Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Watchlist: Seaworthy

Title: Seaworthy
Developer: Mildly Competent Games
Platforms: PC
In development
A real time strategy roguelike pirate adventure ship simulator featuring brutal 16bit inspired graphics and an insane amount of replayability.
The fantasy of being a pirate, of dangerous voyages and daring escapes and incredible riches among the Caribbean isles and inlets, has captured imaginations the world over for decades. As seen in classics like Treasure Island to Peter Pan, recent media like Pirates of the Carribbean and Black Sails, games such as Pixel Piracy and Assassin's Creed 4, it's a period and setting ripe for adventure and action. Mildly Competent Games' upcoming Seaworthy places you at the captain's helm in your own pirate fantasy, in a game that combines the tactical command popularized by FTL and the expansive world and text encounters of games like King of Dragon Pass.
Set on a randomly generated sea where magic, the undead, and other beasts lurk alongside privateers and rival ships, Seaworthy doesn't sugarcoat the harsh brutalilty of life as a pirate. As seen in the GIFs and trailer, blood flows frequently, as limbs are amputated, cannon fire tears through wood and flesh, sailors plummet from the masts above, and sickness ravages your crew. Plague, starvation, storms, diseases, mutinies are threats you must face and manage. Thanks to visual novel-style text encounters, Seaworthy can offer a vast range of scenarios and situations, from taking prisoners and exploring uncharted islands to encountering a Kraken or navigating government-controlled waters. Your choices and decision in these situations affect your crew as well; keep them happy and you'll stave off internal threats as well as see you're officers improve and learn new skills. Only mutiny awaits a poor captain and his reckless foolish decisions
However your skills as a captain will be tested in more than just exploration and managing random encounters. As commander of a pirate ship, you'll have to fight rival ships, privateers, government vessels, and other dangers. It's with these scenarios that Seaworthy leaves the text behind and thrusts you into RTS-style command of your ship. These hectic fights are brought to vivid life through the game's animations and art style. Firing cannon means ordering your men to that room and having them load and ready the weapon. Injured crew can be sent to a surgeon to restore their health, by amputating the damaged limb and replacing it with a wooden substitute. A leak from a projectile is dealt with by having crew patch the hole and then remove the water with a bilge pump. Besides ship-to-ship combat, you'll also be able to board ships and fight your enemies in close quarters.

Seaworthy is still early in development, with a Kickstarter planned for August or September. You can learn more about Seaworthy on its site and the developer's Twitter page.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IOS Review #82: LEX

Title: LEX
Developer: Simple Machine
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Lex is a word game by way of the twitch reaction genre and like a lot of the games in that genre, it's relatively simple. But that simplicity works in Lex's favor, providing a fun visually-exciting experience that anyone can jump into and enjoy.
Lex is all about achieving a high score. Provided with an array of letters, you simply tap the designed letters to make words. Different letters have different point values depending on whether they're vowels or consonants. Creating a word increases your score multiplier. All that sounds straight forward and then Lex reveals its frantic panic-inducing side by introducing a countdown. Letter tiles fill up depending on their point value; lower values full up faster. If only one tile is completely filled, it's game over. Lex starts out sedate, but soon you'll find yourself racing to create a word on the verge of defeat, desperately thinking of a way to clear out letters.
Any impression of Lex would be lacking without a mention of the audiovisual presentation. A colorful minimal UI opens up to a vibrant kaleidoscopic display of letters as you form words, all while a great soundtrack drives the action and adds to the urgency as your timers run out. Lex's style turns what was already a fun twitchy word game into something artistic and visually compelling. You can purchase Lex for $0.99.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Watchlist: Galactic Keep

Title: Galactic Keep Dice Battles
Developer: Gilded Skull Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
In development
Galactic Keep Dice battles is a sci-fi tabletop styled RPG for IOS! Roll a die to move, explore maps, and battle enemies in a stylistically unique and hand-drawn world

As stated in the description, Galactic Keep is an expansive sci-fi turn-based RPG, modeled after boardgames. Rolling a dice provides a number which indicates how many spaces you can move, the strength of your attacks, and so on. I was lucky enough to get into early alpha testing, but given the story-driven nature of the game, it's best to experience it first for yourself, so I'll remain vague about specific elements.
The game is just brimming with atmosphere, deep mechanics and customization, and fantastic writing. The game is so well written, bringing the environments, exotic creatures and weapons, even the items you find to life with vivid descriptions, and the excellent sound effects only add to the immersion. The turn-based combat is tactical and challenging, with myriad weapons and items to use, offering a diverse array of strategies to defeat your enemies. The presentation is fantastic, and the game controls effortlessly, just perfectly designed for mobile. You choose from a collection of varied characters, explore enemy-filled levels, find new weapons and items, learn new special abilities, and complete quests. I can't believe the game is still early in development; it's just an incredibly polished experience
Even at this early stage, Galactic Keep has wonderful art, fun combat, a compelling story, and is just a polished well-designed game that draws you into its world and gameplay. I'm eager to see how the game progresses in the future. You can learn about Galactic Keep here.

Friday, July 25, 2014

IOS Review #81: Marble Drop

Title: Marble Drop
Developer: Matthew Arbesfeld
Platforms: IOS Universal, Android
Price: Free
I learned about Marble Drop earlier today thanks to an email from the developers. The origins of the game quickly raised my expectations for the experience. Marble Drop was the top prize winner of the MIT Student IOS Game Competition, but don't worry. You don't need Ivy League intellect to enjoy this polished physics puzzler.
It only took seven levels for me to see that this was one quality puzzle game and the levels that followed only confirmed that assessment. Marble Drop is a wonderful case of easy to play, challenging to master. Gameplay wise, the game is quite simple. You only need to drag colored marbles to funnels so that they land in like-colored cups. But the developers waste no time layering on new mechanics that turn a simple concept into something much more complex. From tiles that change your marble's colors, mixers that let you combine two marbles to make a new color, and stacked cups that must be filled in proper color order, to more exotic elements like explosives, cannons, switches, and changing gravity, Marble Drop reveals itself to be a tricky challenging physics puzzle game. The charming art style only adds to the overall polish and presentation
Marble Drop combines simple controls with a diverse variety of challenges and mechanics to deliver a finely crafted puzzle game. The game is free to download; IAP lets you remove ads and purchase coins to unlock hints and special marbles.

You can download Marble Drop here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PC Review #105: Shadow Blade Reload

Title: Shadow Blade Reload
Developer: Dead Mage
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $9.99
I posted my thoughts on the original IOS version of Shadow Blade back in January, and the game did not disappoint. The challenging gameplay, the fluid animations, colorful and wonderfully-designed leves made Shadow Blade one of my favorite platformers on mobile. Now Shadow Blade has made its way to PC, and thanks to numerous tweaks, upgrades, and additions, it's easily the definite version of the game.
If you've played Shadow Blade here, you know what to expect here. It's the same game you remember, a fast paced platformer with a light stealth elements, evading hazards as you time attacks against your enemies so your monument isn't broken. It's the new elements that make this the best version of Shadow Blade. I thought the touch controls were good for the game, but it controls so much better on PC. The visuals look like they've been improved, brighter, with more details; the entire menu and interface has been revamped and redone. You're armed with shuriken now, allowing you to kill enemies from a distance. The more important addition is an inclusion of an editor that allows you to create and share levels, meaning there's no need in sight for this agile ninja.
Future update will futher enhance the game with new levels, new difficulties and modes, new music, and Steam Workshop support. As it stands, Shadow Blade is very playble, with nice visuals and solid controls. You can purchase Shadow Blade Reload on Steam.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Q&A: Jean Canellas, Alex Kubodera on Death's Gambit

I wrote about Death's Gambit a few days ago and now I was fortunate enough that developers Jean Canellas and Alex Kubodera were able to spare some time to answer a few questions about their promising action RPG
This is something I ask all the developers I interview, perhaps a cliched inquiry: What inspired you to become a game developer?
Jean: I knew for sure that I wanted to be a game designer after I made an indie game in highschool called Aftermath. It's very old and crappy, but some people actually said it had some of their favorite boss fights in a game maker game(I really don’t think so). Hearing people discuss the games I made between themselves really pushed me to study game design after high school. 
Alex: It was sort of a natural progression for me. I made RPG board games in elementary school for my classmates to play using Legos and paper cutouts. I incorporated elements of our class work into it by gating progress with quizzes. At home, my father and I would create murals of crazy characters battling it out on a huge piece of paper. Drawing inspired me to develop stories for these characters, but why stop there? I later discovered Fable: TLC, and player choice affecting the world was so intriguing to me, I simply had to create a world of my own.
If there was one thing that caught my eye while reading about your game, it was the art style and atmosphere. Could you talk more about this "alien medieval" world you're crafting and the kinds of environments we may encounter?
Setting our game on an alien planet gives us the creative freedom to do what feels best for the game, in terms of setting the mood for the story and gameplay. Each environment will have its own unique color palette and biome that breeds specific kinds of enemies. That being said, most of our locations have a very dark atmosphere, rich with hidden lore. 
Death's Gambit is described as an action RPG. What RPG elements will the game feature? 
The nature of RPG’s is inhabiting a character and crafting your own adventure. You will meet a motley group of characters, all with their own agenda, offering up advice or misinformation depending on their disposition. Every boss encounter tells part of the story as you develop relationships with them and to the world. Defeating them rewards you with epic loot and a core part of the gameplay is finding the best gear that works for you.
On your Tumblr page, you describe encounters as "complex hack-n-slash puzzles", two styles of gameplay that don't seem immediately compatible. How does combat work in Death's Gambit?
Oh but they are compatible! Most bosses in games could be considered timed puzzles. We want our bosses to focus more on strategic thought-out play as opposed to twitch reflexes and button mashing. For example, we have a prototype boss encounter on an unbalanced platform. It's all about making sure there is enough weight on either side while you fight the boss. On top of that, he has multiple phases that each play with the mechanic in different ways. They are brutal in the dark souls way(you dodge roll and jump out of attacks) and on top of that, each boss has at least one mechanic that forces the player to solve some sort of combat system puzzle. Sometimes bosses will feel very challenging to some players before they realize there are multiple ways of tackling their mechanics.
Another seemingly incongruous inspiration you mention is Spec Ops: The Line, a title lauded for its narrative and subversion of genre tropes. How has that game influenced the narrative and gameplay of Death's Gambit?
This one is a bit harder to explain without going in-depth into the story, so we can’t really say much. We did mention how the game is about collecting epic loot and empowering the player to surpass insurmountable obstacles. Overall I wouldn't expect a lot of genre satire or war themes out of Death's Gambit. 
We should probably exclude “inspired by spec ops” because it gives people the wrong expectation. Regardless, it has influenced us greatly.
Perhaps the most compelling and intriguing aspect of Death's Gambit is the Shadow of the Colossus vibe, as seen in the image and GIFs where your character ascends a towering beast. Why did that game in particular influence development? How central will these battles and enemies be to the overall experience?
So this is a fun anecdote. The giants (called Gaians), were not a part of the initial design “draft” for the game. Jean initially was inspired to add climbing sections after prototyping a grappling hook. It was then that he coincidentally was linked to an “Attack on Titan” video, which sparked an idea to prototype a giant's leg. He was so excited to find out if a giant would look/play well, that he ignored all schoolwork and worked until 6AM. 
The giant prototype turned out to be a huge success. So much so that it impacted the future of the game. We want to make sure it captures the same sensation as SoTC does, in sheer size and impact. The Gaian functions as it’s own level, so we want every climb to take you on a journey that tells a compelling story about the creature and world, while making the combat encounters increasingly more challenging. 
On TIGForum, you mention that Death's Gambit has been worked on full time for several months. What's the state of the game at this time?
Well it’s only been two months, but we have about 40 to 60 minutes of gameplay. You could technically say we have more, but a lot of content is still in the prototype stage. The game is somewhere between 5% to 10% complete.
You can learn more about Death's Gambit here, and follow its development on Tumblr and TIGForum. Keep an eye out for a Kickstarter in the future.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Watchlist: Death's Gambit

Title: Death's Gambit
Developer: White Rabbit
Platforms: PC
Very early in development
Death's Gambit is an challenging action rpg where you explore a alien medieval planet filled with horrors, beasts, and knights. Every new enemy encounter is a complex hack-n-slash puzzle to solve. Every piece of environment and mechanic tells part of the story.
Shadow of the Colossus was and still is one of my favorite PS2 games. So when I saw a GIF of a figure scaling a towering moving behemoth one Screenshot Saturday, I had to learn more. Death's Gambit is an upcoming action RPG, set across a sprawling alien world that blends sci fi and medieval elements.
In Death's Gambit, you're not merely any warrior. You are an emissary of Death itself, armed with powerful weapons, guns, and magic to fend off the deadly enemies and beasts that roam the landscape. With three weapons at hand at any time, as well as items and abilities, you have a vast array of options in how to tackle any battle. Combat won't be a fast paced twitchy affair, but strategic and measured against relentless challenging foes. And just like the combat, the world of Death's Gambit will be equally open ended, offering multiple paths and non-linear progression.
Rounding out Death's Gambit's mechanics are its large scale encounters against massive beasts. While the nature of these encounters are still very much subject to change, the developers plan to have several of these battles throughout the game, as you clamber up and fight your way across these towering lumbering giants. Inspired by Attack on Titan and the aforementioned Shadow of the Colossus, each of these encounters will be a journey and experience in itself, offering intriguing details about the world and creatures while offering a challenging conflict.
Death's Gambit is still very early in development. You can learn more about the game as well as its development and progress here. The developers are also planning a Kickstarter for late Fall or early Winter of this year.

Friday, July 18, 2014

PC Review #104: Claire

Title: Claire
Developer: Hailstorm Games
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99
My impressions for Claire are later than I had originally anticipated. Perhaps that's a testament to how scary and atmospheric Claire is, since I could only play in short chunks before switching to something loud and fun like Broforce.
From the opening minutes, Claire crafts an eerie unsettling tone. The game is one best experienced without much knowledge of what happens, so I'll keep the story details vague. Just know you are Claire, a trouble haunted girl, with a sick mother and a loyal canine companion, as you explore and survive a dark twisted environment filled with nightmarish creatures. This isn't Resident Evil; fleeing and hiding is always your best option, and your meager arsenal of lighter and flashlight can only keep the things that lurk in the darkness at bay. As you explore the labyrinth-like halls of the hospital, the game provides an overwhelming sense of tension, the darkness barely illuminated by your light, distorted whispers and the sounds of movement all around you. Claire focuses on establishing lingering dread, a feeling on vulnerability, rather than jump scares; fans of Silent Hill will feel at home at among the dilapidated halls and twitching organic...things that haunt your visions. The story is revealed piecemeal, slowly coming together as you learn more about your past; Claire is designed for multiple playthroughs, offering a New Game Plus mode and multiple endings to discover.
Claire absolutely succeeds in providing an atmospheric unsettling experience, a compelling story, and fantastic sound design and soundtrack, that all work in tandem to make this a must-play for survival horror fans. You can purchase Claire on Steam.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Watchlist: Super III

Title: Super III
Developer: Super 91 Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development
SUPER III is a fast-paced, action/puzzle-platformer that follows the story of an alien named, III (Three). After a galactic war, III is given the task of finding and rescuing all survivors. Utilize III's teleportation abilities and screen-wrap to smash baddies and solve puzzles!
There's nothing perhaps more disappointing than when an anticipated game is cancelled (or at least equal in disappointment to when an anticipated game doesn't meet expectations). I've discovered a lot of games, followed a lot of projects that have since been abandoned or put on hold. Games like Stealer and A Shepherd in Dark Times and, most recently, Frog Sord. You can read about what happened to Frog Sord here and its current status here, but I'm excited to say that while Frog Sord may be in limbo, some of the developers of that promising game are working on something new: the teleporting platformer Super III.
In Super III, you play as an alien on a sprawling planet filled with enemies and bosses to defeat, traps to avoid, and puzzles to solve. Super III promises to blend challenging precision platforming with large expansive levels, a design choice inspired by games like Mario 64. Rather then bite-sized rooms, levels here will house multiple challenges to tackle, from races and time trials to survivors to rescue and items to collect. Your little alien is more than capable of traversing these areas, thanks to the ability to teleport horizontally and wrap around the screen. Hazards are numerous - bosses, spikes, missiles, unstable blocks, and more - but all are surmountable through timing, precision, and smart use of your skills.
Initially designed as a jam game for indiE3, Super III has only been in development for little over a month; however the game has progressed at an incredible pace, with numerous levels and mechanics for the game's five worlds already designed and prototyped. A Kickstarter and Greenlight campaign are planned for early August. You can learn more about Super III and its development on TIGForum.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

PC Spotlight #103: The Nightmare Cooperative

Title: The Nightmare Cooperative
Developer: Lucky Frame
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $9.99
If you go into this game expecting a grand and complicated experience, you'll probably be disappointed. The Nightmare Cooperative is a compact game, a roguelike distilled to its base elements. You won't find complex skill trees, or a multitude of loot to collect and equip, or expansive environments for you to explore and perish in. That's not a bad thing; if you're looking for something simple but challenging, simplified yet also strategic and tactical, The Nightmare Cooperative excels.
The set-up is simple, a framework for the action rather than an extended narrative. Your village is in disarray; go out, gather gold, fight monsters, survive. The core of The Nightmare Cooperative is its gameplay and that aspect proves to be much deeper and more engaging than the story. If you've familiar with Michael Brough's 868-HACK, you'll feel right at home among Nightmare's enemy-filled rooms. Similar to that game, your goal here is to amass a high score, the amount of gold you collect equaling your final score. Opening chests rewards you with gold and spawns enemy so choosing whether to rush for the exit or increase your score is a crucial choice. Enemies move when you move so each step forward is a strategic decision that, when combined with the game's mechanics and varied foes, gives The Nightmare Cooperative a methodical, puzzle-esque vibe.
You don't control a single hero in Nightmare, but rather an entire group at once, each hero moving and using their special abilities simultaneously. Each hero is unique and positioning and formation is important since their abilities are only effective under certain conditions. The Archer can only shoot enemies directly ahead, the Mage can hit enemies on diagonals, the Warrior can perform two strikes in one move, the Ninja can pass through enemies, and so on for the other seven heroes. Supplementing these abilities are items that provide special perks, such as extra life at the expense of mana or not spawning enemies when opening a chest.
The enemies you face are equally varied and cement the game's strategic puzzle atmosphere. Some enemies travel along predictable paths. Others mirror your movements or move extra spaces in a turn. Turrets rotate and fire in intervals. All this knowledge is always at your disposal and define how you position your heroes, which heroes are best for a given room. Managing four heroes at once, while timing and syncing your movements to evade enemies or get into formation to attack a desired enemy with a specific ability, is a satisfying challenge. It's best to approach each move in The Nightmare Cooperative slowly and carefully, taking the time to plan out your next steps, thinking about where you are and will be in relation to enemies and hazards. A poor decision can easily find your heroes scattered across a level, cornered, a beneficial move for one character being dangerous for the others.
The colorful distinct art style rounds out this compelling package. The Nightmare Cooperative is all about the gameplay, the turn-for-turn decisions that make the best roguelikes so satisfying. Those looking for something with more depth may find the game lacking, but the strategic gameplay, varied heroes, and one-more-go appeal makes The Nightmare Cooperative a worthy addition for fans of the genre. The developers plan to add a challenge mode that will feature rooms with predetermined heroes, enemies, and layouts designed to test your strategic prowess. A mobile version is also in the works, with an estimated release time frame sometime later this year.

You can purchase The Nightmare Cooperative from the developer's site, Steam, Humble, and

SitRep on Catacomb Kids

Title: Catacomb Kids
Developer: Fourbit Friday
Platforms: PC, Mac
Still in alpha, Early Access planned, tentative early 2015 release
I wrote about Catacomb Kids back in January. The roguelike platformer impressed with its fun gameplay and reactive world. Six months later, Catacomb Kids remains just as fun and intense, and the games makes steady progress towards a public alpha release.
Alpha 0.0.3 was released recently to Kickstarter backers, offering a wealth of changes and additions. The most game-changing feature is footwear. Stone Boots allows you to crush enemies from above but cause you to sink in water. Sandals of Blazing set enemies on fire; other shoes can grant you the ability to walk on water or accelerate the movement. This new category gear gives you new ways to approach situations and defeat your enemies. Along with footwear, the recent update added new magic that grants you mastery over time and deadly new enemies. Character portraits and leveling up have been revamped and a multitude of tweaks offer a refined experience.
Catacomb Kids still has a long way to go before completion; the developer is hard at work creating the new Anticropolis area. Future plans include co-op, mercenaries/companions for hire, new classes, devastating new enemies like mages, new weapons and gear such as wands, bows, and hammers, and of course new levels, secret areas, and powerful major and minor bosses.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Money, No Problem: Pocket Robots Test Chamber

Title: Pocket Robots Test Chamber
Developer: echa
Platforms: PC, Browser, Android
Price: Free, $0.99
I'm no programmer; I just pretend to be one. Between Glitchspace, Hack n Slash, SpaceChem (kind of), and other games, there's a certain appeal to messing with Not, And, Or variables to initiate actions. Pocket Robots Test Chamber is another welcome addition to that category.
Pocket Robots Test Chamber is essentially a platformer. Your robot can move left, right, and hover with a jetpack to reach the exit of each level. That task quickly becomes more complicated than your usual game, since you don't control your robot directly, instead coordinating its actions through a simple drag-drop visual programming interface. The game starts out (relatively) simple, providing a six interval set-up to coordinate behaviors. It took me a few levels to wrap my head around how the system worked, how to best utilize And gates and Not gates; there are a few tutorials, but half the fun is figuring what to do and how to accomplish that and what isn't working.
Soon PRTC introduces colors and a variety of other twists on the base programming mechanic, and each time, it feels like a return to the square one. Not in a negative way, but a chance to learn and master something new. With 56 regular levels and a handful of user levels as well as a level editor, Pocket Robots Test Chamber has a nice amount of content. Don't dismiss the game for its simple style, or else you'll be missing out on this fun challenging puzzle game. You can download the game from or play it in your browser for free. The Android version is $0.99

IOS Spotlight #80: QB1-0

Title: QB1-0
Developer: Can Factory
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
QB1-0 released in 2012. It received a Universal update in May, a new trailer in June. I just discovered the game today. Searching online, I couldn't find a single review and that's a damn shame. If you're a fan of arcade shooters, I recommend giving OB1-0 a try.
At first, I wasn't feeling the game, mainly due to the controls. They're relative touch, but not your usual v-stick style. Instead, your ship is perpetually moving and firing and dragging your finger rotates your ship. It's definitely a different movement style that takes some getting used to, but the controls work well, revealing themselves to be very maneuverable and responsive, allowing you to spin on a dime. That level of maneuverability is key to survival here; within a wave or two, you're dealing with more than simple asteroids. Dangerous enemies begin emerging: quick homing rocket-spewing ships, slow ships that leave bullets in their wake, ships that unleash blasts of lightning that streak across the screen. The frantic action ramps up fast and power-ups that provide extra lives, upgrade your firepower, and more only add to the chaos.
QB1-0 isn't just a fun game, but a stylish one as well. There are some Geometry Wars influences, from the area backdrop warping beneath you and the geometric shapes, but in the midst of battle, with particles and projectiles and ships and asteroid debris flying everywhere, QB1-0 stands out as a visual spectacle. Adding to that spectacle is the fact that the arena is "open", with you, your enemies, projectiles all warping around the screen.
Compared to other games in the genre, QB1-0 is very bare bones. You won't find any extra modes, or upgrades, or different ships to unlock. You won't even find an options menu. But you will find a stylish frenetic arcade shooter with responsive controls, that fills the screen with particles and enemies and bullets, and for that reason, I think QB1-0 is worth checking out if you enjoy these kinds of games. You can purchase QB1-0 for $0.99

Monday, July 14, 2014

IOS Spotlight #79: Alphabeats

Title: Alphabeats
Developer: Rad Dragon
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
Word games come in all shapes and styles on the App Store. From classics like Bookworm and Scrabble to genre blending games such as Word Mage and Spell Quest, it's a very well presented genre on the platform. Alphabeats offers a new twist on the word game, combining fast paced spelling with rhythmic evasion.
Playing Alphabeats couldn't be simpler. Letters descend from the top of the screen in sync with the soundtrack, and you must catch letters to form words by dragging between columns. Swipe up once you're satisfied with your word to collect points. As you might expect, longer words equals more points; however this is where Alphabeat's twitchy elements reveal themselves. Longer words take up more space, and if you hit a letter that messes up your word (i.e. MAN to MANX), you lose all your letters and need to start constructing a word from scratch. Thus, Alphabeats becomes a game of reaction and focus, as you watch for letters to create words and move into position to collect them, while weaving between letters you don't want. Deciding between short words that allow you dodge more easily, or risking it all with a long word for many points, forms the core of Alphabeats' challenging gameplay. Powerups that let you shrink words, clear the screen, and provide a points multiplier add to the strategy.
Being a rhythm game, Alphabeats wouldn't be complete without a great soundtrack, and the mix of electronic, techno, and dubstep perfectly complements the twitchy word game fun. It should be noted that you only get five songs with your initial purchase; more songs can be purchased individually or as part of a $7.99 "Everything Ever" pack that provides all current songs as any future additions. You can purchase Alphabeats here.

IOS Spotlight #78: Super Scrapped Robot

Title: Super Scrapped Robot
Developer: bureaubureau
Platforms: IOS Universal, PC, Mac, Linux, Browser
Price: Free
Super Scrapped Robot wears its inspirations on its sleeve. The Game Boy-esque color scheme, the retro style, this is an experience that harkens back to games of the past and offers old school bullet hell challenge.
Super Scrapped Robot is a dual stick shooter, dropping you onto randomly generated levels as enemies emerge from all sides. Survive the hordes, find the exit. While the gameplay is simple, it's the execution that make Super Scrapped Robot: varied enemies from charging foes that masquerade as rocks to ghostly melee attackers, weaponized hats that swaps your default weapon for a rapid fire machine gun or flame thrower, the tight controls. Limited health and a overheat mechanic encourages you to stay on the move; humorous dialogue and challenging bosses keep the player engaged.
Super Scrapped Robot is free to download and its IAP structure is unique among the IOS games I've played. Any IAP purchase unlocks a Rainbow Mode that changes the colors scheme, weekly Challenges, and a Cheat mode that lets you alter the gameplay in various ways, and you choose how much you want to pay, with tiers ranging from $0.99 to $4.99. You can download Super Scrapped Robot for IOS here, purchase it on PC through, or play the game in your browser.

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 7/12

The Sun Also Rises
Developer: Horse Volume
Through much research we are creating a different kind of war game that aims to examine the realities of war from an authentic standpoint. Through interviews, we are exploring struggles of military life like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, connecting and communicating with people in other countries, military sexual assault and how victims are treated by the military system, and other stories that we gather from soldiers and veterans. In choosing the less-mentioned experiences of war, the soldiers and noncombatants can be humanized and understood by the player.
Official site here, Kickstarter soon

Developer: Candescent Games
Hardcore Platformer. No Jump Button.
Use the right control stick to fire rockets in any direction. Shoot rockets at your feet to blast upwards or shoot to the side to gain speed. Shoot everywhere. All the time. Infinite ammo for the win!
Official site here, already Greenlit

Developer: Onion Core
Bezel is our in-development 2d side scrolling action RPG inspired by the metroidvania formula, based in a fantasy world where gods fight for freedom and power. As a storm strucks a passenger ship, you find yourself on an uncharted island being ravaged by monsters and wild animals. As you pursue any ways of leaving this place, you find that is more than water that’s preventing your escape, as an ancient force, and destiny itself holds tight bonds between you, and the heart of the island.
Official site here

Developer: Kuchalu Ltd.
Open world survival horror game about a botanist, Dr. Peter Abbotsfield, in search of a mysterious plant which only grows in the vicinity of the cold icy environment he finds himself exploring. Equipped with only a VCR to document his findings, Peter will discover that not only does this mysterious plant exist and that it contains unparalleled, dangerous properties, but he is also not alone in his search.
Official site here

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PC Spotlight #102: Shattered Planet

Title: Shattered Planet
Developer: Kitfox Games
Platforms: PC
Price: $14.99
Shattered Planet was originally released on IOS back in March. Now the sci-fi roguelike has come to PC, and with the added content and improved visuals, it's the definite version of this fun challenging game.
Setting out from your orbital home base, you explore alien planets, collect new weapons and gear, fight off dangerous species and powerful enemies. The wealth of equipment and customization at your disposal is easily one of Shattered Planets highlights, from devastating guns to primitive clubs and electric blades to a vast array of helmets and armor, different classes to choose from, to pets that tag along. You'll need all the help you get can, as Shattered Planet delivers a challenging tactical experience. A fog of war shrouds unexplored areas, revealing precious resources and enemies as you explore. Turn based movement and combat means each move must be considered, and if you aren't well equipped, or prepared, you'll find yourself quickly surrounded and cornered. As usual with the genre, death results in the loss of your current items and gear so playing smart and cautiously, picking your battles, is key to survival. If the core game isn't hard enough, Shattered Planets offers more challenging difficulty modes, as well as daily challenges.
If you've played the IOS version, Shattered Planet on PC version improves on the mobile game by stripping out the IAP and rebalancing the experience for a premium experience and adding features such as the daily challenges, new classes, the ability to capture pets, and the keyboard/mouse controls just feel more precise than the touch controls ever did. You can purchase Shattered Planet from the developer's site and Steam.

PC Spotlight #101: Shadowcrypt

Title: Shadowcrypt
Developer: OneBitPunch
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99
Many games have compared themselves to Dark Souls, but this is one of few game that I truly feel is worthy of the comparison. If I had to compare Shadowcrypt to something, I'd say it combines the sword/spear/shield precision combat of Volgarr with the unrelenting enemies and slower methodical pacing of Dark Souls. Yes, Shadowcrypt is that kind of game.
The game is hard. You only have a limited amount of heath points and only three lives. Shadowcrypt certainly doesn't compare or come close to Volgarr or Dark Souls in terms of visuals; the lighting is nice and atmospheric, but the catacombs and enemies can feel repetitive after a while. But the core of Shadowcrypt is its combat. You have everything from lurching undead to archers to shield wielding foes and magicial enemies. You can jump, strike high, strike low, shield bash, or switch to your limited spears for a long range attack. A simple moveset, from which a hard-as-nails games is crafted. This is no hack and slash. If you don't pay attention, you will die. If you rush, you will die. If you're not observing your enemy's movements, not focusing on whether to duck or step back or block or bash, you will die quickly. You'll find better weapons and shields along the way, as well as elemental magic that imbues your spears and sword with special abilities. But even with the best equipment, precision, timing, and focus are always your greatest allies
Shadowcrypt is unabashedly old school. There is no map. There is no handholding. The manual explains how weapons, magic, and loot, but you won't find these tips or even a tutorial in game. The combat is satisfyingly tough; it's the kind of game that expects you to learn on the go, in the midst of life-or-death struggle. If you're looking a challenge, a real challenge, Shadowcrypt delivers. Just don't expect an easy mode.

You can purchase Shadowcrypt on The game has already been Greenlit.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

PC Spotlight #100: A Look Back

I've written about 99 PC games since I started my blog back in August. That's a lot of games. I thought it would be cool to do something a bit different for my 100th PC Spotlight, so this is a look back at the games that have ended up being my utmost favorites. (It was either that or wait till August to make Gods Will Be Watching my 100th, and I didn't feel like waiting)

Every game has its merits, but these stood out to me as some of the best experiences.

NaissanceE earned its spot on my slowly growing Best of 2014 list. It's true that some platforming areas were frustrating and perhaps too difficult, but every other aspect towered over those negatives. Traveling through the world of NaissanceE was such an otherworldly, unsettling experience, an awesome experience (in the actual sense of the word, inspiring awe). You felt like a stranger in an unfriendly place, and the way the audio, the weird compelling architecture, the sprawling vistas, the subtle visual cues all came together created one of my favorite games this year.

Capsule impressed me so much by taking its minimalist presentation and crafting a tense suffocating atmosphere. Through the sounds of your labored breathing, the muted bumps and bangs, the tinny radar tones, you're full immersed in the world and gameplay. Coupled with the sense of desperation and exploration, Capsule excels at making you feel lost and alone, quite a feat for such a minimal experience.

The Stanley Parable
Other narratives may have been more emotionally engaging, more compelling, more complex, but The Stanley Parable is the one I remember most fondly. The Narrator imbues the game with such a wonderful sense of wit and humor, and the many ways the game toys with your expectations and subverts game tropes are just brilliant. Again, like last time, it's an experience you can't really talk about without spoiling something, but it truly is a game worth playing for the journey.

It's a testament to how much fun Broforce is that I've played the game at least 15 hours now, played through the campaign five or six times, and the game is still so satisfying to play. Blowing bad guys away (and apart) with such a diverse action heroes just never gets old. Mechanically, it's relatively simple - jump around, kill things - but it's the spectacle and fluid gameplay that Broforce so good. The over-the-top gore, the huge explosions, the environments crumbling away under your firepower, the fast paced action, how different each Bro plays, it all comes together to make an incredibly fun experience.

One Finger Death Punch
One Finger Death Punch is a masterclass in simplicity. Somehow the developers were able to take a control scheme of only two buttons and make one of the most addictive games I've ever played. Like the Arkham games, OFDP combines simple controls and stylish animations to make you feel like an unstoppable martial arts badass. Once you get into a rhythm, timing your attacks with precision, the gameplay is just sublime, as you pluck weapons out of the air, tear out hearts, evade attacks, and just utterly destroy your enemies. The variety of mission types and the different skills you can unlock only add to the fun.

NEO Scavenger
I had initially overlooked NEO Scavenger since at the time, turn based roguelikes didn't really appeal to me. I soon rectified that mistake and the game quickly become one of my favorite roguelikes, thanks to its deep survival mechanics and brutal combat system that makes each encounter feel like a desperate struggle from The Road.

XenoRaptor has become my favorite top down/arena shooter, even surpassing Assault Android Cactus. The wealth of weapons and modifiers provide so many loadout options, and the hectic combat is always a visual spectacle due to the stylish effects and hordes of enemies.

Overgrowth is far from complete, but I've played the game for almost ten hours. The fluid animations makes the hard-hitting combat a joy to watch and even more fun when you pull off some rapid fire parry or survive a three-on-one knife fight.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Watchlist: Ashen

Title: Ashen
Developer: Aurora44
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development, no release time frame
Ashen is a 3rd person, action RPG about forging relationships. Players can choose to guide those they trust to their camp, encouraging them to rest at the fire and perhaps remain. People you meet out in the world will have unique skills and crafting abilities to bolster your chances of survival. Together, you might just stand a chance.
For many games, I remain on the fence until I learn more (which is probably a safe route to go). But then there are others that hook me at a glance, games that I know I absolutely need to play. Maybe it's the game's description or its concept, or some intriguing mechanic. Sometimes it's a single image. Ashen is in that latter category. One look at the bleak windswept plains, the pale air tinged grey with ash, the low-poly art style, I knew this was a world I needed to explore.
In development for the past seven months, Ashen is set in a world hanging on by a thread. The sun is gone, forever concealed behind the thick clouds of ash that clog the sky, the only light from volcanic eruptions in the distance. It's a ruined world, and you're a lone wanderer just trying to survive its many dangers. Bandits and beasts; cannibals, giants, and creatures lurking in the dark; the environment itself all are threats found throughout Ashen's expansive world. Similar to the Souls series, combat is a high risk endeavor, perhaps not even your best or first choice.
However, while you may be a lone warrior at the start, you won't be alone. Taking inspirations from Journey, Ashen is built around a passive multiplayer system, where players seamlessly enter your world sans lobbies or menus. Alone, survival is a bleak difficult prospect, but together, you just might thrive. Forging relationships is a key aspect of Ashen. Work together, roam the wastes, help each other against foes, or set out on your own. There are quests and areas where cooperating with others is needed to succeed. Even once you leave a player's world, you leave your mark on their game, by persisting as an NPC that remains in that player's town. Ashen won't forget the solo player either; if multiplayer isn't your thing, the developers plan to make the game fully playable offline in single player, with AI-controlled NPCs taking the place of other players.
Ashen is still early in development, with no release time frame. The developers are planning a Kickstarter for late this year or early 2015. You can learn more about Ashen here.

The Watchlist: Hardline Gunner

Title: Hardline Gunner
Developer: Lazorun
Platforms: PC
In development
A super hard minimalistic arcade top-down shooter
On Lazorun's site, Hardline Gunner is proclaimed to be "pretty damn hard like the good old days." And I'd have to agree, that's a pretty accurate description of the experience you'll find while playing this fast and furious top down bullet hell shooter. 
Hardline Gunner may sport a minimalist style, but the action in the game's alpha demo is anything but. Each level offers a new challenge, from tight cramped corridors to open areas with bosses firing insane amount of projectiles to special tiles that boost you forward or slow your movement. Your small square is agile and fast, able to dash around, and quickly maneuver between bullets and missiles. Crates drop health and special weapons like homing rockets and spread shots, allowing you to change up your arsenal at the most opportune moment. However your most important skill is the ability to deflect bullets; with the right timing, you can send projectiles back at enemies and enjoy a few moments of invincibility. Deflect bullets becomes invaluable as the action grows more hectic and you need to break through the hailstorm of projectiles for a better position.
Hardline Gunner is still in alpha; the developer is currently changing the flat 2D look to a 3D style with more depth, and as well as implementing other improvements such as slow motion when health is low. You can download the alpha demo here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

IOS Spotlight #77: Causality

Title: Causality
Developer: unexpect3rd
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: Free
I discovered Causality last week, and unfortunately, it seems like another hidden gem has slipped through the porous cracks of the App Store. This is a quality puzzler with a hefty amount of levels and a wealth of interesting mechanics.
Casuality starts off simple enough. You're presented with a grid of two differently colored tiles. Tapping a tile swaps its color and the color of the tiles adjacent to it. Your goal is to make the entire grid one color and preferably with a limited number of taps. Through logic and planning, you can figure out which tiles to tap and in what order. But those are only the early levels. Soon, Causality begins layering on new mechanics, new twists on the rules and tiles every chapter. Linked tiles that swap with colors with each other across the grid. Tiles that only swap colors in specific directions. Tiles that disappear after use. Tiles that must be swapped a certain amount of times. Combine these added mechanics and the others that are introduced throughout Causality's 240 levels, and you have a fun puzzle game that's definitely not lacking in variety or challenge. The minimal design just adds to the great package.
Causality is worth checking out if you're looking for a challenging puzzle game with a nice amount of content, interesting mechanics, and minimalist style. The game is extremely generous; you get 120 levels for free, the rest available with a single $1.99 purchase or unlocked in chunks by watching ads.

You can download Causality here.

PC Spotlight #99: Sunless Sea

Title: Sunless Sea
Developer: Failbetter Games
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $18.99
When the Kickstarter for Sunless Sun was going on, I'll admit that I hadn't been that interested ...and then I checked out Fallen London. I was instantly hooked by the mix of Lovecraftian, Gothic, and steampunk elements, the sense of dark wit, the interesting world and lore. Fallen London is extremely well written, bringing the dark atmospheric place alive with vivid descriptions. It's a world I wanted to explore and with Sunless Sea, I can.
Sunless Sea lets you explore the vast Unterzee, a sprawling expanse of ocean deep beneath the earth where grotesque things and terrible fates await those who dare venture into the abyss. As captain, you command your vessel and crew as you discover new lands, fight dangerous enemies, upgrade your ship with better parts and new weapons. Starvation, madness, mutinous crews, and horrors beyond comprehension await out on the black waters. You travel the sea, always mindful of your fuel, your food, the sanity of your crew. Pirates and worst things move across the water.
Combat is quite interesting. In the damp dark of the Unterzee, light is your greatest ally. When fighting you have three category of actions: offensive (cannons, torpedoes, etc.), illumination, and evasion. Each action takes a certain amount of time to enact, and you can pause the fight and queue commands. You need to illuminate your enemy to be able to attack and also want to perform evasive maneuvers to reduce how illuminated your ship is. It's definitely an interesting take on combat, not real time but not turn based either, with a nice strategic depth
However, the meat of the game is exploration, discovery, and the cost of pursing such goals. In the same vein as FTL and Project Zomboid, Sunless Sea is very much a "story generator". You encounter new places, collect weird and mysterious cargo from travelers, set out on quests, gather a crew, choose to stay among known islands or brave the suffocating dark of uncharted waters. Maybe your crew will go mad. Maybe you'll discover some incredible fortune. Maybe you'll run out of food and need to eat your mates to survive. Great adventures and horrific misfortunes alike are out there for you to find and like Fallen London, it's all delivered through such atmospheric writing.
Sunless Sea draw you into its Gothic landscape through its vivid descriptions and compelling world. The developers plan to expand the game with new enemies and beasts, new areas and islands, deeper crew and ship mechanics, a randomized sea to explore, and improved visuals. You can learn more about the game here and purchase it from the developer's site and Steam.