|Release Date||Dec. 23, 2004|
Review by MadTom
Aura is the second major release of Dr. Dos', and depending on your perspective on community games like Mooseka Richtlinen mit einer Eisenfaust, may be remembered as his best. It is an action/strategy game hybrid with influences from eastern philosophy, Ikaruga, and of course, ADOM.
In an alternate plane where every being, except of course karmics such as yourself, has an aura of either blue, green, or red, imbalance has occurred and the aurae are struggling against one another. You're out to change all that, even if it means destroying everything in the universe. Dr. Dos refers to these as the 'extinction' endings, comprising three of seven possible conclusions to the game (not counting death), one of the games' most recommending features.
Or perhaps you'd just like to have one aura dominate, and then face the boss of that particular aura and lay down some good ol' fashioned karmic whoop-ass, using your unique ability to change aurae to meet that of your opponents. And you're going to be doing that a lot.
So you run around changing your aura as you meet your opponents. It sounds simple enough, but the levels ascend in difficulty reasonably evenly, and there are one or two that took me four or five save/die/restore attempts to complete. Others are a cakewalk, however. The enemies vary in strength and intelligence, while each aura maintains its own distinct characteristics (red creatures won't even move toward you much if at all, but they hurt a lot if you do contact them - but the blue ones are the true nasties).
One problem with the game is that at points it can get tedious. I would have been interested had Dos included some slightly less action-oriented puzzles - buttons that change the aura of opponents, or open gates, or using objects, or similar linear puzzles, in the vein of the development that craNKGod introduced into Little Square Things. That would have been neat. Some music or sound for the game would also have been nice (said MadTom, who was asked to do just that).
Graphics are one of Dos' self-confessed weaknesses, but what the game lacks in an aesthetic sense is made up for in reasonably in-depth level design and a somewhat addictive, though appropriately simple, premise. I can't, for reasons obvious, comment on the title screen and menu.
Aura is not an easy game. You are not going to beat it, regardless of your choice of ending, without saving/dying/restoring at least a few times. There are several tricks and traps, some obvious and predictable, others quite nasty. You are likely to learn a few strategies ... which aura is best for the very first steps of each level?
The Ultimate Karmic God ending in particular is reasonably (but not incredibly) difficult to get. The only advice I will offer you is to have a good stockpile of health. Actually, that applies to just about every level of the game ... good thing health bonuses are reasonably abundant.
All in all, the game is one of the best uploads to the site this year, appropriately also being the very last one uploaded. Dr. Dos' skill as a ZZTer puts him easily within the range of Quantum P., Commodore, and other present-day whizkids of the ZZTing scene, and I'm very much looking forward to his next release.
Player: Nameless karmic being who must end the war and retrun the universe to balance
Reds: Slow and stupid, these enemies wander aimlessly, but do more and more damage as their level increases.
Blues: Quick and deadly, these enemies are significantly faster than the others and eventually learn to charge right at the player when they align with him. Considered by most to be the most annoying aura.
Greens: Clever and manipulative, these enemies are good at hunting down the player, but smart enough to realize a green aura will kill them. High level greens will send other enemies to attack the player if he has a green aura. They also will warn others to flee from the player if their auras match.
Mimics: Keys that are actually level 2 enemies. If they are touched while in key form with the proper aura they will die.
Greater mimics: Look like walls or hide in shadows. They are actually level 3 enemies, and like their weaker counterparts they can also be killed before revealing themselves.
Golmon: Red demigod and potential final boss. Strongest red enemy which deals 25 damage per round. Offers no information on the truth behind the war.
Dimitri: Blue demigod and potential final boss. Fastest enemy in the game. Has the ability to seemingly attack from a distance by moving at the speed of light making him appear a distance away while he damages you. (That's fancy talk for he does damage when aligned.) Also offers no information on the truth behind the war.
Enerjak: Green demigod and potential final boss. Will run away if you have a green aura. When you attack him he clears your aura and then charges at you hoping to damage you before you notice what's happened to your aura. Claims to have caused the war to trick you into commiting genocide on the other auras. Offers cryptic hint "_they were all dead_".
Oxygoth: Karmic demigod and potential final boss. Can only be fought if the auras' have near equal power. Claims to have tricked the other auras into fighting to get revenge on the unknown killer of the Karmic God. Forces you to fight the three previous demigods simultaneously before fighting him. Then his aura changes over time. Admits he was being controlled by another. Offers cryptic hint "_Nothing defeats karmics with ease_"
Null: Black Aura demigod and potential level 26. Confesses to having killed the Karmic God and after weaking the others through the war killing the red, green, and blue gods. Allows you to surrender to him. Only accesible by killing every enemy in the game.
The game consists of 25 normal levels and 1 (or 2) boss levels.
- Level I: Let's Begin
- Level II: Parenthesis
- Level III: Box
- Level IV: Key Graveyard
- Level V: Ghost Town
- Level VI: Air Temple
- Level VII: Pac-Mania
- Level VIII: Stone Circle
- Level IX: Soundwave
- Level X: The Love of a Bomb and a Key
- Level XI: Mushroom Garden
- Level XII: Bridge Warfare
- Level XIII: Borealus
- Level XIV: Hell Breaks Loose
- Level XV: Crazy Eights
- Level XVI: Conehead
- Level XVII: Symmetry Vs. Strategy
- Level XVIII: Earthquake
- Level XIX: Face of Death
- Level XX: Town of ZZT
- Level XXI: A Diamond is Forever
- Level XXII: Cranks and Nuts
- Level XXIII: Paragon
- Level XXIV: Clockwork
- Level XXV: Ground Zero
- Final Level: Golmon's/Dimitri's/Enerjak's/Oxygoth's Lair
- Level XXVI: Null's Lair
- True Final Level: Karmic Null's Lair
On the main menu typing ?+Debug will access the Warp option allowing the player to go to the tester's room and access any board as well as configuring health and disabling the anticheating object.
Also on the main menu typing ?+Arcade will unlock Auracade mode, a modified copy of the Clockwork level with an endless supply of enemies.
The game will instantly kill the player if it sees he has more than one aura at once. To get around this type ?+taehcitna and then use ?+r ?+g or ?+b to add an aura.