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Green Hell is a Most Accurately Named Survival Game

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Green Hell

I spent my first day in the Amazon building a shelter and a campfire. It wasn’t much to write home about, but I was proud of my achievements until I realised how parched I was. I searched late into the night and finally found a water hole. By that point, dehydration was setting in, so I didn’t much care that it was dirty. That was my first mistake. The parasites that infested my stomach were ravenous, and my meagre rations weren’t enough to sate them. I died of starvation in my sleep early in the morning.


With just one small change, Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr’s 2013 banger comes to define Green Hell: “Eat. Sleep. Die. Repeat.” The refrain pulsates with energy—insistent, mesmerising—and the same is true of Creepy Jar’s debut offering.

Survive, the game demands. Hunt, gather, build, and live. Green Hell taps into the process of refinement that this core loop has enjoyed across the past few years, with the result being a set of engrossing, finely tuned mechanics that await the final piece of the puzzle: the story.

A kind of prologue is already present. Players arrive in the Amazon rainforest in the company of a woman trying to make contact with a lost tribe. A slow start acclimatises players to the basic necessities of food, water, and health while at base camp. Then, more than a month after the arrival of the possible philanthropists (though only about an hour in real time) comes a cry for help, and the tutorial ends.

Anyone who has already played ARK: Survival Evolved, Conan Exiles, or their ilk should feel somewhat at home in Green Hell. Perhaps the most notable change from those forebears is the shift to a realistic setting. The character is no fantasy hero with the ability to slay fell beasts at a single blow. Rather, he is an average Joe, prone to infection from untreated wounds, poisoning from tainted food, and death from even the slightest sign of adversity.


The abandoned camp was the first sign of civilisation I’d seen in days. As you can imagine, I ran towards it with glee and was rewarded with chips, canned food, painkillers, and even a new spear. It’s the closest thing you can imagine to winning the lottery out here. The best thing of all, though, was the water purifier. Drinking from the rivers made me horribly sick. I waded out with a saucepan I found to fill up, and felt a horrible stinging in my legs almost straight away. By the time I got back to shore, my legs were severely lacerated. Bloody piranhas. Worse, I hadn’t seen a Molineria plant in a while and had no bandages on me. I wasn’t able to find a way to treat myself before infection set in, and that spelt the end of my adventure.


A lack of sleep means drastically reduces energy levels. Starvation and dehydration bring drops in health. Leeches and uncomfortable sleeps take a toll on sanity. The sheer number of moving parts that players must be aware of in their quest for survival is almost terrifying, as negligence of even one can have dire effects.

Moreover, Creepy Jar seems to have no interest in making things easy. The abundance of animals ensures a constant supply of protein, though medicinal herbs and edible sources of carbohydrates and fats are rather sparse. Moreover, the abbreviated day/night cycle and frighteningly rapid metabolic rate of the character leaves next to no downtime.

For all those struggles, survival is as survival does. As is common in the genre, maintaining health and energy becomes rhythmic once the player is accustomed to the demands and has set up a base of operations. The first two Early Access updates (animals and water) focused on expanding those means of survival and world interaction, while the latest doubled down on combat.

Aside from certain aggressive animals, the primary enemies are the native tribespeople, and the fights can get tough. The natives are smart, generally well-equipped, and able to telegraph the player’s actions with almost preternatural awareness. Moreover, they hit hard, though armour and traps can help mitigate their threat.


What was that poking around my raft? Bigger than any animal I’d seen so far, and those white splotches had to be paint. A native. I’d already stumbled onto one and been almost killed. This time, I’d be the one with the advantage. I crouched down and snuck towards him, spear at the ready, hoping he wouldn’t hear me clumping through the underbrush. I launched my spear, embedding it through his guts, but he had the fortitude of an ox. He stumbled, then let fly an arrow before I’d realised I hadn’t killed him. It caught me in the side. I saw red. My machete flashed, but he was like a ballerina, dancing out of my way. His second arrow ended me.


For some players, the cadence of survival and the push towards ever bigger buildings and better equipment will be enough. Indeed, comments on the game’s Steam updates suggest that most fans are content with the structure, as the most in-demand feature is cooperative play, which is set to arrive as free DLC after the full launch. For anyone who wants a bit more structure to their play, the Challenges offer a stopgap until the story mode releases later this year.

Each of the Challenges has a straightforward goal: build a campfire or raft, hunt a set number of animals, collect radio parts from tribal camps. Straightforward does not mean simple. The quests offer a three-day time limit, though the threats to safety from Survival Mode remain present. Balancing health maintenance with collecting the exorbitant resources required for completion ensures that the mode is well termed.

Pertinently, the Challenges may also suggest the structure of the story yet to come, as the premise already in place indicates a rescue mission. Even if this surmise is incorrect, the presence of a narrative promises to unify the mechanics already in place, forcing players to explore and innovate in ways that survival may not press them to. On the other hand, the story may well go overlooked and ignored, and that will be of little moment because Green Hell is engaging enough without it.

The deep health and wellbeing mechanics stand out in Green Hell, emphasising the survival experience in a justifiable, meaningful way. While that enables the game to stand out from its peers in the genre, the true star is the jungle setting. The biodiversity is not nearly as extensive as it is in real life, but as far as being a simulacrum, this virtual Amazon is convincing enough; all that is missing is the oppressive heat and humidity. Even without the atmosphere, Creepy Jar is well on the way to ensuring players delight or despair during their experience with this mostly aptly named game.

Damien Lawardorn is an aspiring novelist, journalist, and essayist. His goal in writing is to inspire readers to engage and think, rather than simply consume and enjoy. With broad interests ranging from literature and video games to fringe science and social movements, his work tends to touch on the unexpected. Damien is the former Editor-in-Chief of OnlySP. More of his work can be found at https://open.abc.net.au/people/21767

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Co-op Gaming Shines at EGX Rezzed With We Were Here Together, Phogs!, and Cake Bash

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Co-op gaming

Over the years, jolly co-op gaming has been in decline, especially from AAA developers. Several recent games have been standouts, such as A Way Out, Strange Brigade, and the Far Cry series, though the latest pioneers of co-op gaming will likely come from the indie community.

While exploring EGX Rezzed, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of mutual enjoyment as gamers came together to play a plethora of team-building games. Among these games were some of my personal highlights including We Were Here Together, Cake Bash, and Phogs!

We Were Here Together

We Were Here Together is the latest co-op adventure puzzle game by independent studio Total Mayhem Games.

The title continues on from two previously released projects, We Were Here and We Were Here Too, with the former available on Steam for free. Set amidst a frozen landscape, the first two games centred on exploring a mysterious castle while solving puzzles as part of a two-person team. Players were separated throughout the playthrough until the final moments, which featured a touching scene where the puzzling pals would eventually meet to conquer the remaining conundrums.

We Were Here Together immediately shakes things up by starting the game with both players working together in the same environment. The EGX demo starts off outside of the castle grounds in an expedition outpost where two explorers suddenly receive a distress call from somewhere in the frozen wastes. Players must work together to decipher an incoming transmission and correctly pinpoint the distress beacon.

The location itself is the answer to a series of puzzles, requiring both people to work together. A great example of teamwork is one player adjusting an outside satellite while the other stays inside to alter the radio’s frequency until a voice can be heard. This is where the creative ingenuity from the developers comes into play as solutions are different for each playthrough. The puzzles themselves remain the same, but, by using the same example as before, the voice may only be heard on a different frequency. Similar situations where the outcome changes include changing co-ordinates and figuring out which key may fit a particular door.

Roughly one-third of the game will be set in a shared environment while latter parts will take place back inside the castle in a traditional, separated format. Two paths are laid out later for the players to choose between, providing avenues for replayability. The changing solutions also add to the replay value as it prevents veteran gamers from going back and telling their new partner the answers.

The moments where players are physically apart highlight one of the unique features of the game: the radios. Both characters are equipped with walkie-talkies so players can communicate with each other. Radios are a brilliant immersion tool as the mechanic works exactly as a two-way radio should, with the wielder having to hold down a button to speak and release to hear the other. The radio mechanic is optional, though, as players can simply use a third-party chat. However, the added difficulty and roleplaying add an extra element to an already rather tricky title.

We Were Here Together is a fun shared experience that proves a challenge for even the most seasoned puzzle solvers. The release date and price of the project are unknown at present, but the game will be available on Steam.

Cake Bash

During EGX Rezzed 2019, the Coatsink team had a glorious display full of plush animals, colourful scenery, and even a rather large and comfortable dog bed.

I was lucky enough to go hands-on with Phogs! and play a few rounds of Cake Bash with PR and Events Manager Jack Sanderson. Both games proved to be a real treat to participants, with Cake Bash serving a much-needed helping of raucous fun in a series of mini-games.

Not unlike many beloved party games—such as Mario PartyCake Bash is an up-to-four-player competitive game featuring several rounds of friendship-ending challenges. The design of the title instantly stands out with an adorable and vivid visual style that brings a certain charm to the characters and settings.

Before each round, players choose a character from a selection of delicious desserts as their combatant. During the demo, only two game modes were available, the first of which required players to gather falling pieces of fruit and throw them inside a giant meringue. A single point is awarded for successfully tossing a piece of fruit into the bowl. However, a rare golden fruit, worth ten points, will appear every so often. Competitors must be wary of descending fiery boulders that can briefly daze any dessert. These boulders can also be picked up and lobbed at rivals. Not only can enemies launch these rocks at one another, but they can also punch and beat each other to force someone to drop their fruit.

The second mode available was a race to gather the most jellies to become the tastiest treat. Player avatars run around an arena, gathering multi-coloured jelly beans to cover their chosen dessert, and the sweet with the most treats at the end wins. While the first game mode mainly had the individual focusing on their own points, this round directly pits people against each other as limited jellies can be found, and players can steal them by whacking opponents.

While the game looks stunning, gamers will have to wait until 2020 to get their hands on Cake Bash. The late release has allowed for an increase in scope and additional modes for players to sink their teeth into.

Phogs!

The other title playable at the event was an equally adorable project called Phogs! The game can be played solo or with a friend, as the player controls one or both halves of a two-headed dog. The two heads can be moved independently and are able to stretch, bark, and bite.

Phogs! is set in a dream-like environment where the ground is made up of soft duvet sets and pillows, while the skies are filled with tranquil clouds gently floating in the distance. The level designs are built in a way that eases the player into the various mechanics, offering something new or demonstrating different ways to solve puzzles. Early enigmas would require both sides of the dog to work in unison to pull an object or levers simultaneously. Later levels would add a glowing orb that can be used to remove dark shadowy walls or illuminate pathways to walk across. Even the orbs are based around the idea of working as a team as one side of the dog bites onto the light ball with the other opening their mouth to act as a torch.

The charming personality of the game really shines in the various character designs and their functions within the levels. One of the final missions of the demo featured a sleeping giant that dreamed of bridges in floating thought bubbles. Players could then use the camera perspective to align the dream bridge with a section of a missing platform to cross. Other cutesy critters include wailing alarm clocks that can disturb the giants, preventing them from dreaming up a way to progress. The clocks can be led to nearby beds where they will quickly start to drift off and stop ringing.

Despite the levels being fairly linear, additional tasks can be completed to gain collectable dog biscuits. These tasks often require the dog to present characters with a particular item, for example, bringing a storybook to an owl.

The whole experience with Coatsink was a delight, both games offering a mix of controller-clenching competition and jolly cooperation. Like Cake Bash, Phogs! will also be arriving in 2020 on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One.


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