Friday, January 3, 2014

The Watchlist: Catacomb Kids

Title: Catacomb Kids
Developer: FourBitFriday
Platforms: PC, Mac
Releasing 2014
Catacomb Kids is a brutal platformer roguelike that pits you against the deadly Catacombs aided only by magic, steel, and your quick reflexes. Traverse procedurally generated dungeons and hack, slash, burn, and blast your way through hordes of things that want to kill you.
After a successful Kickstarter last month, Catacomb Kids continues to make progress. The game promises to combine roguelike and platforming elements in a pixel art package. Recently the alpha was released for Kickstarter backers, and after playing for several hours, it's say to safe that Catacomb Kids achieves those promises, even at such an early stage.
Currently, there are two modes to choose from: the main game and Versus. In the main roguelike mode, you choose from a number of classes (only two of six are in right now). Bully is the brute class, starting with higher strength but lower defense, while Poet is the magic class with higher magic but lower strength. Then you choose from a class-specific set of randomized characters, each with positive and negative traits (stealthy, loud footsteps, weak swimmer, etc.) and different starting equipment. After you choose, you enter the Catacombs, and like true roguelike fashion, the goal is to descend as far as possible, level up, and survive. Maybe you'll even defeat Abys, the powerful demon that lords over the Catacombs and its enemy-infested depths.
Gameplay is where Catacomb Kids shines. Compared to Spelunky, Rogue Legacy, or Towerclimb, Catacombs Kids is all about careful exploration and smart planning. Platforming is a means to an end, a skill to be used, rather than the focus. Your character is very agile, able to roll, hang from ledges, crawl along the ground, swim, lunge at enemies from afar. Finding spellbooks allow you to choose a spell to learn, from flight to teleporting, fire wave to plague, chain lightning to enhanced speed. Mana recharges slowly and each spell costs a certain amount to use, so you need to plan how to best use your weapons and magic. More often than not, it's better to avoid conflict, and you can distract enemies, avoid their line of sight, and maneuver around them. But if conflict can't be avoided, combat revolves around timing, knowing your weapon's range and speed, and evasive dodging. You never have much health and potential death lurks around every corner.
What makes Catacomb Kids feel so fun is how reactive the world is; as the trailer and gameplay videos had shown, you can use the environment to your advantage in unique inventive ways. Knock down a torch to burn enemies without getting close or throw a mushroom into a pool to poison the water. Lure enemies into traps, or throw rocks to reveal a trap's location. Boil potions on fiery surfaces to turn the contents into a area-effecting cloud. Eat corpses or even your own severed limbs for health. 
I haven't even touched on Versus mode yet. Here, you select a randomized character and then three spells. You can fight another player or the computer in a number of different arenas, and it's just hectic addictive fun, There's a ton of strategy in combining magic, countering different spells, using the environment to your advantage, and more.

Despite feeling so playable, Catacomb Kids is still in early alpha and will only grow and evolve in the coming months. You can follow the game's progress on the developer's blog, and vote for it on Steam Greenlight.

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