The Ugly Monster
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The Ugly Monster

Playing Every Game in the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

PEGBRJE: ‘Hedera’, ‘VR Drum Studio’ and ‘Alfal’s Grove’

Another triple to end the page

Mom come pick me up I’m scared of those lips.

Hedera is a 2D horror adventure crafted by Aiaz Marx, an indie dev specializing in creating uncomfortable pixels. This time we will follow Ivy in a cryptic tale as she deals with her traumas through in-game video game sequences and lucid dreams. Too bad they don’t really ‘work’.

As Ivy, players will wander through grainy and dark regions, reflecting on her past experiences and fears as she attempts to sort through the issues and curses that haunt her. It’s a bit hard to nail down in a single description. The puzzles all differ depending on the level, the fear in question and how the player tries to solve them. Certain regions require photos to discover the truth. Others can only be resolved by running for Ivy’s dear life as horrific faces haunt the edges of her vision.

Gameplay hinges on the narrative, where the player is constantly unnerved and afraid to explore or take risks. There will be many moments when the timeline suddenly cuts to a different day, giving clues as to how Ivy ended up in this scenario as she attends a house party of a classmate. Just as a new truth is about to be revealed, the clip cuts short and the timeline scrubs to a new day in the future to survive. The only constant is Ivy’s room, which serves as an anchor before she dives in to a dream sequence that nobody involved will enjoy.

With the 7 endings and the dozens of disturbing monstrosities, Hedera achieves its goal of making you uncomfortable just by looking at a face. As a resident ‘unable to play horror games well’ expert, it definitely succeeded in making me uncomfortable enough to abandon the game. It has its flaws in its roughness, but that helps to bolster just how unnerving it is, surprisingly enough. If you like bizarre horror games, then this is your jam.

Ba dum tis.

VR Drum Studio is a VR experience crafted by Shorkie, and allows you to jump in to a virtual studio and enjoy a banging good time. It features twelve different drums and cymbals to enjoy, and even a cowbell to hit for hours on end. Positions of each instrument can be changed for an easier experience. These locations are saved for future plays so you don’t have to adjust them every time.

Unfortunately I could not really get it to work outside of VR (seeing as I don’t have one). If you get it to work, it’ll give you the closest thing to a drum set in real life without having to annoy your neighbours.

Pew pew pew pew

Alfal’s Grove is a FPS roguelike created by Ryan Scott, a solo indie dev based out of the United States. Players will be enter a strange and alien world, where monsters come in all shapes and sizes. The only thing keeping the player alive is their speed and trigger finger.

The world is full of strange and scary things, but the player is just as terrifying as they zip around the floating islands and shoot everything they see. Gameplay is very reminiscent of Risk of Rain in first person, complete with the shading, projectiles and stacking buffs. Every kill the player gets will award the hearts of their enemies — who sometimes have multiple for some reason. Enemies will continuously spawn the longer a player remains in a level, which can only be escaped via a portal with a heart requirement. Without enough hearts to feed the portal, the player is stuck until it is satiated.

These hearts can also be fed to the plants that grow on the island for their seeds, which will upgrade a specific aspect of the player’s arsenal. Upgrades can range from mobility increases (higher jumps, faster movement) to damage potential (dash damage, projectile speed), and all buffs can stack. This means that if players collect the same upgrades twice, their buffs will increase even higher. Since the hearts are also used to escape the level, players will need to weigh their options of survival. Escaping the level faster means fewer buffs, but sticking around too long could become fatal as enemies continually spawn.

This core decision making, coupled with the brutal learning curve, is what makes Alfal’s Grove so appealing — the sheer need to keep trying over and over just to see what the next region will look like as the levels grow in size and difficulty. There is a final boss known only as the King, but getting there will take tenacity and a bit of luck. I wish you all the best for those that attempt it, for it will be a ride the whole way.

If you love Risk of Rain 2 and adore alien scenery as you die over and over just trying to get to a new level, then this is the game for you.



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