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SAGE 2023 - Demo Sondro Gomez (SAGE '23)

Easily one of the most formidable projects of the year, period. Even with its short duration, it is one of the better games I've played and I know this game has already a long story on SAGE, but like everything, somethings things come out when they need to, and from what's shown here, I think the wait will be worth it.

The graphics are extremely good, it uses the NES pallete to good use and the characters are colorful and easy to read, I found the animations quite good too and a lot of visual gags and I like the cutscenes that narrate the story.

I found the writing very fun and engaging, I like the chemestry of the characters and how they go on their adventures, I hope to see where this story ends up.

I am a sucker for Castlevania games(of course, the guy who made a Castlevania game says it), so the gameplay is very good over here, I did like the three of the characters, from the close-ranged Sondro, the gun-totting Juania and Spike and Ballast who are special snowflakes. I thought the three characters were fun to use and how they control, I love that the level has some light exploration and it encourages you to do so, this is good because the characters' skills allows you to do so.

And the crem de la crem is the music, it's SO GOOD, honestly those three remixes of Valley Village are extremely good and very memorable, the rest of the OST is very good too, it is easily one of the most stand out works of this game.

Overall, the game is very good, very good playing experience and very fun! As a bonafide Latino, I give it an empanada/5, good job!
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Had fun playing this! Art direction is A+, both with the ingame sprites and the cutscenes/outside art.
(The music theme got a bit boring hearing 3 variants of it in a row... I don't think this would be a problem in the final version where you'd play other levels before coming back to level 1)
Despite looking like Castlevania it's nowhere near as stiff, the game ends up reminding me more of Ducktales due to the variety of moves available.

Sondro's moveset is pretty good and I like the items available - I was frustrated by the slow grapple speed increase in some sections(although I appreciate you can grab a grapple point from above to instantly get max speed), before reading the manual and realizing those sections were meant for the bungee jump instead..

S&B was my favorite to play, you get tons of mobility and the level design explores all of it. I wasn't expecting the boat form at all! My only complaint would probably be that the level is a bit too long/easy as it is.

Juania is the weakest atm for me, you have to reload a bit too often which is annoying when hitting bells. Gun jumping is fun but entirely depends on the two item upgrades, so without them you're basically a stock gradius spaceship 🫠
Greatness all around.

Solid mechanics on all characters coupled with clever level design that makes full use of each character's abilities and upgrades.

The soundtrack while it's just 3 versions of the same core melody, it adapts to each stage's scenario and oozes whimsical charm.

If I had to mention an issue, I'd say the charged attack for Spike and Ballast was a bit hard to figure out since they don't have a unique sprite for it like Sondro's charged whip attack, it instead represented on the HUD at the top-right corner. I feel adding an animation there for consistency and intuitiveness would help.

Not much else to say, it does everything it needs to do well enough to make me want to play the full game.
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This is legitimately one of the best games at SAGE this year. I loved playing as Spike and Ballast, their gameplay was really fun. Dare I say they're the better versions of Scratch and Grounder.
Played as Spike and Ballast and this is the Scratch and Grounder content we needed in 2023.

Seriously though, insanely well crafted, perfectly nails the "late NES as you remember it" vibe and gameplay. Well done to everyone involved with this.
Play this game.

- Level design is really good; never felt repetitive. Some parts are designed around unique power-ups which helps even more to keep things fresh (and all of them were fun to use). There were also some surprisingly technical sections that reward the player with a bunch of points (I don't think score has a purpose right now, but it's just fun to collect stuff).
- The spritework is top-notch, and this is coming from someone who's generally not a fan of "retro 8-bit style"; this game nails it though.
- I've only played Sondro's portion of the demo, and I'm already really enjoying the characters; specifically the robot goobers. I even managed to find an extra piece of dialogue when I tried to use the game's screen-wipe item on a boss.

This is one of those games where every section feels like it had a lot of thought and care put into it. Absolutely going on my wishlist.