Minecraft clones can go jump off a blocky, procedurally generating cliff for all I care. Codehatch Corp’s Starforge, however, is something else. It’s part of a wave of games that looked at the success of Minecraft and said ‘That’s cool and all, but we can do better’. The first alpha builds of the impressive-looking game were a huge hit and drummed up a lot of positive press, but now the game has fallen out of the limelight. After a change of business model from F2P to regular alphafunding (a pre-order price of $15 right now), a new attempt to draw in development funding has just begun for the game. Here’s the pitch video, featuring gigantic guns, huge aliens and aerial chainsaw duels:
As you can see, it’s looking pretty amazing, and there’s some features in there like procedurally generated guns and stress-tracking building systems that you don’t see often. I don’t need to point out that it looks absolutely lovely too, do I? You can play a free demo build on the official site to get a taste for it yourself, or preorder (ideally via the IndieGoGo funding drive) for access to each new version as it is released, along with the first test-build of their endless voxel-based world.
Personally, I think what really sets it apart from everything else is the movement physics. While not quite as thoroughly simulated as A New Zero, all your animations are tied to the forces applied to your character. What does this mean? Well, I managed to climb backwards up a sheer cliff face in the current demo by firing a high-calibre machine gun – the resultant recoil was enough to let my character’s feet find purchase on the surface and walk as if it was the ground. Playing in first-person can be a disorienting experience, but in third-person you get a much better idea of what your characters body is doing in relation to your facing.
The funding drive for the game will last until November 29th, and the devlopers aim to raise a remarkably small $75,000. Given the quality of the game on show already, I really hope they hit several times that target.
Generously large DLC packs are always nice to see. Generously large and completely free DLC is almost unheard of, but that’s just what owners of Smudged Cat’s charming little puzzle-platformer The Adventures Of Shuggy are getting today with the release of Shuggy’s Teleporting Troubles. Another 40 puzzle-heavy singleplayer levels to play, which is an impressive amount when you consider that the original game was 100 stages long.
Perhaps in celebration of Smudged Cat’s newer release, Gateways, the core theme of the Teleporting Troubles expansion is warping space. In this case, by placing teleporter panels on surfaces, and warping to them later. If a block you’ve placed a teleporter on has rotated, then you’ll come out the other end oriented to gravity relative to the new facing of the block… It sounds complex, but makes sense after a few minutes. It also makes for some remarkably complex brainteasers.
Teleporting Troubles is effectively a miniature version of the original campaign. It’s split into 5 worlds, each with their own quirks and themes, and layers new puzzle elements on top of teleportation as you progress. Once you graduate past gravity-related antics, you’ve got elements such as versions of yourself displaced in time as well as space, just in case you haven’t had your recommended daily dose of head-explosion yet.
You can buy Shuggy direct from the developers site for a wallet-friendly $5. As it uses the Humble Store, this means that you get both the DRM-free version (added to your Humble Bundle page, if you have one) and a Steam key, and the developer gets a bigger cut of the profits, too. Everyone wins! Those with the game on Steam should find Teleporting Troubles added to the main menu, while DRM-free folks will have to update the game manually.
Kudos to the sagely Pixel Prospector for spotting this one. If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt over the past decade of gaming, it’s that physics make everything better. From the earliest, wobbliest ragdoll death animations to splooshy fluid dynamics and even just small details like sparks from impacts skittering across the floor. I’ve also learnt that retro mash-ups are rad. Frank Force’s Faster Blaster (formerly known as Mother Lover) is doubleplus extra badical, for these reasons. Take one part Metroid, one part Blaster Master and 9.8g’s of physics, shake (not stir) and serve on the rocks.
There’s no plot to speak of here, but let’s just assume that the miraculous super-tank Sophia The 3rd got lost (should’a taken that left turn at Albuquerque) and ended up on Planet Zebes and decided to explore a little and maybe kill Mother Brain. Also, physics. I don’t really know how to explain the lack of abstract 8-bit movement, but let’s not think too hard about that. Faster Blaster is still officially in development, but the current beta build is largely feature-complete and well worth playing. What you’ve got here is a great big non-linear game-world filled with critters to shoot, platforms to jump on and secrets to find. Metroid, really. But with a tank. And physics.
You’ve also got a lot more to master, controls-wise. Clearing larger jumps is a matter of building up speed and ramping off ledges, and landing needs to be controlled with your brakes or you can end up overshooting the mark. You have semi-limited ammo for your main gun, too. It continually recharges, and the first shot has a little extra kick to it, but every shell launches in an arc affected by your momentum. Later, you get your standard range of Metroid-style upgrades, from basic health extensions to extra weapons. The classic Metroid missile launcher has been upgraded to a manually guided fly-by-wire design, and there’s an even more physics-oriented ‘digger’ gun to excavate your way into new caverns.
The concept is solid for the most part, although controlling your tank takes some time to master, especially given the floaty (jet-assisted?) jumping, and just how easy it is to snag yourself on the corner of a platform and bounce helplessly off. Still, for every moment of frustration there’s one of equal satisfaction. Nailing a fast-moving flying enemy by accelerating your own shot through movement is strangely reminiscent of Starsiege: Tribes. While the game boasts full analogue gamepad support, it’s probably best to use mouse and keyboard. The extra precision with aiming matters when your ammo is semi-limited and that first shot counts more than the rest.
Faster Blaster is available (in beta) now, weighs in at a tiny 8mb download, and should run on just about any PC from the past six years. The engine the game runs on seems smooth and well-optimized, although that shouldn’t be too surprising, given the retro nature of it all.
Now here’s a question for you eagle-brained (and presumably elephant-eyed) folks in the community: Are there any other retro + physics mash-ups that you can think of? Mario-Portal blend MariO springs to mind, but are there any other notable hybrids that we might have missed? Feel free to share, comment, heckle or otherwise make noise in the comments box below.
Have you played The Real Texas yet? Wait, what do you mean you haven’t even heard of it? Hang your head in shame young sir/lady, and rectify that immediately. Might I suggest a trip to the official site for the game, or even perusing our own full review? If you don’t, then you’re missing out. The Real Texas is one of the great indie surprises of this year – an incredibly offbeat, surreal action-RPG about a modern-day rancher on a vacation to England that turns into an interdimensional quest of remarkably small yet important-feeling proportions.
Back when we reviewed the game, it still had some issues, mostly due to the combat controls being a little finicky, and that it was a little too easy to get stun-locked and mauled to death by the great many enemies you’ll encounter. Several updates later, and the game is a far more polished thing. Still resolutely low-fi, but in a more consistent sorta way. There’s even a new quest that has been snuck in with the latest patch – version 1.3 – making a good, lengthy game even better and bigger. Feel free to mentally add a percentage point or two to the review score while you’re at it.
The Real Texas is for Windows, Mac & Linux PCs, and is available now direct from the developer for $15. Nicely, you can get another 30% off that by checking out the Greenlight page, where you can find a promo code to shave a hefty chunk off the price. Make sure you vote for the game while you’re at it – it’s excellent, and deserves a shot at a wider, more mainstream audience.
It would seem that Nyu Media really are the plucky little localization group that could. Despite a partnership with Capcom (giving them a direct line to Valve), they’ve struggled to get each of their translated Japanese indie games onto Steam. Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was originally released back in April, and it seemed like it would stay relegated to the smaller online retailers – a shame, as our Sarah Bishop quite liked it, according to her review here. Thankfully, the winds of fate seem to have changed, and Nyu Media are happily announcing that the game is due to hit Steam on the 8th of November.
Not quite an adventure game and not quite a visual novel, CTHCC falls into that unusual hybrid genre of ‘life sims’. In this case, the adventures of a high-school girl and her quest to establish a successful comedy club at her school, inbetween juggling day to day goals and the general state of her education. It’s whimsical, fluffy easygoing stuff aimed at a more casual market. Not the usual sort of thing you see localized (hardcore arcade shooters seem an easier sell), but it’s nice to see more of this sort of thing making the leap. Here’s the official trailer, too:
The game is for Windows PCs only, and usually retails around the $8 mark, although this re-launch will inevitably come with some kind of small launch discount. While you wait for the Steam release, you can try the demo on the official site here and see what you make of it yourself..
Collectible card games – CCG’s – are a bit of a weird thing for me. I’ve always loved the core concepts of games such as Magic: The Gathering, but the actual gameplay never really grabbed me. However, instances where CCG elements have been transplanted into other genres such as Sony’s PoxNora, EA’s Battleforge, or even Mojang’s upcoming Scrolls, I find the whole experience more compelling. No longer are summoned creatures just illustrations on a piece of card, but units on the playfield with their own stats, abilities and movement ranges – a much more satisfying way to play, so I was intrigued when I was invited to a closed weekend play session of Abrakam’s upcoming browser-based CCG/Hex-based strategy game Faeria. Here’s how things went down:
No sign of a download quite yet, but this long-awaited update should be up for both Steam and DRM-free (via GOG et al) versions of the game within the next few hours. We gave retro dungeon crawler Legend of Grimrocka glowing review earlier this year, and later took a peek at the beta version of the upcoming dungeon creation suite. All signs are pointing to this game having a very long life ahead of it. The toolset contains everything used to create the original dungeon, and supports importing fan-made content such as new graphical tilesets, sounds, items, monsters and more.
In the few weeks since our editor preview, Almost Human have polished up, refined and tuned the editor further, and produced a concise but helpful series of official tutorials teaching newcomers everything from the basic UI to the scripting system. In addition, they’ve bundled together every resource they had legal access to redistribute (the sound effects are excluded, sadly) as a starting point for modders to use in producing new content for the game. You can find all of these on the official Modding page for the game here, and a series of video tutorials on Youtube in this playlist here.
While a powerful editing suite is great news in itself, the real news here is that there’s already an integrated framework for distributing mods created in it. On the Steam side of things, the game has full Workshop integration, letting you upload content straight from the editor, and download directly into the game. For those with the DRM-free version (bought direct or via GOG), the Nexus network have set up a mod hosting page for the game, alongside their hugely popular Elder Scrolls and Fallout modding sites. You can find out more and see an official change-log since the editor beta here, and the editor should be released in full later today.
Somehow, despite it being around for quite some time, we’ve never written about Gimbal. That just won’t do. It’s a multiplayer arcade space combat game in the style of Starfarer/Star Control, but with a big twist reminiscent of old freeware game Fraxy: Your ship is entirely your own design. You piece together chunks of hull, engines, turrets, extending modules, mechanical arms, robo-tentacles or whatever else you think your ultimate space combat vehicle needs. It’s an exciting concept, and it should mean that players have a good chance of discovering their own style as they slowly develop their own customized cruiser.
Sadly, the game doesn’t seem to have been gathering much positive press – or any press at all. I suppose the main reason that the game isn’t flying off shelves (so to speak – it’s available digitally) is that nobody wants to dive into a multiplayer-centric game that they haven’t tried at first. And so, this brings us to the demo. 93mb of spaceships, lasers, explosions and dogfighting. The game is currently available for Windows PCs only, costs $15 normally, and is available direct from the developer using either Paypal or Google Wallet.
There’s also a Greenlight page up for the game. Given the obviously high production values, I hope it gets enough votes to push it into the big leagues. A multiplayer game like this relies on a solid, active player-base to keep things going. It’s the tragic catch-22 that has led so many studios down the road to free-to-play, whether you approve of it or not. So give the demo a try, and throw them a vote. It might just help.
For better or for worse, Valve Software really do seem to be maneuvering themselves into position as a cornerstone of the indie gaming business, and now they’re getting right in on the ground floor. It’s been known for some time that Steam was going to be expanding to support commercial software soon, and now it does – the very first app on the pile? YoYo Games’ incredibly popular GameMaker Studio.
It makes sense – GameMaker has been the development software of choice for a lot of indie classics over the years, including the original version of Spelunky, Immortal Defense, freeware hits such as Iji and Hero Core and even the Cactus’ upcoming hyper-violent 80s action game Hotline Miami (coincidentally Steam-bound soon) were all developed using the package. Just about the only thing it can’t do consistently well is 3D graphics – Unity, UDK and Cryengine fill that niche, though.
What makes the Steam launch of Game Maker so important? Steam Workshop integration. Previously, games were showcased, launched and often completely lost on YoYo Games’ own showcase site. Now, games developed with Game Maker can be directly uploaded to the Steam Workshop where players can find, download, play and rate them. It effectively turns Steam into an almost Newgrounds-esque freeware hub filled, if you know where to look.
As with the regular site-bound version of GameMaker, the Steam edition comes in Free, Standard and Professional editions, and with optional upgrades to export titles as iOS, Android & HTML5 packages. Right now, there’s a 10% launch discount on all the software, and there’s even some strange Steam-specific perks, such as achievements… Yes, achievements. An amusing lot, including ones for racking up a certain number of compiler errors. Guess you’ll be able to see which of your friends suck as programming.
Disclaimer:These are not full reviews, and shouldn’t be treated as such. No final scores will be given, as these are extended opinions of a few hours of play at most, and may not give every aspect of the game a fair shake. Feel free to disagree, heckle, kvetch or even just discuss things reasonably in the handy comments section below.
Once more unto the breach. Another two lesser-known, budget-priced indie games snatched from the overflowing backlog, and put on The Chopping Block for dissection and, ultimately, judgement.
Shepherd Slaughter is a roguelike. You’ve got a magical macguffin to assemble, and bits of it have been scattered around a far-off land and hidden away in ten dungeons. You’ve got almost no equipment, just one life to do it in, and the entire continent is crawling with hundreds of monsters. Good luck!
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of roguelikes in general, whether they be traditionalist, action-oriented, 2D, 3D or anything inbetween. The core experience of delving into increasingly dangerous labyrinths and tunnels, seeking glory, loot and character progression is an addictive combination, and that’s largely what Shepherd Slaughter gets right. There’s the heart of a good game in here, but it’s wrapped in production values that do it no good at all.
I have nothing against ugly games, or even games without graphics at all. Brogueis a masterclass in design, showing that you can practically drown the player in useful, pertinent information without using a single sprite. Despite using animated sprite graphics, Shepherd Slaughter‘s main issue is that it conveys almost nothing clearly. The sprites themselves are crude beyond reason, almost reminiscent of the Atari 2600 era, where enemies were so abstract that the manual had to explain what you were even fighting. While it’s possible to learn what each enemy in this game looks like, it really takes a lot of time to clearly differentiate an Orc from a Goblin.
The other main issue with the game is the core combat engine is possibly a little too simple. Enemies tend to walk directly towards you, and you hit the button to swing your melee weapon (which looks like you’re just waggling it randomly in front of yourself) which knocks your enemy back and does damage. Then you do it again and again until it dies. Ranged combat is effectively identical, only with a projectile instead of a waving damage-field. There’s just no subtlety or weight to it. This isn’t helped by the apparent complete lack of sound effects. There’s some generic RPG adventurin’ tunes burbling away in the background, but not a single clanging sword or monster growl to be heard.
There’s some interesting extra elements, such as a survival/defense mode where you’re guarding a flock of sheep (hence the title), but even that’s a rather limited single-screen affair, and the building interface you’re given to help fence in your wooly friends is bare-bones at best. There’s some good concepts here – the world is large, the dungeons complex, and the environment destructible through the use of the right tools – but the crude graphics and awkward combat hurt it badly. So, moving on…
After several rounds of Zombie Football Carnage, I don’t think I’ve seen a single zombie. Sure, I’d killed mummies, robots, hellhounds, floating eyeballs, golems, dinosaur heads with motorcycle wheels and some other seriously weird creature designs, but not a single zombie, despite them featuring prominently on the box-art. Odd indeed.
Also odd is the choice of using an American Football theme on a very basic arena shooter. Any comparisons to the classic Mutant League Football are immediately crushed. The entire game is a wave-based survival shooter, where you run around the screen blatting increasingly tough sets of monsters using a homing, auto-targetting projectile football, which can be comboed into multiple rapid hits by tapping the fire button again just as the ball hits its mark. You also have a dodge move that lets you pass through enemy groups without harm, a charge attack that does close range AoE damage, and can pick up a variety of single-use offensive and defensive powerups.
The decision to have a global leaderboard is undermined by almost every design decision in the game itself. Enemy waves are randomly chosen, and the difficulty of them wildly varies depending on enemy types, with a horde of slow-moving melee enemies being a cakewalk, and a randomly spawning mob of projectile-spitting critters being almost impossible to avoid damage from. Item hand-outs are similarly random, and can either be game-winning or completely useless.
The final nail in the coffin for anything approaching a balanced scoreboard is the persistent upgrade store which lets you spend money accrued across all playthroughs to boost all your stats, weapon power levels and more. These are permanent, and without any penalty to score, no matter how much you grind, and no matter how much you repeat. The production values on this one are high, and the spritework is charming and imaginative, but Zombie Football Carnage really doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to be.
At $4, Milkstone are probably asking for too much. The game is a refugee from the faltering Xbox Live Indie Games store, where it was originally priced at just a single dollar. Back on home turf, it had the likes of I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MBIES 1N IT!!!1 to compete with, and within the same price bracket. On the PC, you can get the likes of Alien Shooter 2 – a game which offers a modicum of depth on top of some cataclysmic monster-grinding carnage – for just a dollar more, and there’s a whole raft of polished Flash and Unity games that you can play for free on Newgrounds or Kongregate with more depth and smarter design.
The Verdict: Sad to say, but I just can’t recommend these two. In both cases, there are better games available both as freeware and commercial offerings. Shepherd Slaughter has a solid underlying design but is held back badly by the overly-simplistic art style and low production values all round, and while Zombie Football Carnage has great art and presentation the game itself is haphazardly thrown together. It feels like a quick attempt to push out a game on XBLIG – it might have been able to survive there, but not on PC. Keep an eye on IGM tomorrow for yet another game on… The Chopping Block.