Because what's a roguelike video game in 2016 without the reassuring theme of human sacrifice?
I'm a fan of the Wii U. Most people who own one are. Any stick Nintendo's console receives primarily comes from gamers who've never had one to call their own, who've never grinned from ear to ear during a mirrored Mario Kart 8 race or super-tight Splatoon match. The system has tremendous games—just not a great many of them. And its roster of platform-exclusive indie titles is smaller still. But that can be a benefit for companies who do decide to publish on the Wii U alone.
Both sci-fi puzzler Affordable Space Adventures, by Danish studio KnapNok Games, and FAST Racing Neo, by the German team of Shin'en Multimedia, enjoyed great visibility on Nintendo's digital eShop in 2015 courtesy of allying with their machine over all others. And Florida's ChudChud Industries (a.k.a. developer Cody Diefenthaler) is looking for some of that sweet, sweet exposure for its new game Temple of Yog, which appeared on the eShop in December but is looking to build momentum across 2016 with a series of staggered updates.
And just what is this new exclusive for Wii U owners, denied the wonders of recent indie hits like Ori and the Blind Forest, Undertale, and Her Story? Fitting so very perfectly with Nintendo's all-smiles, all-ages reputation, it's a tale of human sacrifice. Again: a tale of human sacrifice. At the beginning of the game some ancient evil is awoken on the other side of a mystical portal, leading to four different guilds on the Earthly side of the trans-dimensional doorway—the holy Augurs, the Cult of the Magi, the Livid Blades, and the Rogue's Nest—to band together to send a probably-not-all-that-willing "tribute" through the portal once every so many years, in return for what the game calls "boon." You can call it points, if you like; points that the player then spends on leveling up each guild.
Temple of Yog is a twin-stick-shooter roguelike—which means that you use one stick to move and the other to shoot, and the top-down-perspective, pixel-art stages are randomly generated each time you play. It looks like something that could have come out on the Amiga; it sounds like something that could have come out on the Amiga, its music reminiscent of a Bitmap Brothers production. But this being 2016, there's rather more to this title that surface impressions suggest. Indeed, it quickly becomes quite compelling.
Every sacrifice you send through to the other side will ultimately be cut down by any one of numerous nasties, but when they are their efforts won't have been in vain (unless you really, really suck). The boon they've collected, by killing foes and completing obelisk-given mini-quests (initially just "kill more of this enemy" demands) boosts the magic points, hit points, and shadow mode duration (more on that in a second) of the guild of your choice, all of whom have their own special abilities. So while the Augurs start out with only a weak offense, albeit with a great range, you can quickly boost their abilities and set about slaughtering giant spiders in a no time at all.
Making sense? Good, good. Then I'll continue.
Every controllable character you send to their death is given a name, and they receive a rank upon biting the dust. The lowest is "pitiful," followed by "weak," and the scale goes right up to "worthy." (Oh, Gougre the Worldy, you'll forever be my number one. Clementine the Hidden? With his eight seconds of survival, less so.) You're always aiming for "worthy" and maximum boon, but your first few attempts at pleasing this not-entirely-benevolent god-type figure are likely to be more "pitiful" than not—and that's not always because you're particularly bad at the game.
It might just be my GamePad, but I'm finding the aiming on the right stick a little stiff and inaccurate, which is an obstacle to totally clicking with a game in this genre. Collision detection feels a little ropey, too, but that'll soon be updated in a patch, one that's also going to enhance enemy AI, as right now it's too easy to pick off certain enemies—spiders, mainly—without them reacting to your ranged attacks. The patch is a free update, obviously, and comes before the game's next revision proper, its next "epoch."
See, if you play Temple of Yog today, you're playing its first epoch, the Age of Wilderness. Buy the game later, in the spring, and it'll have moved onto the second epoch, introducing more enemies, three more "ages," and online PvP play. Each update to the game—a third and fourth epoch are coming, too—expands its content; and the more content at the time of purchase, the more expensive the game becomes. So if it sounds appealing now, get it while it's at its cheapest—$6 in the States, or £4 in the UK.
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The USP of Temple of Yog is something that a lot of Wii U games still don't do properly, and that's make decent use of the console's twin-screen setup. On the TV you'll see the "light" world of the game, with its own layout and enemies; on the GamePad screen is the "shadow" world, where further foes await in a quite different stage pattern. Holding down the ZR button flips the two, so the shadow world appears on the big screen—but only for as long as your character can maintain a presence there, based on their shadow mode strength bar. You'll need to flick between the two in order to find the exit on each stage—a glowing square—and you can only be harmed by enemies appearing in your own realm.
And if none of that is clear, just watch the video below:
'Temple of Yog: The First Epoch' trailer
What this means is that you're constantly darting your eyes up and down, checking in on what's going on where you're not, and zoning out of one world when necessary to avoid deadly projectiles or zero in on an unsuspecting warg or hiding-behind-a-bush asp. It's a platform-dependent dimension to roguelike gaming that I've not seen before, and it's going to be interesting to see where Chudchud's updates take this mechanic. Temple of Yog could become quite the cult hit of 2016, if it delivers variety enough to keep players coming back for time after time. Right now, a half-hour here and ten minutes there is plenty enough to satisfy my hunger for this retro-styled ritual slaughter simulator, but massive roguelike fans will likely lock themselves into longer sessions.
Just one tip: Don't try to pause the game, especially if you're on a good run. Keep your thumb the hell away from the plus button. You don't want to touch it. Hold that piss in a little longer. Soak yourself, if you must. You'll thank me.
Temple of Yog is out now, exclusive to the Nintendo Wii U. More information at the game's official website.
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