Diamond Hollow 2
Diamonds are a girl's best friend, but regardless of your gender you'll probably get pretty attached to them in Arkeus' latest action platformer, Diamond Hollow 2. A young boy wakes up alone at the bottom of a massive cave teeming with monsters, but quickly gains an ally in the form of a sentient gun more than willing to work with him to find a way out and discover what's going on. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. You can collect diamonds of various colours to upgrade your guns and abilities (press [Tab] to open the upgrade screen) and even find different attachments to give your weapons new capabilities. Just keep an eye on your hearts; if you take too much damage, you'll have to respawn back at the last checkpoint you touched. Just don't be shy about exploring; heart crystals are the only way to increase your health, and both they and a surplus of sweet, sweet diamonds can be found hidden in secret places throughout each stage.
Diamond Hollow 2 originally started out as a 48 hour Ludum Dare creation where the goal was simply to climb as far as you could before dying. With the addition of a story campaign, bosses, several different unlockable play modes, and more, this second iteration feels less like a sequel and more like the game the original was meant to be. You know, kind of like those 1990's teen rom-coms where they teach the "nerdy" girl to brush her hair and take off her glasses and suddenly she's a babe? If you loved the first game, chances are Diamond Hollow 2 will be right up your alley, and you'll really be able to appreciate all the work that's gone into making feel like a proper game rather than a simple time waster. While some of the audio tracks can get a bit repetitive, on the whole the entire design is great and really brings to mind old-school classics on the NES, only without the annoying bits where your parents make you give your little brother a turn. (He just keeps DYING! GAWD.)
Some story levels, unfortunately, do feel a bit drawn out, without enough variety to the layout or enemies to really keep you engaged, and as a result feel like they could have been about half as long if not for the need to grind diamonds. You might also wish dialogue simply threw up a big text window and paused the game, since the little box at the bottom of the screen is almost too small, and easily missed. These are minor quibbles, however, and Diamond Hollow 2 is a great little bit of retro gaming packed with secret areas, achievements, and more. The modest difficulty curve help keeps things accessible to most players, while even hardcore platformers will find a lot to enjoy about it as they trick out their talking gun to the best of its abilities. Cute, ambitious, and easy to get into, Diamond Hollow 2 is a lot of fun and more than worth a look.