Saturday, 27 July 2013

Huenison [TEAM REVIEW] [PC, Amiga OS 4]

Anton's Opinion;

'I have to stop, I have 'Guitar Hero eyes'

Me and my wife Michelle have a very unique form of the English language, it has been forged over 10 years of gaming together. To the outside world we sound like a pair of weirdos but the language we speak is our own and not intended for others. The phrase first came to light in mid 2000, I was playing a newly released rhythm game that featured a toy guitar, you may of heard of it...

This one evening, my wife found me sat in my pants strumming along to a particularly difficult song. Eyes transfixed to the screen as I desperately attempted to keep up with the ever approaching tidal wave of colored blocks. As the song came to an end, I turned my head to greet her and all of a sudden the room deformed then warped towards me. This would be the first occurrence of the phrase.

Tonight would be the most recent uttering, however this time she was saying it to me.

Huenison demands nothing less than 100% of your attention, like an angry God it will end you if you do not pay proper tribute to it. The game from an audience's perspective is simple, you blast colored blocks, shoot enough and you get to move on to the next level. However from the victims perspective you are in a race against time, ever fighting back an unrelenting tide of blocks constantly trying to push you up to the line of death slowly creeping down to seal your fate. After a while you will clear the level by the skin of your teeth - but don't think for a second you know what your doing as the world of Huenison is ever changing and evolving to crush you mercilessly. There is a new element of challenge awaiting on every stage.

The gameplay mechanics revolve around selecting the correct color laser to blast the corresponding block. Now being color blind I found this extra difficult as this game features colors that I am simply physically unable to tell apart, however I refused to let this stop me as the gameplay was worth the added difficulty - I just considered it 'hard mode'. My wife however came into her own and before long her competitive side had stomped my scores into the ground with her attempts occupying all of the our leader board.

The controls are simple but effective, you can cycle left & right through your colored arsenal, and move your sprite horizontally. This gives the game a feel similar to that of the venerable Space Invaders as you frantically fire you laser as fast as it can whilst panning side to side. We used an Xbox 360 controller which worked perfectly.

Visually the game is slick but never distracting. Its neon colors are bright and full of life. The look of the game has clearly been thought out - although you may not initially understand all of the visual information your provided with. This will come in time, like Tetris you get a feel for flitting between the information pane and the action eventually. The stylized look of the game in a joy to behold, simple, clean and full of character.

The music is very special and perfectly suited to the experience. The chip-tunes are clearly inspired by the legendary SID chip of the immortal C64. Balancing tension with energy, the tunes will keep you on the edge of your seat. Music is something indie games seem to be ahead of the curve with, without the restrictions of licensing agreements and contractual obligations, true originality is allow to blossom. This game is no exception.

I find myself truly jealous of my color seeing peers for the first time in my life as I genuinely want to experience this game as it was intended. Its a game that exudes class and is clearly the work of someone who really believed in providing the best experience they possibly could.

So how can I call this one? Its clearly a great game with an inspired approach to the puzzle/shooter genre, but without full color vision I may not be entirely qualified to give the final decision. I enjoyed it thoroughly but my experience will not be the same as a fully color aware person. The one thing I would of liked to seen included is a color-blind mode, most of my other favorite puzzle games had them, slight variations in the form of shapes or details as seen in Columns, Puzzle Bobble, Hexic, Puyo-Puyo and many more.

So here is my opinion based on my personal [deficient] experience; Its a very challenging experience that left me shaking with anxiety after each successful round. I loved the Visuals and the music was top drawer.

... And so I will hand you over to the rest of the team, for a more compatible [set of eyes] take on it.

Anton's Verdict: THUMBS UP

Kimble's Opinion;

Looking to the past has become a common theme in the Independents of late - the scene features a whole range of takes on the olden days. There are games that play it more for laughs, providing knowing winks at old gaming tropes and mechanics so we can all have a belly chuckle. Some games, like VVVVV, use old aesthetics to create something wholly modern.

Then there’s games that actually do try to recreate the feel of an old genre, warts n’ all. The classic JRPG homages, point-n’-click adventures, or bullet hell tributes. Within that last subcategory, there lies an even smaller race – those who’ll go so far as to continue developing games as if was for older machines. Such is the case with Simone Bevilacqua's’ “Huenison”.

Developed on and released for AmigaOS 4 [though there is also a PC version]. Bevilacquas has no interest in the modern gaming scene, and talks of ultimately developing original games for the C64 as his goal in programming. At first glance, you might say that there’s no more 'old-school' way of doing things than sticking with machines that a lot of today’s programming students haven’t even heard of.

What if there wasn't a school, old or otherwise to begin with? What if this was all you knew from the beginning? Such games are not so easily pigeonholed, and it’s those games that often prove to be the most interesting in the independent scene.

Authenticity notwithstanding, Huenison has the feel of a man riffing on old favorites with call backs to the likes of Space Invaders, Tetris, and Arkanoid coming together in unison, a mish-mash of classic mechanics with a vintage SID soundtrack.

Multi-colored blocks gradually fall down the screen and it’s up to you to take them down by cycling through the ship’s colors to find the one that matches up. It gets very hectic very quickly – missed blocks create bumps in the line, and those bumps lead to the end when your ship crosses the threshold that moves down whenever you miss. You have to try your best to keep a clear head – if you panic and start firing everywhere, your game will end faster than a Minutemen song. This is not a game for the faint of heart – the constant cycling through colors block management and focus on accuracy can turn your brain into mush as soon as too many blocks start appearing on the screen.

Huenison does share that all important quality that its influences all have – it’s very, very addictive. Games like this are about finding your limit – how many blocks on screen does it take for you to start panicking? At first, it won’t be a lot – but ever so gradually, you’ll become comfortable and you’ll improve. You won’t even know it’s happening, as the simplicity of the game paired up with its enticing, abstract presentation always beckons you back for one more go, just so you can add a bit more to that high score or try and reach a new level. This is the sort of thing that makes a puzzle game great, and Huenison nails it. At just under three English pounds, it’s an absolute snip.

Kimble's Verdict: THUMBS UP

Michelle's Opinion;

I am not going to hide the fact that I am crazy competitive, hell - a lot of times I would consider it my gaming 'style'. Playing Huenison against my handicapped (colorblind) husband was perfect for a Friday night of gaming! The desire to beat the levels becomes somewhat addictive over time and actually gave me 'Guitar Hero eyes' (as described by Anton).

I really enjoyed the games style - simple but very challenging. The best way I could describe it, if Tetris and Space invaders fell in love, got married and had a child then that child would be Huenison. I discovered after 2 hours of playing the game that there are in fact instructions scrolling on the front screen but actually found that I had not really needed them and that the gameplay was actually very intuitive and easy to pick up as you played through it.

The music is engaging and really helps create the very intense and panicky atmosphere as the line gets ever closer to the bottom of the screen.

If I could change anything in the game it would be the robot voice that told me I was going to hell - it was very unexpected and I felt that it was a little bit out of style with the rest of the experience. Plus I wanted to punch him in his condescending robot balls... Didn't I mention my competitive streak?!

I really enjoyed playing Huenison and enjoyed playing it with (read: against) my husband...

...especially as I beat him.

Michelle's Verdict: THUMBS UP

Huenison is available as a DRM free download from RGCD and costs £2.99.

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