Indie game news, reviews, previews and everything else concerning indie game development.

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‘Gateways’ Preview – A Portal To Fun

Gateways

It’s not every day that a platformer actually impresses me. When I initially started to do my bit as part of the indie press, I ran into a constant barrage of platformers: some good, some great, others bland. This influx of platformers — which, lets be honest, is a genre favorite — is sometimes what leads (or attracts?) other gamers away from the indie scene; it is this idea that every indie game is a platformer, a bland Mario knockoff with about as much character as a cardboard box. Fortunately, with Super Meat Boy and Lumi and a host of truly remarkable platformer games, indie devs have brought about a greater interest — and, in turn, a greater tolerance — for this incredibly simple, yet tasteful genre that possibly marked the first gaming experience for a large number of us.

In any case, I’m a stranger to Smudged Cat Games, even to the seemingly well-received The Adventures of Shuggy. But this whole 2D retro pixellated style — at least the one carried by Gateways — is right up my alley. These are the kinds of games I originally came into this scene for, but strayed from in fear of getting sick of them. So, naturally, the first question I had to ask myself was about what set Gateways apart from every other indie platformer out there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were a number of answers, and that the game is indeed fun. It follows the story of Ed, an inventor whose experiments have run amok. Your main objective is to guide Ed out of his lab.

Gateways is a lot like Portal. I don’t want to demean its originality, the developer’s creativity, stir anyone’s panties into a bunch, so on and so forth. I just mean that, simply put, you have a “Gateway Gun,” and this gun creates little gateways, or portals, as you traverse the one large map of the game, filled with its multitude of brain-bending puzzles and twists. This portal mechanic is a welcome mix into the platformer genre, one that you may have encountered before in other games. But Gateways takes it even further by offering a number of power-ups. In lieu of having actually experienced every single power=up (this is a preview, after all, and the game is far from release), the developer’s explanation should suffice:

“After the basic gun, you acquire a gun that creates two gateways of different sizes, passing through one way shrinks Ed to half his size, and the other way makes Ed grow to twice his size. Then, you find a gun where one gateway doesn’t just connect to the others location but also its time, allowing Ed to travel back in time and encounter earlier versions of himself. Finally, the last gun manipulates gravity, so passing through allows Ed to walk along walls and on ceilings.”

Now, that does sound a little complicated, in all honesty. The initial gateway mechanic is expectedly fun, but I always develop a sense of anxiety when I realize later in-game puzzles will be, well… hard. Of course, that anxiety is part of the fun — the “how the hell am I going to figure this game out?” sensation really does bring out the best in the gamer, because it often forces you to think outside the conventional box. Likewise, that “aaaahhh!” moment where you discover the answer to a puzzle that’s been destroying you is a moment like no other.

Gateways

And Gateways is friendly to the gamer compared to other platformers. It has a map, which tells you where your next objective lies, where you are, where there are solvable/unsolvable puzzles — which, I should mention, are distinguished by your obtaining of orbs and spending them. These orbs are scattered throughout the level and there are plenty of them, but I think you would still have to choose wisely as puzzles cost 10 orbs to distinguish solvable from unsolvable (meaning you need to complete another objective or puzzle before taking that one on) and another 30 or so to watch the solution of the puzzle. In any case, it’s most fun to try and solve the puzzle yourself, regardless of how long it takes, but it’s nice for the gamer to have the ability to watch the puzzle solved for them — at a reasonable cost, of course. There are various save points and help points strewn across the map as well to help you record your progress and clue you in on the use of weapons, commandsand so forth. Point being, essentially, that Gateways wants you to solve the puzzles and it wants you to enjoy yourself while doing so.

I appreciate Smudged Cat’s take on the puzzle-platformer. Gateways seems very promising and its slated release for PC/Xbox makes me wonder which one I’ll choose — it’s great as a sit-down mouse & keyboard kind of platformer, but it seems primed for a controller. Its demo is a strong indicator of what’s to come: a memorable puzzler with depth, something that is often missing in a sea of seeming clones that is the platformer genre.

You can find out more information on Gateways over on the official website.


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Mobile Mania and Beyond with Rocketcat Games [Interview]

From Hook Champ to Mage Gauntlet, RocketCat Games is one of the leading indie iOS developers. Thus far, every game they have made has garnered praise from gamers and gaming press alike, and there’s no surprises seeing as how they’ve all been fun. In this interview, RocketCat talks to DIYGamer about how it all started and where it’s headed, including a PC port of one of their games sometime this year.


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RocketCat Outdoes Itself Again… Mage Gauntlet [iOS Review]

RocketCat Games should — by this point — be synonymous with iOS games… excellent iOS games, actually. Everything they have released up until this point has been gold, certified by thousands of gamers and dozens of press and industry figures (IGF anyone?). So why is it so surprising that Mage Gauntlet is their best game thus far? For one thing, it doesn’t involve hooks, although it does involve a very unique (and awesome) gauntlet. For another, it’s much more of an RPG than their earlier titles, which were based around jump/hook/platforming kinds of experiences. Either way, Mage Gauntlet is an absolute must-own on the iOS because it’s pretty much the definitive mobile action-RPG — minus some terrific RPG elements that could have improved the overall experience.


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Super F@#$%!@ Hard is More Like It… Super Crate Box [iOS Review]

If you played Vlambeer’s Super Crate Box when it first released on PC, you know that it is two things: ridiculously addictive and downright unfairly challenging. Well, I’m happy to say that it seems Halfbot has been able to translate the title over to the iOS. In some cases, though, it’s a bit more difficult and annoying. On the other hand with OpenFeint integration, achievements and unlocks get a lot funner, but on the way to those achievements… I wanted to chuck my phone at the nearest bystander so he could experience at least some of the pain I was experiencing. Yes, it’s fun.


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GLPeas Darkens XBLIG Once More with BlindGiRl2

For any that are unfamiliar with BlindGiRl, GLPeas’ hauntingly unique platformer for XBLIG, this news may not be of much merit. However, BlindGiRl was a fantastic dollar (80 MSP) title worth playing, and its sequel — released Dec. 30th — seems far improved. As with the first game, you guide your character through mazes, unable to see physically where you are going but able to utilize sound waves to help construct your environment. Unlike the first game, though, there are a few more twists.


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Grabarchuk Puzzles’ Christmas Presents

So, yes, Christmas has passed. Well actually, in my culture (I’m Armenian), our Christmas is on the 6th of January, so this is still relevant. But, in any case, what’s important is there are free games to be had thanks to our friends over at Grabarchuk Puzzles, who are known for developing the most mind-bending of puzzles for devices all across the board. In this case, they even left us with an impressive holiday puzzle, as you can see above. See if you can figure it out.


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New Star Soccer 5 50% Off till January 1st

The Barclays Premier League season thus far has been ridiculously entertaining and full of its fair share of twists and turns. But now it’s time to set your sights on New Star Soccer 5, one of my personal favorite indie sports games of the last year. In New Star Soccer 5, you are a celebrity soccer player just starting out and trying to work your way up the team ladder. As you work to become part of the first team, you also have to learn to balance your personal and work lives and make clever purchases so as to improve your stamina rather than impair it. Or you can just fuck everything up and take steroids, your choice, dude.


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Dear Esther Launching 14th of February

For gamers like us, the regular kill and grind can get old. Utilizing the Source engine, Dear Esther — a new adventure/exploration title from developers thechineseroom — combines beautiful visuals with an abstract and poetic story, abandoning traditional gameplay elements and instead focusing on a rich atmosphere. Originally, the game was released as a mod for Half-Life 2 in 2008, but experienced radical changes in development as Robert Briscoe came on board.


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A Chat with Captain Farbs [Interview]

[My very first interview for DIYGamer was conducted with one of the coolest dudes I've ever spoken to: Farbs. This is a guy who left big-shots 2K to work on his own artistry and give us tremendously varied experiences while at it. The "Captain" series has received high praise but Farbs' legacy extends far beyond that of a single series. Here, he and I have an e-sitdown and discuss his new online trading card game, Card Hunter, and what it's like to a filthy rich indie developer. One of those I'm kidding about...]


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New Star Soccer Free to Play Until Sunday + Sale

Some good news for those with free accounts in New Star Soccer 5: the game will have an unlimited number of matches to play for free until tomorrow, November 27. For those who are on the verge of purchasing NSS5 (which you really should do since it is a great game), it is still available at a 50% discount as part of the Show Me the Games sales promotion.