He has a wide variety of moves to get him through the game world that you’ll have to completely master by the end.

The biggest point in common with Wario Land 4 is the escape sequences. Each of the game’s levels has a place in it where you have to destroy a pillar, which starts a timer and forces you to go back through the level you just passed with some minor differences. You can fail here if you don’t make it out in time. In order to get the highest rank on a stage, the vaunted “P” rating, you have to escape perfectly, without breaking your combo, and find all the treasures… and also escape twice within the time limit, by going through a 2nd Lap portal at the exit that takes you back to the beginning!

It’s already gotten a lot of people talking about it in terms like Game of the Year, and I’m sure it’ll be a prominent run at SGDQ 2023! Have a trailer:

Pizza Tower (Steam, $19.99)

AKKA ARRH on Steam!

Please pardon our lack of a romhack review this week. It’s not always easy to find a good hack to review out of the tens of thousands that are floating around out there. In the meantime, classic remakes are kind of like romhacks, right?

Those who have been following us for the (gosh) nearly one year we’ve been in operation will have picked up on the fact that we love classic Atari. Especially we love classic Atari prototypes. In my humble opinion, Atari treated the output of their stable of brilliant creators with almost a dismissive attitude.

Developers would make a game completely from scratch, spend months working on every aspect of it, handtooling the assembly code, sometimes for hardware platforms that were created specifically to run it, devote their lives for a time to this project, test it in-house, get reactions, modify it, get it running, get approval to make cabinets and put it out on location test, then have all that work get destroyed. Oh well! Back to the drawing board. That’s what happened to AKKA ARRH.

As awesome a title screen as there ever has been!

The only record of all of that effort might end up being those few prototype cabinets put out on test and in the hands of the original developers, and the files in the Atari archives, which were pretty much left out to rot when the company was shut down, and would have been lost to us except for a few people who searched their dumpsters looking to preserve them.

Because of the value of those tiny number of cabinets, collectors guard them zealously, which puts them at cross purposes with the people trying to release the files and get them working in MAME. Two such stories lately have been the prototype for Marble Madness II, which we talked about last year, and AKKA ARRH. (Which, I think, is still one of the best game names I’ve ever heard. It’s fun to say!)

AKKA ARRH’s history is a long story. Long lost except for a few cabinets, somehow, we’re still not sure how, the code got dumped and leaked on the internet. However it happened, that event seems to have uncorked the bubble, with rights-holder Atari (not the same company as the old Atari) commissioning a full remake from Llamasoft and Jeff Minter, the creator of Tempest 2000 and probably the person best keeping alive the spirit of classic arcade gaming.

Minter’s remake of AKKA ARRH is now on Steam. It’s kinda pricey at $19.99, but it looks g r e a t, as you should be able to tell from the trailer below. An emulation of the original arcade game is also in the Atari 50th Anniversary Celebration package from Digital Eclipse, available on Steam and lots of other platforms, which costs more but also gets you many more games, and documentaries and flyers and lots of other plat*.

Seeing that little TM symbol after the logo is oddly heartening. It’s so nice to see this game given a full release, even if only digitally. It’s been a long journey. Welcome home, AKKA ARRH.

* Lately I’ve been chafing against the limits of language. Please excuse my made-up words, I’m kind of sick of having to turn to the same old synonyms, once again, at the moment. You should know what I mean by context here.

Team Fortress 2 Stirs In Its Slumber

Team Fortress 2, Valve’s infamous hat simulator, is, amazingly enough, still popular. Eons after it went free-to-play, years after it saw its last content update, many players had assumed it was, as far as new content went, dead.

Yet, people keep playing it. Following, arguably creating, the “games as service” concept, it seems somehow fitting that its makers might be turning their attention back to it right around the time that the industry generally seems to be reconsidering whether it works as a concept for most games. And so Valve has put out a call for community content to be included in an upcoming large-scale update. People got so excited over it that Valve said:

So, as reported by Kotaku, PC Gamer, and no doubt over half of the gaming internet by now, they’ve walked back their claims a bit. But it’s still a lot more movement than the game has seen lately.

How long has Team Fortress 2 been at it? It was included in the Orange Box for Xbox 360, along Half-Life 2 and the original Portal, a used copy of which is currently resting on the shelf of the donations shop of my local public library. (I’d get it but I don’t have a 360!) It’s been out for sixteen years. It was released in 2007, in that dusty age pre-Obama. The meme culture around it, bolstered by the game’s cartoony presentation and sponsorship for several years of the Saxxy Awards, helped establish, for better or worse, the tone of gamer humor. One of its most beloved actors, Rick May, the voice of Soldier (also Peppy Hare and Andross in Star Fox), passed away in 2020.

I’ve played some TF2 back in the day, I’m with it, I’m “hip.” I think I may have even scored a point once!

News 2/2/2022: Konami, Link to the Past, Listicles

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

My cell walls are feeling kind of rigid at the moment due to a computer issue that caused me to lose the first draft of this post. All of my witty remarks, lost to the electronic void. You missed out on my entertaining usage of the phrase “odoriferous blorpy.” Truly we are in the worst timeline. It’s all left me feeling kind of cranky, let’s get through it quickly this week.

Ted Litchfield at PC Gamer on a RuneScape player playing a minigame for eight years and turn turning in all his progress at once. RuneScape is an early MMORPG that began in 2001.

Several things to do with Konami, a once-great publisher that’s become pretty hidebound lately:

Dustin Bailey at GamesRadar: fans are working on a PC remake of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I’m sure this won’t get obliterated by legal threats. They should have gone with the cheeky route taken by The Transylvania Adventure of Simon Quest. The article mentions that its creators consider the fact that many townsfolk lie to you to be a problem, instead of awesome as it really is.

Charles Harte at Gamespot organ Game Informer says Dead Cells’ upcoming Castlevania-themed DLC is really big.

Also from Charles Harte, Konami is shutting down their recently-released game CRIMESIGHT, not just removing it from the Steam store but even making it unplayable. Great way to reward people giving you money, K. It’s not even a year old yet!:

Tyler Wilde, also from PC Gamer, on a $2,000 game on Steam and what it’s about. Summarized: it costs $2,000 but is short enough that people can finish it within the return period, and it amounts to a screed against women. Blech!

Dean Howell at Neowin: a fan-made decompilation of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past can now be compiled for Windows and (presumably if your device is jailbroken) Switch.

Christ Moyse at Destructoid tells us that Taito’s classic The New Zealand Story is coming to the Arcade Archives series. Gandalf could not be reached at press time for comment.

Two listicles:

Zoey Handley at Destructoid on the 10 best NES soundtracks. The list is Bucky O’Hare, Kirby’s Adventure, Castlevania 3 (Japanese version), Contra, Dr. Mario, Super Mario Bros. 2, Mega Man 2, Castlevania II, Journey to Silius, and… Silver Surfer?

Gavin Lane and the NintendoLife staff on the 50 best SNES games. The list is compiled algorithmically from reader scores, and can change even after publication. At this time, the top ten are, starting from $10: Donkey Kong Country 2, Earthbound, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV, Super Mario RPG, Yoshi’s Island, Final Fantasy III, Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Zelda: A Link to the Past and Super Mario World on top.

Tom Phillips at EuroGamer mentions that the original developers of Goldeneye 007, recently rereleased after 25 years on Switch and Xbox platforms, were a bit miffed that they weren’t asked to participate in the festivities. At the time most of its developers were completely new to the game industry, and they’ve been generally snubbed by its publishers in talking about the new versions. Does feel pretty shabby, Nintendo and Microsoft!

Andrew Liezewski at Gizmodo talks about the graphics in an upcoming Mario 64 hack made by Kaze Emanuar. I’ve followed Kaze’s hacking videos quite a bit (I think one’s been posted on Set Side B before), and the optimizations they’ve made to Mario 64’s engine are amazing, not only eliminating lag but great increasing its frame rate and making it look better to boot.

And, at Kotaku, Isaiah Colbert reports on various things being done to celebrate Final Fantasy VII’s 26th birthday, including official recognition in Japan of “Final Fantasy VII day” and a crossover with Power Wash Simulator. Maybe they can do something about cleaning out all the grunge from Midgar, that city could use a bath.

News 12/28/22: ASCII Dwarves, eShop Shutdowns, Ecco the Dolphin

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Computer issues kept me from filing last week’s report. That is the reason. It is not true that I got so drunk at a Globmas Party that my chemical composition was 50% alcohol. Don’t listen to those rumors! Let us begin.

Image from PCGamesN

Dwarf Fortress’ Steam Edition is still the toast of the gaming blogoglobe! A recent update lets you use the original version’s ASCII graphics instead of the high-falutin’ new pixel art skin. So proclaimeth Ian Boudreau at PCGamesN!

It’s funny. Corbin Davenport writes an article at How-To Geek titled Atari’s New Gaming Console Isn’t Dead Yet. But it’s URL is: https://www.howtogeek.com/855757/ataris-new-gaming-console-is-dead/ Don’t you love how URL slugs can reveal a piece’s working title? The article itself is more about how it’s mostly dead, so someone call Miracle Max.

Gavin Lane at NintendoLife discusses the upcoming shutdown of the 3DS and WiiU eShops. You haven’t been able to add funds for a while through the stores, although you could still add them using the Switch’s shop then use that money to buy there. The piece mentions that Nintendo has been almost anxious to close the shops, due to poor sales of the WiiU. You’ll still be able to download purchased software… for a while.

Also at NintendoLife, Liam Doolan interviews a couple of people at Wayforward about River City Girls 2! It turns out that planning began almost immediately after RCG1 wrapped up.

Tom Ivan. Video Games Chronicle. Microsoft and Activision have filed responses to the FTC complaint about their merger being anti-competitive. Creatures of my species are capable of merging together into one blobby whole, which is admittedly quite fun on a boring Saturday night, but none of us are corporations that control massive segments of the console gaming market!

Related, Jezz Corden of Windows Central reports that Microsoft is claiming that Sony’s influence will prevent four specific games from ever reaching the Xbox console platform: Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy 16 (shouldn’t that be XVI?), Silent Hill 2 Remake, and Bloodborne.

And finally, at The Ringer, M.D. Rodrigues writes a long piece about the legacy of the Sega Genesis Ecco the Dolphin games.

News 12/15/22

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Scott Stein at CNet (they’re still around) says his favorite gadget of the year was the Playdate.

Wes Fenlon at PC Gamer says that Tarn and Zach Adams, have become millionaires from the Steam release of Dwarf Fortress. Earth blogger John Harris, a.k.a. rodneylives, says they’ve communicated with Tarn several times, including a couple of interviews at Game Developer (formerly Gamasutra), and that this could not have happened to nicer people. The article notes that, despite the windfall, they’re being cautious with the money. Steam DF was made specifically because the brothers need healthcare, and whatever long tail DF has is pretty much it, since they aren’t making a sequel or expansion pack.

Image from Mobygames

At Inverse, Mo Mozuch describes the accomplishments of Carol Shaw, creator of Activision’s Atari VCS hit River Raid, one of the first vertically-scrolling shooters, and early woman pioneer in gamedev.

Rock Paper Shotgun’s C.J. Wheeler tells of a situation where the developer and publisher of The Outbound Ghost are feuding, which resulted in the game being temporarily pulled from Steam. Lead dev Conrad Grindheim has accused publisher Digerati of unethical practices, and Digerati claims to have been “blindsided” by the accusations.

Anthony Wood at IGN has a piece noting that, while Sonic Frontiers certainly has vocal detractors, that hasn’t stopped it from selling 2.5 million copies!

Image from PC Gamer

There is a great article on PC Gamer from Corwin Hayward about controversy with a certain extremely rare mount in World of Warcraft that, due to a couple of bugs, became extremely unrare among a small base of players for a short while. It’s a primer about the way the game’s loot system has been perceived and exploited for over a decade, and how it finally resulted in the relaxing of a whole category of ultrarare mounts. The article is long but very rewarding!

NPG’s Megan Lim speaks with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell on 50 years of Pong. Bushnell’s always been a bit of a huckster figure, but I’m glad he’s still kicking and talking with folk.

Scott McCree at Nintendo Life has a review of River City Girls 2 from favorite developer Wayforward! His premise is that it’s great, but ultimately not really differentiated from the original that much?

News 12/8/22: Akka Arrh, Steam Dwarf Fortress, Sexy Game Flyers

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Hello blobs! Welcome again to our recognizable brand of snarky response to gaming media which I am given to understand has not been seen anywhere else over the past 30 years of the internet! I’m so original! Let’s get started….

Image from Lost Media Wiki. To think, until recently there were only three Akka Arrh units in existence, jealously guarded by their owners, and now, it has its own official website and Steam page.

Well it looks like Atari had the same idea we did regarding putting some of its neglected prototypes out there! Not only has their classic-era unproduced game AKKA ARRH (it’s fun to say!) playable in the Atari 50th Anniversary collection, but W. Shanklin at Engadget tells us it’s getting a remake! One quib with the article though, it says it didn’t get made because it was too hard, but playing it in the Anniversary collection I got rather a few waves in, on my first try? They got Jeff Minter on board for the remake, so you know it’ll be A. great, B. trippy, and C. have cheeky ungulates in there somewhere!

Keith Stuart at the Guardian visited Play Leisure, a UK company that refurbishes and resells classic arcade machines! It’s always nice when we here at Set Side B can link to a Real Publication, something that gets pressed in ink onto paper, that may have a shelf life, and not be purchased by Ziff-Davis and then rapidly shut down.

At PC Gamer, Ted Litchfield mentions surprise at learning that Bungie’s first three FPSes have been available free on the internet for over a decade. I am sure that the free availability of the Marathon games is something that was once generally known about. You remember Marathon, right? Back when Bungie only produced games for Macs? It HAPPENED, honest!

PC Gamer additional item! Joshua Wolens mentions that the Steam version of Dwarf Fortress hit its two-month sales goal in 24 hours! It couldn’t have happened to a nicer elaborate dwarf death simulator! Let’s spin the Wheel of Mortality, it could come up Goblins, Vampires, Forgotten Beasts, Were-Things, Demons, Fluid Physics, or Dwarf Psychosis!

Stay classy, Konami.

Zoey Handley at Destructoid sparks a dozen internet flamewars with their article listing the 5 best N64 games! Guess what you think they’ll be. My guesses are Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Star Fox 64 and, oh, Mario Party. The answers: Majora and Star Fox, but then they chose Ogre Battle 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and F-Zero X. Which, yes they’re good, but over Ocarina? (Well honestly I think Ocarina of Time is a little overrated, but it’s usually a safe bet? Oh well, to the next item.)

This is the game that the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs sued maker Taito over, because they claimed ownership over the concept of the nearly naked jungle guy. The nearly naked jungle girl depicted in the flyer above was not a factor.

Truly, there is no demographic out there more vulnerable to the marketing wiles of the sexy poster babe than middle-aged male business owners, and the arcade industry has long known this. Rare Historical Photos has a collection of arcade flyers, 90% of which feature variations of the scantly-clad promo lady. Konami’s U.S. division in particular made a lot of use out of them. Those ladies look like they do all their shopping at Girls’s Costume Warehouse.

And Sorrel Ker-Jung at Destructoid reminds us that we don’t have to care about the “Game Awards.” They don’t even have a catchy name like the Oscars, Emmys or Tonys. I wouldn’t even trust them to come up with a good name, because it’d probably be something hamfisted and too-obvious, like the “Miyamoto,” or the “Wright.” Bah!

Dwarf Fortress on Steam, Polygon’s Coverage

Dwarf Fortress has arrived on Steam, and me and blogmate Phil Nelson are so enthused! I bought it at full price nearly immediately, even though it’s $30 (there is no game in the world that’s a better value proposition for the money!) and played through the tutorial, and was pleasantly surprised that the interface learning curve is much better! The gameplay curve is just as high as it ever was, but that is all part of the game whose tagline is “Losing is fun!”

Longtime Urists will have a little adjusting to do, as some of the keypresses have been changed, some options moved around, there are no Kennels now, and it’s not obvious how to de-designate areas like tunnels to be dug. But compared to how it was before it’s an unquestionable improvement!

There’s also excellent pixel-art graphics, zoom support (hold Ctrl down while rolling the mouse wheel) and even a lot of new music! I wish there was an option to return to the ASCII-ish graphics, but with Steam support for mods I’m sure if they don’t provide it themselves, a fan will make it before long. And if you don’t have $30 rolling around in your pocket or purse, the game is still free on the official website, just as it ever was.

Polygon has not rested on this release, and immediately posted several useful articles for enthusiasts and prospective fortress chiefs, most of them written by Jeffery Parkin!

Dwarf Fortress on Steam ($30)Dwarf Fortress at Bay 12 Games