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And& vs. Aethereal
And& That's supposed to be grass? Uh, maybe in Ampersand's strange little world...
Download: 385 KB
Play Time: 10 hours and 0 minutes
Review # 3 for Aethereal That's supposed to be grass? Uh, maybe in Ampersand's strange little world...
Them's Fightin' Words
    If an RPG were ever released for the Big Three that focuses on nothing but leveling up using a single character to fight endless battles, the comments would probably not be pleasant. However, Rinku has gone and created a game like that anyway using the OHR instead of PlayStation 2 developing tools (the horrors!). This was his entry into the first annual 48-hour contest, and it tied for first place. Now let's look at how a game that's about nothing but leveling up can receive such praise.
    The graphics were a joint effort between Charbile and Rinku, and the result is pleasing. Charbile contributed a couple of beautiful sprites (including the sprite of Ampersand, the main hero, in battle) and Rinku did most of the rest. The enemies deserve special mention because of their uniqueness. Rinku used a special paint program to create them and the result is amazing. Some of the enemies actually look 3d in a way. There isn't a great variety of maptiles, but remember this game was made in 48 hours or less (and I believe it was less), so I'll let that slide. The attack graphics are acceptable, but not Rinku-style (except perhaps the "Flash" spell). One walkabout graphic is used for the whole game with varying palettes, which is lazy, but it still passes for me because the walkabout is above average. So, overall, graphics get the job done pretty well.
    The storyline for &And was slapped in at the last minute so it'd have a story, so its nothing epic or special, but it does have an interesting idea. Basically, Ampersand, the main character, has lost her memories (or she never had some), and therefore sets out to find and kill a monster to take its memories. That's right, she's going to take the memories of a monster. So, theoretically, she could have memories of rolling around in the mud or destroying entire worlds, but they're still memories. That's it. You can take it or leave it; I am somewhere in the middle road.
    The only gameplay is to fight battles until you get strong enough to continue on to (you guessed it!) more battles, until eventually you can fight the last boss which is the monster with memories for you to take. Here's the story morning glory: the battles are designed perfectly. You start off with almost nothing and have to go to the forest to kill stuff to buy items to keep you alive and swords with which to beat down the monsters as they get stronger. Because of this, the battles are the central gameplay (as if I haven't said that enough) and are going to get the most dedication to this section of the review.
    As I said, the battles must have taken most of the time spent making this game to design. Early on, the fights in this game aren't anything too special as you can beat down the enemies with little trouble and get some items and a new sword. However, as you continue along, the enemies grow not only in strength but in number, and more than a few times you'll find yourself a little outmatched. This is where your "Flash" spell comes in handy. Basically, this spell (the only useful one of them) hits all the monsters more than once for the same damage as a regular hit. Bingo. You found your killing machine. So you go trotting along toting your powerful spell and using it a couple times every battle to emerge nearly unscathed. A few battles later, you use Flash, except it doesn't work...oops, you've run out of MP. Now, where's that Ether when I need it? What's that? There aren't Ethers (or the equivalent) in this game? *This* is where it gets interesting. You have to use your MP wisely as you won't get it back until you level-up (and it gets restored). This makes the battles toward the end of the game very difficult as you must make an important choice: To Flash or not to Flash? (or you can always run). Also, by the time you've gotten halfway up the mountain area the game gets a little unbalanced. The monsters are absurdly fast and get more than one attack EACH to Ampersand's one - sometimes she gets killed before she can move. You can always run away, but there are more than a few formations like this and you need the experience to stand a chance against the last boss. That's my only real issue with the gameplay. Special mention should go to the varying types of enemies. Basically, there are (gasp!) different types of enemies; one is the power-attacker, one is the tank (high HP and defense), one is the spellcaster, one is the healer, etc. This allows for neat and tricky combinations of monsters to fight.
  Map Design
    Umm...its a 48-hour game so I can't say much here. The map design is okay...both of the areas have little rock-moving type puzzles which make it a little less boring, but to be honest, its not really that great. However, the battles are the main focus here, not the maps.
    Fairly balanced throughout most of the first area as long as you progress slooooooooow, but deep into the second area it can be extremely hard as the monsters are obviously much stronger than Ampersand (even with the Flash spell). Also, Sword 6 is too expensive.
    The music comes from a wide variety of games and most of it fits the game fairly well. I especially like the choice of battle music for the forest area (from Ecco the Dolphin). The map music even reflects the mood; the forest music is a sad tune, while the mountain music sounds cold and harsh. Very effective choices.
    This depends on the person. If you've always wanted a game about nothing but leveling up to become as strong as possible, your prayers have been answered. If you don't like spending time leveling up, don't play this game. If you don't have patience, don't play this game. If you're like me, and have patience and enjoy leveling up in RPGs (to an extent...) then you'll like this game.
Final Blows
    Overall, &And is worthy of the title of "Best 48-hour contest game" (tied with one other, I believe it was "Wood"?) and if you're interested in the idea of a level-up game, I do suggest you get it. Everyone else, stay away. If you're unsure, its not like you have to pay money to play this game, so give it a shot. You might find a new type of game you like. Be warned, it is VERY hard. Don't take it lightly when you start fighting battles and you're not having trouble - you will later.
But I need to get past you guys so I can go get myself killed in the mountains! Suicide is in, after all.

But I need to get past you guys so I can go get myself killed in the mountains! Suicide is in, after all.
Final Scores
Graphics: 6.5/10.0
Pretty good, but the enemies blow the rest of the graphics away in terms of detail and color (except Ampersand relating to the latter)
Storyline: 5/10.0
The story was hastily scribbled in at the last minute, but nonetheless introduces some interesting ideas. Its really there because an RPG needs one.
Gameplay: 9/10.0
The meat 'n taters of the game, but it requires patience and has issues towards the end of the demo. Also, stuff is too expensive :P
Music: 7.5/10.0
Great choices. Most of the music sets the mood very well.
Enjoyment: 7.5/10.0
This depends on the person. Unfortunately, I have to give this game a score based on how *I* enjoyed it, but I know for certain there will be people that won't enjoy it. My score here should be used as a basis on how much you'll enjoy the game if you like leveling up.
Overall Grade: B+
Final Thoughts
    Flaws aside, this game is worthy of a download for anyone who enjoys the core gameplay of almost any RPG: fighting. You'll do a lot of it here. Everyone else, stay away.  

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