Sunday, April 27, 2014

IOS Spotlight #60: Bamba

Title: Bamba
Developer: Simon Ducroquet
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Bamba might be one of those games where you watch the trailer and think, "Is that it?" A man on a unicycle, moving back and forth. True, Bamba is a simple game, with simple controls, but that simplicity isn't a flaw or a negative in any way. In fact, Bamba impressed me with its challenging gameplay and creative obstacles, crafted around simply tapping the screen.
Controlling your daring unicyclist couldn't be easier. No tilting, no split screen controls. All you need to do is tap the screen to move forward, tap again to move backwards. Your goal across the game's 25 levels is to last until a certain amount of time has passed, indicated by the clock in the corner of the screen. But that is no easy feat, due to the collection of unique obstacles Ducroquet has designed. It might not be apparent from the screenshots, but Bamba is a hard game. Each level is a test of observation and reaction, as you deftly maneuver between all manners of rotating, shifting, swinging objects and other more surreal hazards, learning the patterns and proper timing for each new challenge.
Like Badland and other games before it, Bamba is yet another example of a diverse challenging experience built around simple intuitive controls, and its minimal style and quirky vibe makes Bamba a joy to play. You can purchase Bamba for $0.99.

The Watchlist: Kajo

Title: Kajo
Developer: Backrow Studio
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development
Kajo is a first-person platformer that takes the player on a journey through a mystical, floating city
Lemma, Hover, Infinity Runner, Deadcore, and now Kajo: the first person platforming genre, especially ones focused on immersion and parkour movement, is booming. Kajo is an upcoming platformer set across abstract surreal levels, tasking you with leaping, wall-running, sliding, vaulting across these floating platforms, ziplines, narrow ledges, and more. Amid the expanse of clouds and sky, your goal is to find the fastest routes through the environments, each playthrough and attempt honing your skills and allowing you to discover new secrets and paths.
Kajo is meant to be a minimalist experience, not cluttered by overwhelming mechanics, but focused on simple controls, smooth movements, and the joy of traversal as you explore the many levels and areas of this floating city. The soft vibrant art style strengthens that minimal approach and gives Kajo a unique compelling style. You can learn more about Kajo here and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.  

IOS Spotlight #59: Kelly

Title: Kelly
Developer: ANIV
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Mechanically, Kelly is a simple platformer. You won't be wall-jumping or air-dashing or double jumping in this game. The controls are simple - left, right, jump - and are quite responsive. Now, while as Kelly isn't as flashy or well animated as Shadow Blade or atmospheric as Incoboto, where the game shines is in its level design and gameplay.
Kelly offers 15 levels to run and jump through and each is vibrant and colorful, with unique hazards and moving obstacles. From hinged platforms to color-coded barriers to laser-wielding spiders and shuriken-flinging robot arms, the mechanics and dangers here are varied and often combined in inventive ways. While 15 levels may seem sparse, these aren't your usual 15 second areas found in some games. Each gives about 90 seconds to earn three stars, and achieving that time is easier said than done. Kelly is a challenging game, requiring timing and precision to maneuver around the many obstacles. Similar to a game like Kid Tripp, once you learn a level, you can race through in a fast fluid manner.
Kelly surprised me. I was intrigued by the colorful art style and interesting levels in the trailer, but the game's challenging tricky gameplay and precision platforming is really well done. If you're looking for a solid platformer, I definitely recommend Kelly. The developer also said that he has plans to add more levels and possibly implement Game Center

You can purchase Kelly for $0.99

Saturday, April 26, 2014

No Money, No Problem: Zineth

Title: Zineth
Developer: Arcane Kids
Platforms: PC, Mac
Released in 2012, Zineth is a student-made freeware that's all about speed and style.
Similar to the upcoming Hover: Revolt of Gamers, Zineth is inspired by Jet Set Radio, freestyle skating and stunts in an expansive world. While JSR and Hover dropped players in sprawling sci-fi cities, Zineth's playground is an abstract desert landscape peppered with rails and structures to grind, wall-ride, jump, and jump off. The sense of speed and momentum makes each combo and stunt chain satisfying and the colorful visuals add to the charm and style.
You can download Zineth here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

IOS Spotlight #58: LightGlide

Title: LightGlide
Developer: Jonathan Kent
Platforms: iPhone
Price: Free, $2.99 unlock
If I was going to compare LightGlide to another game, I'd say the most similar would be Thomas Bowker's LYNE. Like LYNE, LightGlide is a puzzler about finding the correct path, with tons of levels and a minimal style. But while LYNE remained relatively simple in terms of mechanics, LightGlide stands out by gradually layering new mechanics and obstacles, delivering a fun challenging puzzle game.
Each puzzle in LightGlide is set on a grid of various colored tiles. You must start at a determined point and trace a path through the grid to the end tile, in such a way that all the tiles are crossed. This is made more challenging due to the fact that tiles disappear once touched so each puzzle becomes a task of studying the grid and figuring the correct route. The early level sets start out simple but soon LightGlide begins introducing new mechanics: tiles that must be crossed over multiple times, tiles with arrows that indicate what side the next tile must be on, timed tiles that disappear after a certain interval, and more. As these elements increase, so does the complexity of puzzles. Achieving each level in one perfect movement, without lifting your finger from the screen is challenging...and you only get one chance. Each of the 300 plus levels are randomly generated. 
LightGlide's minimal style, increasingly complex puzzles, and great soundtrack (the grids pulse to the music) make it worth your time. You can download the game here. You can unlock the final four chapters with a $2.99 IAP

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Watchlist: Hover: Revolt of Gamers

Title: Hover: Revolt of Gamers
Developer: Fusty Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Releasing 2015
Between the crazy Jet Set Radio, the interactivity of Mirror's Edge and inspired by films like "The Fifth Element" or "Star Wars", Hover let you play as a Gamer Team from another world, appalled at the dictatorship in their city.
Take Mirror's Edge, Jet Set Radio, mix with the towering sci-fi cityscapes of The Fifth Element, add multiplayer, and you get Hover: Revolt of Gamers. A first/third-person parkour game set across the bustling districts of a futuristic alien city, Hover combines free-flowing acrobatics with tricks and stunts in an open world.
Set in a video game-hating dystopia, you're the member of the Gamer resistance, helping citizens, tracking down secret warehouses of confiscated consoles, and fleeing police drones. Equipped with a high-tech suit, the sky is the limit as you leap across rooftops, grind along rails, slide along walls, pull off flips and stunts while fluidly racing through the city. Hover can be played from both a Mirror's Edge-inspired first person perspective (complete with Oculus Rift support!) and a third-person view to better admire the animations and stunts. But chaining high-flying combos across the city and through hover traffic is always better with friends, and Hover promises to also offer seamless online multiplayer, allowing you to race and compete in co-operative and competitive modes.
Hover: Revolt of Gamers just oozes potential and promise, from its vibrant colorful visuals and its fluid open-world parkour to its ambitious cities and multiplayer. You can learn more about the game on IndieDB and support it on Kickstarter. The campaign is already more than fifty percent funded in less than two days, and stretch goals include new characters, new game modes, a bigger game world, a full soundtrack from Jet Set Radio's composer Hideki Naganuma, and a Wii U version.

Hover was Greenlit in February.

The Watchlist: Before

Title: Before
Developer: Bill Lowe, Päl Trefall, Jenny Minton
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development
Before is a game about survival. Guide your tribe through the challenges of a harsh and unforgiving pre-historic world, shaping their culture and defining their history.
The premise of Before is best summed up in three words: "stone age survival." While "survival" and the screenshots imply some kind of third or first person scavenging action game, Before is actually nothing like that. Set in a low-poly prehistoric landscape teeming with wildlife and rival tribes, you guide your tribe in a real time strategy fashion, commanding members to hunt, forage, travel. It's a vast dangerous world to explore, where animals grow tired and rest, grow old and die, where the natural ecosystem of predator and prey occurs around you as your hunters and gatherers face dark nights and deadly elements, struggle to find food and shelter, and most importantly look for a place to call home, settle down, and develop beliefs and rituals. Guide your tribe wisely since death is permanent. Lowe's ambitious plans for Before include open seas to cross, subterranean caverns to enter, and other tribes and mysterious artifacts to discover.
Before is currently in development, with a playable alpha somewhere on the horizon. Lowe is also planning on launching a Kickstarter so he can fully realize Before's stone age survival experience. You can learn more about the game on the official site.

IOS Spotlight #57: Unpossible

Title: Unpossible
Developer: Acceleroto
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
By now, any regular readers here probably have noticed I have an affinity towards twitch reflex games. I've been anticipating Unpossible since the first screenshots were revealed last month and the game does not disappoint. In fact I'd say it's one of the most addictive I've played in a while.
At a glance, Unpossible might seem lacking compared to other games in the genre. It doesn't have Spike Dislike's myriad modes, or Pivvot's complex obstacles, or Super Hexagon's pulsing visuals. Beneath a muted cloud-filled sky, you race along a serpentine Tron-esque path, weaving around various hazards such as pillars, fins, rings, and different barriers. The first person perspective and tubular track bring to mind games such as Boost 2 and Proun, and yet I'm enjoying Unpossible more than either of those games. There is a real sense of speed and danger as you speed along the track, a roller coaster thrill as you evade obstacles by a hair's breadth. You only have mere moments to look ahead and react and the smooth responsive controls and unique atmosphere give the game that addictive "one-more-go" appeal. Besides the randomized levels and three difficulty modes, Unpossible also offers daily challenges for each difficulty and a zen-like Cruise mode.
Unpossible is back-to-basics evasion finely tuned to deliver a fantastic exhilarating experience. A thrilling sense of speed and immersive style makes Unpossible well worth your time and skills. You can purchase the game for $1.99.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PC Spotlightlight #89: Goat Simulator

Title: Goat Simulator
Developer: Coffee Stain Studios
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99
So Goat Simulator really exists. According to IGN comments and Steam discussions (clearly the most reputable opinions on the Internet), the game is an obvious sign of the PC gaming apocalypse, a mindless lowest-denominator bug-riddled mess for the causal gamers who listen to Let's Play channels like sheep. Ignore the naysayers. Yes, Goat Sim is mindless, and it's bug riddled, but it's also stupid silly fun and what's wrong with that?
Any impressions of Goat Simulator would be lacking without acknowledging the game's origin. What started as a fun little jam experiment for Coffee Stain interns went viral and somehow become a real released game. I think that sense of fun and just doing it for the love of making games rather than trying to develop a serious actual experience just permeates all aspects of Goat Simulator. You can tell the developers had an absolute blast making the game and guess what, it's stupid and silly but so much fun. Even though the map is small, it's packed with cool little secrets and things to discover and the glitchy ragdoll physics never get old. Perhaps more than any game I've played since Just Cause 2, this is a true sandbox. Sure there are missions to complete, but the real fun is just equipping some of the crazy mutators and trying to accomplish some emergent goal and failing hilariously in the process. Steam Workshop support only gives Goat Simulator more longevity and variety.
More content in the form of split-screen multiplayer, a new map, new goats, and more is coming in a patch mid-May. Goat Simulator certainly won't appeal to everyone. Some will dismiss it at a glance, or even say it's not a "real game." But it is. If you see Goat Simulator somewhere on my GOTY list in December, it's no joke. This is a genuinely fun, funny game that revels in its stupidity and craziness and silly mindless fun, and that makes it an experience worth playing. You can purchase Goat Simulator on Steam and through Humble.

The Watchlist: Oblitus

Title: Oblitus
Developer: Connor Ullmann
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing July 2014
Oblitus follows the tale of a small, spear-wielding creature named Parvus who seeks to discover their purpose and origin within an unfamiliar realm full of huge, ancient terrors.
Oblitus is an upcoming action roguelike, set in a dark world teeming with dangerous enemies and towering beasts. Alone, armed with only a mere spear and shield, you guide the small, spindly Parvus through this landscape. Outnumbered, outmatched, you must rely on your agility and skill, patience and strategy, to defeat the many creatures that lurk in the otherworldly depths and dank caverns. Taking inspirations from games such as Dark Souls, death will come quickly and mercilessly to the unprepared player, as you explore this dangerous landscape and defeat your foes. Besides your spear and shield, you'll also be able to equip Parvus with various masks, which offer different stat boosts such as increased speed or higher jumps. However, even with this gear, survival is never certain.
Oblitus has been in development for over a year now, and was recently picked up by Adult Swim Games. You can learn more about Oblitus' development on TIGForums and its Tumblr. The game will release mid 2014, tentatively in July.

And here are some fantastic promo posters:

No Money, No Problem: Limbs

Title: Limbs
Developer: Rezoner
Platforms: Browser
Limbs' inspiration is quite obvious from the moment you start playing. That isn't a strike against the game, but a mark of praise. Limbs takes Paper's Please's basic idea and builds a unique inventive experience from that foundation.
Rather than manning a booth and checking documents, Rezoner's Cyberpunk Jam entry seats you at the workbench of a cybernetic repair shop. Clients come to you with an order and a hand and it's your job to break these limbs down to their components, replace parts, swap out damaged pieces, adjust CPUs, check warranties and other registration information against an extensive manual of rules and guidelines. While Limbs doesn't have Paper's Please subtle narrative and desperate urgency, it stands outs in other ways. The gameplay is just incredibly tactile and engaging, as you unscrew pieces and place new parts in the right place. The sound effects add to that feeling of messing with a robotic hand. The various clients also help build a compelling futuristic setting; you're not merely fixing a broken hand, but rather de-arming an assassin or installing specialized fingers for a spy.
Sometimes you play a freeware or flash game and it just begs to be expanded into something bigger and better. Games like Gods Will Be Watching, SuperHOT, Westerado, and, in my opinion, Limbs is yet another addition to that list. The flash game is great, an experience with the potential to be so much more. You can play Limbs here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Quick Fix: Adult Swim Games, Limbs, Hong Kong Massacre

Adult Swim Games
Mention Adult Swim Games and perhaps games that come to mind may be Robot Unicorn Attack or Super House of Dead Ninjas. But from the hard-as-nails action platformer Volgarr The Viking and musical twitch game Soundodger to the recently released Jazzpunk, Adult Swim Games has quite a wide repertoire of titles and that library has just expanded. Just a few days ago, the publisher announced that it would be releasing three new titles this year: atmospheric slugcut survival platformer Rain World (now also coming to PSN, PS  Vita, and "beyond"), the Dark Souls-inspired action adventure game Oblitus, and the improved expanded Westerado: Double Barreled.
You can learn more about Rain World and Oblitus at their sites and devlogs, and play the original flash version of Westerado here
Rain World - Site | Devlog
Oblitus - Site | Devlog

Freeware recommendation: Limbs
I discovered the flash game Limbs today and was instantly engaged by its premise and gameplay. From the developer of the stylish musical experience QbQbQb, Limbs is inspired by Paper's Please, but gives it an ingenious Cyperpunk Jam twist. Instead of checking documents and passports, you repair bionic hands, breaking down each limb to its components, removing synthetic skin and unscrewing capicators and CPUs. Checking warranties, matching skin types, disarming an assassin's weaponized hand, helping spies and engineers by fixing damaged parts, Limbs takes its inspiration and crafts a unique fun experience with its own compelling style.
You can play Limbs here.

The Hong Kong Massacre trailer
I wrote about the bloody top-down gunplay of The Hong Kong Massacre last month and now the developer has released the first trailer.
You can follow the game's development on TIGForum.

The Watchlist: Distance

Title: Distance
Developer: Refract
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing 2014
Distance is a survival racing game that combines the intense action of arcade racing with the exploration of an atmospheric world. You control a unique car that allows you to boost, jump, rotate, and even fly through a chaotic and mysterious city.
Facade introduced me to indies and PC gaming, but if there was one indie game that cemented that interest, it was Nitronic Rush. The DigiPen-made freeware game remains one of my favorite indie games three years later, thanks to its stylish neon visuals, fast agile arcade gameplay, wealth of content, and just overall polish. Take Nitronic Rush, make it bigger, better, faster, crazier...and you get its upcoming spiritual successor Distance.
Successfully Kickstarted in 2012 and Greenlit last year, Distance takes everything that made Nitronic Rush fun and turns it up to eleven. Refract has described the game as "survival racing", and no two words could fit the hectic hazard-filled game better. Distance isn't about realism; it's about barrel-rolling through a gauntlet of lasers. It's gliding between grinders, evading massive saw blades at breakneck speeds. It's weaving through a hailstorm of spikes, and maneuvering along tracks that twist and turn unfettered by gravity and physics. Similarly to Nitronic's numerous modes, Distance won't just offer races, but everything from online and split-screen multiplayer to Stunt, Challenge, and Hardcore modes, a story-focused Adventure Mode, and level editor. Better visuals, an atmospheric world, new and improved obstacles such as portals and lasers that can easily bisect your vehicle, Distance promises to surpass the high bar set by Nitronic Rush, and deliver an even more chaotic, more challenging, more content-packed game.
Distance is currently in private alpha, with a public beta on the horizon. Release is planned for sometime this year. You can learn more and preorder Distance on the official site, and download its predecessor Nitronic Rush here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

PC Spotlight #88: Space Engineers

Title: Space Engineers
Developers: Keen Software House
Platforms: PC
Price: $19.99
It's safe to say that construction games have exploded in popularity in recent years. Space Engineer takes that core building-focus and places it in zero-g expanse of space, complete with detailed visuals, multiplayer, and physics-based chaos.
Across Space Engineers' single-player, multiplayer, and survival mode, you have one main goal: build stuff in its space sandbox. From small vessels to sprawling cruisers and expansive stations, physics, zero-g flight, and the detailed atmosphere makes the construction fun and engaging. Alone, the game can become boring (although survival mode makes for that aspect with its modifiers such as limited oxygen and fuel), but with friends, Space Engineers' true potential is revealed. Colliding head-long into your friend's ship, leaving debris and shattered vessel in your wake, mounting weapons and engaging in extraterrestrial dogfights among the asteroids, enduring a meteor shower, or just working together to build some elaborate structure while balancing oxygen and other needs, Space Engineers is most fun when you're working with (or against) others. Scenarios such as a salvaging a crashed ship or lone survivor add more replayability and challenge.
Space Engineers is still in development, with new features being added regularly; the most recent update introduced new block types and ship cockpits. You can learn more about Space Engineers here and purchase the game on Steam Early Access or Humble.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

SitRep: Prisonscape

Title: Prisonscape
Developer: Heaviest Matter
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Currently Kickstarting, late 2014 release
Prisonscape was among the first games I previewed all the back in September. Now the RPG is aiming for a December release and progressed leaps and bounds since last fall.
Prisonscape is an adventure RPG set, not in a sci-fi future or the grand halls of some fantastical world, but in the gritty grimy corridors of prison. Through bloody violence, sharp tongue, intimidation, intelligence, or a combination of all those elements, you must navigate the various gangs, the racial factions, the guards, friends and foes alike to endure prison life. While the gameplay discussed in the last preview remains intact, new details have emerged. The player will progress from county jail to state-of-the-art Miranda Unit, followed by two other areas. Crafting is far more realistic than other games, a layered deep process even to make something as simple as a basic shiv. Drug addiction and withdrawal, working with guards as a snitch, the ever-looming threat of a cell shakedown, Prisonscape promises to offer a "gritty, uncompromising atmosphere", compared to other prison games such as The Escapists or Prison Architect.
Prisonscape is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. You can also vote for the game on Steam Greenlight. If you're going to be PAX East this weekend, the developers will be showcasing the game there as well.

IOS Spotlight #56: Instantion

Title: Instantion
Developer: Travis Fincaryk
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
Let's get this out of the way first: Instantion is obviously inspired by The Swapper. They share a similar mechanic, shooting out clones that mimic your movements. But as far as I can tell, Instantion is the only game like this on IOS, and with its stylized graphics and other mechanics, Instantion stands out as a challenging puzzle platformer worth your time and brain power.
If there's one thing Instantion should be commended for, it's that the game doesn't waste time in regards to difficulty. Some games will spend a dozen levels easing you into the gameplay, a drip feed of easy tutorial levels. Three levels into Instantion (out of 50), I already found myself pausing to assess puzzles and considering how to approach them. The mechanics themselves are simple: move, jump, Angry Birds-esque controls to fire your clones, buttons to stand on, switches to toggle, lasers to avoid. Teleporters, gravity fields, and movable objects are soon introduced. But in conjunction, these elements combine to create a fun puzzle game where you must think to succeed. Timing, precise clone placement, unorthodox use of spaces and ledges and overhangs to maneuver clones, all these aspects come into play. In fact, it's quite easy to inadvertently trap yourself and have to reset if you don't plan ahead.
If the game isn't enough of a challenge for you, two more modes are available: a hard mode that limits the number of clone you can use and an even harder permadeath mode. You're also ranked each level for speed, deaths, and amount of clones used. The Swapper isn't likely coming to IOS any time soon, but Instantion is a worthy substitute if you're looking for some challenging clone-heavy puzzle platforming on the go.

You can purchase Instantion for $1.99.

IOS Spotlight #55: Power Grounds

Title: Power Grounds
Developer: Diego Cathalifaud
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Power Grounds originated as an entry for 7DRL 2014. Influenced by Cathalifaud's previous game Amber Halls, one might dismiss Power Grounds as being more of the same. But playing this new IOS roguelike reveals that the two games are very different, and personally I find Power Grounds far more strategic and fun.
As with more roguelikes, you find yourself traversing a randomized series of rooms, each housing more enemies than the last. Enemies move when you move, and you can only get hit a few times before dying. But unlike most roguelikes, you're (relatively) defenseless, only able to evade and maneuver around enemies. However various power-ups appear in the level; collecting them unlocks tiles on the map that grant special abilities while standing on one. This free-form mechanic allows for different strategies and tactics. Is it better to remain evasive, using movement abilities to keep space between you and your enemies? Or is it more effective to activate a shield and muscle your way through a gauntlet? Perhaps you want to freeze enemies, then teleport to a better position or smash through your frozen foes with a dash attack. The tile system lets you customize your skills on the go, but this doesn't make the game any less challenging or strategic. You will still die fast without planning ahead. In fact the gameplay makes planning even more critical since you can't normally attack. Assessing the level and enemy positions, seeing what abilities are available, which you want to use and in what order, if you can reach them without getting cornered...all this makes Power Grounds a fun challenging strategic roguelike.
The original 7DRL version is available to try here, but the IOS version is the definite edition of Power Grounds, introducing a cleaner look, challenging achievements, more balanced abilities, and a wave-based arena mode. You can purchase Power Grounds for $0.99.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Watchlist: Four Sided Fantasy

Title: Four Sided Fantasy
Developer: Ludo Land
Platforms: PC
Releasing early 2015
From the level designer of Perspective comes a successor to his award-winning game The Fourth Wall, a game about limits of the screen.
The first thing about Four Sided Fantasy that caught my attention was its dev team, since it composed of DigiPen students. From games like Nitronic Rush (and its successor Distance) to Perspective, DigiPen talent has proven to always deliver innovative quality experiences. Actually it was DigiPen students who developed Narbacular Drop and TAG: The Power of Paint, two indie games that inspired the acclaimed Portal series. Not only that, but the level designer of Perspective is developing the game; Perspective remains one of my favorite freeware games, a mindbending mix of 2D platforming and 3D perspective that I don't believe has been attempted since. It's those factors that attracted me to Four Sided Fantasy, a puzzle platformer about screen wrap.
Four Sided Fantasy is the successor to developer's Logan Fieth's freeware game The Fourth Wall. The core mechanic is the ability to manipulate screen wrap. At any time, you can freeze the screen, allowing you to loop around the edges. Something as simple as screen wrap might seem like it would be difficult to craft a diverse game around, but playing The Fourth Wall proved otherwise, using that mechanic to create a variety of interesting puzzles and challenges. Four Sided Fantasy builds off that original version, introducing vibrant colorful visuals and a story of discovery and exploration as a seemingly normal business trip turns into something more mysterious. The trailer hints at new mechanics, such as gravity fields and moving between background and foreground.
Four Sided Fantasy will be released in early 2015. You can support the game on Kickstarter and vote for it on Steam Greenlight. Play the original prototype The Fourth Wall here, as well as Perspective.

IOS Spotlight #54: Monument Valley

Title: Monument Valley
Develop: ustwo
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $3.99
I shared my thoughts on the Monument Valley beta in January, but even that small taste was enough to make the game one of my most anticipated of 2014. Now that it has finally released and I've experienced the full finished product, I truly believe that Monument Valley is the epitome of what IOS gaming should be.
This is an experience that puts visual artistry and atmosphere first, a complete journey without filler or padding. Each chapter feels distinct, unique, special in its own way. As you guide Ida through this abstract world of long-abandoned structures, you'll encounter impossible mechanisms and structures to push, pull, and rotate, utilizing Escher physics to navigate this mysterious world. Without the touchscreen, Monument Valley just wouldn't be the same; the tactile nature of IOS devices allows for an intimate connection with the world as you manipulate the environment with your fingertips. The whole experience is a masterfully-crafted mix of wonderful artistry, compelling music, immersive tangible mechanics, and subtle narrative.
My trip through Monument Valley lasted two hours, but it was a journey that I didn't want to end in a world I wanted to see more of. It's a game that uses the tactile tangible nature of the touchscreen to its fullest potential, that is simple yet engaging and compelling. At a time when clones and clones of clones flood the charts and tear the spotlight away from the games that deserve it, where IAP and free-to-play practices are rampant and only seem to grow more and more ubiquitous, Monument Valley is not just a great original premium IOS game. It's a great game regardless of system or platform.

You can purchase Monument Valley for $3.99.

PC Spotlight #87: Cloudbuilt

Title: Cloudbuilt
Developer: Coilworks
Platforms: PC
Price:  $19.99
I've been looking forward to Cloudbuilt since I previewed the game and interviewed its developers last year. The rocket-powered precision platformer is now out on Steam and it definitely lives up to its promise of hard-as-nails freeform speedrunning.
Personally, more than even the gameplay, the most impressive aspect of Cloudbuilt is its visuals. The vibrant colors and hues mixed with the sketched style gives the levels a rugged textured atmosphere, that's just a joy to explore. But the gameplay is the star here and in that aspect, Cloudbuilt does not disappoint. Each level is a network of walls and platforms and ramps, that through practice and improving your skills, reveals better, faster routes. You will die. You will overshoot jumps, and get shot down by turrets, and slide off into the abyss, but like Dark Souls, each death is a learning experience and a new chance to become a better player and learn the levels. There are no upgrades to acquire; you already have all your abilities from the start. Only through practice can you shave off seconds and decipher faster paths from the open environments. If mastering the levels themselves wasn't difficult enough, the game also offers special modifiers that present new challenges, from unlimited boost to no gun to damage equals a restart. These modifiers subtly mix up the gameplay, and require you to refine your routes.
Cloudbuilt's controls and camera may take some time to get used to, but after acclimating to the controls, I found them to be precise and responsive. While the repetitive nature of speedrunning and replaying levels to find faster routes and attain better times may not appeal to everyone, Cloudbuilt is a fantastic addition to the 3D platforming genre, thanks to its impressive visuals and gameplay. You can purchase Cloudbuilt on Steam.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Quick Fix: Frog Sord Successor, PAX East 2014, Kickstarters

Indie News

Frog Sord lives...well, in spirit anyway
In my last Quick Fix article, I mentioned the unfortunate fate of promising action platformer Frog Sord. Well, developer Zack Bell has revealed that while Frog Sord is dead, a new game is in the making, similar in gameplay and style.
In his own words,
This game should feel like Frog Sord, but it definitely isn't the same game in almost any way. So far it looks pretty though.
 You can still dash and chop things up. And look cute. (Twitter) 
So Frog Sord as we know it is gone, but its gameplay and vibrant style lives on this still unnamed experience.

PAX East 2014
The next big gaming expo is less than a week away and the Indie Megabooth and Minibooths will be jam packed with well known games and upcoming indies. You can find the full list of games here, but some personal highlights include:

As well as Gods Will Be Watching, Darkest Dungeon, Distance, Luftrausers, and many more. PAX East 2014 starts April 11th.

Ongoing and Upcoming Kickstarters
As I mentioned before, I'm managing the 2014 Kickstarter thread on NeoGAF so I've probably keeping a closer eye on campaigns than I ever have before. Here are some promising campaigns going on now or starting soon

In this RPG, words are your weapons as you face powerful enemies in Puzzle Quest-inspired combat. Quests, town building, skills, and other RPG elements flesh out the experience.

From the level designer of Perspective (seriously, play it if you never have) and The Fourth Wall, Four Sided Fantasy is a puzzle platformer where you can manipulate screen wrap to solve puzzles and maneuver around obstacles.

Build a battle-ready station out of space junk and craft a new home for mankind, managing resources and fighting enemy habitats with physics-heavy combat. Yes, that's a spaceship made out of the Statue of Liberty's head.

A point-and-click adventure set in a WW2 POW camp. If the vibrant cartoon visuals and a setting that's quite rare in gaming wasn't intriguing enough, the developers also hope to deliver a mature adult story

Let's Go Camping (Starts April 7th)
A dungeon crawling action roguelike where you must traverse and survive the expansive wilderness to reach randomly generated dungeons. The low-poly art style and mix of gameplay elements make this one to watch

Prisonscape (Starts April 8th)
I've been following Prisonscape for months and I'm highly anticipating its Kickstarter next week. This is an RPG adventure about surviving prison life, with a gritty uncompromising atmosphere 

The Watchlist: Serpent in the Staglands

Title: Serpent in the Staglands
Developer: Whalenought Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing late 2014
The vision for Serpent in the Staglands is a mix of the addictive build customization of ARPGs and party control and role-playing elements of games like Baldur's Gate and Darklands. A throwback to cRPGs of the past with fresh new role playing designs and combat mechanics.
Set in the cold mystical forests of the Staglands, Serpent in the Staglands is an isometric real time action RPG. Playing as the moon deity Necholai given human form, you must gather your party and venture out into a dangerous landscape of expansive wilderness and grand halls. The core of the gameplay is combat: real time party control, with the ability to pause and issue commands, designing varied builds with dozens of skills, magic types, and gear, micromanaging your team and planning strategies in the thick of battle. Perhaps most appealing to me is the game's wonderful pixel style, that combines detailed designs with vibrant effects and crafting atmospheric environments.
Serpent of the Staglands will be released in late 2014. You can learn more about the game here and support it on Kickstarter (funding goal achieved).

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

PC Spotlight #86: David.

Title: David.
Developer: Fermenter Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, (IOS soon)
Price: $2 (currently on sale for $1)
I discovered David. while browsing IndieGameStand and was instantly intriguing by its unusual combination of inspirations: "Limbo + Shadow of the Colossus + Angry Birds". While I still think the Limbo influence is slight at best, David. certainly is a fun physics-heavy game with a focus on boss fights and large dangerous foes.
David. presents a abstract world of shapes and angles. Your little square is embued with a powerful weapon and tasked with destroying nine dangerous bosses. From a hub area, you travel to these arenas and face these enemies. They are large angular masses of shapes, moving with oddly animalistic menace. One is a lunging, almost bull-like enemy, another a flying cluster that hones in on you as you deftly evade it. Skillful maneuvering, precise aim and timing is needed to succeed; even just learning how to use your weapon takes some practice, as you need to find the rhythm of charging your shot, catching the pellets as they return to you, and utilizing the slow motion effect to your advantage. Each level can be played in normal difficulty and a hardcore mode in which you only have one cube of health. Alongside these boss fights, David. features a survival mode with light RPG elements, that lets you collect gold to level up your character as you face more challenging and varied waves. 
David. may not seem that impressive from screenshots, but in motion and when playing, it's revealed to be a fun varied stylish game. While I really like the abstract minimalist visuals, the gameplay is what truly shines here: discovering each new boss, lining up shots as you fly through the air, the intense close calls. You can purchase David. on its official site and IndieGameStand, and follow the developer on Twitter here. The game is also coming to IOS soon.

IOS Spotlight #53: Sometimes You Die

Title: Sometimes You Die
Developer: Kamibox
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
I only knew Kamibox due to its excellent precision arcade game Cyro, so I wasn't sure what to expect when starting Sometimes You Die. A unique puzzle platformer, I enjoyed my time with this unique game
Sometimes You Die is quite minimalist. There isn't even a menu; the game starts and you're simply playing. Right off the bat, the game stands out visually with its Limbo-esque visuals contrasted by the stark white letters highlighted in the background. While Sometimes You Die is a puzzle platformer, it's also delivering a story, one any gamer can appreciate, as it presents questions about the nature of gaming. Fans of The Stanley Parable will appreciate the philosophical musing about what defines a game. However, Sometimes You Die is also an actual game. While the game is short (I beat it in a little over an hour), the gameplay is fun, controls are responsive, and the mechanics are linked to the subtle narrative being told. The game is not actually that difficult; death is never an end but a tool to be used. Your dead selves stay behind, stuck on spikes, jammed against saw blades, to be used as stepping stones and protection from hazards throughout the game's eight chapters. Completing the game once unlocks a new ability and the challenge of completing it with as few death as possible.
If you're looking for a hardcore precision platformer or a challenging puzzler, you might be disappointed. But if you're looking for a stylish game that combines gamplay with story and has a message to tell, one that will appeal to gamers especially, I think you'll enjoy Sometimes You Die. You can purchase the game for $1.99.

The Watchlist: Son of Nor

Title: Son of Nor
Developer: Still Alive Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing mid-2014
Enter the desert world of Noshrac. A harsh desert world where humankind is at the brink of extinction. You are a Son of Nor, a human mage with telekinetic powers and the ability to control natural elements. A mage trained to defend what is left of your race after the Great War with the Sarahul Empire. Solve puzzles, venture through long forgotten temples, terraform the desert and fight in challenging battles alongside your friends in this single player and co-op fantasy action adventure.
Successfully Greenlit and Kickstarted mid-2013, Son of Nor has been in steady development for almost a year now. Set in the desert fantasy world of Noshrac, you control the powerful Son in his quest to save humanity from a dangerous new threat. Blessed by the goddess Nor, you can wield the environment as a weapon; with these powers, the world becomes your tool, allowing you to swallow enemies with the ground itself, create cover and tactical positions from the sands, move boulders and objects with your mind, lay waste to your foes with fire and wind, and combine these elements to craft new spells such as a devastating flaming tornado. These abilities are not only useful in combat, but also in traversing the environments, solving puzzles, and evading traps. You even play cooperatively with four other players, assisting each other and combining magic.
Son of Nor will release in mid-2014, with support for Oculus Rift and Emotiv EPOC (translates EEG activity to in-game actions). You can learn more about Son of Nor, as well as preorder the game, here.