An Untitled Story

An Untitled Story (PC - Freeware)

Call it cliche, but as much as I really love the extremely high-quality graphics that are seen in most games today, I really think developers are spending too much time on them. Anyone who's seen my backlog of reviews knows I'm a huge fan of freeware gaming, mainly because generally low system requirements mean I don't have to pump out money for a new rig or console. The break from modern gaming has really helped me appreciate these independent developers, though. An Untitled Story, developed by Matt Thorson, is simple in design, but the idea behind the game is so much more original than the high resource-consuming games we see on the market today. The focus is not put on pumping out high-end 3D graphics, and is instead directed towards creating a game that's fun.

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An Untitled Story is a 2D platforming adventure with a sort of free-roam feel to it. You begin as a lonely egg in a nest, with no other plot revealed to you. As you progress through the game, the story slowly begins to reveal itself, though the message and storyline don't really set in until the game's amazing conclusion, where everything ties in with one powerful message.

There really isn't a lot of story, though - it's up to you, the player, to create the journey. At the beginning of the game, your options are limited: you can jump, and you can move side-to-side. As the story progresses, you get power-ups that allow you to reach areas that were previously inaccessible, such as double-jumping and the ability to shoot fire. These power-ups are not concrete requirements, though. Often, you're given two or more locations to explore, so if you're stuck with one map, you can try another. Getting a power-up often opens up new areas with new challenges to try, so eventually you will have to get them, but An Untitled Story gives you some room to work with.

In addition to the ability power-ups, there are hearts, which serve the same purpose as in most games. They give you more health, and allow you to sustain more damage. Each heart gives you 10 extra health points, and there are dozens of hearts scattered in random locations across the world. Some are available right in the open, usually after completing a tough room or defeating a few enemies. However, most are obtained from exploration. Every map needs to be surveillanced for secret nooks and crannies - if a wall has a small indentation or a pattern that breaks from the rest of the map, there's a good chance it's a fake wall that is holding a heart. The necessity of exploration varies depending on which of the game's four difficulty levels you're playing. On the easiest difficulty, you won't need to explore as much for these hearts, as damage taken is much lower and you'll get more places to restore your hearts. On the highest difficulties, exploration is an absolute must if you want to be able to take more than one hit without getting a game-over.

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Even with a plethora of power-ups and a stockpile of hearts, you must rely on your platforming abilities to get you safely from save point to save point. There are many different enemies in the game; some will leave you alone if you do the same, others act aggressively and home attacks towards you. These baddies, however, do not make up most of the game's traps. Most of the damage you will take will be from spikes, lava, or misplaced jumps that send you falling to your death. Your health is restored every time you reach a new save point, however, and you can teleport from save point to save point, so if half-way through a dungeon you get stuck, you can try someplace else.

Bosses wait for you at the end of every area. Usually, the path from a save point to the boss is littered with traps more difficult than the previous areas. This adds to the difficulty of boss battles, because you probably won't have all of your health when you reach one. Every boss in the game has different methods of attacking and different patterns they attack with. However, you can approach every boss in relatively similar manners. The boss will start with their regular attack, then eventually get tired and stop for a few seconds. You attack them, they take damage, and the fight continues. Every boss takes four hits to defeat, and after each hit they get faster and often add a new form of attack. It can become frustrating, especially on higher difficulties, trying to get that fourth and final hit in. You're going to have to restart, and you'll have to do it a lot. Suffering through the pain and landing the final hit becomes a rewarding experience that you feel all too often in An Untitled Story.

An Untitled Story does not pride itself with aesthetics - the game admittedly looks a little weak. The style is unique, but a bit unprofessional and, at times, boring. Some objects are indistinguishable, pixels run rampant from graphical glitches, and some places feel droopy and stale. But I can accept that. Because the developer is one guy, he didn't want to spend months crafting each and every sprite to it's very highest potential. He could've either spent years perfecting everything, or cut time spent on game development to instead work on visuals (which, while I'm at it, sounds familiar). Instead, he opted to release something unique, and unless I have to navigate a red square past blue circles, I don't mind. The sad realization is that others might, and this is where An Untitled Story will find its demographics. The game's just not for you if you've truly migrated to the high-definition 3D graphics of modern day.

An Untitled Story shows what game developers can do if they focus less on getting the best voice actors/graphic designers and more on gameplay innovation. The game is available to download for no cost, but gives an experience that seems worthy of a $60.00 price tag. The difference in difficulty levels is perfect, allowing for a fun playthrough for those new to platforming or an extreme challenge to those who've ran multiple playthroughs. To any game developers, learn from An Untitled Story: you don't need to spend millions of dollars to create a fantastic gaming experience.

An Untitled Story is free-to-download from Matt Thorson's website, located here.

Nice review but your point on the power-ups is a little vague. What do they enable you to do? Do they add to the gameplay? You might want to expand on the story (although I realise that that may be difficult since, as you said, there is only one really important point).
But a good review overall.

lostclause:
Nice review but your point on the power-ups is a little vague. What do they enable you to do? Do they add to the gameplay? You might want to expand on the story (although I realise that that may be difficult since, as you said, there is only one really important point).
But a good review overall.

As I said in the review, with the exception of the ability to shoot fire, all these power-ups really do are allow you to get to new places you couldn't get to before. Sometimes your double jump height will get upgraded, you'll learn how to stick to the ceiling, etc., but they are only needed to reach different areas of different maps.

The problem with the story is also a very tough one, because while I view it from a poetic standpoint and could talk about its meaning for hours, there are actually only about ten lines of dialogue pertaining to the story, and giving away even part of the storyline would take a huge chunk out of the experience for others.

Thank you very much for taking time to read my review and comment, though. I appreciate it.

Good review, and while I don't think the power-up section was as unclear as lostclause thinks, it seemed to contradict itself: "These power-ups are not concrete requirements, though." seems to go against "so eventually you will have to get them". Also, the powerful message you mention sounds interesting but you don't go anywhere with it. If you can't explain any details about it for fear of spoilers, you could at least go into its effect on you or what made it so powerful.

This seems much more tightly structured than your last review I read, and your points and paragraphs are connected better. Not to an exceptional degree, but it really makes a big difference in ease of reading. There's some unnecessary words and some questionable diction, but the writing seems alright. Something I really need to point out is that it's probably not a good idea to put "though" by itself after a comma; I tend to try and avoid the word the best I can as I use it so much in my own speech, but instances like " These power-ups are not concrete requirements, though." really jar.

Also, what did you mean by "pixels run rampant from graphical glitches"? While it's a nice bit of double alliteration, it gave me the impression of a pixels scrolling across the screen pursued by a glitch. Was that the idea you were trying to get across?

Anyway, good work and you should only get better with practise. I really am in no position to recommend that though seeing I've written nothing apart from forums posts, text messages and the occasional note for the last two weeks.

pigeon_of_doom:
Also, what did you mean by "pixels run rampant from graphical glitches"? While it's a nice bit of double alliteration, it gave me the impression of a pixels scrolling across the screen pursued by a glitch. Was that the idea you were trying to get across?

I meant to say that sometimes pixels will sometimes appear in places they're not supposed to be - for example, the egg is white with a black border, but whilst jumping or doing other actions, some white pixels will occasionally jump out of the border.

Thanks for the kind words and taking time to read my review!

This game is EASILY my favorite game of all time. About all that's missing from it is the graphics, though I don't care much about that anyway, they work well enough. It is a bit of a tricky platform game to master, not exactly Mario this. I'm extremely impressed and surprised that it fell under my radar until now. I remember seeing small articles about it on different sites but I never tried it out because no one seemed very excited about it.

Anyway, good review; everything fits together perfectly and I understood all your points. Good job!.

 

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