Indie Workshop #3: Accelerated Delivery

Welcome to the third installment of Indie Workshopwhere I take a look at some of the games of aspiring Indie developers and give them a honest review while also attempting to give them a little exposure.

I truly encourage you all to get involved with the Indie games featured here and check out the developers – they work long and hard to bring you what potentially may be the next generation of video games, so its worth your time supporting them!

This game review is an exclusive, and has never been reviewed before. I hope you enjoy!

Top Secret Packages – An Accelerated Delivery Review

main-menu

When I was approached about the possibility of reviewing a game about boxes and their movement from one area to another, I couldn’t help but wonder if the entire concept was perhaps a little simple – how on earth was I going to create a fully fledged Indie Workshop review based upon a game who’s solitary objective is “move X amount of boxes from point A to point B”? Any normal game would have proved me right and I’d be sitting here right now telling you a very different story to the one I’m about to tell – but I didn’t play the “moving box simulator”. I played Accelerated Delivery.

Accelerated Delivery is a 3D puzzle game developed by Indie game group Two Button Crew. Originally created by Jonathan Fischer under the moniker Core43, “Box Factory” (as it was then affectionately known) became a group project when Two Button Crew combined forces with Jon and programmer Alex Van Liew to forge the Two Button Crew that has put out Accelerated Delivery in its completed form today. Although their story is a long and sometimes complicated one, Accelerated Delivery’s base concept has always been the same – control machinery in the environment to move boxes to an end-zone and complete the level. Lose too many boxes to the hazards below and you fail, starting the level over anew. Its a lovely little concept that is deceivingly difficult at its core.

tutorial

Accelerated Delivery offers a basic tutorial for beginners, and optional controller support for those more accustomed to gaming with a third-party controller.

The game starts with a very basic tutorial option and helps players to find their feet before the game begins proper. One thing Accelerated Delivery does very well is guide you through its opening levels without holding your hand – it teaches you the ropes, but there’s still room for failure. Its the best kind of learning curve that doesn’t rely on tutorial menus opening every 20 seconds and interrupting fluent and constant game-play.

As the controller of the machinery around you, you must activate specific sections throughout in order to guide the boxes to their eventual destination. This starts out relatively easy, with the use of only one or two buttons to guide a singular box to its inevitable end, but before you know it, you’re dealing with 7-8 buttons at a time, multiple boxes of different colours that need to be delivered to different locations, and even boxes that explode and must actually be disposed of in order to gain points. Its fast and frantic, but never verges too close to pandemonium that you feel like you’ve lost control. Additionally, each level features its own score tracking system which adds a level of re-playability and competitiveness to the affair – meaning you may find yourself using the game’s level select functionality to try and best your friend’s best runs and outdo each other more often than you’d care to admit.

"Good, but could I do better?" is the thinking that drives Accelerated Delivery's re-playability.

“Good, but could I do better?” is the thinking that drives Accelerated Delivery’s re-playability.

Rather than the aforementioned intrusive tutorial messages popping up throughout, Accelerated Delivery features a “guide” of sorts in the form of your voice-acted boss. He’s frequently dismissive of your abilities as a machinery operator, sarcastic and humorous in his approach. He narrates the story and provides guidance in the most convoluted manner possible, and whether you’ll appreciate the voice acting depends entirely upon your sense of humor. The game plays just as well without it as it does with it, and the developers have provided an option via the pause menu to remove the voice acting if for some reason you decide it isn’t really your thing.

On that note, the audio and visuals in Accelerated Delivery are something to marvel at. The soundtrack suits the game down to the ground and really helps to add to the overall feeling that if you lose a box, its going to have consequences somewhere down the line. The visuals meanwhile, are incredibly aesthetically pleasing and rarely do they detract from the objective at hand – they’re something beautiful to look at, but they’re not so distracting that you find your eyes hurting while you play, or an inability to focus on what you’re meant to be doing. Kudos to the art guys for their excellent work in Blender, because some of the hazards such as the lava look practically alive and dancing, and that really is some kind of accomplishment.

The environments really are captivating.

The environments really are captivating.

Game-play itself is fluid and the mechanics work exactly as you’d expect them to. In particular, I was very impressed by the box physics – drop them from a significant height and they’ll bounce, threatening to be lost in the void below before settling down and putting that particular mini-heart attack to rest. Get hit by a particular piece of machinery at a funny angle, or get caught between two walls because of your bad timing, and the box threatens to wind up being flung back a few steps – adding more precious seconds to your ever-increasing time. Very rarely have I ever felt such deep concern for an inanimate object as I did with Accelerated Delivery’s cardboard boxes – but because of the way their physics function, you’re constantly left with the feeling that these boxes really are delicate and subject to a swift reckoning if you’re not careful with them.

That having been said – I did run into one or two minor issues while playing Accelerated Delivery that, while nothing serious, did make me wonder “what if?”. Firstly – and probably more to do with my personal preferences – even though you have the ability to move the camera, I do somewhat wish that the option was there to zoom in even closer. On some of the bigger puzzles, it can occasionally be difficult to see where your boxes are and that’s when a quick “snap-to” zoom in would be really beneficial.

Secondly, and slightly more of a concern; during one of the later levels, I’d been playing the level for roughly 10 minutes and I was in the process of moving five or six boxes at once, when they all got clogged in a corridor and would no longer move along the conveyor belt. I had to push another two or three boxes behind them before I eventually managed to get them to budge, but by the time they did move, they were threatening to put an end to my fairly lengthy run, and I did end up losing one or two boxes in the avalanche that ensued. It probably won’t happen to 95% of people who play Accelerated Delivery to its conclusion, but for the 5% that do have to restart a 10-12 minute run, it will be a minor frustration that they will inevitably remember.

The blockage in question.

The blockage in question causing me some significant difficulty.

Despite this though, Accelerated Delivery is a nice game to play that requires some proper hard thinking and strategy to complete in the most efficient manner properly. My initial thought was to call it a “decent time-waster”, but I’m almost ashamed to now admit that because Accelerated Delivery is deserving of so much more. Rather than button-mashing or speed-running your way through it, Accelerated Delivery demands you take appropriate time to learn it’s ways and then use what you’ve been taught to achieve the best possible scores and figures. The game is fresh and keeps adding new challenges and puzzles all the time, and you can’t help but continue attempting it regardless of how frustrating the previous level might have been.

I haven’t used my brain so much in a video game since I played Portal 2, and that is a massive credit to Accelerated Delivery. Its a game that will have you scratching your head and playing long after you’ve completed it, trying to top your best scores – it takes puzzle-solving to an entirely different level,  fantastic in its approach, and beneath it all, just one question remains;

Do YOU have what it takes to handle with care, and, more importantly, will you be able to tear yourself away regardless?

Title of Indie Game: Accelerated Delivery.
Most appealing quality?: The sheer meltdown your brain will have when more and more buttons get added – and the feeling of achievement when you manage to nail it perfectly after 10 tries.
Most disappointing quality?:  Aside from the few minor issues I had, Accelerated Delivery does what it does with gusto. Its difficult to fault it.
How much did I play?: I played up to the 6th level for this review, and plan on returning to complete the entire thing before the week is out.
How much does it cost?: Accelerated Delivery is currently available for $5/£3.26 directly from the developer’s store and is worth every penny – support an extremely promising Indie developer and earn yourself a really nice puzzle game in the process. Alternatively, try the demo, featuring six levels, for free!
Where can I find it?: Information regarding the game can be found at the developer’s website.

Accelerated Delivery is a 3D puzzle game created by the minds at Two Button Crew, available now on Windows. You can follow Two Button Crew’s progress with Accelerated Delivery via Twitter.

All reviewing content, including images, is used with consent of the developer. A massive thank you to Two Button Crew for all their help throughout this review and a particular thank you to Alex Van Liew for his help.

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From the Ashes: A Little Inferno Review

A fireplace, a wooden block, a letter from a mysterious stranger, and the ability to light things on fire with the click of your mouse. This is not the introduction of a game that wants you to do things by the book. Indeed, in Tomorrow Corporation’s 2012 puzzler Little Inferno, very little is as it seems.

If you looked up the word “quirky” in a video game dictionary, I’m almost certain that Little Inferno would be sat there next to it, all bug-eyed and vague. This puzzler doesn’t have any dots that need to be connected, or boxes that need to be moved; in all truthfulness its probably not even a “puzzler” at all – at least not in the sense most people would expect a puzzle game to be. No, in Little Inferno, fire is quite literally everything.

The story weaves itself throughout the game-play almost seamlessly and is a very curious take on an apocalyptic setting, set in a world where snow and frost are constant and cold weather has consumed everything. The Tomorrow Corporation (yup, the developers of the game are also the company in the game) have made quite a name for themselves with their “Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace”, which the inhabitants of the world of Little Inferno use to keep themselves warm from the harsh weathers outside. Again, this story is not something that is forcibly told to you as soon as you sit down to play the game, but rather is delivered incredibly eloquently through a series of letters.

These letters are sent to you from one of three main, defining sources. The first is Miss Nancy, the CEO of Tomorrow Corporation, who regularly messages you in regards to your fireplace and is about as close as Little Inferno comes to “a tutorial” of any form. Secondly is the player’s neighbour, a curious girl who also owns a fireplace named “Sugar Plumps”. Sugar Plumps regularly messages the player in regards to their fireplaces, and her bubbly, childish personality really helps to add some innocence to the world of Little Inferno. Finally, we have the weatherman, who “floats above the chimney-stacks” in a balloon, providing a regular weather forecast of the town below.

Sugar Plumps certainly adds a unique edge to the world of Little Inferno.

The main game-play elements, then, revolve around several “catalogs” containing items which the player can buy with in-game coins. The player then proceeds to burn these items, which in turn return more coins and so the game-play continues. While items can be bought and burned individually, there are also “combos” for combining specific items and burning them at the same time for a special surprise, and some of the combinations are quite genius in their design. For example, an early combo entitled “Movie Night” requires you to burn Corn on the Cob and a Television together at the same time – burning the corn causes it to turn into popcorn, and as such, movie night is born! There are a total 99 of these combos scattered throughout the game’s seven available catalogs, and while finding all of them isn’t critical to finishing the game, it adds an extra kick for completionists like myself.

This is the beautiful mirage that Little Inferno paints for itself; I went in paying for this game with the thought that I was buying a puzzle game with a story about burning objects – I had no idea what really awaited me. The first catalog leads you through a selection of objects that are cheap and easy to burn through, and before you know it you’re burning things in rapid succession, and slowly unlocking new catalogs…

Oh… What’s this? A cat you can set on fire… And people dolls that act just like normal people…

Then this happens:

Indeed, as the game drags on longer and longer, certain mysterious things begin to pop out at you. Some of the things you can purchase to burn just jump out as slightly odd – and without ruining too much, there are one or two plot twists that certainly turn the story right on its head. Little Inferno takes what should be a puzzle game with an interesting mechanic, and mixes it with mystery and a slight horror/thriller theme at times to really create a game that sits apart from its peers in the puzzle word. The art style is beautiful also, and really lends itself to the overall theme of the game, while the audio is subtle and delicate, only present when its ever really needed.

If it feels like I’m leading up to a big “but” though, I’m afraid I am. Do not get me wrong, the story, art-style and just general overall feel of Little Inferno made me love it – for a few hours. Unfortunately, just like watching a real fire slowly burn everything to a cinders, the allure and mystique can only grasp you for so long, and before long the monotony of the grind begins to set in. Its something that can plague the best of puzzle games – too much of the same mechanic and things just begin to drag.

What starts out as a journey to try and combine as many items as possible while occasionally receiving a letter from a friend soon becomes a monotonous task of “buy X and Y and Z and just hope something comes from it when you burn them”, and if you’re like me, doing that until you reach all 99 combos kinda takes the biscuit. Unfortunately, the mechanic doesn’t do a lot to draw the length of the game out, either. I sat down and played Little Inferno for two sittings, and finished the entire game (with all 99 combos) in five hours. A neat little twist at the end helps to keep things interesting for the latter half, but really, it does feel like a bit of a one-hit wonder.

Cramming the fireplace with as much as you can and then lighting it all to try and grab combos becomes more common than it should have to be towards the end.

What we’re left with, then, is a puzzler with a gimmick; a very clever gimmick that provides some good entertainment, mind you, but a gimmick none-the-less. The story holds strong for the entirety of the game, although I do feel at times there were pretty large gaps to pad the game out to be a little bit longer. Overall though, Little Inferno provides just enough for it to be a worthwhile purchase to those puzzle game fans out there looking for something a bit different to the ‘norm’.

Tomorrow Corporation warns you at the start of the game to never play with fire; but just this once, I think we can let it slide.

Should I play this title?: Possibly. If you’re a fan of puzzle games, I’d recommend giving LI a try, but if you find you get bored easy with monotonous tasks, this one might not be for you.
Most appealing quality?: The story is something a little bit different, and very quirky. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.
My personal rating: 7/10. A nice little game, worthy of playing if you can get over the occasional monotonous grind of simply burning everything. Let down by its short length and somewhat high selling price.
Price at time of writing: £6.99 [Steam]. Relatively expensive for what the game offers; try to pick it up in a Steam sale or somewhere else for a little cheaper.

Little Inferno is a puzzle game available now on PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U and iOS.

As always, thanks a lot for reading guys – your likes, shares and comments are always appreciated. See you soon!

– FA.

[Source: IGN – Little Inferno First Cutscene/Trailer]