About Sam Adonis

More than slightly obsessed with videogames and vacations!

‘Kusunda’ VR Short Film Review

Kusunda is an excellent VR film from NowHere that asks some important questions about family, legacy and the impermanence of culture itself. We meet Lil Bahadur, former member of the Kusunda people, and learn what he and his granddaughter are doing to memorialize their language before it is forgotten.

Kusunda is a VR cinematic documentary about a tribe of hunter-gatherers, the language they spoke, and what their legacy will be in today’s world. The experience has a really interesting extra feature where it asks you to try to pronounce a certain few words or phrases of the Kusunda people at specific times during the story. Players can opt out of this system, though I do not recommend doing so. I found myself particularly more engaged in listening to the language and its pronunciation, knowing that I would be asked to attempt to speak it.

Kusunda also features some of the best visual storytelling I have seen in a documentary in this style: from the swooping 3d footage of Nepal’s hills and valleys, to a storybook-like retelling of the protagonist’s anecdotes in animated fashion. I found myself emotionally moved by the story of Lil Bahadur and his granddaughter – especially by the little twist at the end of the Kusunda VR experience. I can easily recommend this to any who enjoy these sorts of VR films, particularly those who might appreciate the novelty introduced here by the voice recording mechanic.

I experienced Kusunda on Viveport Infinity on an Oculus Quest 2 through Virtual Desktop, in the seated position. Everything worked smoothly with no technical issues or VR instability.

Hi, I’m IndieSam! Want to tell me what to review next? Give me a shout on Twitter!

Shooting Baskets at the Arcade- ‘Just Hoops’ VR Review

Just Hoops is one of the best sports games I’ve played since owning the Quest. Its mastery over the feeling of holding and then throwing the ball is true immersion. Add this to a chill arcade atmosphere, and its immersion at its best. This game is all about shooting baskets at the arcade while upping the difficulty in a series of different challenges and themes.

Advice for new players: Please spend as much time on the easier levels as necessary. Personally, I had a lot of trouble initially just trying to understand how to properly hold the ball with my Oculus Quest controllers. I had even more issues when it came to throwing the dang thing with any accuracy. However, I’m glad I stuck with Just Hoops, because once I grokked the game’s core concept, I really was able to enjoy and appreciate it.

Just Hoops feels like it has a lot of potential to grow – the developer has added several updates since launch. Most recently they added dozens of new challenges and plenty of new cosmetic designs to change things up for players. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next from this team – whether it’s a Just Hoops port natively on Quest, or a new project, I am positive they are going to be a slam dunk.

Hello, I’m IndieSam! I write reviews for this blog and my Steam Curator page. A copy of Just Hoops was provided for review by the Steam Curator program.

Solve the Case in ‘Madrid Noir VR’

Madrid Noir is an interactive VR experience telling the story of a young girl named Lola as she pretends be a detective around the city of Madrid, during the summer she lives with her weird uncle. As the story unfolds and clues reveal themselves, the stakes are raised dramatically and there is a great on-foot chase sequence. The story is super cute, with a lot of very nice animation to match the excellent voice acting.

 For those that haven’t engaged in a VR experience film before, they’re pretty straightforward. They will almost always be less than an hour’s worth of narrative content where players engaging in the story through minor interactions. These often are things like pushing buttons or pointing items at the action. Sometimes these are optional, but I find they help add to the sense of presence of the films. Madrid Noir, for example, had a scene where we had to aim a flashlight in the dark to help Lola find her way before it would proceed to the next scene.

It’s worth noting that this particular experience did require players stand for the duration. This was so that we could turn in the directions the experience wanted, like to see the characters after a dramatic scene change. I find this kind of setup to be demanding and rude towards its audience- Snap rotation is a standard across almost all of the VR industry, so I don’t know why a developer would choose to exclude the feature when it means the difference between a seated or standing game. Accessibility matters, even in VR, people!

I really did adore the experience, however. Lola and her uncle were great, and I love the animation style so very much. This wasn’t the studio’s first VR experience, as they have previously produced Battlescar and Gloomy Eyes. I can tell Madrid Noir was made by a team of professionals, and I am hoping for more along these lines of quality. Recommended.

I’m IndieSam and you can follow me on my Steam Curator page for more VR indie games, experiences and more.

Break everything! ‘Smashing Time’ Review

Playing through Smashing Time’s half dozen levels was a great time as I got to experiment with lots of the tools and weapons that we’ve been provided. My favorite moment was drawing swearwords with chalk on blackboards in the classroom before smashing all the things. This was in the new School Update which apparently released two whole months after launch.

As for the comfort settings of the game, it was actually fairly easy for me – player locomotion worked mostly pretty well, though there is a need for a clearly reachable comfort settings menu. I did have a small issue with being disoriented when I first loaded into the game, mostly because the load screen looked so bizarre to me.

Smashing Time plays great, even on my 1060 graphics card. Flipping tables, smashing glass bottles, shooting wall art, spray-painting all over the place, it felt really fun. This game is truly unique, as a product only the magic of VR and indie VR developers could bring us. I’m hoping to see more from this developer, whether its continued optimization and new levels of Smashing Time, or their next project – I’m sure it’ll be great!

Played using a copy of the game sent by the developer through the Curator Connect platform. Follow me on Steam Curator for more under-appreciated indie game gems!

Relax, Examine, Reflect: Chill, Immersive Fieldtrips in ‘VR Walking Simulator’ (Review)

VR Walking Simulator is something simple: Players will take a nice and quiet walk through the woods in virtual reality with an ingame polaroid camera to capture photos of a variety of levels.

The idea of games with no objectives or enemies is interesting, but it means there’s not much to keep most players engaged after they’ve explored each map. I’m aware some people like to relax in VR headsets and meditate, and I wonder if VR Walking Simulator would work for that. The music and background noises are perfect as they are relaxing and mostly quiet.

I should probably add that the VR version of the game worked perfectly for me, but when I tried changing the settings the game went a little crazy, and because of the camera interface, I ended up with a LOT of Steam screenshots of myself stuck under the floor. Once my pure panic stopped, I was able to figure out how to adjust the settings to work for me. There is also a non-VR version that runs very smoothly, complete with the camera for screenshots.

The developer of VR Walking Simulator has made something special here – I feel like I would love to see more of this sort of thing in the future, though maybe with a little bit of busywork? I’d love to spend more time exploring these lovingly crafted levels, especially if there was just a bit more to them than what is presented.

I do recommend VR Walking Simulator, though buyers need to be aware there are only so many maps with little content in them other than exploring and photographing the eye-pleasing scenarios.

Played using a copy sent by the developer through Steam’s Curator Connect platform – Follow me on Steam at  IndieSamAdonisReviews for under-appreciated indie games, neat VR experiences, and all sorts of other funstuffs! I’m also on Twitter!

Steam NextFest October 2021 – More Please!

Following up from its predecessor last June, Steam has launched another NextFest to celebrate the beginning of this autumn. Running from October 1st through October 7th and featuring hundreds of upcoming indie games, it’s a really impressive undertaking so soon after the last event. I wonder (And honestly, very much hope) if these are meant to happen every season from now on?

Plenty of games to talk about here! While I’m sure there are many titles I haven’t even seen, as follows is a list of some of the games that I’m looking forward to seeing more of.

Who’s Lila? by Garage Heathen

A reverse-adventure game where we control the characters’ actions through the expressions on their faces.

Next Space Rebels by Studio Floris Kaayk – Published by Humble Games

Get into the hobby of building and launching rockets to space and follow this game’s story about the path to greatness through reinvention.

Puppet Play VR by Unechte Sachen

Put on your own puppet show with your own two hands in VR with this toolset.

A Musical Story by Glee-Cheese Studio, published by Digerati

Uncover memories through 70s rock styled music in this rhythm based adventure.

Strange Horticulture by Bad Viking, published by Iceberg Interactive

Find and identify strange plants to uncover a town’s mystery.

‘UNSIGHTED’ Review – Tailored exploration without breaking the original design

UNSIGHTED from Studio Pixel Punk is the latest in a series of excellent games from publisher Humble Games who have been kicking a particular amount of indie-gamer butt lately with quality releases like Flynn Son of Crimson and Dodgeball Academia.

Unsighted is best described as something like a topdown Zelda game with a particularly fulfilling combat system with its parries and dodges. Good thing blocking and dodging hits is so very fun and rewarding because most of the enemies here will hit real dang hard.

There are multiple ways to adapt combat styles in Unsighted, from getting new weapons to modifying Alma’s chipboard. New chips are easy enough to find or buy if one has the credit, but the problem is space for more chips. To buy more chip-space, we need the currency of Unsighted – which is where the game turns into Dark Souls in some ways. It follows the typical formula of “kill badguys to get dosh! If ya die, gotta pickup dosh before ya die again!”

Unsighted offers a large futuristic city to explore, interwoven with a variety of ways to explore. The game promises that the way we choose to traverse this world is up to the player. This is delivered rather well, as the hugely interwoven clockwork of a city is a thrill to explore.

The clock that Unsighted’s city of Arcadia runs on is slowly ticking down with every minute of exploration, every moment spent crafting, and every death. As time progresses, every character in the city will eventually run out of Anima – the energy keeping them from turning into kill-crazy robots. This pressure made it hard for me to enjoy exploring the game once I realized it was there – but there is an Easy mode, as well as an Exploration option for the game.

The developers did a good job putting a variety of options for different playstyles in the game, while maintaining their vision. In addition to the story mode of the game, there are two additional ways to play: Dungeon Raid, and Boss Rush. I was able to get somewhat far into the first Dungeon Raid I attempted, but it was pretty difficult – my abilities at these sorts of sword-fighting games are certainly lacking. Dungeon Raid was a neat remix of assets from the main story with a sort of rogue-like element where in between each level the player picks upgrades to their character.

I’ll go ahead and say: Unsighted is objectively a good game, with its quality art, clever level design, and satisfying combat. I think a lot of people will really enjoy what Studio Pixel Punk and Humble Games have brought us, especially those people that enjoy games where the exploration is sneaky and cunning with its path and reward placement. I’m really looking forward to returning to Unsighted on Easy or the exploration mode to get a fuller look at what Arcadia has to offer – apparently there’s even fishing!

I totally recommend UNSIGHTED, especially for those who consider themselves skilled in games with this sort of combat.

Be sure to let me know what you think of Unsighted, or your other favorite indie games on Twitter! And be sure to follow my Steam Curator page for all the cool game recommendations – more coming soon!

Reviewed using a pre-release review code sent by the developer.

‘Time Hacker’ VR Game Review

Time Hacker by Joy Way is an enjoyable VR puzzle game that seems designed for those of us with short attention spans. Time Hacker is about a secret agent who can freeze time, and hijack the minds of his enemies – so he can force them to kill their co-conspirators. It’s a silly concept, but it works really well, especially in VR.

Swinging my arms wide to freeze time, then waving a hand to hack a badguy and aim his arm to shoot his buddy; this was all done in one smooth motion, and felt entirely badass. Of course, as the game progresses more quirks are thrown onto enemies and players are given additional options for takedowns.

The game’s developer, Joy Way, has created this quickly paced game with puzzles that can be finished in seconds. That is, assuming the player is familiar with the level, its enemies, and its hidden traps. With the benefit of time hacking (And the game’s excellently optimized performance) we can quickly reload and retry levels, or even edit them with the game’s Sandbox mode.

 I did find that many of the game’s puzzles could be easily solved with little effort – though there were a few exciting exceptions. I’m still stuck thinking back to this one level I didn’t solve that involved a crashing jet, a pile of explosive barrels, and several distressed civilians.

One thing Time Hacker does right, is its presentation. While yes, the game looks lower budget in its interface and cartoony style, I think that was an excellent decision. It gives the game an overall B-movie feel, which I think is perfect – we need more B movie games in VR, especially puzzle games. So, thank you for that Joy Way!

I do recommend Time Hacker, especially to lighter puzzle game fans. If you’re looking for something super hard and complicated to solve, this probably won’t do it for ya. Interested readers can download Time Hacker from Viveport Infinity or through Steam.

Note: Time Hacker is still in Early Access, and this review could change down the line. If my opinion on the game changes massively I’ll be sure to update this post.

Follow the IndieSamAdonis Reviews Steam Curator page for all sorts of interesting VR experiences and adventures.

‘Curious Alice – ViveARTS VR’ Review

Curious Alice is a very nice little VR adventure, created by ViveArts for its showing in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Alice: Curiouser and Curiouser” exhibition. While I might not be able to make it to London to see the incredible looking museum, I can certainly afford a Viveport Infinity subscription for my Oculus Quest 2 to play the Curious Alice experience.

The art of each level of Curious Alice is hand-painted with a whimsical and psychedelic look that just smells perfectly on-key of the trademark Alice in Wonderland absurdity we’ve grown accustomed to over its portrayal over the years. The game’s music was perfect as well, though, I can’t give full credit to its sound design – there was an issue where in one scene a voice line kept playing on loop if I didn’t press a button right away. I do suspect this issue was to blame on the consideration of running an actual-world showcase alongside it, but it doesn’t remove the frustration.

I really enjoyed Curious Alice, and will definitely recommend it. Interested readers can download it from Viveport or Steam for Vive or Oculus headsets.

Steam NextFest June 2021’s Best VR Demos: ‘Sentenced VR’, ‘AGAINST’, ‘Retropolis’

For the past year or so, Steam has been running these huge demo festivals where they’ll get an awe inspiring number of indie game developers to release short playable samples of their works in progress. I wrote here about how impressed I was with some of the VR games in the demo festival this past February. Another demo festival is here, and I’d like to point out some of the cooler VR games again.

Sentenced VR Steam Store

Sentenced is maybe one of my favorite games to tell people about to pitch the idea of VR as a whole –  Play as a medieval executioner, look your convicts in the eye, and maybe feel guilty when carry out their sentence. The players control an Executioner in 15th century Europe, probably wearing a big black hood and ready to chop things into the basket. But the game is more complicated than that – Our job is to follow orders from the town sheriff and listen to the cues of the prisoner for when to complete the execution.

There are a few things players can choose to do to change things up in the demo to change the ending. I won’t spoil them, but the demo’s ending statistic screen does reveal more when you finish the game. Sentenced VR’s developer, Samuel Gordon, has said there will be a good number of different scenes in the full game when it releases on June 25. I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing more people pick this one up.

Secret of RetropolisSteam Store

Secret of Retropolis is a cute point and click adventure game from a VR point of view. It has a great parodied film noir presentation, with really cartoony art that is recognizable right away. The demo was almost insultingly short, but hey, all the best adventure games insult their players a little bit, so I don’t mind wishlisting this one.

AGAINST Steam Store

AGAINST is a fairly typical VR rhythm game in the style of Beat Saber – which isn’t an insult, I can’t even imagine making a rhythm game outside the stereotypical style in VR for the next few years. What separates this one is that it has a really cool comic booky art style, and honestly the single level I’ve played was much better than anything I’ve done in Beat Saber. It feels more involved as the camera twists and your drumsticks (swords and guns and brass knuckles in this case) change themselves up every little bit. This diversity of movement added to the rapidly increasing tempo of the excellent soundtrack…AGAINST just felt good to play.

 I’d love to hear what anyone else has been playing on VR, or specifically in the latest Steam demo festival, VR or not. Reach me on Twitter!