Saturday, January 30, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 1/30

Title: Scorn
Developer: Ebb Software
Scorn is an atmospheric first person horror adventure game set in a nightmarish universe of odd forms and somber tapestry. Isolated and lost inside this dream-like world you will explore different interconnected regions in a non-linear fashion. Every location contains its own story, puzzles and characters that are integral in creating cohesive lived in world. Throughout the game you will open up new areas of the game, acquire different skill sets, weapons, various items and try to comprehend the sights presented to you.
Title: The Black Death
Developer: Siren Studios
Experience a bustling medieval land under the threat of a devastating plague. Survival is becoming increasingly unlikely, but day to day life must continue. With a variety of classes to choose from, each with their own unique play styles and approaches to survival. How long can you survive before you succumb?
Title: The Last Leviathan
Developer: Super Punk Games
An evocative voyage of creativity, discovery and terror...
Title: Inventory
Developer: Black Tower Basement
A Hack'n'slash RPG about beautiful loot and greedy heroes
Title: Mad Devils
Developer: Itzy Interactive
Mad Devils blends the popular WWII genre with supernatural/fantasy elements in a one of a kind, co-operative shooter experience. Follow a group of devil GI’s who continue to fight WWII in an afterlife that darkly mirrors war torn Europe. Choose to play as one of the six remaining members of the Mad Devils squad, leveling up each with their own unique powers and weapons. Fight to close the portals being used to reinforce Nazi forces on Earth with devil troops.

Friday, January 29, 2016

IOS Review #110: Knotmania

Title: Knotmania
Developer: 2 Think Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $2.99
If you've played Zen Bound or Shadowmatic, you're already familiar with the feel of Knotmania's gameplay. A relaxing atmosphere and tactile mechanics make Knotmania an enjoyable game, but the sentient alien entities that you untangle make it unique.
Knotmania revolves around the simple premise of untangling knots. Multi-touch controls lets you pull apart strings and twist, drag, and rotate with ease. But those fibers aren't static; instead they're living creatures, worm-like beings that flex and coil and react to your touch.

It may seem like a small change, but the notion of manipulating living creatures gives Knotmania its weird quirky charm. Each level begins with a twisted knot to tackle - sometimes a single worm, sometimes many entangled with each other - a calm relaxed mass indifferent to your presence. Begin tugging and dragging and, as expected, they resist and twist away, moving in slow graceful movements as if through water or in zero gravity. Maybe one worm will try to wrap around and wrestle with another. It adds an engaging vibe akin to an unearthly nature documentary to what's a relatively simple format.
Knotmania includes 76 levels, each one featuring a colorful pairing of room and strings. The oddly textured environments enhances the alien atmosphere, and seeing the shadows of the twisting, flowing worms against the backgrounds helps cement the sense that these are living physical things in the environment.

While the core gameplay is quite relaxing, there is an element of challenge in completing the levels under a time limit, as well as the optional goal of using the fewest amount of touches. An upcoming update will add a Zen mode that removes the timer.
Knotmania is available for $2.99.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Watchlist: Anew: The Distant Light

Title: Anew: The Distant Light
Developer: Resonator, LLC
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
In development
An open-world, dual-stick action game which showcases a beautifully painted, storybook world
From Limbo to the upcoming Orphan, there's something compelling about a child enduring a harsh and dangerous world. Anew: The Distant Light follows a child on a distant moon, light-years from home and on a critical mission.

Set on a sprawling world, extending from rocky barren surface to subterranean lakes, you'll shoot and leap your way through dangerous beings and deadly hazards. A high-tech suit enhances your mobility, granting you the skills to gracefully dive beneath the water or use jet boosters for augmented jumps.
As you explore farther, new technology will expand your options, letting you solve puzzles and speed across the moon in alien vehicles. But agility alone isn't enough to survive this ruthless landscape, and an arsenal of powerful energy guns, grenades, and more lets you hold your own against hordes of alien creatures, lurking predators. and heavily-armed inhabitants. 

Anew brings this alien moon to life with a vibrant art style and smooth animations. Snow coats the dimly lit surface around your landing site, water sloshes and splashes as you fight under the surface, and lasers fly across the screen in furious neon streaks.
Anew: The Distant Light is still early in development, and is slated to release on PC and consoles. You can learn more about the game and find more screenshots here.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 1/23

Title: Anew: The Distant Light
Developer: Resonator, LLC
Anew: The Distant Light is an open-world, dual-stick action game which showcases a beautifully painted, storybook environment. You are a child with limited resources, waking up on a distant alien moon, twenty light years from Earth. You must carry out a mission of critical importance. Battle, puzzle, and journey through an exotic and dangerous world.
Title: Pode
Developer: Henchman & Goon
Pode is a puzzle adventure about friendship and cooperation. Join Bulder the rock and Stella the star on a wonderful journey through an ancient, lush underground world filled with riddles and mysteries.
Title: Long Gone Days
Developer: Bura Mathews
An RPG following the story of Rourke, a young man who was designated to be a soldier at birth. Rourke was born in the core of the earth, a place technically invisible to the rest of the world.
Title: Life In A Box
Developer: El-Metallico
A pixel art point 'n click about a physicist who has lost his daughter and tries to return her by building a time machine.
Title: Yaga
Yaga is an action RPG allowing you to shape your own east-european folktales through the actions and choices you make. Your choices are combined with procedural generation to tell the story of a one-handed blacksmith roaming the world in search of adventure

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Watchlist: Consortium: The Tower

Title: Consortium: The Tower
Developer: Interdimensional Games Inc
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Releasing late 2017
The ultimate single player first-person immersive sim. Explore, talk, fight or sneak through The Churchill Tower in 2042
The immersive sim. It's a small subgenre of games, an eclectic mix of themes and gameplay all bound by a goal of letting you role-play as a character in believable reactive worlds that mold to your choices and actions. Deus Ex, STALKER, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, a few others, but perhaps most recently, Consortium. An ambitious sci-fi game set in the confines of a single plane, yet feeling like an expansive experience thanks to the depth of its narrative, relationships, and gameplay freedom.

Now developer IDGI is back with Consortium: The Tower, an even more ambitious sequel that takes what worked in the first game and evolving those elements on an impressive scale and scope.
Consortium: The Tower takes place in a near-future London, in the massive Churchill Tower, now controlled by a mysterious terrorist faction. You play as Bishop Six, an agent of the titular organization, on a mission to observe, report, and handle the situation. How you accomplish those goals are up to you. The tower is home to a whole array of different groups -  terrorists, police, civilians, Consortium and other more enigmatic individuals - each with their plans and agendas. You can sky-dive to flank enemies from above and unleash devastating firepower, cloak and sneak through unseen, explore the tower for better routes and hack into terminals for useful data and hidden secrets.

But Consortium wouldn't be an immersive sim if it doesn't offer choices beyond the shooting and sneaking. The spoken word here is as powerful as any weapon or piece of technology; in fact, it'll be possible to be complete a playthrough without firing a shot. Find yourself in a tense standoff with an enemy squad and you can press the talk button (that lets you engage in conversation anytime, anywhere), throw down your gun to defuse the tension, and convince the group that you're not a threat or even to fight alongside you.

Going further than that, disobey your orders, go against the Consortium's wishes, and you're be disavowed by the agency. In another game, that would be a game over, but here, The Tower continues along, except now you're a rogue agent. That status may make you very valuable to other factions and individuals in the game.
While the game is already ambitious, the developers have even bigger plans if budget allows. Their vision for The Tower is one of a nearly fully-explorable environment, with areas ranging from malls and apartments to museums and industrial areas, essentially what you'd imagine an actual skyscraper of this magnitude would contain.

Consortium: The Tower is expected to release late next year and is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter. You can learn about the game here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

SitRep: Somerville

Title: Somerville
Developer: Chris Olsen
Platforms: PC
When I wrote about Somerville last year, I was already impressed. From its brilliant narrative framework of a teacher telling her class the story of humanity's war against an alien incursion, to its smoothly animated movement and low-poly aesthetic, the game was shaping up to be one promising cinematic platformer. Since then, the game has only evolved further, especially in the art department.
Perhaps the biggest change since the last article is visually. Somerville's environments have gone from simple test levels to atmospheric landscapes. Dark forests, midnight skies filled with menacing monolithic alien vessels, ruined churches and bridges, and much more await our hero.
But these environments aren't just static places to be explored. Wildlife roams the woodlands and wind whips at the underbrush and other loose items like leaves and tarps.
These beautiful but dangerous levels must be traversed with caution, watching out for patrolling drones, mines and other threats. But John is as versatile and ready to fight as ever, now able to wield a knife with smooth efficiency,
Somerville's development is moving at a steady pace; you can follow its progress on the developer's Tumblr and Twitter pages.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Watchlist: Fara & The Eye of Darkness

Title: Fara & The Eye of Darkness
Developer: Spaceboy Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development
A roguelike with a card-based spell/combat system
Fara & The Eye of Darkness is an upcoming action roguelike that combines fast-paced arena combat with deck-building/card game mechanics, as you face fierce enemies with an arsenal of powerful spells.
As the titular demon witch, you're determined to cure your world of an insidious corruption that's twisting the good animals and inhabitants into aggressive monsters. To defeat this evil and her malevolent siblings, Fara must use an expansive array of spells, ranging from speedy dashes and devastating energy blasts that scar the battleground as they barrel through enemies to fiery sprays and crackling bursts of magic that strike multiple foes at once. 

Enemy encounters transports you to smaller arenas that truly test your agility and smart use of the cards in hand. Between fights, you'll explore a procedural overworld filled with towns, shops, and NPCs, and building your deck from defeated enemies, shops, and looting chests throughout the world.
Fara & The Eye of Darkness is still quite early in development, and is expected to release sometime next year. You can find more spell GIFs and follow the game's progress on Twitter.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

PC Review #138: Oxenfree

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Xbox One
Price: $19.99
A group of teenagers. A weird crazy adventure. Otherworldly happenings. From E,T, and The Goonies to more recently Super 8, it's a story told quite a few times in film. Oxenfree continues that tradition, telling the story of five friends, a mysterious island, and malevolent forces.
Oxenfree is a narrative-driven adventure game about Alex, a teenager still suffering from a great loss, and a group of other seniors spending the night on Edwards Island: step-brother Jonas, friend Ren, quiet Nona, and "mean-girl" Clarissa. It's a long-honored tradition in the community, hanging out on the beach, by the bonfire, drinking. But emotional turmoil and burgeoning relationships all bubble beneath the fun and small talk, and it's your dialogue choices that can make or break friendships, build or shatter trust, among more life-threatening consequences.

The bonfire drinking and games of truth or slap soon morph into a life-and-death struggle to escape the island when insidious supernatural forces are awakened. The story of Oxenfree is best experienced as blind as possible, so I won't delve into the specifics, but it's a gripping tale of coming-of-age and supernatural horror.
You won't find puzzles in Oxenfree, besides using Alex's radio to tune into different frequencies, nor moments of fast-paced action. Oxenfree is a game about atmospheric exploration and dialogue, and it absolutely excels. The landscape of Edwards Island is one of quaint shops, of colorful forests tinged brown and yellow from the autumn weather, of sheer sea-side cliffs and dank caves, of abandoned buildings holding chilling secrets. The place is as much as character in Oxenfree as Alex and the other teens, and a joy to explore.

And every moment of exploration is accompanied by some of the most natural likable dialogue I've heard in a game. Natural not just in tone and cadence, but in execution. Oxenfree evolves the choice-driven narrative genre popularized by Telltale by adopting a walk-and-talk pacing, letting you choose dialogue while on the move or in the midst of other actions. From trying to rationalize terrifying occurrences to making jokes and revealing hurtful secrets, the choices never feel like the mechanical good/bad/neutral options of other games, but natural responses to the situations.

Those situations are tinged with menace and unnerving horror. Oxenfree never resorts to jump scares or gore to be scary; instead it builds an atmosphere of dread and unease, through weird scenarios, excellent sound design, and visual aberrations that morph and contort the soft inviting aesthetic. Like a Stephen King novel or Poltergeist, the horror comes from seeing these normal characters you're invested in facing cruel ruthless evil.
Oxenfree's story ranges from four to seven hours, varying based on how much you explore the island and its secrets. While I typically play these choice-driven narrative games only once, I'm compelled to play Oxenfree again. It was a story I didn't want to end, with characters I liked, and I'm excited to dive in again and see how the story can change with different choices.

Oxenfree is available on Steam, Humble, and Xbox One. A PS4 version is releasing later this year.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 1/16

Title: Syndrome
Developer: Camel 101
Syndrome is a survival horror game set in the future, where the player controls a character who wakes up in a spaceship, with no memory of what happened. The spaceship is adrift in space, and most of the crew is dead or insane. The rest is changed…
Title: Final Gun
Developer: Liberati Games
An arcade RPG
With the emphasis on strategy, coordination, and reflexes, your ability to master the skills of controlling moBOTs will be put to the test through varying missions scattered throughout the cosmos. As you continue playing, an underlying mystery adventure awaits…
Title: Participant Needed
Developer: Ryan Jacob
First-person narrative puzzle game inspired by games like The Stanley Parable, Gone Home and Portal.
Action Legion is a mouse-controlled, single-player war game with comparable similarities to classics such as Cannon Fodder. Fight your way through waves of enemies using an array of weapons, destroy enemy structures and bases, and defeat tough boss fights in this classical single-player epic!
Title: Phant
Developer: Neckbolt Games
An upcoming adventure game, basically Zelda with an elephant.

Friday, January 15, 2016

PC Review #137: Swapperoo

Title: Swapperoo
Developer: Fallen Tree Games
Platforms: PC, IOS Universal
Price: $9.99 (PC), $2.99 (IOS)
I'm not the biggest fan of match-3 puzzlers outside of the genre hybrids like Hero Emblems and Puzzle Quest. So it was a nice surprise that I enjoyed Swapperoo as much as I did. Although, perhaps I should have expected it; Fallen Tree Games had proven themselves with the excellent series of Quell games and Swapperoo evolves the traditional match-3 formula in interesting ways to deliver a surprisingly strategic puzzler.
At its core, Swapperoo follows the same principals as any other match-3 game - connect three or more like items on a grid, removing those matched items from the grid, and so on - but that's where the similarities end. The first and most crucial change is that you only move certain tiles on the grid, and furthermore, only move these triangular tiles in the direction they're pointing. This change alone makes matching a strategic affair, requiring planning moves ahead and thinking if or how to move tiles around the grid,
But soon Swapperoo adds more elements into the mix. Each new addition introduces a new hazard or new caveat to the basic match-3 formula. Suddenly you have tiles that explode after a certain amount of turn, ending your game; now every move you make matters. Then you have sawblade tiles that destroy any tile they collide with; careless moves will throw your grid into chaos, but with planning and careful maneuvering, you can use the sawblade to clear the path for other tiles and set up some high-scoring matches.

And those two are only the start. Tiles that needed to be protected, tiles locked in place, and more continue to add new wrinkles and challenges to the puzzles. On top of those unique tiles, Swapperoo also gives you access to three special abilities, to be used at the most opportune moments: moving a specific tile in any direction, increasing the time on the bomb tiles, and completely detonating the grid. Powering-up these abilities require calculated matches, so each use shouldn't be wasted.

The game features both a hefty selection of handcrafted levels, with unique objectives ranging from simply making a certain number of matches to only making matches with specific tiles, and 38 randomized challenges to truly test your skills and offer long-term replay value.
Swapper is available on Steam, as well as IOS; an Android version is expected soon.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Watchlist: Fictorum

Title: Fictorum
Developer: Scraping Bottom Games
Platforms: PC
In development
Become a powerful mage in a world shattered by magic
In RPGs and other fantasy games, there's perhaps nothing more satisfying than unleashing mystical chaos on your enemies as a mage. In Dragon's Dogma, you can conjure tornadoes and call down meteors. In Magicka, you bend the elements to your whim. And Fictorum enhances that mage power fantasy by letting you adjust your spells on the fly and literally raze the environments to the ground with your magic.

Fictorum takes place in a world ravaged by a magical apocalypse that left millions dead and the land shrouded in a killing mist. The remnants of society have retreated to the highest peaks and travel by portals and ley lines to avoid the mist-choked lands. It's in this ruined civilization that you enter, the descendant of the infamous Fictorum, the order that destroyed the world. Hunted by the Inquisition, you travel from city to city, increasing your strength and embarking on a quest for vengeance.
While other games like Lichdom and Skyrim have featured flashy first-person magic, Fictorum turns each spells a spectacle of destruction. Ice spikes shear buildings in half. Lighting storms leave gaping holes in structures or reduce them to rubble. Houses are set aflame by streams of fire unleashed from your hands. Entire squads of enemy soldiers can be destroyed with a gesture, frozen solid or slaughtered by destructive explosives.

Fictorum lets you adapt and alter your spells in real-time through a unique spell-shaping mechanic. With a button press, time slows and you can select the attributes of each spell based on three pre-selected runes. A simple fireball can be changed to an explosive multi-shot blast or a focused attack to unleash increased damage on a single foe.  Randomly-generated runes, artifacts, and equipment can further enhance the effects and potency of your magic.
Fictorum is currently in development; a Kickstarter is slated for May. You can learn more about the game and follows its progress on the main site and Twitter page.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 1/9

Title: Auto Age: Standoff
Developer: Phantom Compass
Auto Age: Standoff is a colorful car combat game with the style of 1980s action cartoons. Featuring single-player, multi-player (co-op and PvP) and VR game play, Auto Age: Standoff is fuelled by real-time driving and shooting action.
Title: Tricky Towers
Developer: Weird Beard
Tricky Towers is a frantic physics action puzzler. You have to build a tower with tetromino bricks and make sure it doesn’t topple. To spice things up, use magic spells to either support your structure or mess up the towers of your opponents. With spells flying everywhere and bricks dropping like flies – Tricky Towers gives a chaotically good time.
Title: The Thin Silence
Developer: Voltic Games
A narrative-driven atmospheric, puzzle-platformer based on a mechanic of collecting and combining items to create tools you use to manipulate your surroundings. You begin deep underground and must work your way back to the surface and the past you left behind.
Title: Dropcore
Developer: YC960 Studio
A unique hybrid of tactics focused RTS/RPG/Topdown Shooter

Friday, January 8, 2016

IOS Review #109: Blown Away

Title: Blown Away: Secret of the Wind
Developer: Black Pants Studio
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $2.99
Besides being quirky and/or having a unique art style, the only definite thing you can say about the games from Black Pants Studio is that they're diverse. From the hand-drawn mirrored landscapes of Symmetrain to the 3D platforming and environmental dicing of Tiny & Bing, each of their games seems to try something different. Blown Away: Secret of the Wind is their newest iOS game and it combines auto-running and fast-pacing puzzling in a charming and colorful package.
Hendrik is unfortunately having a bad day. Through a gust of wind, Mother Nature took away not just his home, but his hair too. Now he travels a weird and dangerous world, collecting the pieces of his house along the way. For the unprepared, this land would prove to be an insurmountable challenge, between deadly gaps, roaming monsters, and raging flames, among other hazards. But Hendrik has a unique tool in his arsenal: a pair of teleporting boots, that Blown Away's puzzles and platforming revolve around.

In each of the game's 120 levels, you walk to the right automatically, recharging your boots with each step. Tapping the screen teleports you to that location, even as you're falling to certain doom. The charging element is what turns a relatively simple mechanic into a puzzler. Your boots only charge when you're moving, and you only have a limited amount of teleports, so reaching the end of a level means assessing the level and figuring out where to teleport so you have enough distance to recharge. But distance isn't the only thing to consider; timing is important as well if you want to evade patrolling monsters and crushing sawblades.
The auto-running and boot recharge complement each other nicely, forcing you to always pay attention to the path ahead, thinking of how many teleports you'll need to cross a gap, where you should teleport to and when. Through that simple single-tap mechanic, Blown Away delivers both puzzles on the go and the arcade-y thrill of dodging traps, and it's all presented in a vibrant hand-drawn art style that brings to mind old-style cartoons.
Blown Away is available for $2.99.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

No Money, No Problem: Broken Puppet

Title: Broken Puppet
Developer: iDec/UPF student team
Platforms: PC
I've played a lot of freeware games. Long before I started writing about games or checking out the more known, mainstream indies, it was freeware games from Digipen and various sites that introduced me into indies, from ASCII roguelikes to the neon futuristic cityscapes of Nitronic Rush, Broken Puppet has some of the most impressive visuals I've seen in a freeware game and, while featuring some janky controls and physics, offers a fun and atmospheric physics-based puzzle-action game.
Broken Pupper puts in the worn faded shoes of puppet Katherine, replaced by a new pupper performer and left in the forgotten shadows of the basement. But she is determined to return to the stage and must ascend through the dreary dilapidated levels to destroy her replacement.

The game centers its puzzles and action around using threads; threads act as both a grappling hook to pull objects or a tether that can connect two points. This allows you to knock down heavy cabinets to activate pressure plates, support broken bridges, and even fight the weird puppet enemies that roam the basements. Soldiers charge you with swords, spinsters collect the needles you fling, and other threat lurk.

But Broken Puppet's most impressive element is its atmospheric aesthetic, build with a custom engine rather than Unreal or Unity. The ruined halls, the dim industrial rooms, the eerie arrangements of discarded toys and parts make for an engrossing world to traverse through the game's six levels.
You can download Broken Puppet from IndieDB and GameJolt.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 1/2/2016

Title: Failure
Developer: Dream Harvest Games
Failure is a rule-bending RTS that redefines the foundations of the genre. Combining elements of RTS, Card Battle Games and God games all set within a neon filled digital cyberspace world called the NeuroNet.
Title: Run Far
Developer: Team Porpoise
Run Far is a first person parkour game with an emphasis on movement and a laid back atmosphere
Title: Wizard's College
Developer: Matt
Wizard’s College is a simulation game where you build a school for Wizards! Design your campus, hire professors, and develop your students, as you create a legendary academy for spellcasters. Send your students on quests to gain experience and, if they survive, bring back gold and artifacts to grow your school.
Title: Judgement
Developer: Suncrash Studio
Judgment is a real-time colony simulation taking place during the apocalypse, with emphasis on tactical combat.
Title: Dag's Adventure
Developer: Dag's Adventure team
Long time ago in a small and remote village, people were living in peace and prosperity, old men and women told stories about how they were legendary warriors. All lies? Who knows... In the meantime, evil forces lead by the Black King are preparing their strike to the earth. Soon our heroes will have to prove their valor. Will you be able to save their world?