Title: The Sacrifice Developer: foxboard Platforms: PC, Mac Free ---
I've played quite a few Ludum Dare 33 entries so far, but The Sacrifice has been my favorite. It forgoes the "play as a creature/killer/etc." interpretation of the game jam's theme, for a more insidious take.
The Sacrifice is a relatively simple game. You guide the five noble families of the Village, choosing their focus each season. By foraging, building, and evangelizing, the nobles must keep the Village\well-fed and happy,, keep its people sheltered against the elements, and, most importantly...maintain the secrecy of the Sacrifice.
Each season, someone must be sacrificed to please Chernobog, to keep the Village and its people in the god's favor. But each sacrifice will impact the Village stats and the families themselves. Choose wisely. It must be done to keep your people safe.
The sickly green aesthetic adds to the game's uneasy atmosphere too.
You can download The Sacrifice here.
Title: Super Mutant Alien Assault Developer: Cybernate Platforms: PC Price: $9.99 ---
On a freighter in deep space, danger lurks. Grotesque mutants emerge from within the walls, altered by radiation. And the only thing between them and your death is a lot of big guns and agile platforming. That's Super Mutant Alien Assault in a nutshell, a randomly-generated 2D shooter inspired by Super Crate Box.
Mutant Alien Assault was already a fun and addictive experience as a flash game, and this expanded version is bigger and better in every way. The core gameplay remains the same: armed with guns and other equipment, you must fend off relentless waves of aliens across random stages. Some stages are pure timed survival, while others have you transporting energy canisters or powering down overheated fuel rods. There's no story or narrative to consider here, just frenetic and colorful action.
Similar to Super Crate Box, you'll pick up randomized weapons, adapting your strategy on the fly depending on what guns you have. From the simple handgun to devastating sniper rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, rail guns, and more high-tech armaments, the arsenal at your disposal is vast and varied, with new guns added to the pool as you progress.
But your toolset is far more expansive than just guns. Your character can equip a whole suite of randomized gadgets, with slots for explosives, sidearms, defense moves, special abilities, and perks. This extensive loadout means there's your playstyle is always evolving, as you unlock new items for each category, including double-jumping, dashing and doge rolls, temporary shields, area-of-effect energy blasts, hacking, shockwaves, extra health and ammo, blades and explosive boomerangs, and much more.
You'll need every special ability and powerful gun because Super Mutant Alien Assault is a difficult experience. Playthroughs start out relatively easy, but soon you're facing flying and charging foes and bosses. To add to the challenge, these enemies can evolve into more powerful versions if you don't kill them fast enough.
If the alien threat proves too overwhelming to handle on your own, you can team with a friend in local co-op, doubling the on-screen chaos. Super Mutant Alien Assault's pixel art action looks wonderful in motion, with fierce explosions and colorful stages and satisfying weapon effects that makes each new gun and skills a joy to try out.
Super Mutant Alien Assault is currently on Steam Early Access, and the developer promises more stages, enemies, bosses, new items and weapons. You can purchase the game on Steam and Humble.
Title: Lara Croft GO Developer: Square Enix Montreal Platforms: IOS Universal, Android Price: $4.99 ---
I'll start with a confession: when I first saw the screenshots and footage of Hitman GO, my impressions weren't exactly positive. I'm a big fan of the stealth franchise and it seemed like such a weird direction to take. But then I played the game and realized it was a brilliant distillation of Hitman's stealth-puzzle DNA into an experience built from the ground up for mobile. So to say my hype and expectations for the Tomb Raider-themed follow-up were high would be an understatement.
Lara Croft GO not only exceeds those expectations, but also refines the turn-based puzzle template introduced in Hitman GO, all in a gorgeous isometric package.
While Hitman GO presented its sneaky puzzles like a board game, Lara Croft GO sheds the tabletop veneer to deliver an action-puzzle adventure. The turn-based movement along paths remains, but it's no longer contained to flat surfaces and figurines. You guide Lara through ancient temples and dense jungle, past deadly traps and subterranean passages. This is an adventure in the full sense of the word, as levels flow together seamlessly and areas seen in the distance might be traversed several stages later.
Yes, traversal. The levels here are multi-tiered environments and Lara is as agile as ever, able to scale walls, shimmy along edges, and even pull off the occasional handstand. The handstand isn't the only callback to the main games; Lara's dual pistols return as well, as you deal with the numerous creatures found throughout GO's levels. Like in Hitman GO, you need to bump enemies from the side or back to kill them, but the combat is far more involved here. You might need to goad a lizard to chase you, or time your movement to avoid the poisonous fangs of a giant spider. Single-use spears let you skewer creatures from afar, and the environment is your greatest weapon, since traps and hazards can kill creatures.
However Lara Croft GO wouldn't be compete without environmental puzzles and all the elements you'd expect are here: pillars to push and pull, switches and pressure pads, platforms to raise. Given the turn-based nature of the gameplay, puzzles rely heavily on timing and figuring out the optimal path through the levels so you can avoid danger while activating switches or getting platforms into position. While the grids are smaller than the ones in Hitman, Lara Croft focuses more on interactive elements and environmental dangers to add challenge and variety to its puzzles.
Lara Croft GO visuals are just as impressive and polished as its gameplay. The board game aesthetic is gone, and in its place is a colorful isometric world filled with detail and life. Foliage sways in the breeze, lizards test the air with forked tongues, waterfalls drain out over cavernous drops. Each chapter, divided between different Mazes on your journey to a mysterious artifact, has a different visual tone, from the cliff-side ruins of the Maze of Snakes to the underground ruins and murky swamps of other levels. That visual polish even extends to the stylish menu and minimalist UI. An atmospheric soundtrack completes the engrossing presentation.
Lara Croft GO truly impressed me in how it adapted the turn-based puzzle gameplay seen in Hitman GO to Tomb Raider's platforming-heavy adventure. Once again, it distills the core aspects of a franchise - the exotic locations and ruins, the dangerous traps and creatures lurking within, environmental puzzles and agile climbing - into a mobile-friendly experience that's simple to control but still challenging and engaging.
If there's one gripe, it's that the game lacks the replay value of Hitman GO, with no collectibles that require extra puzzling to reach, optional challenges, or move pars to beat. There are gems and hidden relics to find, which in turn unlock new outfits, but those are hidden in the background rather than extra gameplay elements. But I imagine those elements would tarnish the atmosphere and adventure vibe, so perhaps the experience is better without those aspects.
Lara Croft GO can be purchased for $4.99 (Also on Android). --- *Okay, so Lara Croft GO is a slight deviation from the usual games I cover, but with a mobile game this good, I really wanted to share my impressions, and honestly I put it in the same category as Grow Home and Valiant Hearts, aka games from larger publishers that are more indie game-esque than their usual work.
It's that time of year again, time for a new Ludum Dare and hundreds of new game jam entries. Ludum Dare 33's theme is "You are the Monster", and developers have explored the theme in myriad ways.
It's impossible to play or see every entry, but here are some that caught my eye while browsing the submissions
You can check out more Ludum Dare 33 games here. ----
Death of a Lich- PC The grand lich is immortal and, many years after each death, returns back to the world of the living, thanks to his crown phylactery. Play as the grand lich and journey down the tower in search of escape.
The Sacrifice - PC, Mac The Sacrifice is a management game where you, along with the five noble families of the Village, decide on what needs to be done in order to survive the island's harsh seasons. Alongside these tasks is a dark secret that the Village has upheld for decades, one that is more crucial to its survival than anything else. It requires an iron will to do whatever is necessary to protect the Village, its secrets, and life itself.
The Monster Inside- PC, Mac, Browser A film noir style audio-visual novella. A mysterious woman... a string of murders... and a man with a hidden past.
Title: Duskers Developers: Misfits Attic Platforms: PC Price: $19.99 ---
There are many ways a game can be immersive. First person games like Mirror's Edge use full-body awareness so you're controlling a body with heft and limbs rather than a disembodied camera. Gone Home, Amnesia, and The Room utilize tactile hands-on gameplay. And then you have games like Her Story and Uplink, where you're not merely controlling a character. You are the character, your computer screen acting as the in-game monitor, a direct window into the game's world.
The recently released Duskers fits in that latter category and this tactical sci-fi survival roguelike utterly succeeds at delivering an immersive, atmospheric experience,
The universe is dead. You are alone. Supplies are dwindling. Welcome to the bleak world of Duskers. As the lone survivor in a galaxy gone silent, you travel from ship to ship, derelict barges and stations and outposts now drifting through space. Fuel and resources diminish with every jump, as you desperately stave off starvation or avoid becoming stranded in the endless abyss.
But exploring vessels yourself is too dangerous because, while you may be the last human,...you certainly aren't the last organism. Death lurks everywhere, from alien horrors and active security systems to radiation leaks.
So you use the next best option, From your ship's console, you remotely guide drones through the dark rooms and corridors. You view the world through your ship's monitor and the drones' limited, grainy camera feeds, sensors and cameras that can fail or make errors. They act as your eyes, ears, and hands from the safety of your ship. And you don't guide these drones through icons or RTS-style controls, but by typing in command lines.
While it may sound archaic and clunky, the command line interface is part of what makes Duskers so brilliant and immersive. Every command must be planned and carefully considered, because if something goes wrong - and it will - you must adapt and improvise on the fly. It gives the game a deliberate, cautious pace, as you command your fragile drones to maneuver between rooms, use motion detectors, gather supplies, power generators, and so on. When you're hurriedly typing in commands as radiation is spreading through an outpost and power is failing and the creatures you had trapped in a room are breaking free, Duskers is at its most tense, thanks to that careful pacing and detached perspective.
But Duskers is also a tactical experience. Scavenged gear can be used to modify drones with lures, cloaking, motion detectors, even the rare weapon, but the best tools are the vessels themselves. You can trap aliens in a room then activate a vessel's on-board defense system, or open an airlock to suck a roaming turret into space. Caution and planning ahead are how you keep your drones intact.
Duskers mixes moments of unease and fear of the unknown with satisfying strategy and on-the-fly improvisation. Similar to Her Story or Uplink, the command console interface results in an immersive intimate experience. You are the last human, controlling your drones, from your computer.
Duskers is on Steam Early Access, but it's already an engaging and challenging game. Procedurally-generated galaxies and ships mean there's a hefty amount of content, and the developers plan to expand the game with more drone upgrades and modifications, more visual effects, atmospheric audio, a finished story, and general polish.
Enter The Flesh Again" is a game about reincarnation, with the goal of escaping an endless cycle of death and rebirth. Based on The Tibetan Book Of The Dead and the basic principles of Buddhism, this game will take you on a journey through dark, twisted, but also magnificent and bright places while exploring the oceans of the mind.
The Mooseman is an atmospheric 2D adventure game set in the mysterious lands of Perm chud’ tribes. The player's avatar is the Mooseman; a mythological character from perm animal style objects, which we were greatly inspired by.
You are a shaman and you have the ability to see the mysterious spirit world.
Dot Matrix Hero is a part indie game dev simulator and part roguelike action RPG. Play as a developer working on a homegrown JRPG implementing new stages, weapons, and featuers. By night play as the hero of that unfinished RPG defeating bugs and various monsters!
At the Mountains of Madness is a Indie Lovecraftian PC game based in the novel by H.P. Lovecraft
Back in the 1930’s you play in first-person perspective by the geologist William Dyer, a professor at Miskatonic University, as if in the hope to deter a planned and much publicized scientific expedition to Antarctica in search of undiscovered fossils and zones unexplored by man.
Like a pebble in the midst of a stream, danger and deceit flows around you. Your father and brother have been murdered, struck down by the devious Prince and his sons. You will be forcibly married in a month's time, so your inheritance, your family's vast wealth and land, will be owned by the conspirators. But in Masques and Murder, you will not accept your fate idly.
Masques and Murder is an engaging mix of visual novel and RPG; playing as Justitia, you must prepare your plot for revenge while avoiding suspicion. An array of skills can be trained, from swordplay and firearms to dance and music. Each son has different likes, and you must careful befriend and seduce them while simultaneously not arousing suspicion by appearing too successful at certain events and tasks.
With each passing day, you carefully manage your skills, your mood, different events, the suspicion and respect of your enemies, until Justitia can finally strike and exact her vengeance. The Renaissance-era plotting occurs against a backdrop of art from the period and is brought to life through well-written flavor text.
Masques and Murder has been in development for over a year, and the polish shows in its layered gameplay and extensive descriptions. You can download the game here.
Some games are laser focused on a single aspect, fine-tuning a mechanic or element to perfection. The reflex-testing evasion of Super Hexagon or the fourth wall-breaking storytelling of The Stanley Parable. And then you have games that straddle numerous genres, like the deck-building action brawler Hand of Fate or A Dark Room. Dungeon of the Endless fits firmly in the latter category: a sci-fi dungeon-crawling, tower-defense, squad-based roguelike that blends aspects of those genres to deliver a challenging and unique experience.
Dungeon of the Endless starts out bad for your team of bounty hunters, assassins, and criminals, as their prison transport vessel is destroyed by the mysterious alien force known as the Endless. And it only gets worse from there, as the escaped survivors find themselves deep underground, in the subterranean corridors of an Endless complex. Alien monstrosities lurk in the dark rooms and halls, waiting to attack your heroes in overwhelming waves. The exit is twelve floors up, past industrial tunnels, dilapidated research facilities, and organic hives.
The easiest way to describe Dungeon of the Endless is to break its gameplay down by its individual elements. Each floor is a procedurally-generated maze, and you guide your team room-by-room, searching for the level exit. You never know what awaits behind the next door. Much-needed resources, a merchant, a new hero to recruit, more ruthless enemies?
While you can't choose your heroes' actions directly, you must still use their skills intelligently to make it out alive. Some wield powerful guns but move slow, while others slice enemies down with blades and spears and run quickly. Special abilities can boost damage and speed, regenerate health, among other useful buffs.
But your team alone isn't strong enough to survive the Endless. Each room is peppered with slots where you can place various modules. These act like the towers in a tower defense game, each with different offensive, defensive, and support capabilities. However, you can only place modules in powered rooms, and that's where the true challenge emerges.
Power is emitted by the Crystal; if it's destroyed, then all hope is lost. Upon finding the level exit, you must transport the Crystal there. In this phase, the cautious room-by-room approach morphs into a desperate escort mission as you designate one person to carry the Crystal. The rest of your team must protect that defenseless hero as relentless waves of enemies endlessly spawn from every un-powered room. You never have enough power to illuminate all the rooms so pre-planning is crucial. Did you place enough modules? Which route will you take, which rooms will you power up? Which hero will guard the rear, which one will rush ahead to guard the carrier?
All of the game's varied elements mesh together at that moment. The cautious dungeon crawling to find the exit, the tower-defense aspect as you build modules for support along your route, and the squad tactics as you lead your team out of the level.
Surviving in Dungeon of the Endless is always thrilling, tense, and challenging, and discovering the synergies between modules and heroes is equally rewarding. A varied array of modifiers adds replay value, including an endless mode, a hardcore mode, and other twists on the core gameplay. The game controls flawlessly on touchscreen, joining the likes of FTL and Paper's Please as examples of excellent PC ports.
Dungeon of the Endless is available for $4.99 on iPad.
Dad Quest is an action-adventure platformer with roguelite and RPG elements that follows a generation of fathers--otherwise known as Dads™--and their children as they travel across the land on a quest to reach Dad Island
In Dad Quest, your ultimate weapon isn't a magic sword or over-sized gun, but your own child, a true force to be reckoned with in this action platformer.
Your quest is simple: reach Dad Island, complete quests, level up, and gather loot along the way. Missions range from escorting characters to defeating enemies. Dad and child traverse an expansive procedurally-generated overworld, encountering enemies, towns, and open hub areas throughout their journey
While your Dad character can unlock new abilities, your child is the most unique aspect about Dad Quest. Children vary in both class, ranging Jock and Scholar to Cultist, and stats, which include power, loyalty, and intelligence. Loyalty increase your child's movement, meaning they run back to you after being thrown, while gaining more power evolves your child to more powerful forms.
Your child is really your most powerful weapon, able to devastate enemies with varied abilities. The Scholar's Gravity Well can fling enemies around the environment, while using Cultist's Shank will send your child rushing towards foes, blade in hand.
Dad Quest is shaping up to be a quirky action-adventure game; you can follow its progress on TIGSource and Twitter.
Sharp Flint is a third person shooter where you can chase and hunt mammoths, wolves, and other titans of the ice age. You will craft tools, weapons and pelts to survive in the paleolithic period.
Title: The Godbeast Developer: Jochen Mistiaen The Godbeast is an action/adventure game set in a nightmarish modern city trapped in perpetual night, inspired by Killer7, Shadow of the Colossus, and the Souls franchise. You will have to find, hunt and kill the old gods, in the shape of gigantic beasts, to escape.
Avorion is a sandbox multiplayer game where you find yourself in a sci-fi galaxy, far far away from the milky way. You can explore this galaxy, build your own space ships and stations and get to know other people who do the same.
You can mine asteroids to collect money, which you will then use to build your own ships.
Dad Quest is an action-adventure platformer with roguelite and RPG elements that follows a generation of fathers--otherwise known as Dads™--and their children as they travel across the land on a quest to reach Dad Island.
In a post-cataclysmic world plagued by disease and hunger, a woman named Amy discovers that the all-powerful government is hiding a terrible secret. With the help of a mysterious figure, Amy will attempt to unite the oppressed, assist a revolution, and cure the plague that threatens humanity and her survival.
Title: Manowar Developer: Lachlan Nuttall Platforms: IOS Universal Price: $1.99 ---
A swaying ship, cannons, and a colorful assortment of cannonballs. That's all Manowar needs to deliver a tricky and satisfying puzzle game.
At its core, Manowar is a simple game. Each level presents you with an interior of a ship at sea, filled with various platforms, barriers, and cannonballs, and lined with cannons. The goal is to tilt the ship back and forth, maneuver the cannonballs into position, and fire them into the surrounding watery abyss.
But that's only the start. as new mechanics compound to create suprisingly devious challenges. Firing a cannon cause the remaining cannonballs onboard to bounce into the air, allowing you to get them over walls or balance them atop other cannonballs. Then the game adds colored cannons that only affect cannonballs of the same hue. And then barriers that can only be crossed from certain directions, then platforms that swing in specific patterns, and then portals, and so on.
All these mechanics turn Manowar into a puzzler with a focus on timing and careful planning. Moving and firing cannonballs without thinking of how it will affect the remaining cannonballs can easily led to having one stuck without a way to maneuver it. You may need to block passages to guide cannonballs along a certain route or fire colored cannonballs in a specific sequence, among other tricky scenarios.
Manowar remains challenging through its 48 levels, and the game's polished presentation compliments its equally polished puzzle design. You can purchase Manowar for $1.99.
Title: We Shall Wake Developer: Nokoriware Platforms: PC, Linux ---
The plans for We Shall Wake include an open world, action RPG mechanics, and dynamic warring factions, but the recently released demo is much smaller but no less impressive. It provides a taste of the game's lightning-fast brawling action, and is fun all on its own.
"Fast" is the key word there. Inspired by games like Prototype, Metal Gear Rising, and Devil May Cry, your biomechanical warrior Novem is a super-powered fighting machine, able to sprint at incredible speeds, juggle enemies with gravity-defying aerial combos, teleport dash through attacks. With finely-tuned skills, you can take on a hundred enemies at once with ease. (Seriously)
We Shall Wake's demo offers several modes: a tutorial, a practice arena, and endless waves against increasingly powerful enemies. Not only can you practice new combos, the game also allows you to unlock new attacks and build your own custom combos, reminiscent of Remember Me's Combo Lab. You can unlock moves to extend your aerial juggles, lethal finishers, defensive shields, nanomachine-enhanced AOE attacks, and more to destroy your enemies in devastating new ways.
Even as an alpha, We Shall Wake already has an solid gameplay foundation and offers a promising look at the larger game to come. You can download the alpha demo here.
We Shall Wake will be coming to Steam Greenlight soon, and a Kickstarter is planned.
Title: INK Developer: Zack Bell Games Platforms: PC, Mac Price: $4.99 ---
Zack Bell was one of the developers behind the platformers Frog Sord and Super III. They were solid platformers even as alphas, but unfortunately, both had to be put on hold. So it was nice to see INK released on Steam, a new game from Bell, just as solid and fun as his past work, and an excellent precision platformer.
The most succinct way to describe INK is Super Meat Boy mixed with The Unfinished Swan. INK was originally made for Ludum Dare 32, and has been expanded with more levels and new mechanics. It's a challenging platformer, each level filled with hazards ranging from roaming enemies and deadly drops to turrets. The controls are responsive, letting you to evade danger with ease and deftly double-jump over projectiles. You're not defenseless either, able to stomp on enemies and bosses to damage them.
But on the other hand, INK feels different from other precision platformers in regards to pacing. Levels in INK start out as blank canvases; sometimes there are enemies visible, but typically, floors and walls are hidden. Upon death or when double-jumping, you release an explosion of paint, revealing the area around you. Gradually, the outlines of surfaces become visible, as you carefully jump around the levels
This change adds an interesting wrinkle to INK's gameplay. I found myself approaching levels more cautiously and slowly than other games in the genre, at least towards the beginning of the levels. It's not until many deaths later that the levels are clearly visible and you can quickly make your way towards the exit.
INK is colorful, fun, and challenging, and adds an interesting technicolor twist to the genre. You can purchase the game on the Steam.
Inspired by the classic Rollcage games, with a lethal mix of heavy weapons and ferocious speed, GRIP is a new breed of combat racer.
There's nothing quite like a good arcade racer. Burnout 3, Motorstorm, Need for Speed. More recently, the indie revival seen with Distance, Drift Stage, Power Drive, and others. The arcade racer is synonymous with high-speed action, over-the-top tracks, fun handling unmoored from realistic physics, and GRIP promises all that and more.
A spiritual successor to the PS1 Rollcage series, GRIP isn't concerned with realism. It's about combat racing at incredible speeds, taking out rivals with a vast array of weaponry and pick-ups ranging from missile barrages and railguns to manually-directed shields and EMPs. Across unique alien landscapes, your big-wheeled armored car can throttle up walls and ceilings with reckless abandon, evading obstacles, maneuvering around vehicles, and taking physics-defying shortcuts.
Other racers aren't the only targets for your powerful arsenal. The tracks, set in futuristic cities, alien jungles and sprawling deserts, feature destructible environments to crash through and obliterate. The chaotic high-speed action will be spread across a career mode, an arcade mode with numerous modifiers, and time trials. And if blowing up AI racers gets boring, you can blow up your friends in GRIP's local and online multiplayer modes.
GRIP is slated for potential release in late 2016, and is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. You can learn more about the game on its website and Facebook/Twitter pages.