PEGBRJE: ‘Tessa’s Ark: Chapter 1' and ‘Turn-Based Champion’
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Tessa’s Ark: Chapter 1 is a hybrid narrative puzzle game created by Neutron Dust, a graphics designer and game developer in the USA. Players will step in to a world that may not truly exist to follow Tessa, an individual recalling her story of being digitized. Or perhaps she was always digital?
Players will split their time between the narrative portion and the puzzles, as Tessa attempts to piece together just what is happening in her life, or if she even has a life in the first place. She’ll be directed by Sector through the narrative, meeting different parts of the program in the hopes of establishing herself and finding out what may be wrong with her. After all, she seems to be the only one that keeps thinking that she ‘exists’ outside of the program. It doesn’t help that she keeps seeing moments of another life, but that could just be sickness of the program when she was created? At least that is what Sector thinks.
Where the game becomes a puzzle is in her attempts to navigate the world — Tessa must fix different voltages around her so that passage can be made safely, making this a mathematics-based RPG. The goal is to match the voltages to the target using the coloured ‘paddles’, where each colour corresponds to a mathematical equation. For example, yellow paddles add the current number on to the current voltage, while red subtracts. Making a mistake can be reset at the cost of Tessa’s HP, but thankfully players have a spare boost in case it gets low.
Where things get confusing is when Sector is added to the party, for they allow teleportation between nodes so that players can rotate colour wheels to create sequences of paddles. By rotating these colour wheels, the paddles in the sequence can change colour so that players can set up the formula and create the necessary voltage.
Where Tessa’s Ark comes to life is in its expressive detail and artistic expression, with every character being a collage of wire-centric colours and designs. It’s utterly fantastic to look at, and I caught myself just looking at the art without even playing the game a few times. It’s such a unique artstyle that it deserves its own commendation, regardless of how one might feel about the gameplay. If you love different artstyles in games, or want an adventure RPG that also uses math equations this might be a good game to try out.
Do be aware that this is the ‘first chapter’, while also being the last — currently the game is launched on Steam without the title of Chapter 1, implying that the game has been completed on there. It is available for free as well if you didn’t pick it up through the bundle; that said I cannot say if there are version differences. The executable for this build states it as the steam final build 1.2.1, updated in 2020, so I can assume that they are the same. If that is the case, please note that I have no idea how to level up the characters as the ‘flashing yellow arrow’ did not exist.
Turn-Based Champion is a multiplayer RPG arcade game created by LostLightStudio, an indie studio in the USA. Players will select a character and a class and begin their noble journey of trying to beat each other at mini games so they can fight a dungeon boss.
Tell me if this sounds familiar, but players will be rolling a die and maneuvering through a large board in order to gain items, and beat their friends at mini games in order to progress farther. The mini games are triggered through specific events, and involve strange skill tests like jumping over spikes or shooting targets out of the sky. Things that one looking to dungeon and fight monsters would not necessarily ‘do’ traditionally to become better, as it were. The Mario Party comparisons are inevitable, even if this is where the similarities end.
The big difference is that the mini-games are not for leveling up, but for getting an edge to fight bosses and other events. Players who land on blank squares will enter that dungeon and fight an enemy that is levelled to the board’s location, and by defeating it the player can level up. The higher the level, the more damage and resistances the player will have so that they can take on the boss without getting trounced, which sends them back to the beginning.
Squares with chests on them can give powerups to help navigate the board, but do not necessarily assist in defeating the enemies — only increase the chances of getting harder enemies or finding new items. Everything is for bringing out the most in the hero that the player chose, so that they can hopefully not lose.
This is a massive shift in gameplay style to Mario Party, because now players are not relying heavily on their luck to get them through engagements. Combat against enemies is turn based, and players have choices they can make between attacking, using items or powers, and even just running away to avoid dealing with the possibility of death. Items are not used to completely ruin another player, only to help get farther on the board through various means.
I’ve said it before when it comes this style of game, but being able to stand outside of the shadow of the ever-looming presence of Mario Party is essential, and Turn-based Champion is able to succeed thanks to its RPG elements and quirky aesthetic. You’ll get to run around the map and attack enemies, while also getting to have fun beating your friends at mini games. If you love RPGs that you can play with friends, but also want to be competitive against them, this is a great game to give a look.
Links to a new era
Tessa's Ark: Chapter 1
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