Indie Quickie: Terrian Saga: KR-17

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? This first of four planned chapters in the multi-genre Terrian Saga series is a retro-fabulous action platformer about a military robot that develops a conscious of its own.

Who made it and where can you get it? The Terrian Saga is the project of a wonderful trio of Dallas based developers working together at Wonderfling studio, with the publisher backing of Digital Tribe Games. KR-17 is $4.99 at full price on PC currently selling at a 20% launch week discount on Steam for only $3.99. A Mac version will go live July 29th. The soundtrack is also available for free download until July 16th.

How much did we play? Played for two hours and fifteen minutes and cleared three zones and a couple areas into the fourth zone, out of nine zones in all.

Any technical concerns, hardware requirements or other details you should know about? Unfortunately, I did encounter one nasty glitch that locked up my entire system. I pressed the jump button to reach a higher ledge when the game suddenly froze. Since I was playing in windowed view at the time and no buttons would respond, I closed the window and attempted to restart the game. But the Steam client wouldn’t let me, because it said the game was still running. I could still hear the soundtrack in the background, but the application did not show up anywhere in Task Manager to be able to shut it down, so I had to do a complete system reboot just to get it operational again. Some of you may also like to know that the game doesn’t offer different resolution options (just preset windowed and full screen options) but does feature full key rebinding.

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Why should you play it?

    KR-17, the titular droid the game puts you in command of, is a capable acrobat and soldier, and must use both talents to overcome a wide variety of hostile robots and hazards like electrified barriers and water–because it wouldn’t be a true retro platformer without deadly water. (Dropping into water wouldn’t be a good thing for a robot, so at least here the archaic game design tenet makes sense.) Our little army droid pal is outfitted with a standard blaster arm cannon as well as special weapons like a napalm blaster, deployable mines and a sentient rocket companion named J1M with remote control technology that allows you to manually guide it to its target. This typically involves flying through narrow vent shafts and other tight pathways with a lot of bends and corners that require fast reflexes to change direction so that poor J1M doesn’t blast into a wall before reaching the generator or stack of explosive crates that need to be destroyed at the end of the tunnel to clear the way ahead for KR-17. Other than the main blaster, these attacks drain KR-17’s battery power, which must be replenished by finding recharge stations. That way you can’t just spam powerful attacks to breeze through the game. However, it is kind of odd that all of these weapons are available from the very beginning without needing to be unlocked. The great thing about similar games of the past like Metroid and Mega Man is gaining new powers as you go to build a sense of growth as the game progresses. That’s the one thing I think this game is missing. Supposedly there is some form of upgrade mechanic, but I have yet to encounter it.

    Blasting bad bots is fun, but the real challenge comes from the action-oriented jumping sequences which demand a quick jump-button finger, a light touch with KR-17’s tank tread movements, and keen perceptive skills to spot dangers waiting ahead. This game epitomizes retro 2D platforming with sequences that involve, say, riding a floating box down a flowing stream while occasionally leaping over a trap or traversing a series of platforms while the box raft continues to move underneath for you to land back onto before it gets too far ahead. In another spot KR-17 might have to ride a lift up an elevator shaft lined with hazards that need to be dodged by quickly darting from side to side. Even the first boss is a race-to-the-finish affair instead of a face-to-face battle, as you book KR-17 down a series of platforms while the chasing boss destroys the environment and shoots at you. If you aren’t quick enough, KR-17 will run out of things to jump on, and you’ll have to start all over from the beginning.

    The level design is perfectly vintage, with many large, somewhat non-linear maps that sprawl both vertically and horizontally and require flipping a certain number of switches, destroying generators or finding different color keycards in order to unlock matching doors, all to activate the exit door. About the only thing that isn’t completely old school is the lack of a level select or overworld map. The level boards flow from one to the other with only a short load time and maybe a quick cutscene separating the change of zone environment themes. While KR-17 has a life bar to withstand a certain amount of damage from enemies, the levels are packed with insta-kill pitfalls that will cause multiple deaths in rapid succession if you aren’t careful and alert. Dying and retrying has been a tad frustrating in spots, but for the most part manual save checkpoints are generously placed to minimize tedium. Not enough to make the game too easy, but just enough so that having to replay certain sections is less troublesome. Luckily, lives are also unlimited, so you don’t have to fret over failing half a dozen times or more during one particularly tricky configuration of platforms.

Parting Thoughts: With gameplay that harks back to the 2D platformers of the DOS/shareware era and an endearing main character reminiscent of robotic icons like Mega Man and Johnny Five from Short Circuit, this game is big on both nostalgic charm (gotta love those awesome chiptunes and pixel art graphics!) and old-school keep on trying until you don’t die difficulty. If you came up on games like Mega Man, Commander Keen and the original pre-FPS Duke Nukems, you are sure to have a blast from the past playing Terrian Saga: KR-17. Platforming completionists will additionally enjoy the challenge of collectible hunting (each level has floating Gears to grab, many of which are hidden in secret rooms or placed in areas that require finding a special jetpack power-up in order to get at) and speed-running to place high atop the online completion time leaderboards.

Disclosure: A free Steam key for Terrian Saga: KR-17 was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!