There’s a new game on the way called Distro Horizons Vs. Galaximo’s Army. It’s being developed by indie developer Kitatus Studios. It’s currently in alpha, but is already available on Desura in case you’d like to try it before it’s finished. ManaPool recently did an interview with the project lead at Kitatus so if you haven’t already read that then you should definitely check it out here.
I was really excited about this game from the get go because it’s a homage to the classic collectable adventure platformers from the Nintendo 64 era. We’re talking about stuff like Banjo Kazooie (1998) and Super Mario 64 (1996). The main character is a sword wielding cat. Need I say more? Distro aims to take us back to a time when games were about the gameplay and story, and they really worked to give you things to do as opposed to just getting you to buy it with fancy trailers so you could then finish it in 5-8 hours and then be bored and out $60. Since this game is still in alpha, I have not been able to see a ton of what it will ultimately have, but through my experience and the expectations set by the project lead in the interview, I believe that I have seen enough to get a good feel for what the game ultimately will/should be.
Obviously things can and very well may change before the final cut, but I will do my best with the little bit I have to give a detailed account of what my experience with Distro has been so far and how it needs to improve at this point. Hopefully this piece will not only inform you on whether or not this is a game to keep your eye on and possibly support now, but will also inform Kitatus on how I, as a long time gamer, currently see the project and what steps they can take to ultimately have a great finished product. I will address the same issues/topics that I would in any review where possible, but as this is an alpha, I will leave each specific section unscored until I can review the final product once released.
For a lower budget indie project of this magnitude, the graphics are pretty solid. It may not look as crisp and textured as the AAA titles you see in this genre, but the game’s appearance definitely takes me back to the old Nintendo 64 days. It has a very retro, hand drawn style at this point. The only problem with it I have is the fact that almost everything that you can interact with, including the playable character, has a thick black outline and at this point no real texturing other than colour. But I can live without the textures no problem. The colours look great as do the landscapes, which are textured. And rest assured that this game is not just bare-bones hallways and caves.
There’s a full scale environment here complete with what I assume will be a number of different worlds with many varying landscapes. From what I have seen, it will include at least outer space and a snow world, but if I know anything about hub worlds then there will be somewhere in the range of 13 different worlds to visit plus a space ship, and that’s assuming the space ship can’t take you to other hub worlds, because while it is unavailable in the alpha, it may end up playing a significant role in the game and maybe even future titles.
The snow level has a village of buildings, multiple types of enemies, and landmarks. The only thing really missing from it is weather and sky depending on the time of day and year the game is set in. Also, the game doesn’t take place on Earth so I’m making assumptions about the setting in general.
One thing that I really appreciate about this game so far are the movement graphics. The main character’s feet moving when he runs is a good example of this. Kitatus didn’t cut corners on the way things look when moving and interacting, be it the sword swinging or the legs parting when you jump. The title screen even features the main character dancing just to show you what he can really do. Like with any well-made game, the character is alive and even when you aren’t doing anything he’s still swinging his sword slightly and nodding his head subtly. They’ve definitely put the effort in to make a good looking game.
There’s also cutscenes. These are in lower graphics and a much different style than gameplay, as are the cutscenes in many games both indie and main stream. But they are done in a way that looks entertaining and cute, not cheap. Instead of animating characters talking, Kitatus decided to do 2D text box style scenes – a very common and effective way to quickly and effectively add to the story without having to break the bank on animation. They’re not there yet, but I assume the dialogue will be posted in the purple box during the scenes. As far as graphics go, improvements can and most likely will be made, but ultimately it looks good enough to sell based on what I’ve seen.
Since it is in alpha and not all the elements are fully functional yet, or even possibly available, I have limited ability to judge gameplay, but I can say that it appears to have all the things needed for a classic gaming experience. The controls are simple allowing you to swing your sword, jump, move in any direction on a horizontal plane, crouch, and manoeuvre the camera both vertically and horizontally. Something that this game has that we didn’t really have across the board in the Nintendo 64 era is running. There isn’t a run command. The character just moves quickly and it’s definitely appreciated. And of course, you can jump up hills and things that are just a bit too steep to walk up regardless of whether or not that’s the way the developer wants you to go.
It’s important to note that the current alpha doesn’t support gamepads, which is the preferred means of play for a game like this, so I used a keyboard. The keyboard works, but it makes camera adjustment and movement difficult when doing them at the same time because of the lack of fluidity that is standard in joysticks. This isn’t a dev issue though. You’ll definitely want to play this game with a gamepad and I have personally been told by Kitatus that the final product will support both PS3 and XBOX 360 gamepads so that’s a win. I’m happy to say that the enemies appear to be varied in both appearance and fighting style. The alpha shows 2 so far, the first being mummies that run around and attack you with physicals, and he other being some pretty legit looking skeleton dark mages that shoot magic attacks from their staffs.
At this point in the alpha you can’t actually damage enemies or take any damage so I can’t speak to the balance and difficulty yet, but seeing these enemies for this world leads me to believe that the game will have a colourful and eclectic collection of minions to fight. I’m almost sure there will be some bosses because the villain of the snow world is a talking snowman with a bad attitude.
In true retro gaming style, there appears to be plenty of collectables. So far I’ve seen a massive number of coins and stars. At this point there’s still a number of bugs like being able to walk through things like tables and having your sword pass through walls when you stand close to them, but those issues are very common for alphas and the sword thing usually goes unfixed in a lot of today’s games. There’s also a bit of latency with your movement sometimes, but more noticeable is the delay with the attack command. And what adventure platformer would be complete without invisible walls? They’re there and I’m sure a number of them will remain and I’m OK with that. While I don’t yet know what the final product will be like, my prediction is that Distro will most definitely play exactly the way I want it too. I wish I had a USB N64 controller so I could get the full retrogaming experience.
The sound quality is quite good in this game. The music is clear and crisp, and the sound effects show no latency. The coin collect sound is actually a bit too strong. It hurts my ear when at full volume on my laptop. I’m hoping that sounds will be added to the player’s actions such as when swinging the sword and jumping, but for now there are none. The music is nice and varied between the home screen theme song, the hub world light tones, and the in level themes. It’s got a solid, but relaxed soundtrack from what I’ve heard so far. The voice acting is excellent. Granted I’ve only heard one actual voice in a cutscene, but I can say that it was well chosen.
As far as writing goes, the alpha gives you almost nothing at this point. But with my experience from playing several hundred story based games, I believe I can make at least a mildly accurate prediction. The main character is a cat from another planet. We know this because of the spaceship. He finds himself on a foreign world that is under the rule of an evil tyrant. He decides to go on a quest to fight against the evil tyrant who is most likely named Galaximo, but before he can reach him he must first get through this army which is split up into different regions on the planet.
Each region is led by a general/boss such as the snowman from the snow world. After defeating all these generals and collecting enough coins or stars or whatever else, the main character will finally have access to Galaximo’s lair, where he will face and ultimately beat, but most likely not kill Galaximo, and save the planet. The hub world, which is set in outer space, will warp you to different points around the planet’s surface so you can find the generals. A classic Nintendo 64 platformer scenario and perfect for a game like this.
Though I’ve only seen a total of two cutscenes at this point with only one character actually talking, I can say that the dialogue is funny and full of puns relevant to the world they are being said in. If this continues, the writing will be acceptable enough if not great.
Assuming this game really is like Banjo Kazooie or any of the other various classic collectible adventure games, you’ll be tasked with collecting most of but not all of the various items around the many worlds. This means that there will be tons of replay value because you’ll have to find everything for that coveted 100% completion. And who knows what else Kitatus< may throw in to give you even more of a reason to play again? Timed modes, multiple difficulties, bonus challenges, and so on. There’s a world of possible reasons that you may want to play this game several times over, but at this point I can tell you that at the very least there will be a lot of collecting. But not the annoying chase the floating pages and find unnecessarily difficult feathers collecting. The classic explore the whole world and you'll find everything collecting.
As I stated at the beginning, Distro Horizons Vs. Galaxima’s Army is still in the early stages of its alpha, at least for public viewing anyway, but based on what I’ve read and experienced myself, it’s definitely something to keep an eye out for. I made all of my predictions based solely on the alpha, but if you check out the game’s page on Desura you can also see a lot of concept art, notes, and news that will give you even more insight into what the final product may look like.
The listed price for Distro is $4.99 and that gives you access to all alphas, betas, the final product, and any updates. Considering how long this game appears to be, that’s a steal. For a 3D platformer with replay value and a full plot, that’s less than 50 cents a world. But currently there’s a sale on Desura that will allow you to get the whole package for only $2.49. That’s steam sale good right there. Just the time it will take you to beat the game makes it worth buying at either price even if you ultimately aren’t impressed with the game. I’m definitely looking forward to this one and I encourage you to do the same.
The current final release date for this title is July 26th, 2014.