Killer Instinct Season 3: Rash Beginner’s Guide

Rash Intro Pose
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There were myriad announcements to come out of Microsoft’s Gamescom conference last week, but  the one that put the biggest smile on my face was the official confirmation that Killer Instinct would indeed be getting a third season. I believe the exact words that came out of my angelic mouth were “Oh fuck yes!”, to be precise.

Officially announced as coming in March 2016, KI Season 3 will release in a fashion more closely following Season 1’s distribution model; rather than rolling out new fighters on a monthly basis, a selection of several characters will be available at launch, with a choice few extras released down the line as DLC.

Additionally, the other juicy nugget of info that dropped during the conference was that Season 3 will be featuring guest characters (presumably because there aren’t many original Killer Instinct characters left to draw upon at this point, let’s face it), one of which was revealed to be Rash from Battletoads – how todally awesome (sorry) is that? As a bit of an amphibian aperitif to next year’s third serving, Rash has been released right now to anyone who’s bought Rare Replay or those who have previously purchased content for Killer Instinct. Kowabun-oh wait, sorry, wrong franchise.

The addition of a giant anthropomorphic toadman into KI is an absolutely perfect first choice of guest character in my opinion. I know a lot of fighting game enthusiasts are generally very much against cross-pollination of their franchises, but come on! Look at him – this warty warrior could not be a better fit for Killer Instinct if he tried. Placed amongst a motley crew of cyborgs, werewolves, dinosaurs and ninjas, Rash surprisingly blends into the standard Killer Instinct character roster extremely well. If you didn’t know he’s actually from a 1991 NES game (and very likely about to star in an as yet unannounced Xbox One franchise reboot), Rash could quite easily pass off as one of the regular characters just because of how utterly ridiculous he is.

However, all this frog-based frivolity does come with a slight caveat; Rash is only temporarily available until the 8th September (presumably so he can go back to starring in that aforementioned potential Battletoads reboot in the meantime, isn’t that right Phil Spencer?). This means that although Rash will make a fully-fledged return when March rolls around next year, the KI community currently only has a month to get to jump aboard the Battletoads bandwagon and clamour over this new fighter’s command list like a writhing, sweaty knot of real life toads. Kinky.

So, in the interest of time, I decided to try something different with this guide. Unlike the more detailed guides I’ve previously put together for the Season 2 fighters, I thought I’d just give a quick whistle-stop tour of Rash’s whacky command list. Without further ado then, here are a few tips that should help separate the frogspawn from the tadpoles when it comes to playing Rash in Killer Instinct – let’s go!

Rekking Ball

Wrecking Ball

Goodness gracious, great balls of…oh, toad.

Miley Cyrus is a dab hand at wrangling with wrecking balls these days, and thankfully, so is Rash. However, while his twerking skills could probably benefit from some more practice, Rash’s ability to morph into a giant green wrecking ball certainly gives him a significant advantage over MTV’s favourite destruction machine jockey. Inputting Quarter-circle Back + Kick performs Wrecking Ball, which sends Rash hurtling towards his opponent as the aforementioned warty weight. What’s particularly useful about the move is that Wrecking Ball has one hit of armour, making it a great way of pressuring your opponent or getting around the stage quickly. It can also be used to create some useful cross-up opportunities when used in the air – just watch out for your opponent anticipating it and anti-airing if you spam the move over and over.

Tongue Twister

Rash Tongue

Poor Thunder – milliseconds away from the most traumatic ‘wet willy’ of his life.

Just as Miley has a penchant for constantly sticking out her tongue for the camera at pretty much every given opportunity, so too does Rash. Unlike Miley’s human tongue however, Rash’s tongue can be used to latch onto the environment and his enemies as an oral zip line. Handily, it also allows him to gobble up incoming enemy projectiles to add to his Shadow Meter. Known as Wicked Tongue, you throw out the tongue by hitting All Punches + Any Direction; this move can be performed whether you’re on the ground or in mid-air. In fact, it helps to think of it a bit like a one-shot version of Cinder’s Trailblazer move, only with a lot less fire and lot more saliva and a ridiculously long reach. If shot out in a direct line forward, Rash’s tongue will pretty much go the full length of the screen. If it makes contact with your opponent or a stage boundary, then it will latch on and reel you in to where the tongue hit. This means you can use Wicked Tongue from afar to suddenly get in close for close-up rushdown pressure, or if mid-way across the screen, launching Wicked Tongue to the screen wall behind Rash will let you zip to a safe distance with much greater speed and range to his standard backdash. The key to using Wicked Tongue is to be aware of just how close the camera is zoomed in to the action at all times. As you get closer to your opponent, the camera will zoom in with a tighter focus, and Wicked Tongue will carry you over a shorter distance. Wicked Tongue does have a slight start-up delay to account for as well, so make sure it’s safe to start licking the screen or you might just end up eating a knuckle sandwich instead.

Autopilot Pugilism

Battlemaniac Combo

Rash’s Battlemaniac combos are easy to pull off, but also easy to break – use them in moderation.

Hitting Light Punch or Light Kick repeatedly will make Rash perform a basic auto-combo – or as the game likes to more descriptively put it, a Battlemaniac Beat ‘Em Up Combo. I presume Miley Cyrus has the ability to do this as well, but I’m sadly not too hip with her fisticuff finesse. These Light auto-combos will also recapture an airborne opponent, which makes them very useful pressure and punishing tools in Rash’s arsenal. For example, when used after successfully connecting an anti-air attack, these auto-combos are a great way to transition from defensive to offensive tactics quickly and smoothly. The fourth hit in the combo will also automatically trigger a Shadow Linker (proving there’s enough Shadow Meter in the tank of course). Just bear in mind that these autos are very easy for your opponent to combo break if they work out you’re using them. For this reason, I’d suggest using the Battlemaniac combos rather sparingly in your attacks as a means of adding variety to your game plan, rather than leaning on them too heavily as your primary method of attack.

Baa Ram Ewe

Battering Ram

Rash has no qualms locking horns with Season 2’s deadliest fighters.

Like a select few members of the Killer Instinct cast, Rash can run (or ‘RUN!’ as the move is listed in his command list) by hitting Forward twice in quick succession. When running, hitting Heavy Punch will cancel RUN! into Battering Ram – this move makes Rash instantly grow a set of ram’s horns and lunge at his opponent…because videogames! As a side note, I can in fact confirm that Miley Cyrus also has the ability to run, but as to what button inputs are required to initiate the running action or make her grow ram’s horns, sadly I have no idea. Battering Ram (alternatively performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch) can be extended into a full combo if successful on hit, making it a good rushdown tool. When executing a combo, it’s worth noting that Battering Ram and Shadow Battering Ram are Rash’s only linkers (aside from the Battlemaniac auto-combos), so you’ve really got to be on point with regularly varying the strength of your attacks to prevent being combo-broken.

Das Boot

Big Bad Boot

Ouch. Just ouch.

Of course, Rash’s famous Big Bad Boot smash hit move had to make the cross over to Killer Instinct. Performed with Quarter-circle Forward + Kick, Big Bad Boot makes Rash’s foot morph into a giant spiked boot. While I’m sure that Miley Cyrus owns a plethora of boots and other such fancy footware, I’m pretty confident that she doesn’t have the ability to spontaneously morph her feet to giant proportions…yet. Okay, back to Rash – Big Bad Boot functions as an excellent decent anti-air when used on its own, and as his Damage Ender when used in a combo. As the move isn’t linkable, it can feel a bit cumbersome to work Big Bad Boot into your combos at first, but with a bit of experimentation you can utilise it in some neat ways. One of my favourites is to whack my opponent straight up into the air by inputting the Heavy Kick version of the move, and then recapturing your plummeting combatant by repeatedly hitting Light Kick to launch into a Battlemaniac combo – give it a try, it’s really fun (not to mention painful).

Biker Toads From Mars

Speeder Bike

Rash always had trouble remembering the correct stopping distances.

Activating Rash’s Instinct mode, Turbo Tunnel, gives his body cool glowing wire model highlights. More importantly though, it also allows him to summon his trusty Speeder Bike into the fray as a rideable projectile attack. Unfortunately though, it looks like Rash took his Speeder Bike driving test at the same test centre as Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows, as he’s a pretty terrible driver. If Miley Cyrus does actually own a futuristic hoverbike of sorts, I’m pretty confident that she at least knows how to pilot it better than Rash anyway. Mechanically, the Speeder Bike functions in a similar manner to Orchid’s Instinct Firecat projectiles; they careen in from whichever side of the screen Rash is currently occupying. While they aren’t particularly fast, they do have some interesting properties to be aware of. Rash can jump on a passing bike by pressing Up as it trundles past, and slow it down once aboard by holding Back, which allows you to juke your opponent. Once the bike explodes or goes off-screen, hitting the Instinct input (Heavy Punch + Heavy Kick) again while Turbo Tunnel is still active will call in another one. Just be aware that there is a slight delay between the destruction of the old bike and the generation of a new one to prevent you just filling the screen with hovering traffic, so be ready to hold your opponent off in the post-explosion cooldown.

Rash in the Rain

B-b-b-bad to the bone. ‘Bad’ as in pretty damn cool, of course.

When Rash stomps back onto the KI scene next year, it’s very likely that his command list will have undergone some major changes, so pretty much all of this information will be irrelevant when Season 3 drops. Hopefully this very brief look at Rash’s repertoire has given you a few key pointers to help ribbeat up the competition in the meantime. Time to crank up the Battletoads’ pause music and get thumping…or, you know, Miley Cyrus’ back catalogue if that’s more your thing.

Killer Instinct Season 2: Character Guides

Season 2 Line-Up
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Select Your Fighter

Click on a character to go to their guide.

TJ Combo Maya Kan-Ra
Riptor Omen Aganos
Hisako ARIA Cinder

Season 2 of Killer Instinct is finally complete, so I thought it’d be a cool idea to tie everything up in a nice big messy and bloodstained bow by making a basic ‘hub’ page for all the character guides I’ve written over the past ten months. I’ll probably wax unlyrically about my overall thoughts on Season 2 in the future, but for now I thought that this would be a good way to wrap things up.

When Iron Galaxy first started their monthly roll-out of characters for Season 2 back in September 2014 with TJ Combo, I knew that I really wanted to write in more detail about Killer Instinct, but I was also deeply aware of the fact that this was the first proper fighting game I’d ever really played. I’d already fallen head over heels in love with Double Helix’s foundational Season 1 content, but what I’d previously waffled on about was just my own dumb feelings about the game, nothing particularly involved or technical. How could I write something more in-depth and useful about the new season with just the paltry scraps of beginner knowledge I had at my disposal?

As I watched and re-watched the TJ Combo reveal trailer in rapturous glee, an idea suddenly hit me like the fist of a cybernetically-enhanced boxer smashing through the brittle sternum of a six-hundred year old skeletal warrior. “Aha!” I thought, as a hackneyed giant yellow light bulb simultaneously pinged into existence over my noggin, “I can write character guides to teach other idi-erm, players, like me the basics!”

This epiphanic thought was quickly followed up with the familiar but unpleasant sting of anxiety, an ice-cold Glacius-like lance of doubt if you will. Could I actually do this, or had I essentially taken one too many heavy punches to the virtual face? Was I Tiger Fury-ing above my weight or just plain Shoryuken out of luck? Could I actually expand my Killer Instinct knowledge or was this the Endokuken of the line for me? Doing my best to put aside these concerns, I started typing ‘n’ fighting.

My aim was pretty simple – I wanted to make a very basic written resource for an entry-level player to learn the basics of each Season 2 fighter with minimum fuss. As each new character released, I wanted to put together something simple and accessible (and littered with as many awful puns as my pea-sized brain could produce) for a brand new player to use that might just help them learn the rudiments of each new fighter and hopefully give them a few helpful pointers along the way.

I tried to strip out any complicated technical terms where possible and explain the game’s concepts in plain terms without having to refer to external mechanics used in other fighting game franchises. You see, although there’s some incredible experts online making fantastic Killer Instinct tutorials, I find that as a low-level player myself, very little of this content is often delivered in a way that is considerate to a new player, ironically, even when that content is supposedly aimed at a beginner. All too frequently, the teacher makes the underlying assumption that the reader/viewer has some grounding in other fighting games and their mechanics. While this is arguably a fair assumption to make considering the popularity and proliferation of the fighting game genre since the late ’80s, there’s still going to be anomaly cases and weird outliers like me out there, for whom Killer Instinct is their primary jumping-off point.

To be totally honest here and to make sure I don’t just sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet in an endless free-form bebop jazz solo, these guides are pretty inconsistent to say the least, and pretty poorly written when I look back at them now. To say the earlier ones are really sparse when it comes to key information (sorry TJ and Maya, my bad) is putting it very lightly, and I think it’s only when I get to Kan-Ra and beyond that I start to actually go beyond surface-level impressions and into more useful nitty-gritty details. Alternately, when I go back and read some of the later guides now, I find there’s parts where I bafflingly go completely against my original intentions by incorporating more technical terminology into my descriptions – going exactly against everything I set out to do in the first place, despite my previous paragraph’s pontification! D’oh! Amusingly/pathetically, there’s also really obvious points in the writing where you can tell that I still couldn’t really understand how to properly use a character by the conclusion of a guide (sorry Omen, you crazy masked sonofabitch you).

Hopefully though, I think for the most part with the majority of the guides I was able to deliver somewhat on my goal some basic jargon-free information to the reader. Even if I was able to pass on just a couple of incredibly basic but helpful tips to a new player, then hey, I’m satisfied that they’ve served their purpose. Personally, to hold myself up as a clear example of if I can do it, anyone can, I’ve noticed that just from the process of writing these guides my paltry Killer Instinct skills have definitely improved quite a bit. Nothing incredibly impressive at all, don’t get me wrong – i.e. I won’t be competing at this year’s EVO tournament (I know, I know, a crying shame) – but to say that I actually managed to make it into the Gold tier of the ranked league system at all is definitely way beyond where I ever thought I could reach with my limited knowledge and skills. Please feel free to knock me down several pegs though by knocking my Jago Shadow (Gamertag: TB321) around for a few rounds to show me your moves as Captain Falcon would say; I’ll consider it a job well done!

If you’ve suffered with my guides long enough, and you’re looking for a place to get far better KI knowledge than anything my brain and fingers could produce (with way less cringe-inducing puns), then I highly recommend checking out Infil’s excellent Killer Instinct Guide for SFIV Players. It’s an incredibly detailed guide that goes through all Season 1 + 2 characters. Though as indicated by the very nature of the title the guide is designed for a player with a prior knowledge and familiarity of the Street Fighter series, I found the writing to actually be very considerate to those unlucky few like me with no previous knowledge of Capcom’s champion brawler. I discovered the site about halfway through writing my guides, and it provided an incredibly useful resource and framework to draw upon. Thanks Infil! (Please don’t hit me).

So, without further ado, below are links to my guides for all nine Season 2 fighters. They are messy, inconsistent and were a big challenge for me to write, but also an incredible amount of fun to put together. Congratulations to Iron Galaxy for a fantastic Season 2 of Killer Instinct. Bring on Season 3!

Killer Instinct Season 2: ARIA Beginner’s Guide

ARIA Front
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It’s Not Over ‘Till The Slim Robotic Lady Sings

And now, the end is near

And so I face the final curtain…

That’s providing you survive through ARIA’s beatdown of course Frank. You’ve listened to the support acts, but now it’s time to make way for the headline act. ARIA is Iron Galaxy’s final Season 2 character and Killer Instinct‘s first playable boss character, and boy oh boy is she an absolute badass to brawl against.

Determined and skilled players who were able to best the secret Shadow Jago boss in Season 1’s Arcade Mode first caught a glimpse of the enigmatic ARIA in the ending cutscene, but her true form was only revealed just a few weeks prior to her May 29th release at Chicago’s Combo Breaker tournament. The robotic CEO of Ultratech, ARIA – or, to give her full title, the Advanced Robotics Intelligence Architecture – is an artificial intelligence program designed to carry out the noble duty of protecting and uplifting the quality of all human life. Originally programmed and built back in 1948 by Ultratech’s progenitor, the Ultrafine Atomic Technologies Company and the industrialist Ryat Adams, ARIA’s goals were to end disease, famine and poverty; or, as the UATC rather sympathetically puts it ‘to push humanity out of…the primordial muck and mire it wallowed in.’ Who says philanthropy is dead eh?

Evolve or Die

Hmmm, tough choice there ARIA – can I get back to you on that?

Unfortunately though, it seems that in the past sixty-seven years those noble original intentions have gradually morphed from benevolent conservationism into a ruthless embodiment of extreme Darwinism. In her trailer dialogue, she concludes that the other Killer Instinct combatants – a motley crew made up of interplanetary aliens, frenzied werewolves and demonic spirits to name just a few – pose a dire threat to humanity’s continued survival (a rather logical conclusion I might add) so she vows to drag humanity “kicking and screaming into the future” to save them. Gulp!

The Pinnacle

Futuristic, elegant and designed for combat – The Pinnacle has a lot in common with ARIA herself.

ARIA’s stage is The Pinnacle, and as the name might suggest, it’s a suitably epic stage to close out Season 2 on. It’s essentially ARIA’s office located at the top of the Ultratech tower, and it reminds me a lot of the Final Destination stage from Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series with its sleek futuristic angles and muted purple and blue colour tones. As the fight progresses, the window blastshields recede to reveal a twilight sci-fi city skyline, and a pair of Fulgore bodyguard units materialise in the background to spectate the fight (and thankfully not wade into the melee themselves). The Pinnacle also includes a fantastic Stage Ultra. The victor smashes their opponent through the glass window (as opposed to the glass ceiling) and watches as they plummet all the way down to the cold, hard ground. As Aussie rockers AC/DC once said, ‘It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock ‘n’ roll’, but man, it’s also a really fucking long way back to the bottom of Ultratech HQ, that’s for damn sure.

While it’s hard to top the awesomeness that was Cinder’s theme, ARIA’s theme still packs a mighty punch in the audio department. Mick Gordon has engineered a blisteringly fast blast drum ‘n’ bass aural battering for the players’ ears; while it might lack the strong, memorable melodic hooks of his previous character themes, the polyrhythmic cacophony of distorted beats, glitchy effects and screaming distortion of ARIA’s theme all blend together really well to create a brutal wall of sound. My favourite part of the track however is the moody multi-textured synth remix of the character select theme that plays when both fighters are idling, which acts as a lovely but ominous counterpoint to the complex aggressive sections that sandwich it.

Hand on Hip

ARIA isn’t impressed with my long-winded waffling; I’d better rattle through this next bit fast!

Okay, so we’ve gone over ARIA’s character background, The Pinnacle and the kickass music that’s playing on it – let’s get down to business (hey, just like a human CEO might say) and talk about her command list. But first, before that – yup, you’ve guessed it – here comes my noob disclaimer. As I’ve previously written at the start of all my previous Killer Instinct character guides, I’m no expert at Killer Instinct. Though I have a huge passion for the game and I absolutely love writing about it, the sad fact of the matter is that I’m certainly no pro player. Hell, don’t just take my word for it – have a fight against my Jago Shadow (GT: TB321), who’s currently swimming around in the suspiciously murky yellow waters of the online baby pool with his six-nil losing streak, and experience my woefully amateurish skills for yourself.

Look, all I’m trying to say is that I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of each fighter’s moves, give detailed match-up tactics and advice, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about. However, despite my own personally mediocre skills, hopefully I can pass on a few beginner’s tips, tricks and observations about ARIA and her command list that might just help a new player get to grips with complexities of this cybernetic CEO. Okay, all that being said, it’s time to pick up your conductor’s baton, crank up your metronome to a solid 174/175bpm and get ready for band practice with ARIA.

Anacrusis

Crouched

Running program kickass.exe.

The first thing that you’ll probably notice about ARIA is that she has three healthbars. This might look like a massively unfair advantage initially, but fear not, ARIA’s three shorter health bars are actually equivalent in total to every other character’s standard two. The catch is that ARIA’s health is distributed between her three Drones; Booster, Blade and Bass. These Drones each have their own set of special abilities and moves that ARIA can use either by uploading herself into a Drone to use it as a Body, thereby acquiring it’s specific abilities, or calling it out in battle as a Drone Assist. ARIA is only defeated when all three of her Drones have been destroyed.

In this sense, ARIA is perhaps best thought of as a core base character with supplementary modules you have to manage according to the ever-changing rhythm of the fight. Or, if you’d prefer a cheesy ’90s child analogy instead, she’s basically the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers‘ Megazord. Yes, ARIA is indeed that level of awesome. Before we go into the finer details of each of her Drones and Bodies however, let’s first look at her constant kick attacks that she has access to at all times, regardless of whichever Body she’s currently uploaded to.

These Boots Were Made For Blasting

Legshot

Boom, legshot!

What’s cooler than having robotic legs? How about robotic legs with shotguns for kneecaps? Medium Kick makes ARIA blast out a 12-gauge shotgun round at her opponent, the blast of which can handily destroy an incoming enemy projectile. On its own, this is a fantastic normal with great range which can be fired off both on the ground and in the air, and also works as a running auto-double when used directly after a forward dash. Additionally it functions as an excellent poking tool and combo opener which can be quickly linked into Shotgun Blitz (Quarter-circle Forward + Kick); a low-sliding attack which sees ARIA skid forward along the floor and fire off a shotgun blast into her opponent’s torso. It’s comparable in range to Orchid’s Blockade Runner or Jago’s Wind Kick, travelling across the screen at a distance equivalent to the strength of the kick attack used in the move’s input. Light Kick travels the shortest distance (but is the safest on block), Medium Kick goes a bit further across the screen and Heavy Kick travels really far – across pretty much half the screen.

Shotgun Blitz

ARIA performing a very literal take on the verb ‘kneecapping’.

Shadow Shotgun Blitz is a projectile invulnerable five-hit sliding attack which sees ARIA skid across the floor like a dangerously-pissed uncle at a wedding, firing off her shotguns as she goes. The arrhythmic pulse of the attack makes it a particularly tricky Shadow Move for your opponent to reliably break, making it really useful as a linker. Using Heavy Kick in Shotgun Blitz mid-combo executes ARIA’s Hard Knockdown Ender.

Surely nothing could possibly be cooler than robotic shotgun knees right? Wrong – ARIA also has a pair of grenade launchers installed in her robo-calves, making her legs easily the most simultaneously vicious and cool set of pins in the entire Killer Instinct character roster yet. Eat your radioactive heart out Fulgore.

Air Grenades

Orchid soon regretted calling ARIA nothing but a load of hot (explosive) air.

Heavy Kick is a normal attack which makes ARIA kick out with her leg to release a cluster of grenades at her opponent. Like the shotgun kneecap blasts, these grenades will also destroy incoming enemy projectiles. This normal is also particularly badass when used in the air, as ARIA backflips before unleashing grenades; if timed correctly, the move will first hit your mid-air opponent with the flip shortly before they are juggled by the subsequent grenade explosion. I personally love to immediately follow up the grenade explosion with Medium Kick whilst the opponent is still airborne from the grenade juggle, as ARIA will shoot her opponent back down onto the floor with a satisfying thud. It’s a short little flurry that does hardly any damage, but it just looks so damn cool and stylish that it’s well worth messing around with and throwing into your attack patterns from time to time. It’s also worth noting that ARIA will pause slightly when doing the aerial flip, making it a handy last-ditch method you can use to dodge an opponent’s projectile in a pinch. It’s an extremely brief pause however, so don’t rely on it as a consistent method for dodging incoming projectiles every time they’re thrown at you.

Explosive Arc

All those years of ballet leg stretches really came in handy after all, eh ARIA?

Explosive Arc, performed with Quarter-circle Back + Kick, is pretty much exactly what the name suggests; ARIA swings her leg up in the air to scatter out a cluster of grenades in a…well, a literal explosive arc. The strength of the kick attack used affects the speed and range of the attack. Light Kick is the fastest version of the attack with the greatest range, whereas Heavy Kick is the slowest with the shortest range but also the most safe on block. Medium Kick falls in between the two extremes offering median values for range, speed and safety. Shadow Explosive Arc is a really fast five-hit version of the attack, which is great to throw into your combos as a speedy way of racking up your total damage cashout. When used mid-combo, the Heavy Punch version of Explosive Arc acts as ARIA’s Launcher Ender.

Boost Me Up, Before You Go-Go

Booster Wings

Go go gadget awesome anime wings!

We’ve looked at the attacks ARIA has at her disposal regardless of which Body she’s currently uploaded to. Now it’s time to check out the special attacks that are associated with each Body. As it’s the default one that’s already equipped when ARIA starts out each match, let’s also start out by looking at Booster Body first. This Body gives ARIA some very Gundam-inspired wings and makes her look like a vicious metallic Valkyrie of vengeance.

Hover

Hovering allows you to dodge out of the way of many projectiles. Just watch out for anti-airs!

Aside from just making ARIA look cooler, the Booster Body grants ARIA some unique aerial movement abilities. If you hold Up after jumping with the Booster Body equipped, ARIA remains hovering up in the air for a short period of time. While you’re hovering, you can press Back or Forward to hover in that direction – making it a fantastic way to land cross-ups on your opponent. ARIA will instantly and automatically switch her direction when passing over her opponent’s head, allowing you to cleverly fake-out your opponent multiple times by passing back and forth over their head before landing your attack. Just make sure you’re watching out for your opponent’s anti-air attacks though if you’re spending a lot of time in the air. A good tactic you can use if you suspect your opponent is going to swat you down is to use the speed of the hover move to bait your opponent into anti-airing and then quickly float backwards as they attack. Correctly anticipated and timed, you will be able to punish your opponent in the lengthy recovery animation of the whiffed anti-air and start up a combo.

Crescendo

Watch out! Robot overlord coming through – fast!

When in Booster Body, ARIA gets access to the Crescendo special move. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch, the move shoots ARIA forward in a sonic blast of sound. The strength of the punch used alters the angle of the attack; Light Punch travels horizontally across aproximately a quarter of the screen and starts up a combo on hit, Medium Punch travels upwards at a 45° degree angle (a great anti-air attack), while Heavy Punch travels directly upwards and is invulnerable on start-up, making it a great reversal. All of these Crescendo attacks can be performed whilst ARIA is airborne too; The Light Punch attack still travels horizontally in the air, whereas aerial Medium Punch will travel diagonally downwards at 45° and Heavy Punch will travel directly downwards instead. Shadow Crescendo travels horizontally for a five-hit attack, but it also has the benefit of having one hit of armour – very handy indeed. Utilising all the various properties of the Booster Body, ARIA can take the fight to the air-dominant characters such as Sadira and Cinder and aggressively apply lots of pressure in the sky. Used in a combo, Heavy Punch Crescendo acts as ARIA’s Wall Splat Ender.

Sing Sing Sing (With A Sword Swing)

Blade Normal

Blade Body has some incredibly good normals to poke at your opponent with.

The pen might well be mightier than the sword, but I very much doubt your average Bic biro would give ARIA’s Blade Body a serious run for its money. This is ARIA’s rushdown body, which gives her a giant sword arm to slash at her foes with, as well as several interesting movement buffs and combat abilities designed for being up close and personal with her prey.

Interlude

Interlude is a fast overhead strike – use it to catch out an opponent blocking low.

When uploaded to Blade Body, ARIA’s forward and backward movement speeds are greatly increased, allowing her to stroll around the stage a lot faster. Additionally, ARIA also gets an extra two normal attacks when she’s uploaded to the Blade Body – Medium Punch and Heavy Punch are two long-range sword swipes that have excellent range, making them really good poking tools to stab at your opponent from afar. Blade Body’s jumping Medium Punch is another great cross-up tool in her arsenal to be aware of, as well as Interlude (Forward + Heavy Punch), a unique command-normal overhead slash attack to Blade Body that’s similar in execution and speed to Fulgore’s Axis Slash.

Allegro

ARIA’s Blade Body also doubles up as a handy conductor’s baton when she’s not slicing up freedom fighters.

Blade Body also has its own special attack known as Allegro. Performed with a Dragon Punch input (Forward, Down, Down-Forward + Punch), the strength of the Punch button used determines the specific nature of the attack; Light Punch is a single Shoryuken-style uppercut with the blade, Medium Punch is a three-part horizontally-moving swipe attack and Heavy Punch combines both the uppercut and triple-swipe attacks into a single fluid motion. Like other Shoryuken-style moves such as Jago’s Tiger Fury and Orchid’s Air Buster, the light version of ARIA’s Allegro is another fantastic reversal you can use to smack a body-hugging opponent away from you after they’ve dealt you knockdown. Inputting Allegro with Heavy Punch mid-combo performs ARIA’s Damage Ender, so make use of it often to carve away great chunks off your opponent’s health bar; if you need to cut really deep, go for a Shadow Allegro for considerably more damage output.

All About That Bass, ‘Bout That Bass

Dissonance

Dissonance allows you to deal out punishment one sixteenth note burst at a time.

Bass frequencies can sometimes hertz your ears if they’re loud enough, but in Killer Instinct, they can also physically harm you as well. That’s thanks to ARIA’s Bass Body; this Body gives her a powerful chest cannon which allows her to fire bursts of rapid-moving sound pulses at her opponent, as well as greatly increasing her dash speeds.

Upwards Dissonance

“The hills are alive with the sound of screaming…”

As you might imagine, this combination of benefits makes Bass Body ARIA’s go-to zoning choice, allowing her to quickly retreat across the stage and keep an opponent at long-range with barrages of multi-shot burst projectiles. Known as Dissonance (Quarter-circle Forward + Punch) her projectile special move is absolutely fantastic for zoning, with three firing options according to the strength of the punch button used in the move’s input. Light Punch sends out a burst that shoots along the ground and hits low, Medium Punch fires one off at chest height that hits mid, and Heavy Punch fires a volley of shots upwards at a 45° degree angle. Shadow Dissonance sends out a burst of sound pulses in a wide scatter pattern that covers pretty much the full screen in its spread.

Shadow Dissonance

Shadow Dissonance will sweep the screen with projectiles, making it a very useful defensive tool.

Although each shot of Dissonance has quite a long recovery animation which leaves you vulnerable to attack, due to the rapid speed and full-screen reach of each burst, these projectiles are easily some of the best in the game and will destroy pretty much anything being thrown your way. What’s particularly neat about Dissonance is that ARIA can cancel out of the move into other shadow moves midway through the firing animation to make them safe – e.g. you can protect yourself with a Shadow Dissonance or Shadow Shotgun Blitz etc. if your opponent dodges the incoming projectiles or you whiff the attack angle. As well as functioning incredibly well as a zoning tool, you can also use Bass Body to open up your opponent for some close-range punishment as well. Depending on the distance from your target, you can shoot your opponent with Dissonance before immediately sliding into them with Shadow Shotgun Blitz to start up a combo from quite a long way out. Dissonance acts as ARIA’s Battery Ender when the Heavy Punch version of the move is inputted during a combo.

Droning On

ARIA Concept

ARIA’s original concept art, complete with her three Drones (clockwise from right: Bass, Booster and Blade).

Before we go into putting together all the various elements of ARIA’s arsenal of moves, another important aspect of ARIA we need to go over is how exactly her Drones function in combat. ARIA can switch between her three Bodies with Upload (All Punches/Kicks), a special move which transfers her into one of her available Drones (All Punches transfers ARIA to the top Drone, All Kicks transfers her to the lower one). Swapping between Drones is risky business – although ARIA is damage invulnerable during the initial animation of Upload as she disintegrates, she is very vulnerable upon re-materialising in the next body as the move has a long recovery animation. However, ARIA does have a special and much safer way of transitioning between Bodies when she’s in the heat of battle. Hitting All Punches/ Kicks when you’ve got a combo going will perform ARIA’s Upload Ender, which swaps her into the chosen Drone before finishing the combo. If you’ve taken a lot of damage and need to swap to a new Body as soon as possible, this is often a great way of making the switch, as by the time your opponent has recovered and got back to their feet, you’re already set up in your new Body and ready to keep up the pressure.

The two Bodies that ARIA isn’t currently occupying will hover behind her as Drones. Whilst inactive and floating behind ARIA, the Drones cannot be attacked by her opponent. However, ARIA can make limited use of their associated abilities by calling them into battle as Drone Assists (Back + Hard Punch calls in the top drone, Back + Hard Kick calls in the lower one). Each Drone has its own specific start-up, attack, invulnerability and recovery animations that you’ll have to learn in order to make best use of them.

The general idea is to use the Drone Assists to make your unsafe moves more protected, but beware – any Drone you send out can be injured by your opponent. If a Drone is hit, then it becomes inoperable for a short period of time and also takes quite a bit of damage. Knowing when to call the right Drone into action at the appropriate time is a tricky thing to get down at first, but with a bit of practice you can soon recognise decent opportunities to punish or trap your opponent with assists. It’s a bit of a risk/reward strategy; call one in too early or too late and it’ll likely just get swatted down, but time it well and they can really help you dominate your opponent. Here’s how each drone functions:

Bass Assist

Bass Assist.

Bass fires off a volley of shots across the screen. It’s slow to start and projectile and strike vulnerable before it starts to fire, but if deployed correctly then it’s a great way of temporarily zoning your opponent, as it will pretty much shoot through anything. A cool way you can protect the Bass Drone from incoming projectiles as it prepares to fire is to use ARIA’s Medium Kick shotgun knee attack to destroy any fireballs/iceballs/plasma shots or any other ball-based nasties heading your way.

Booster Assist

Booster Assist.

Booster swoops in and pushes the opponent away with a hard knockdown; the awesome thing about this last Assist is the fact that even if your opponent anticipates the Booster being sent out and blocks accordingly, they’ll still be shunted back across the screen. It is vulnerable however when it pauses after the attack, so you’ll need to cover it with projectiles from Bass or rush in and apply pressure with Blade.

Blade Assist

Blade Assist.

Blade swings upwards in a corkscrew motion close to ARIA to act as a very nifty anti-air attack. The Drone is strike-invulnerable on start-up and only becomes vulnerable in the brief pause it has after the attack, making it hard for an unprepared opponent in close proximity to deal with. If your opponent blocks the Assist however, then it is easy to punish as it floats back down.

The most important thing to do when using Drone Assists is to observe your opponent’s position and tendencies during the fight, and let those dictate the right drone for the scenario. Facing an aggressive rushdown character who just won’t get out of your face? Send Booster out to get some breathing room. Fighting a jumping opponent who loves nothing more than to repeatedly hit you with cross-ups? Cut them down with the Blade Drone’s uppercut. Need to pressure a long-range zoner and keep them peppered with projectiles? Call out the Bass Body. There’s also some crazy combination techniques you can use the Drones for as well; try going for a Booster Body aerial cross-up at the same time as forcing your opponent to block a hail of sound bullets from the Booster Drone, or sending out Booster while rushing in with Shotgun Blitz to clip their legs. Experiment, and see what crazy concoctions of swords, wings and projectiles you can come up with.

Come Together

Instinct

ARIA and Orchid’s synchronised dance routines were a bit rough around the edges, but they certainly had potential.

Remember earlier I compared ARIA to the Megazord? Well here’s why – ARIA’s Instinct mode (Combat Symphony No. 9 to give its full title) combines all of her Drones into one mega Body in one smooth anime-style cutscene. In Instinct, ARIA automatically swaps to her Body with the most remaining health and gets access to all of her available Drones’ special moves and movement advantages, as well as being able to cancel moves into Drone Assists when in Instinct. If ARIA has lost any Drones during the fight, then she will generate Mini-Drones that act as replacements for the time Instinct remains active. They basically function like Bass Body in that they fire off a projectile attack, but unlike Bass Body, these Mini-Drones automatically track and aim their projectiles at your opponent, making them a bit trickier to dodge.

Best of all, the damage ARIA absorbs when in Instinct is shared out equally amongst her remaining Drones, which essentially means that your opponent will only be able to inflict a third of their normal damage to you when ARIA is in Instinct. What’s even more crazy about ARIA’s Instinct is that ARIA’s Drones can’t be killed off whilst it’s active. Drones will remain at 1 healthpoint and will continue to absorb damage for the duration of Instinct, effectively allowing you to absorb damage beyond the normal threshold.

However, if her main Body is killed in Instinct, then ARIA loses and the match ends, regardless of whether her subordinate Drones are still in play, so watch out. If things do start to go badly and you and your Drone fleet are taking a battering, you do have some alternative tactics in your titanium trickbag to try and pull things around. You can use Disband by hitting Heavy Punch + Heavy Kick when in Instinct to share out your damage between your remaining Drones, at the cost of half of your remaining Instinct. It’s a bit of a last-ditch survival attempt, but it might just help keep you and your Drones alive a bit longer to secure victory.

Coda

Window

“No no NO! That’s the third window this week! Arrggh!” Ultratech’s glaziers are never out of action for long.

ARIA is an extremely versatile character who has what’s essentially the perfect set of weapons and tools for dealing with any situation or match-up the game can throw at her. She has a very flexible movelist which grants her a variety of options in combat, and with myriad Drones, Bodies and three varied fighting styles to draw upon, ARIA can tackle anyone, anywhere and from pretty much any angle. Although she might look and feel like a complicated character for a beginner to learn at first, the modular nature of her fighting style actually makes her rather easy for a novice player to pick up and practice. She actually plays very similarly to Jago and Fulgore, so some of the fundamental moves in her command list will immediately feel familiar to anyone who’s already gone through Killer Instinct‘s tutorial. With a bit of practice, you’ll soon be improvising your own increasingly complicated compositions of attacks, assists, covering-attacks and cross-ups, and fluently sight-reading when to punish your opponent’s mistakes.

Golden Glow

Will Orchid overwhelm ARIA, or be ultra-rekt by Ultratech?

The crucial thing any ARIA player does have to worry about, regardless of their skill level, is her health; keeping your eye on the distributed health of all her Drones is an absolute must when playing as the ultimate Ultratech warrior. In the wise words of KI‘s Lead Designer Adam Heart, ARIA is best thought of as not one but a team of characters. Thus, achieving success as ARIA comes down to how well you manage that team. Much like a real life sports team or an orchestra, focusing on one constituent part instead of the whole ensemble is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Remember, the team is only as strong as its weakest member, and your goal is to keep all three drones alive for as along as possible. Fail to switch your Bodies regularly and you’ll soon find those Drones are dropping like heavy metallic flies; lose one and you’ll be struggling; lose two and it’s probably goodnight Vienna.

Pointing

“You’re the best”. “No, you’re the best!”

Bearing this in mind, ARIA is strongest at the start of a match when she still has all https://tombennettblog.wordpress.com/wp-admin/index.phpthree of her Drones available, and only gets weaker and forfeits entire portions of her command list as she loses them. On top of that, unlike the rest of Killer Instinct‘s fighters ARIA doesn’t automatically heal potential damage accumulated by her equipped Body. The only way for her to recover potential damage is to swap out of her current Body and Upload to a new one. On a side note, ARIA does also have some interesting beneficial side effects that somewhat offset the risks of having to regularly switch Bodies- for example, ARIA can actually nullify Kan-Ra’s Curse of Weight or remove Cinder’s Burnout Ender flames just by switching out to a new Body – swings and robotic roundabouts I guess.

Don’t let those concerns put you off playing as ARIA by any means though. In many ways, ARIA is theoretically the best character in the game. She doesn’t particularly have any major match-up worries that put her at a distinct disadvantage to any one character, and she can outperform each character’s specialist fighting disciplines if her resources are utilised effectively. In the right hands (e.g. not mine) and with all three of her Drones still in play, ARIA can tackle every single member of the roster with ease. Each Body is perfectly suited to its task; Bass Body is great for zoning out the rushdown characters, Blade Body is great for going on a rushdown offensive, and Booster is great at cross-ups and air dominance. Combine those three very different playstyles with her universal versatile kick attacks, Drone Assists and her damage absorbing Instinct, and she can be nigh on unstoppable.

Win Pose

ARIA – the ultimate Megazord matriarch.

Well, that’s pretty much all the beginner’s info I offer up about ARIA. As you can see, I’m no Grade 8 + player when it comes to Killer Instinct, but hopefully this guide might just help act as a textual rudiment to more advanced and skilled ARIA playing. So…that’s all folks! I’d better get back to the Shadow Lab and tinkle on the old ivories (i.e. whip my lousy Jago Shadow into shape).

Piotr Ruszkowski (OhNoo Studio) Interview

Wall Demon Art
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I recently played through an awesome 2D point and click horror adventure game called Tormentum: Dark Sorrow and, to cut a long story short, I really enjoyed it. Successfully funded through Indiegogo in August 2014 and launched on Steam in March 2015, OhNoo Studio’s game is a dark and surreal journey through a nightmarish land, complete with disturbing demons, forlorn figures and bioorganic backgrounds. Curious as to what exactly inspired all this grotesque horror and melancholy, I reached out to Piotr Ruszkowski, Tormentum‘s artist and co-designer, to ask him a few questions about his career, the creation of OhNoo and Tormentum, and what monstrous muses lay behind his haunting but beautiful creations.

How did you first get started in the games industry, and what were your early inspirations?

Well, all of OhNoo’s crew previously met at an educational company and our job was to create educational software including games. The games were rather simplistic and aimed only for local distribution, but they were the means for us to learn to work together as a team. This helped us a lot later on when we tried to do our own little project for tablets. This wasn’t a game in the true sense of the word, but rather just an app, but it was a small step to larger ideas for the next projects like Tormentum. So I like to say that we have come a long way in our evolution. During that process, we have been inspired by many successful independent developers out there like Amanita Design and their Machniarium and Botanicula games. They proved to us that it’s possible to make something beautiful using limited resources. We knew at that time that we wanted to make an adventure game because we weren’t able to do anything else gameplay wise, so we focused on making story driven games.

Tormentum Team

How did you meet Łukasz and Grzegorz, and how did OhNoo come together as a development studio? Also, where did the name come from?

I’ve known Łukasz for many years, we’ve been friends since highschool. We went to different universities but we met again in the same job in the educational company. Grzegorz joined the office to work as a programmer later on, and we all worked in the same room for five years. When the company started a reduction process and fired many workers, we decided to stay together and make our own projects. The name ‘OhNoo’ was the result of a joke we shared during an annual event integration of the past company. We liked the simplicity of that name and decided for it to be the official name of our team.

Door Creature

What was the initial inspiration behind Tormentum, and what made you decide to make a 2D point & click adventure game specifically?

I was creating the Tormentum world almost two years before the actual development of the game took place. Back then, I wanted to make a dark collection of works for my personal portfolio (I had only 15 works at the time) but then I realized that it would be much cooler to have a whole game in such a style. So it was a starting point for us to clarify more details about what genre it should be or how to build an interface etc. The point and click genre was perfect for images to be exposed. Of course I had to prepare them for the parallax effect which needed foregrounds to be cut out from backgrounds etc. but the motion effect was totally worth the effort. The end result was 75 game backgrounds and hundreds of zoom-in screens.

Desert Statues

You’ve listed the painters H.R. Geiger and Zdzisław Beksiński as main influences on the game’s visual style. What is it about their surrealistic art that appeals to you as a creator and artist, and why do you think it still resonates strongly with people today?

In my opinion Beksiński and Geiger were focused on showing fear, death and suffering in their paintings. That is what I wanted to share with the audience as well in Tormentum, so I was strongly inspired by these artists. The aspect of metaphysic is somehow present in Beksiński’s works which also strongly resonates with me. I think that people appreciate their art for similar qualities.

Embracing Skeletons

The game’s world draws from an eclectic visual mix of sci-fi, high fantasy, steampunk and body horror – genres that traditionally don’t always fit well together, yet somehow you’ve successfully managed it with Tormentum; the game has this unique feel and identity to it as a result. How did you go about incorporating all these various styles and blending them together so cohesively

First of all the world of Tormentum is very dreamlike, so I could go crazy and put whatever I wanted in there. Of course I had to stick to a decayed sense of style, in order to kept it coherent. I was guided by my personal rule that the player must be entertained and not be bored, so I was thinking about how to surprise the gamer to keep her/him motivated and rewarded once she/he finds new locations. So I focused on creating stuff that was both cool and interesting for myself, but also hoping that it would also be interesting for the players as well.

Mine Creature

In the process of designing the levels and backdrops, did you have to make any compromises from your original artistic vision? For example, did you have to simplify any areas to make levels easier for a player to navigate, or make areas more complicated to better serve a tricky puzzle design?

Of course! It’s a natural part of the designing process. Sometimes we would have a puzzle ready first and then I’d have to create a background for it, other times it would vice versa. Sometimes I had to add something to support a riddle, but I must say that we didn’t do any drastic changes or throw away any of prepared graphics simply because we cannot afford to. I remember some stages that needed tweaking a lot to serve as a cool puzzle chamber such as the weight puzzle with the guard in the background or the mine level with wagons. There were a ton of changes.

Castle Chamber

Did the game’s dark story come about as a result of the art style, or did it evolve separately to the visuals?

The world and the whole setup came first and the story was thought out later on. When we were designing the game we had some core ideas for the story, but the finer details had to be hammered out later on. I was loosely inspired by movies like What Dreams May Come and others – especially those about underworlds. At one point we had a dedicated writer who was responsible for the script but he was just not reliable and didn’t deliver his work on time so Łukasz and I had to take care of the story and dialogue ourselves. It was a tough task because we aren’t trained writers.

Grey IcariTormentum reminded me of Silent Hill 2 in the sense that the various creatures and characters you encounter are all visibly suffering and pitiful in their own way. What challenges did you face in designing the creatures and characters in such a way as to get the player to sympathise with them rather than feel revolted?

I didn’t particularly wonder about how the players would receive the characters in the game when I was creating them – it was too early for that. Rather I was focused more on making something interesting, and that was the most important factor for me at that point. Later on, I sat down with Łukasz and thought about how to shape an interesting character with their dialogue. Sometimes it cast a whole new light on them. I think we did a good job with some characters – like the Rat for example. He was the most developed personality from the entire cast of our characters in my opinion, because he was quite an important NPC in the story.

Tower Beast

Having read that you’re a fan of From Software’s Demon’s Souls, I was quite nervous when first playing Tormentum as to whether clicking on the various creatures would cause a death or fail state. While I’m glad the game doesn’t punish the player’s curiosity in this way, was there ever any talk of including a similar cruel but fair trial and death mechanic in the game?

No. The From Software inspiration in Tormentum comes only from a visual aspect of their games. We thought about raising the difficulty of the puzzles during the development process, but in the end we didn’t want to frustrate the players; I wanted to make more of a streamlined and smooth adventure game with awesome 2D graphics. The punishing methods in Dark Souls are great, but in adventure games it could be a pain in the ass! We were looking more at modern adventure games in the Telltale Games’ style for gameplay inspirations.

Eye Socket Puzzle

Personally, I thought you struck a great balance between accessibility and difficulty with the design of Tormentum‘s puzzles. Was this a challenging thing to achieve or did it just come about naturally as part of the design process?

Early in the development stage we had several harder puzzles in the game, but we discovered that they were just frustrating and weren’t fun. We didn’t want to create stupidly hard ones that needed external assistance. We always questioned ourselves – is it fun? Is it enjoyable? If we found a puzzle to be too difficult then we put some helpful hints in, because we wanted players to be able to finish the game without having to break off to check YouTube walkthroughs etc. As for the item puzzles, we always kept in mind the idea to stay as logical as possible. We tried to avoid the usual adventure game tropes of MacGyver-like item mixing and strange illogical item usage. I hope we did it quite well. The main goal in creating this game was to make a sweet and short game that everyone could finish and enjoy.

Cage Puzzle Notebook

I thought the game’s user interface was very considerate to the player in a way that a lot of puzzle games just aren’t. Did the idea to include a virtual notebook for the player come about from your own experiences of playing adventure games?

User Interfaces should be as easy and minimalistic as possible. Notice our game’s inventory placement and its functionality. We have seen many modern adventure games with huge inventories just pop up in the centre of the screen when you click on them. In my opinion, it’s just a terrible design choice because when it happens, I don’t have any room to see where I can match my items on the backgrounds. That is why we chose to move the player’s inventory to the right and make all the items you are holding visible without interrupting the game backgrounds. As for the notebook, we discovered that some of the puzzles might need a pen and paper to solve, so we didn’t want to force people to physically make diagrams on paper in front their computers.

Statue Close-up

The music in Tormentum complimented the melancholic atmosphere and dark visuals incredibly well. I know you’ve already released the game’s artbook, but do you have any intention of releasing the soundtrack?

Unfortunately no, because all the tracks are licensed. Łukasz did a fantastic job of selecting all the tracks to match the atmosphere of each of the locations, and it wasn’t an easy task to do! So yeah I’m afraid we don’t have rights to release a soundtrack.

Your IndieGoGo campaign for Tormentum was a big success – were you pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the game right off the bat?

Yes we didn’t expect anything frankly speaking. It was just a test for us in such crowdfunding methods. The response was positive and very motivational, but I have to mention that the biggest feedback we got was after we released the demo of the game because not everyone treated us too seriously based on just a few images and GIFs.

Is the crowdfunding process something that you’d want to try again with future projects?

Of course! I can hint that very soon we will be back with another project but this time on Kickstarter. It will be a drastic change from Tormentum, so stay tuned. For us, the crowdfunding approach is a great opportunity from a marketing standpoint to let people know about our projects before their release. It is a very important thing in today’s world where it’s hard to be noticed.

TsioqueFinally, what’s next for OhNoo? Can you talk a bit about Tsioque, Snot & Muff and Sky Islands?

Tsioque is a point and click game with cartoony graphics so it’s quite a drastic departure from Tormentum. The main feature of this game is the handmade animation. If you appreciate such craft you will enjoy this game. We were inspired by old classic games like Dragon’s Lair or Heart of Darkness in aspects of their animation and design. We hope it will be an enjoyable point and click game! As for Snot & Muff I can only say it’s cooking away right now. It’s not so much a game but rather a simple storybook as Amelia and Terror of the Night was. It’s just a side project for us. The rest of the projects are secret for now until we’re ready to announce them.

Killer Instinct Season 2: Cinder Beginner’s Guide

Cinder Close-up
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What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’?

May – the month in which the weather starts to go from cold to slightly less cold here in the UK. It was also the month when we finally managed to get our cold frost-bitten hands on quite possibly the hottest character in Killer Instinct. Easy tiger – no I’m not talking about Sabrewulf in his rather skimpy shorts, but Cinder. The flaming fighter hit Killer Instinct on April 30th, and he’s been warming the hearts of both new and old players of the game in equal measure; alongside Riptor, TJ Combo and Maya, Cinder is the last original series character to be included in the roster, and he’s arguably the one that fans have been waiting to singe their hands on for the longest time.

The penultimate Season 2 character has had a slight retcon to his backstory in the original 1994 Killer Instinct. He’s still pretty much the same cocky Ben Ferris you know and love from the original game, only now he’s got a slightly different backstory. No longer the prisoner in flames (not chains) who’s been subjected to Ultratech’s crazy experiments against his will; Cinder’s now a mouthy merc for hire who has voluntarily opted for the Ultratech experimentation (the daft nutter), specifically a melding of human and Glacius’ species DNA… as well as presumably a fair old quantity of gasoline thrown into the mix for good measure. In other words, he’s a flying flaming torch with some formidable tricks, flips and stinging quips up his highly combustible sleeves.

Air Kick

Whether in the air or on the ground, Cinder is a flaming nuisance for his opponents.

For a man who’s essentially a walking bonfire, Cinder has an appropriately warm-blooded stage to fight in. Fury’s Core is a giant magma-filled crater complete with al fresco research labs (strange combination if you ask me, but it seems to be working) and plenty of flashy floating platforms whizzing around in the background. Though sadly there’s no Stage Ultra for this stage, it still manages to feel exciting and epic; the complicated flotilla of platforms in the background contrast really nicely with the simple rocky plinth the players fight on in the foreground.

Fury's Core

Fury’s Core; a fiery yet still strangely functional Ultratech facility. My nerdy Killer Instinct lore questions aside, it’s a fun stage to fight on.

It also helps that this level has arguably one of the punchiest and most aggressive theme songs in the game to go with it. Once again, Mick Gordon has totally knocked it out of the park on his soundtrack duty. Cinder’s Theme, Inferno, features a heavy remixed version of Robin Beanland’s Trailblazer from the original game’s soundtrack which has been expertly spliced with Mick’s own raunchy riffs, searing hot lead guitar solos and brutal beatdowns. The result is an incredibly good balancing of old and new music, and it makes the stage all the more cool to play on.

That’s enough window dressing for now, let’s move onto the main flaming man himself. As I like to say at the start of these character guides, I’m no expert at Killer Instinct, and though I have a great passion for the game and I absolutely love writing about it, the sad fact is that I’m certainly no pro player. I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of moves, give detailed match-up tactics and advice, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about. However, despite my own personally mediocre skills, hopefully I can pass on a few beginner’s tips and tactics about Cinder and his command list that might just help a new player get to grips with the fundamentals of this hothead honcho. Okay, with that said, it’s time to turn up the heat and get cooking with Cinder.

Flambéed Fisticuffs

Open Palms

When Cinder says he’s warming up, he’s really not kidding! Ouch!

So where to start with learning Cinder? I think one of the most important things to go over right away is his Fired Up combat trait. This is a unique effect that imbues all of his special attacks with additional and very handy buffs, and it’s an essential part of his playstyle to get to grips with.

Basically, it works like this; as the trait’s name suggests, Cinder ignites into flames every eight seconds. When Cinder is Fired Up his next Special Attack gains additional properties. After performing a special attack, Cinder will go back to a duller glow, and will re-ignite eight seconds later. Don’t worry, Cinder will glow very brightly when he is Fired Up, so the difference between his Fired Up and normal states is easy to distinguish regardless of whatever skin you choose (though it’s perhaps easiest to recognise at first in his default skin).

Additionally, upon activating his Instinct mode, Pyromania, Cinder remains Fired Up for the full duration of his Instinct. All special attacks gain Fired Up properties during this time, so you can really turn up the heat and give your opponent a roasting when you’ve got a full Instinct meter. What exactly are these special Fired Up buffs though? Well, they’re all specific to each special move, so let’s go through them.

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Fire

Cinder’s is easily one of the most manoeuvrable characters of the Killer Instinct roster, with multiple aerial skills that can give even Sadira a run for her money. That’s largely thanks to Trailblazer, a fast moving attack which sees Cinder curl up into a deadly fireball and blast forwards through the air. Performed with Back Forward + Kick, Trailblazer is a great combo linker and standalone attack that can be used both on the ground and in the air, making it an extremely versatile way of attacking your opponent.

Trailblazer

Sick burn. Sick burn indeed.

The angle of the attack is determined by the strength of the kick attack; the Medium Kick version travels horizontally (approximately across half of the screen), the Light Kick one travels diagonally upwards. The Heavy Kick variant sees Cinder briefly shoot straight up in the air before hurtling diagonally downwards if performed on the ground, while the aerial version just sends him heading downwards with no additional upward boost. When Cinder is Fired Up, the move will destroy any non-shadow projectiles – allowing you to quite literally fight fire with fire when up against Jago players.

Afterburner

Look out below! Flaming supersoldier coming in hot.

What’s more, Cinder can also chain the move with another Trailblazer – known as Afterburner – which opens up your movement options further. While you’re streaking across the screen in fireball form, simply press Any Direction + Any Kick to aim Cinder in that direction. Afterburner can be used on its own, directly off a blocking opponent or when hitting an opponent in mid-air.

Cross Fire

Glacius and Cinder’s arguments about global warming tend to get just a tad heated.

Plus, if that wasn’t enough, when Cinder’s Fired Up you even can do a second Afterburner on top of your first as well – just press your desired direction and hit another kick button again to keep sizzling through the air. That means you can essentially perform Trailblazer three times with Cinder before his hot little tootsies have touch the floor again, which makes the move an incredibly handy cross-up tool when combined with the aerial Cross Fire (Down + Heavy Kick). The Light Kick Afterburner covers the shortest distance, the Heavy Kick one travels the furthest, and the Medium Kick is your median go-to.

Unfortunately, although you can’t perform an Afterburner directly after a Shadow Trailblazer, it has the bonus of being completely projectile invulnerable (until the recovery animation at least), making it a great way of getting through a projectile-heavy opponent’s defences. Finally, executing Trailblazer mid-combo with the Heavy Kick variety gets you Cinder’s Wall Splat Ender.

Pyrobomber Man

Pyrobomb

“Glacius! Catch!” Cinder’s attempts to bond with Glacius fell rather flat to say the least.

To go from one ball of fire to another, let’s look at Cinder’s Pyrobombs. Pyrobombs are Cinder’s projectiles, and what’s really interesting about them is that they function as glowing satsuma-like balls of C4; rather than causing damage to your opponent upon contact, Pyrobombs will actually stick to your opponent and require manual detonation. These throwable bombs can be chucked out from the ground and mid-air, giving Cinder some really interesting medium to long-distance zoning options to play with.

Executed with Back Forward + Punch, Cinder will throw out a bomb in an arc depending on the strength of the punch used; Light Punch throws a fast bomb at a long, low angle, Medium Punch sends one long-range but a slightly higher trajectory, while Heavy Punch sends one sailing in a very high, slow and short-range curve.

When Fired Up, Cinder throws out a slightly larger Pyrobomb which does slightly more damage than usual, and has a slightly larger blast radius than the standard explosives, and launches your opponent slightly further up into the air. In other words, it’s just better in every single way. Pressing All Punches activates Pyrotechnics, which is pretty much exactly what the name suggests – Cinder detonates all Pyrobombs currently onscreen. Just like with Pyrobomb throws, Pyrotechnics can also be triggered both in-air and on the ground. You can have up to three Pyrobombs onscreen at any one time – trying to throw a fourth while at max capacity will just function as an alternate detonation method.

Although the Pyrobombs are extremely cool, they do come with some caveats to bear in mind. If Cinder is hit before detonating any bombs, then they will all instantly disappear, so you have to be careful when trying to lob a load of them at your opponent. If left undetonated, Pyrobombs will also disappear after an eight second window.

The Shadow Version throws out a massive Pyrobomb, and its trajectory is determined by the combination of punch buttons you use to input the move. If you input the move by hitting LB (default controller mapping for All Punches), then the bomb will fly out in a similar manner to a standard Light Punch strength Pyrobomb. If you input the move using any two punch buttons simultaneously, you can choose which throwing arc you’d like to use.

Shadow Pyrobomb

Cinder’s Shadow Pyrobomb. Learning all the extended throwing inputs does take further time and effort, but Cinder (and your improved win/loss ratio) will thank you for it.

For this reason, if you play Killer Instinct using a fightstick, and like me, you tend to default to just hitting LB to activate shadow moves, it’s worth spending time to practice throwing your Shadow Pyrobombs using a dual punch button input as this will give you more flexibility over how to best deploy the big bomb in the heat of combat (I’m sorry, look the fire puns are only going to keep on getting cheesier from here on out – what did you expect?)

Okay, bear with me here, as this paragraph is important, but things are going to get just a little wordy and tedious – sorry in advance. Inputting the Shadow Pyrobomb move using Light Punch + Medium Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Light Punch Pyrobomb. Inputting Shadow Pyrobomb with Light Punch + Heavy Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Medium Punch Pyrobomb, and inputting Shadow Pyrobomb using Medium Punch + Heavy Punch throws the Shadow Pyrobomb in a similar arc to the standard Heavy Punch Pyrobomb.

Phew – did you get all of that? I know, I know, I know – it can be a bit of a major mindfuck trying to keep all these arbitrary-looking sub-divisions of the Shadow Pyrobomb input in the back of your head while scrapping online, but if you stick with it and give it a bit of practice, you’ll be a way more versatile zoning Cinder as a result of your hard work.

Whilst we’re covering Cinder’s throwable tangerines of terror, it’s worth pointing out their application in conjunction with his throws. Pyrobombs stuck to your opponent can be detonated between the second and third hits of Cinder’s throw animation. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry it’s not – Cinder takes an obvious moment between the hits to cool off his fist (the cocky git) before delivering the final hit of the throw so once you know what to look for it’s rather easy to get the necessary timing down. Grabbing an opponent and dishing out some extra damage with a cheeky bomb detonation mid-throw is incredibly useful, as the resulting explosion will launch your opponent into the air, allowing you to bat them around with a Trailblazer/Afterburner or two, or recapture them with Cross Fire and start a combo back on terra firma.

Pyrobomb Ender

Cool guys don’t look at explosions – they blow things up and then fly away. Laughing.

Performing any strength punch of the Pyrobomb input mid-combo executes Cinder’s Battery and Launcher Ender. This is a great choice when running low on meter, plus it sets you at a decent distance away from your opponent if you need some space. Additionally, Cinder’s Pyrotechnics combat trait means that whenever you perform any one of his Enders, he will automatically detonate all deployed Pyrobombs – so any bombs stuck to your opponent when ending a combo will just add to the total damage cashout. Cha-ching!

Burn Baby Burn

Speaking of Enders, Cinder has some other toasty tricks he can inflict on his opponents at the end of his combos. Specifically, Cinder can perform a special pair of Burnout Enders which affect your opponent in some really nasty ways. First though, let’s look at the special moves associated with these Enders – Fission and Inferno.

Fission Ender

“I love the smell of melted alien in the morning.”

While we’re still on the topic of hot orange balls, let’s look at Cinder’s Fission first. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Punch, this move sees Cinder bash together two Pyrobombs to create a big tasty explosion that can be used as an attack, a combo linker or a handy way of destroying non-shadow projectiles. Medium Punch and Heavy Punch attack as normal, but interestingly the Light Punch version is a fake-out move which can be used to bait your opponent into a block. When Fired Up, the Medium Punch and Heavy Punch Fission blasts have a slightly larger blast radius than normal, and Shadow Fission hits a ridiculously awesome ten times and has a massive blast radius – great for punishing an opponent trapped in a corner.

Inferno Ender

Ben Ferris, AKA the human external combustion engine.

Inferno is a long-range flamethrower attack which sees Cinder spray his opponent with a far-reaching stream of fire. Performed with Quarter-circle Back + Kick, the strength of the kick attack used determines the attack’s range. The Light Punch version has the shortest range, Heavy Punch has the longest, and yup, Medium Punch lies in-between the two. Like Fission, Inferno can also be used to destroy non-shadow projectiles, and when Cinder’s Fired Up, the Inferno flame jets reach slightly further than normal. Shadow Inferno is the longest reaching version of the attack, which travels in an undulating pattern across pretty much the full screen distance. What’s really neat about all the Inferno attacks is the fact that even if your opponent successfully blocks the attack, they will still absorb the potential damage – pretty neat huh?

The Heavy Punch Ender versions of Fission and Inferno are Cinder’s Burnout Enders; what’s special about these finishers are that they actually set your opponent on fire. The Fission Burnout Ender will set your opponent’s arms on fire, and the Inferno Burnout Ender will set your opponent’s legs on fire. Whenever you alight your opponent’s limbs in this way, the flames will continue to burn between 3 and 7.5 seconds depending on the level of the Ender, and during that time period they will continuously take potential damage. What’s really cool however is that if your opponent uses an attack associated with that burnt out region (i.e. if they use any derivative of a punch attack when their arms are burning) whilst they’re still on fire, then they essentially ‘fan the flames’ and they keep burning and the potential damage continues creeping up. All you really need to do then is to start up and quickly end another combo (preferably with Cinder’s Damage Ender, Fireflash, performed with Down Up + Kick) to obliterate your opponent’s health bar once they’ve been cooking up all that potential damage.

Fireflash

Use Fireflash in a new combo directly after a Burnout Ender to wipe out a big chunk of your opponent’s health bar.

So, in other words, these Burnout Enders are incredibly important parts of Cinder’s moveset. A great tactic is to burn your opponent’s limbs and then repeatedly attack them in ways that will make them accidentally fan the flames, or leave themselves completely open for punishment. Either way is a big win for you as a Cinder player. Being spammed with projectiles? Burn your opponent’s arms to temporarily discourage further barrages. Getting poked from your opponent’s kick attacks? Scorch their legs and start pressuring low. Being swatted out of the sky with your opponent’s anti-airs? Burn their arms and swoop down from above with impunity.

All These Fire Puns Are Getting Pretty Charcoal’d By Now

Wave

Though he looks a bit intimidating, Cinder’s ashtually a really nice guy once you get to know him.

Personally, I find Cinder to be a very complex character for a beginner to get to grips with. For a start, like Riptor, Cinder is a hybrid input fighter who utilises both charge inputs and quarter-circle inputs, which makes him initially feel quite fiddly and awkward to get to grips with in my opinion. As a low-level Killer Instinct player myself, I prefer it when a character has either all quarter-circle move inputs, or all charge inputs – not a mix of the two.

Just like with my initial attempts to learn Riptor, I found it really confusing at first to get to grips with Cinder’s mixed inputs, and properly commit them to muscle memory. Plus on top of that, in order to be able to accurately control his Shadow Pyrobomb throws, you have to learn that whole other string of arbitrary alternative inputs we discussed earlier, which just complicates things for a new player (and idiots like me) even more. Thankfully, it’s not a massive deal and you’ll soon get to grips with his controls after a couple of matches, but for a new player just starting out with Cinder, his complicated command list can almost feel like a rather tricky opponent you have to fight right from the off.

However, get through that initial learning curve and he’s an incredibly fun character to use and one well worth persevering with. After some careful practice in the dojo, you’ll soon be chucking out Pyrobombs, darting across the screen with Trailblazer and burning up the competition in no time.

Fired Up Trailblazer

Cinder’s aerial Trailblazer juggles can be a bit tricky to pull off, but they’re incredibly useful, not to mention very cool.

In terms of his overall fighting style, Cinder is perhaps best described as an aerial rushdown character. He’s a bit of a strange mix in that he excels at being played up-close and aggressive in his opponent’s face, yet he also has some interesting but limited projectile/zoning options with the Pyrobombs he can use to attack from afar. From my own experience playing the character, it’s hard to pinpoint particularly difficult match-ups that he struggles against, but rather it’s that he can struggle to open up opponents with strong defensive playstyles.

Glacius Heavy Punch

Much like the readers of this guide, Glacius wants to put an end to all these tired fire puns once and for all.

When in the heat (cringe) of battle, keep your opponent guessing when using Trailblazer. A nice tactic you can use to catch an opponent off guard is to move in with a Trailblazer, dash backwards with your first Afterburner before rushing back in and landing the hit with your second. A careless opponent will likely read your backwards Afterburner as a retreat, and walk smack-bang into the follow-up – ready to receive a brutal barbequing.

Afterburner Dodge

Though Trailblazer/Afterburner are largely unsafe on block, a retreating Afterburner can allow you to avoid punishment if timed correctly.

Although you’ve got a variety of unique ways to pressure your opponent as Cinder (particularly through airborne Trailblazers), the vast majority of his special moves are unsafe on block. If you’re swatted down mid-air from a Trailblazer, or your opponent successfully blocks an Inferno/Fission, you can expect to get a swift battering. Luckily, Cinder has a very speedy backdash, which works incredibly well at getting you out of dangerous situations pronto, so make good use of it. If dealt a heavy knockdown from your opponent, Fireflash functions as a fantastic reversal that can be used on recovery as a swift riposte to an aggressive combatant’s new combo attempt.

Puddle Punch Block

Welcome to the hot ‘n’ cold gun show.

If you’re struggling to open up a defensive opponent, throwing out a cheeky Pyrobomb or three is a great way to get them to panic and lose their cool. Just remember that if you’re hit just once (even with a projectile) before you detonate then all your bombs will disappear, so be ready to block and play defensively yourself if your opponent launches into action. Additionally, don’t rely too heavily on the Pyrobombs as your primary offensive strategy; Cinder is primarily a rushdown character so think of them as a handy way of zoning and annoying your opponent when appropriate.

Again, as we’ve previously gone over, a large part of your gameplan when playing as Cinder should be to make frequent use of his Burnout Enders where appropriate. Keeping your enemy’s potential damage levels high will make them doubly anxious about getting caught in your combos, so use their hesitancy to your advantage. Once you’ve burned your opponent, try pressuring them in ways that will either cut down their chances to retaliate, or severely punish them if they do.

Win Pose

“I’m on fire!” Yes you are Cinder. Yes you are.

Well, that’s pretty much all the basic knowledge I can pass on about Cinder for now. Next up in the beginner guide hotseat is the enigmatic CEO of Ultratech. Unveiled for the first time at Chicago’s Combo Breaker fighting game tournament, ARIA is the final Season 2 character, and the big boss character for the upcoming Season 2 Arcade mode, who uses special drone modules to support and supplement her attacks. Whether there’s an additional secret boss one à la Season 1’s Shadow Jago remains to be seen, so we’ll have to wait until the new Arcade mode finally drops to find out. In the meantime, turn up the heat and dish out some blazing batterings.

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – Review

Title
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Eldritch Excellence

Well, it’s safe to say that Polish developers OhNoo Studio certainly know how to subtitle their games. When I first laid eyes upon Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, it was pretty clear that the game was going to be dark and disturbing, but quite frankly, I wasn’t at all prepared for the range of emotions it would make me feel. Revulsion, disgust and grotesquery of the highest order yes, but sadness? Regret? Despair? Surely not.

Thankfully though, OhNoo Studio completely blindsided me with their melancholic masterpiece. Upon reaching the end credits, I felt depressed, drained, but also deeply moved in ways I just completely wasn’t expecting. Tormentum is easily one of the finest point ‘n’ click adventure games that I’ve played, and one that I just can’t stop thinking about long after the credits rolled. Though it’s a fairly traditional take on the genre, the game is nonetheless a wonderfully crafted sombre and poignant gothic tale, woven together with incredible care and attention to detail throughout. Its puzzles won’t perplex you for long and the majority of its morality mechanics are predictable and formulaic, but Tormentum delivers with such confidence, style and finesse that it manages to feel both surprisingly refreshing and hauntingly original.

Zeppelin

Take a look at that picture and tell me that’s not a fantastic opening scene. Bravo OhNoo!

Starting with quite possibly one of the most instantly intriguing main menu screens I’ve ever seen, Tormentum immediately beckons you into its strange and twisted world by enveloping you in the tattered, musty robes of its mysterious hooded protagonist. Awakening from an amnestic dream, you find yourself suspended in a cage from the skeletal underbelly of a rather disturbing flesh-covered zeppelin alongside a fellow prisoner (a rather peculiar rat/weasel hybrid fellow to be precise), with no memories whatsoever of your past, or how quite how exactly you managed to end up in this rather worrying scenario. Yes, that tired old storytelling chestnut I hear you sigh, but trust me and stick with it, as from this well-worn opening cliché, Tormentum crafts a gloomy and intriguing story.

Knight

The friendly knight is only too happy to help you settle in.

Initially imprisoned, our cloaked character feels compelled to escape the gloomy castle he finds himself trapped in after receiving threats of torture-induced penitence, (completely understandable under the circumstances) and embark upon a perilous pilgrimage to a mysterious stone statue out in the wastes. However, nothing is ever quite as it seems in this strange and perilous land…

Tormentum is a concise nightmarish journey through a dark and distorted landscape, but not one without depth and heart. For a start, the game’s art direction is absolutely stunning. Heavily inspired by the works of H.R. Geiger and Zdzisław Beksiński, the game has a beautiful yet horrific painterly style, incorporating all sorts of hideous body horror elements, hellish landscapes and cruel creatures into its palette.

Desert Statues

From start to finish you’re surrounded by suffering; torture, misery, death and pain permeate each and every screen, and the effect is like journeying through a gruesome gauntlet of Bosch paintings, each one more disturbing and demented than the last. Sepulchral towers of flesh and bone wrench their gnarled towers and screaming buttresses toward the dark stormy skies as if writhing in eternal agony. Grotesque beasts and withered beings cloister in dark recesses, some acting as direct demonic deterrents, others as ominous omniscient observers. Hell, even the relatively humanoid characters you encounter aren’t reassuring in the slightest; often hissing, snarling and sneering at you, or just coldly indifferent to your presence.

Everything feels hostile, desolate and utterly alien, and there’s that familiar sickly combination of loneliness and fevered paranoia in the air that you get when playing games like Dark Souls or Silent Hill 2. At times it can feel like you’re playing an interactive Bergman film; your hooded character roams through dark catacombs, barren wastelands and decrepit mausoleums on an existential Kantian quest for answers in a hopeless, rotting world. In other words, it’s not exactly a laugh-a-minute comedy.

Wall Demon

Strangely though, despite the game’s oppressive atmosphere and visuals, Tormentum surprisingly never slips over into gratuitousness or farce. I found that the heavy mood actually instilled in me a mood of quietly morbid fascination rather than shocked disgust or unpalatable revulsion. The game’s world feels vast, oppressive and completely devoid of warmth, yet somehow it remains fascinating and dangerously exciting to explore. In fact, the closest parallel I can draw to Tormentum in terms of mood and atmosphere is possibly something like the excellent Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem; not in terms of outright horror or psychological frights per se, but that it evoked a similar cocktail of deeply uncomfortable foreboding, tinged with the morbid thrill of discovery.

Mirror Angel

Speaking of morbidity, like a lot of the best horror experiences, Tormentum has that exhilaratingly tense juxtaposition of temerity and trepidation clashing together at all times to drive you deeper into its mysterious world. Interestingly, I found that a lot of this tension came not just from the creepy art direction, but also directly from the puzzles themselves. In particular, the game does a fantastic job of forcing you into making some absolutely gut-wrenching moral choices with the various characters you encounter on your journey. Although a great deal of these choices are largely the sort of typical well-telegraphed binary good/bad nature you find in countless games (i.e. do you kill a certain character or decide to spare their life), their presentation in the context of the game’s heavy atmosphere makes them feel gripping and compelling rather than hackneyed. As the whole world is twisted and strange, it’s never quite clear whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, good or evil, caring or cruel.

Tree

As Tormentum progresses however, there’s a handful of more nuanced interactions which aren’t so transparently labelled as a clear-cut right or wrong, good or evil choices, but rather lie in much more juicy and ethically ambiguous territory – several of which left me extensively agonising over which was the right decision to make for quite some time, let me tell you. It’s here where the game excels, requiring you to make decisions that, at times, felt comparable to Telltale Games’ usual modus operandi. What’s important though is the fact that regardless of how you decide to act in the strange world of Tormentum, the fact that you can sympathise with each and every one of these wretched creatures and sorry souls you encounter, no matter how repugnantly vile, is testament to the game’s minimal yet powerful narrative.

The minimalist ambient soundtrack is also a key part of the experience, subtly contributing a great deal to the game’s atmosphere and mood. Eerie drones, dissonant horns, ominous synths and booming timpani swirl around with rustic guitars, weeping theremins, ghostly vocals and sombre strings to create a warped yet delicately melodic score. It interweaves incredibly well with the visuals, and it’s also cleverly used as a sneaky red herring in a couple of scenarios to completely deceive the player. I won’t spoil how exactly, but the audio design demonstrates an astute and admirably devious intelligence lurking below the soft harmonic surface.

Skeletons Embracing

Tormentum’s rich visual tapestries subtly use clever and deep symbolism throughout. Clever and creepy.

Whilst the game may look like a Dante-esque nightmare you can’t escape, it actually plays more like a lovely dream you enjoy spending time in. At first, on my first playthrough of the game, I often never knew whether I was safe like in prototypical point ‘n’ clicks, or one wrong click away from a grisly death at any time. Luckily for me then, OhNoo Studio wisely focussed on immersive storytelling over implementing punishing trial and error mechanics and the result is a game that relishes and rewards both your company and your curiosity. You’re never punished for exploring; rather, Tormentum encourages the player’s interest, and rewards those who take the time to really poke around in the gorgeously disturbing environments. The level of detail in each disturbingly picturesque scene is incredible, and more often than not you’ll be startled by some small thing you might have missed on your initial observations, or find a helpful detail which might shed some much needed light on your current predicament.

Cube

ITV’s gothic reboot of The Cube certainly had Phillip Schofield a little anxious.

The game’s puzzles aren’t particularly taxing, but neither are they insufficiently challenging, striking a nice equilibrium between intrigue and potential frustration. With the exception of a rather devious musical notation conundrum towards the end, you’ll rarely be held up for long, and you can comfortably complete the game in one sitting. While I can appreciate that this might well be a negative for players who really like to wrestle with a challenging set of fiendish puzzles, I personally I think that OhNoo have managed to get a nice middle ground here that makes sense for the type of game they wanted to make. The emphasis is clearly first and foremost on immersing the player in this strange world and the mysterious characters that inhabit it. Obviously, puzzle difficulty and player immersion aren’t mutually exclusive, but as the game world itself already feels hostile and uninviting, I could see that including some seriously hardcore riddles could easily put players off the game for good. Either that, or I’m probably just an idiot.

If you do happen to get stuck on a troublesome puzzle however, the game does a great job of helping you out without crossing the line into patronising hand-holding. An often overlooked part of any game is the user interface – fortunately, Tormentum has a brilliant one; it’s simple, clear and most importantly, a joy to use – the best part of which is the protagonist’s notebook. Upon discovering any important puzzle clues, your character will jot down the relevant information in its yellowed pages, which can then be later referred to at any time during puzzles etc. This saves you having to tediously traipse back and forth between a puzzle and it’s corresponding solution whilst trying to desperately remember absolutely minute visual detail, or having to write down notes yourself. While I do love that old school DIY aspect of having to keep a pen and paper handy (or perhaps ink, quill and suspiciously-fleshy parchment if you feel inclined to roleplay) when playing a good adventure game, it’s undeniably helpful to have the game provide you with persistent digital equivalents.

Cave Painting

Unfortunately, Tormentum does suffer some pacing issues in the third act, and ultimately the conclusion felt a bit heavy-handed in contrast to the wonderfully ambiguous nature of the rest of the experience. Compared to the nebulous opening, the ending feels more like a contrived deus ex machina; admittedly, although this does sit well with some crucial themes of the game, personally it just felt really at odds with the delightfully indefinite nature of the majority of the experience.

Regardless, it’s the journey not the destination that matters, and upon completing your pilgrimage across the wastes, you’ll have experienced quite the (disturbing) adventure you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. This a big month in the gaming calendar for Poland and the Polish dev scene – thanks to a little game called Witcher III: Wild Hunt – but if you’re more of a point ‘n’ clicker than a hack ‘n’ slasher, then I highly recommend Tormentum. Just remember, as Tolkien wrote:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”

Statue

Killer Instinct Season 2: Hisako Beginner’s Guide

Hisako Stare
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Ghost In The (Ultratech) Machine

Something strange in your neighbourhood? No? Well, there certainly is in your online fighting game neighbourhood that’s for sure. Meet Hisako, March’s addition to the Killer Instinct roster; she’s another brand new character to the series (courtesy of the talented ladies and gents over at Iron Galaxy) who since her release has quickly become a fan favourite amongst the community due to her unsettling appearance, her big pointy spear and her penchant for frightening fisticuffs.

Like Spinal, Hisako joins the Killer Instinct shenanigans after she has already met a painful and bloody end. The young daughter of a Samurai warrior, Hisako’s tragic tale begins when her rural Japanese village is attacked by a marauding group of soldiers. After her father is killed in the attack, Hisako becomes enraged, picking up her fallen father’s naginata spear and continuing the fight. Though she is ultimately cut down herself, Hisako’s brave retaliation against overwhelming odds inspires the remaining villagers to stand their ground, eventually overthrowing the attackers and reclaiming the village. Erecting a shrine in Hisako’s honour, the villagers mourn their fallen hero…however…

Hisako Low Shot

I think it’s fair to say that Hisako has a pretty big grudge against Ultratech…get it? Sorry, I really dragged that joke through the wringer huh? I’ll get my coat…

I think it’s fair to say that Hisako has a pretty big grudge against Ultratech…get it? Sorry, I really dragged that joke through the wringer huh? I’ll get my coat…

Jump forward five hundred years to the present day and a little company called Ultratech start poking about in a certain rural Japanese village, disturbing a certain grave in the process. Now, with naginata in hand once more, the vengeful spirit of Hisako rises (or wises) from her grave again, determined to devour all who have disturbed her village’s hallowed ground – yikes!

Village of Whispers

The Village of Whispers – nothing could possibly go wrong here…right? RIGHT?

Speaking of hallowed ground, the Village Of Whispers is Hisako’s stage, and it’s a suitably atmospheric stage for the ghostly warrior to haunt. Deep in a misty wooded forest, the ruined village features Hisako’s ominous candle-lit shrine at the centre. The stage’s weather feels suitably disturbed as well; it’s chucking it down, there’s flashes of lightning crackling down between the trees, and the charred structures of the fallen village occasionally pulse with an evanescent shimmer.

Spinal Stage Ultra

Spinal, getting a taste of his own grisly medicine.

The Stage Ultra for the Village of Whispers is actually one of Spinal’s finishers from the original Killer Instinct – after inputting the Ultra command in front of the shrine, the winner knocks their opponent into a clawing pit of ghostly hands which slowly drag their struggling victim underground to a rather unpleasant demise. Plus, for added eeriness, the spirits of the dead villagers slowly materialise out of the background when an Ultra is performed, as if watching the spectacle; creepy and cool in equal measure.

Before we get into spirit-stabbing people with spears however, it’s time for my usual disclaimer. While I like to think that I can just about hold my own at the dizzyingly high heights of the Killer Instinct silver league, my nascent skills are mere evanescence in the face of the real pro players of the game. I love Killer Instinct; I have a great passion for the game and I love writing about it, but I’m certainly no pro player. I can’t provide you with in-depth frame-by-frame analysis of moves, nor do I have an impressive win/loss ratio to boast about.

Hopefully though, with just over a month’s worth of slashing, wall jumping, floor crawling and possessing opponents under my belt, I can whisper a few ghostly whispers of advice into your virtual ears which might just give a new Hisako players the chance to give their opponents some really horrible nightmares.

Jump Scares

Floor Crawl

As well as performing hideous body contortion, Hisako’s other hobbies include reading, cross-stitching and playing the piano…nah, just kidding, she’s all about revenge these days.

A Japanese Onryō (‘avenging ghost’), Hisako is a jittering, shrieking ghost fighter, who offers some frighteningly new approaches to combat in Killer Instinct. Despite her small size and fast glitch-like animations, Hisako is actually the slowest moving character in the cast to date – she has a forward walking speed that’s even slower than the mighty Aganos’ – which is actually quite impressive really, but I digress. She’s no sprinter in other words.

Despite her slow movement speed however, Hisako does have some unique manoeuvrability options that allow her to get around in other crafty ways. For a start, her forward dash is extremely fast and long-ranged; a scuttling crawl along the floor which allows you to close in on your opponent at quite a speed and also dodge incoming projectiles if timed correctly. Her back dash isn’t amazing – Hisako hops backwards using the naginata as a support – it’s slow to start and not by any means speedy, but it’s still a faster option when compared to her standard backwards walking speed.

More interestingly though, Hisako can also Wall Jump off the stage boundaries (Diagonal Jump Left/Right off stage wall), which essentially gives her a double jump when fighting at the screen extremities. She also has a really freaky teleport move called Descent (Back + Heavy Kick), which works pretty much how you might expect – Hisako slithers backwards into the floor to re-emerge behind her opponent. It’s both freaky and functional, looking very much like something you’d see in The Ring. Despite the move’s inherent creepiness, it does have quite significant start-up and recovery animations, so just be aware that if you’re trying to descend into the floor all the time, your opponent may catch on and punish you upon your resurfacing.

Don’t Mean To Nag(inata)

Naginata Tip

Careful with that naginata Hisako! It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye…then it’s just fun and games you can’t see anymore.

As you might imagine with a character that has a big pointy spear for a weapon, the majority of Hisako’s attacks have incredibly good range to them. So whilst she isn’t the fastest character in the game, her crazy reach with the naginata means that she doesn’t really need to be as close up in a lot of scenarios; you can stab and poke at your opponent from afar before moving in for the kill. Looking at her basic normal attacks, Medium Punch, Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick are good poking tools with significant range and combo opener tools, as well as crouching Medium Kick (Down + Medium Kick).

While her normal attacks are really good, Hisako’s basic throws aren’t particularly noteworthy. They lack reach, and they also hardly buy you any significant room once you’ve pulled them off – you practically just swap sides with your opponent after delivering a couple of cheeky stabs. However, they do provide a nice way of starting a combo up close; once the throw has finished, you can quickly do a manual hit off the back and start your combo rolling. This can be a little tricky to pull off at first, but with a bit of practice, you can get used to the necessary timing easily enough. Hell, do what I used to do and just have a mash on the punch buttons if you’re struggling, you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Naginata Slash

This village isn’t big enough for two undead spirits Spinal…get lost bony!

Moving onto a couple of her special attacks, let’s start with On Ryo Zan (Quarter-circle Forward + Punch). This is a forward slashing attack with the naginata with excellent range, which is both a fantastic combo opener and linker. On Ryo Zan can be extended to a maximum of three hits by immediately hitting any punch attack after the initial move input. The strength of the subsequently selected punches determines how the On Ryo Zan is extended; Anguish (Light Punch) hits low, Grief (Medium Punch) hits high and Sorrow (Heavy Punch) hits mid. The punches can be used in any order or repeated, allowing you to mix up your angle of attack as you slash away. Shadow On Ryo Zan has incredibly long range; it’s a five-hit slashing attack which is also projectile invulnerable, making it a great way of punishing a projectile spamming opponent or extending an ongoing combo. Additionally, On Ryo Zan can also be performed in the air to do an aerial downward slash attack (I’ll have some extra things to say on this aerial move shortly, bear with me) which acts as a hard knockdown. The Heavy Punch version of the move also functions as Hisako’s Wall Splat Ender when used mid-combo.

On Ryo Zan

These spear slashes would probably be excruciatingly painful if Spinal actually had nerve cells…luckily, he doesn’t have any, so they are probably just mildly irritating instead.

Whilst we’re talking about one of Hisako’s linkers, it’s worth going over Hisako’s combo trait – Wind-Up doubles. Hisako can delay the second hit of her Medium and Heavy Auto Doubles by holding down the attack button. The charged hit deals additional damage to the opponent and changes the timing of the opponent’s breaker window to a Manual. Plus, this is a great way of bluffing your opponent into an easy counter breaker – charge up the second hit of an auto double, then go for the counter when they try and break your delayed second hit.

Possession

Hisako always dreads her dentist appointments for some reason, I’ve no idea why.

Possession (Quarter-circle Back + Kick) is a really nasty move – Hisako essentially sucks her opponent into her horribly distended mouth (just like Kirby, if Kirby happened to star in a Japanese horror film), possessing their body and painfully twisting and snapping their limbs. Ouch! Shadow Possession has the strongest and fastest pull across the screen, and naturally deals the most damage. When used in very close proximity to your opponent, Possession functions as a command throw, and when used in a combo, Possession functions as Hisako’s Damage Ender.

Revengeance

Vengeance

Using Vengeance just before your opponent’s attack lands will bag you a tasty counter hit and combo opportunity. You just need to make sure you also correctly anticipate their attack angle i.e. high or low.

Okay, so far, we know Hiskao has some nifty jumps, dashes, a creepy teleport, various spear stabs, lunges and the terrifying Possession in her arsenal, but what is it exactly about her fighting style that makes her different and special? Well it turns out that a razor sharp naginata plus five hundred years of anger makes for one incredibly dangerous combination – who’d have thought?

Vengeance is possibly the most important of Hisako’s special moves, and it’s perhaps the most crucial to her playstyle. This is a special counter-hit move, which if timed correctly, allows Hisako to catch and counter an opponent’s attack and then extend it into a combo. In the right hands the move is absolutely lethal, essentially making Hisako one of the most frightening characters in the entire cast; do you attack her and risk getting countered, or not attack and risk Hisako coming in for a swing with the naginata? A good Hisako player will be able to use Vengeance to really scramble their opponent’s mind, leaving them completely flustered as to how to react in combat. Of course, that’s on top of all the usual combo/counter breaker mind games that one has to worry about while playing Killer Instinct; Like a real vengeful ghost (probably) Hisako is all about reducing her opponents to a nervous wreck.

The move comes in two varieties – High Vengeance (All Punches) and Low Vengeance (All Kicks), which respectively block overhead and mid attacks, or low and mid attacks. This means that Vengeance can’t just be spammed willy-nilly; Hisako players need to carefully read where their opponent’s attacks are going to hit and attempt to correctly anticipate the corresponding Vengeance move. However, when in her Instinct mode, Hisako becomes even scarier. After activating Tousoushin (which I believe roughly translates as ‘fighting spirit’ – very appropriate), Hiskao can perform any version of Vengeance while her Instinct meter is active, allowing Hisako to catch counter both low and high attacks with either move. It’s terrifying to go up against, and a perfect opportunity for a Hisako player to both apply pressure and really mess with her opponent’s head at the same time. Not only that, but Hisako’s Wrath meter also remains full for the duration of her Instinct. Hang on a second, what’s the Wrath meter I hear you say?

Anger Management…Literally

Counter Hit

As the saying goes, Hell hath no fury like a spear-wielding five hundred and nineteen year old dead Japanese woman whose grave has been defiled.

The Wrath meter is another equally important aspect to understanding how to most effectively use Hisako. Displayed onscreen as a green and appropriately naginata-shaped meter directly above her Shadow meter, the Wrath meter is her own unique resource which allows her to perform a variety of nifty tricks and gain special qualities to particular moves in her moveset.

In a nutshell, Wrath gives Hisako the ability to do three main things; she gets special counter hit properties added to her key attacks, the ability to cancel out of a move at anytime using a Wrath Cancel, and her hard knockdown attacks will instead function as openers. These all require different levels of Wrath to pull off and can sound kind of complicated at first, but don’t worry, they’re all pretty straightforward, and we’ll examine each usage below.

With a full Wrath meter, any On Ryo Zan move (both ground and aerial versions), Medium Punch/Kick or Heavy Punch/Kick acts a counter hit. This means that if you and your opponent’s attacks collide, yours will override theirs (providing that you’re not actually hit by their attack) and they’ll be left in hit stun, and ripe for a battering.

Air On Ryo Zan

Death from above – or should that be ‘undeath’ from above? Hmm…

First up, let’s look at how Wrath works with aerial On Ryo Zan and her last special move, Influence. The change to Aerial On Ryo Zan is pretty straightforward – performing the move with a full Wrath meter now means that the attack will recapture your opponent and continue to combo them on the ground, as opposed to the usual single-hit knockdown.

Influence

Hisako’s idea of fun naginata-based pranks have yet to go down well with the rest of the Killer Instinct crew.

This is also the case for Influence. Influence (Quarter-circle Back + Punch) is another brutal special move in Hisako’s moveset which sees her grab her opponent, plant her naginata in the ground before shoving them on top of it. Yes, it’s every bit as horrible and gruesome as it sounds. Like Possession, Influence typically works as a command throw at very close range, but with full Wrath, the move also acts as an opener which you can then combo into. When used in mid-combo, the Light Punch and Medium Punch varieties act as combo linkers, while the Hard Punch version serves as Hisako’s Hard Knockdown Ender.

Influence Linker

Not content with just being a dab hand with a spear, Hisako is also an expert when it comes to semaphore spear signalling. Do her talents know no end?

The Shadow version of Influence always acts as a hard knockdown move, but one that has quite a considerable range to it. Used outside of a combo, Hisako will do another of those creepy crawls across the screen before initiating the grab, making it another option to get in close.

Finally, when you’ve got at least half of the Wrath meter filled, Hisako can perform a Wrath Cancel. This basically means that at any point during a normal or non-shadow special move, you can instantly switch to Vengeance. This is incredibly useful, as it means that if you completely miss an attack, you can instantly punish your opponent’s riposte by suddenly using Vengeance. A lot of Hisako’s moves are generally unsafe on block, which is why the ability to Wrath cancel into Vengeance is incredibly useful; If one of your attacks is blocked by your opponent, you can instantly protect yourself with Vengeance (providing you pick the right version if you’re not in Instinct of course) and you’ll get a counter when they try and hit you in what would have been your recovery frames.

The Wrath meter does deplete whenever Hisako performs special attacks, Medium Punch/Kick and Heavy Punch/Kick, but the good news is that Hisako will automatically regenerate Wrath as long as she isn’t currently dashing, attacking or being attacked herself. This means that you don’t have to worry about manually refilling the meter yourself; Hisako can jump, walk or just stand still and your Wrath will fill up again – it doesn’t take long to fill up either, but as Killer Instinct is such a lightning fast game, finding space to recover can sometimes be quite challenging.

Fright Trap

Scream

A picture’s worth a thousand words. Or, in this case, just one really, really long one: “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGH!”

When learning Hisako, it’s best to think of her as a walking counter-breaker. A living (well, she’s technically undead I think) breathing (hmm, not too sure on that one either) combo trap who will constantly keep your opponent guessing. A good Hisako player wants to keep their opponent constantly on edge and totally scramble their tactics and mind games into a petrified mush. Just like in Dune, “Fear is the mind-killer” is also a very appropriate adage for Killer Instinct – once you’ve broken your opponent’s mind, it won’t be long before their body follows.

Playing as Hisako, you want your pugilist interlocutor to feel that it doesn’t matter whether they attack you or hang back, you’ll always be able to swiftly punish them regardless of their actions. You need to make your opponent flinch and hesitate at every possible opportunity, but also recognise moments where you can use their hesitancy to rush in and start slashing, stabbing and inhaling/bone breaking.

It’s easy to forget about Hisako’s Wall Jump in and amongst all tricks and extra mind games you have to mentally juggle whilst playing as Hisako, but it’s an incredibly useful tool to both close distances and make hasty retreats across the screen. I personally like to use it after knocking an opponent down in a corner; by the time they’ve usually recovered, you’re already about half a screen away, which gives you a brief moment to regain Wrath before scuttling back towards them again. The Wall Jumps are also great for mix-up attacks, allowing you to vault over your opponent and force them to guess which side you’re going to attack from.

With no projectiles of her own, Hisako can sometimes be at the mercy of long-distance projectile characters like Jago, Glacius and Kan-Ra. Her Crawl move will get her about the map, but with its long start-up and recovery animations it’s incredibly easy to anticipate and punish, and full-screen zoners will likely be expecting you to use Descent to get in behind them. Try alternating between the fast forward dash crawls, Descent and Shadow Influence as methods to keep your opponent guessing as to your way of approach. Just be aware that Vengeance won’t work on projectiles or throw attacks, so be aware when fighting both at range with projectile zoners or extremely close up with grapplers.

From my own experience, Hisako can really punish Aganos. Due to his slow, well-telegraphed moves, an observant Hisako player can quite easily counter his slow ponderous pummellings and chip away at his precious armour from afar using long-range swipes. Beware however; smart Aganos players are well aware of how slow his moves are, and may try to bluff you into a counter breaker of their own if you’re not careful. With some careful planning and observation though, Hisako can turn the tables on even the heaviest hitters in the game, and neatly counter his crushing blows with relative ease.

Anyway, that’s about the extent of my basic Hisako advice; again, I know it’s all just pretty basic stuff that I’ve covered in this guide, but hopefully it’s helped you get a little bit more familiar with Killer Instinct‘s ghostly grandmaster. The hot-headed Cinder is already out and burning up the competition online, so again expect another guide for him shortly. Until then, have fun spooking people with Hisako, and in the words of Crimewatch‘s Nick Ross, “Don’t have nightmares.”

Teeth