Attack of the Mutant Fishcrows is a fast paced survival adventure platformer. The game is set in a dark and colourful world where the land has become hostile and dangerous. Chaos spreads and the Mutant Fishcrow grow in greater numbers with each passing day. You must stop this before it’s too late! Run, avoid, fight and defend yourself in a world where the player must overcome all obstacles to survive.
Being developed by Wild Logic Games, an independent UK studio run by Ricky Wild (great name) the game is currently in the early stages but will eventually be available on Windows/Linux/Mac, Steam and hopefully some console platforms. We played an alpha demo – which can be downloaded here – and the studio is welcoming feedback.
As the version we played is an early demo build it is important to note that Ricky himself has freely acknowledged a laundry list of bugs, unfinished features and incomplete game ideas. As such it isn’t really appropriate to judge or critique AOTMFC in these areas as our assumption is this will all be ironed out in the finished product. Instead this review is about determining whether or not the concept of the game is compelling and early indicators of well delivered gameplay are obvious….as well as some reference to early art style, sound and music! (We can’t really ignore those completely can we?!)
The game features a world map which should feel familiar to any Super Mario Bros aficionados out there – indeed Ricky has cited the hirsute Italian plumbing brothers’ SNES era adventures as a major influence. The game (certainly the demo) starts you in this world map and you have to move round the map entering and completing each level (village/cave etc.) in order to advance along the path and unlock next stage.
When you start the first stage/level you are inexplicably spawned in a house belonging to Wiseman Peter who – if you wish – can give you a rundown on your different moves and abilities. After a quick exploration of his house (during which you can fight your first two fishcrows after acquiring your first weapon – a frying pan) you’ll find yourself in Craven Village. I initially began playing the game as a sort of endless runner – bombing my way as quickly as possible to the end of the level – and I’ll admit I was wrong to do so. I was giving the game short shrift and soon came to realise that, although the game puts a sort of sonic the hedgehog emphasis on speed at times, you’re quite at liberty to move to the left! Collection, rudimentary exploration and interaction with NPC’s is as much a part of the game as outrunning the titular fishcrows, and it’s in these areas that the game is the most rewarding. There are some early iterations of inventory management, buying and selling resources, health management at scattered campsites and even a (limited) player customisation system at the start of the game; all of which promise a certain rpg element to the game and I’ll be keen to see how that is fleshed out in the final version.
The gameplay is much as you would expect – explore levels collecting coins and apples, jumping, attacking and avoiding the enemies. The game is suitably difficult – jump timing, boss “quick time events,” dodging and move combinations are all present and accounted for and all add a sense of old school difficulty. In truth – although the Super Mario Bros games are credited as a big inspiration – I found the main gameplay put me much more in mind of the Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins games. Particularly the first in the series. But perhaps I was simply influenced by the quasi medieval setting; perhaps the dark art style. In regards to the art style I found it pretty pleasing. The game is an obvious throwback to the late 80’s/ early 90’s era of pixel art, 2D platformers and there isn’t much wrong with that when it’s done well and doesn’t just look like an artistic or technical limitation on the developer’s part. Fortunately I think this is a case of imitation as flattery rather than limitation and I have to say I really enjoyed the dark (occasionally neonesque,) nightmarish landscape and characters Wild Logic has created. One small criticism is that I usually prefer a bit more enemy diversity in my games though that is personal preference and it remains to be seen if more diversity will be present in the final version of the game.
The sound and, in particular, the music is another area in which the game shines. The dark, brooding yet up tempo chiptune soundtrack and sound effects all partner the aesthetic to deliver a pleasing tribute to early 90’s platforming. It’s sure to appeal to the nostalgic side of any of us old enough to have enjoyed that particular brand of gaming first time round and might even encourage younger gamers to investigate it’s gaming forebears.
At this point the game doesn’t have much of a narrative, it’s buggy – I got stuck in a sleep cycle and had to reset the game for example – it’s pretty unforgiving given the demo’s lack of respawns or save points and playing with a keyboard is a cumbersome affair (though Ricky himself recommends using a gamepad which the demo does support.) The graphical style won’t be to everyone’s taste (though surely no one buys games in ignorance of its aesthetic) and it is a little repetitive and yet on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed playing the demo. I hope the final game delivers what the alpha demo promises; a well thought out, funny, charming, wacky, challenging tribute to platform games of yesteryear.
The full game is slated to launch sometime in Q1 2017 and in the meantime you can keep up to date with the game’s development on Wild Logic’s site, Twitter, Youtube channel and of course Orange Bison.