Title: The Madness of Little Emma
Genre: Action, Indie
Release Date: 21 Dec, 2015
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I seem to be addicted to this game, despite my frustration for how it just drops me into bullet-hell. I find myself wanting more control over which power-ups I receive, and more opportunity for clever escape. Some rooms are dead-simple, while others are pretty much impossible.. unless you have the right power-ups, of course. Frustrated but addicted is bad, so I cannot recommend the game.. A great game! Kind of short, but it's just the right amount of time for a busy, working-class guy, like myself. I'm very happy with this purchse. I know everyone has said a lot of good things about this game so I'd like to point out something different:
One thing that really annoys me about platforming games, rouge-like ones in particular, is when the dev doesn't take the time to get the running\/jumping\/platforming mechanic solid. This game achieves that very well. You move around the screen at a good pace, not too fast not too slow. You won't find yourself running into damage because your character failed to react to your movements. Also you don't continue to slide around after running\/jumping. I rarely found myself getting frustrated at not being able to reach a ledge and at no time was it due to my character just continuing to move and fall off due to bad mechanics.
Big kudos on nailing the basics of gameplay! A lot of devs tend to overlook that.. The Madness of Little Emma is one of the few rogue-likes that caught my attention and didn't let go.
It certainly has lots of things in common with other rogue-like games, but it feels completely different. Mainly due to the fact that this is a platformer with rather satisfying movement physics.
The game has a good learning curve: it doesnt tell you anything about its mechanics, you have to play, observe and note the changes. First couple of hours i had difficulty getting past 1st stage, 60 hours later the main reason for not reaching the 5th or 6th ending is that i made some mistake early on.
Surely TMoLE has some rough edges, for example the cursor is somewhat bleak and sometimes i lose it in the background. But the developer is constantly working on the game, fixing bugs and adding new free content.
In conclusion: a great game for its price, challenging but rewarding.. I was on the fence for positive\/negative on this one... I'm going thumbs down. <aside>Why don't we get a scale 1-5 or something, Steam? C'mon!<\/aside>
It's like the creator wanted to make Binding of Isaac, but that was already done:
* Play in a series of increasingly deep basement rooms and floors? Check.
* Lots of random power-ups that can have synergistic effects? Check.
* Big Boss to fight at the end of the floor? Check.
* Body fluids as weapons? Check.
* Treasure chests, coins, and bombs? Check.
* Shops with undead shopkeepers? Check.
* Sad and creepy back story and enviroment? Check.
To be fair, the creator has said s\/he was inspired by TBOI, but I just don't find this game as fun. Some things I don't like:
* Your main weapon is <i>spit<\/i>. Yes, you happily spit at your enemies, not the sad tears of TBOI. To me this is just weird.
* Your shot range is about 1\/4 the screen width, but enemy shots fly across the entire room. This cannot be improved (at least that I've seen so far except by one or two powerups). You can get hit by an enemy that died eight seconds ago.
* Edit 2\/26 addition: A consequence of the previous point: if the shot doesn't move very quickly (happens with some enemy types) or at all, the shot will stay on the screen for a VERY long time. Beyond all reason. Waiting for you to touch it.
* TBOI is played as a top-down view of rooms. TMOLE is played as a side view of rooms with platforms. Jump, jump, jump. I don't find this fun, maybe you will.
* F*cking spikes everywhere. You can prevent damage if you jump up from them quickly.... once. After that they are extended, good luck getting past them. Half the treasures are spike puzzles, or you just can't get them unless you want to die for them.
* To compensate for all the spikes, there is a ghost character (Elizabeth) that can fly and shoot through (some) barriers and is not affected by spikes. This character has some limitations such as increased damage received, but I can't seem to enjoy playing with any other character.
* Edit add 2\/26: Elizabeth can shoot "ghost" spit through most barriers, unlike the non-dead chars. She can also fly. This compensates for the platform craziness required of other chars, but some of the items you pick up nullify her advantages. E.g., bouncy spit prevents her normal ability to spit through barriers the enemies can't. Many other items are useless (e.g, she can already fly so catching that item doesn't help.) Hope you have that item catalog handy!
* Most rooms are too dim to easily see the walls. You can get stuck because you can't see the dim wall stopping you while you are trying to get away from enemies. Did you die unexpectedly? Oh, that slightly less black wall in the already noisy background was there.
* Items are just random and weird and often not helpful. If you don't remember what the item does, too bad (e.g., the one that drops your fire rate really low). There is a catalog, but finding the item in the list before you touch it is not easy. Once you pick it up it becomes part of a separate list (but too late if it's bad).
* Edit add 2\/26: The game seems to confuse "hard" with "impossible". A hard game would require more skill to succeed in, but some rooms are just absolutely impossible. Bullet hell with bullets all moving at different speeds, and your char speed is way too fast to reasonably maneuver in the tiny intervals between them. Or enemies with insane advantages (I'm looking at you, brown liquid sisters.)
* The occasional, infuriating, unexpected crash to desktop. I was having a good game, too!!
* The painful rare but not-impossible punishment of having your luck dropped to zero. Majorly reduced chance of bombs, coins, and hearts.
There is some interesting creativity to differentiate it:
* Arena rooms give a reward after surviving a fight.
* Edit add 2\/26: Arena mode is a way to learn about many items that otherwise you only occasionally encounter.
* Sacrifice rooms give a reward for giving up health, bombs, and coins.
* Special and secret levels: beehive, dark tunnel, space, others.
* Creative enemy types, even if most have analogues in TBOI.
* Unique and consistent, distinct art style
* Good music
Buy it if TBOI is not enough for you. But get that one first.. UPDATE: Since the recent patches, I now no longer continue to have the problem when trying to open the game. It will now open from Steam and the desktop, so that was fixed pretty quickly.
Sure, the game is influenced by other Rogue-like titles such as Isaac, but the one thing that this game doesn't do is hold your hand. A 2D rogue-like platformer that easily can stand as one of the tougher rogue-likes on the market. From the couple of hours I've spent in the game, hardly do I even come CLOSE to seeing any 1 of the 4 endings mentioned. Little Emma requires skill, simply put. You'll get damage ups, but the enemy placement and mini boss rooms range from "easy to dodge" to "this room is the WORST". Some of the late game mobs, including these crying women who start bombarding you with explosions that are hard to track, are just a pain to deal with, if you even make it that far with no damage.
Is it a bad game though? Absolutely not because it's still a very interesting rogue-like. The story involves two children, Emma (oldest) and her little brother Timmy, who survive pretty much on their own. One day, Emma wakes up to find Timmy missing as well as blood all over the room. As she looks around, she notices a trap door (similar to Isaac's adventure into the depths below) under a rug. Assuming Timmy has been taken or wandered down there, she soon follows. As far as story, it's not strong. I mean it holds a very similar take of the Isaac story that people have accustomed themselves to, but instead of a hateful mother, you're the loving big sister. Whether Timmy went down there on his own is still unknown. Still having a hard time beating it once, I know nothing about the endings.
Controls are pretty standard and easy to understand at least for mouse and keyboard. The room you spawn in shows you your controls. A to move left, D to right, W to jump (as well as space), and D to go down platforms you can jump through. You can also use the arrow keys for these commands as well. You can also rebind keys if you have a more comfortable control scheme. To use activation items, you press E. Activation items, unlike space bar items in Isaac, require money to use instead of having to clear rooms. It is here to prevent any of the items from seeming too overpowered, such as an item that freezes everything in the room or turns back time by a couple of actions. You aim with your mouse, left click to shoot balls of spit and right click to drop bombs. It'll be best to have a mouse that you can change sensitivity on because there are moments where it's hard to connect your hits. While the keyboard controls are fine, the controller support is less desirable, even though it's still supported. Every time I've tried to play with the controller, I just put it back down because it feels weird. You also don't have as much freedom with aiming than you do with a mouse. You also can't rebind controller buttons, so right now whatever your buttons are mapped to, that's what you'll have to deal with.
The worst offender of this release is the current technical issues. Some issues, like what I'm having, is I can't open the game from Steam or desktop. I simply have to go into my steamapps, common, find Little Emma, and open up the "Win" batch file. That then opens up a command window and does it's thing before the game opens. Slightly sloppy and a small hassle to play a game. You also need Java installed for some reason. These issues don't prevent me from still enjoying the game, but I can understand why people buying and installing would be confused as to why their game doesn't open.
In the end, Emma is still an enjoyable experience if you're looking for a rogue-like that is a little more tougher and requires more skill than RNG. RNG still matters, of course, but it's almost treated like it's a second thought instead of a primary mechanic. This game will not hold your hand, it will not pay you kindly with optimistic words of victory. It will wreck you and frustrate you, but not because it's unfair; because you require the skill to overcome the obstacles that lie ahead. If the previous negative remarks about this game get fixed, it'll only continue to show how valuable this game is to the rogue-like genre.. An amazing game, all it's own once you get past it's similarities with other games.
I've played this a fair bit, and stream it often, and intend to carry on doing so.
While it's obvious that it's heavily influenced by other games, such as The Binding Of Isaac, the creater has clearly defined this as a seperate game, adding other mechanics not see in similar games, differentiating it from the rest.
I enjoy it immensely, the game having huge replayability, and a ton of unlockables (with more to come, hopefully).
Challenging and fun, people really need to give this more than a few minutes playing and complaining.
Can't wait for more updates.. Basically Binding of Isaac but platformer. I like.. I don't have much to add that others haven't already said. It's got a lot of similarities to Binding of Isaac, but as other reviewers have noted, it doesn't feel like a rehash. There are a handful of new and interesting ideas in the game, and there's more than enough content to entertain you for a dozen or more hours - much more if you want to see what the unlocks are, find new power ups, and see the various endings. There are unfair moments that will frustrate you, and the rare bug (in 150 or so times i've done a playthrough so far, i've had 3 games where a bug prevented me from continuing), but overall the game feels pretty good - even if maybe it's a bit unbalanced at times.
It's disappointing that more people haven't snagged this game - i think it's much better than the numbers are indicating (only 94 reviews as of this post). Maybe some folks are turned off by the $8.99 price - i think i got it on sale for just a couple dollars myself. But my opinion on that might be a special case, since i don't buy any games over 10 bucks as a rule (after all, i have about a hundred games i haven't even installed yet - anytime i think i want a game more than $10, i remind myself of that fact!)
My strongest endorsement of the game is simply my number of hours in game - 64 at this point, and still going. That being said, i don't feel like the replay value is anywhere near Binding of Isaac - but maybe that doesn't really say much, since i have about a thousand hours in that game across the original + rebirth + afterbirth.
If you like difficult platformers that have tons of things to unlock and discover, then this is certainly worth a try. If you do decide to buy this, try to give it a couple of hours before your verdict - my own opinion of the game has only improved with more playthroughs...
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