This week’s indie roun up takes as high into the mountains and then deep into the seas of an alien world. Two games that are very different in more ways than one, both in terms of anticipation and end result.

Laysara: Summit Kingdom

PUBLISHER: Future Friends Games
Formats: PC
Price: £16.75 (Early Access)
Steam Deck: Unknown (Works fine, but needs some getting used to controls)

Credit: GameTrailers

City builders are ten a penny these days. From the behemoths like Cities Skylines II, to the much smaller affairs like Islanders. Or ever the survival based ones as in Against the Storm and Frostpunk. Everything it seems is covered in some fashion.

Therefore I’m not looking for something that will change the genre, or be particularly ground-breaking. No, I mainly want something that has a slight different flavour. That is where Laysara: Summit Kingdom comes in.

Laysara doesn’t do much that I’ve not seen before. Essentially needing to build and expand, managing economies, people, resources, etc, whilst making sure everything fits together and works in harmony. However the hook here is that your ‘city’ is built on the side of a mountain and is in fact made of various smaller communites that connect to each other through various means.

You might create a section for farming, another for mining etc, but you also need ways to get the gathered resources to where they need to go and therein lies a the reason to come back time and time again. I have started many times and messed up, but learned through experience what I can do to improve next time. That there is what a good builder should do. Alllow you the freedom to make mistakes and give you the tools to learn from said errors.

There are of course various disasters that can ruin a session, such as avalanches, but as far as events go, that’s really about it. There are no ‘factions’, enemies, wars, or anything like that. This is as pure a city builder as you can get.

Whilst I found the controls to be a little cumbersome on teh Steam Deck, I found the actual overall game worked rather well. I am hoping for a decent community profile, or some controller support down the line, but after being disappointed by other recent city builders, I have found a new one to add to the favourites list.

It is still in early access too, so I can’t wait to see how it is expanded and improved on as development continues.

Harold Halibut

Price: PC, Switch, Playstation, Xbox
Steam Deck: Verified

Credit: Playstation

Let me preface this with a statement, because I am worried I may come across as mean, when I don’t want to be.

Harold Halibut is a wonderful achievement and I am so glad it got made and it exists. It shows what we as humans can do, how creative we can be. No AI could ever produce this type of thing and it is a work of art in many ways.

Here is the thing though. I just couldn’t get on with the game past the opening 45 minutes. The main reason being is that the main loop of exploring and interacting just feels very bland and a bit of a mess in truth. It has elements of old point and click titles of the 80’s and 90’s and not just the good bits.

Some things are just a bit obtuse and had me just scrambling around almost aimlessly and the character interactions felt a bit flat at times, but at others they were heart-warming, funny and full of emotion. Almost like the game couldn’t quite decide the tone to go for, which felt pretty jarring. Not quite tonaly whiplash, but definitely noticeable.

Visually though Harold Halibut is stunning, the stop-motion is gorgeous to look at and at the start of the game definitely has some wow factor. Everything here is so well crafted, from the main cgaracters to the environment and the smaller background elements. I still think stop-motion is one of the best animation styles there is.

Which brings me to why I don’t think Harold Halibut quite works as a game. You see the likes of the Aardman classics worked because they were narrative shorts, which allowed the vision to be fully realised and crafted. Then when they went to the likes of the Wallace and Gromit movie, or Chicken Run, the art was already honed. The same with Fantastic Mr Fox, the story was already there, it it was a case of bringing it to life. Similar with the exceptional Isle of Dogs.

The things those all have is that they are films, there is no interactivity required, so things can be cut, cheated, etc if needed. But when you are making a game, there needs to be more that can change, which is where I think the issue is. The gameplay can’t drastically change because of how the game is made and because it needs to mix interactivity with the story and such a specialist animation style, it is all fighting for attention.

The more I played the more I found I liked the characters, I liked the concept of the story and I loved the visuals & animation. But I think I would have preferred this to be a 30-45 minutes animated short, rather than a game.

I feel awful for saying that, I really do. Because someone put years of their life into this and it is incredibly unique and is a landmark game and it should be played and experienced, but I think this for now has to be a one and done experience.

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