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

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Freebie: ‘Box Life’

Box Life

Made for Ludum Dare 23 in the form you can check out here, Box Life was planned out to be a metroidvania platformer. You could stretch to say it’s a puzzle platformer, but it really is a stretch. However, it is fairly enjoyable and sneakily sneaks away minutes of the day when you’re not looking.

At first, the odd look and lack of even being able to jump or do much at all in Box Life didn’t really grab me – it seemed drab. The catch of course being that, as this is a metroidvania style game, you have to find some pickups that allow you to access different areas, the first of which is the ability of jump. Once you get past that barrier then things start picking up a bit of momentum and soon you’re off leaping around and finding weird shapes and blasting away block with fireballs.

There’s not much to Box Life, after all, you’re stuck in a large box with just a few things to jump around on and explore. Not much really. For some reason it’s quite compelling though. Finding the new abilities keeps you pressing on and once you’ve done that then there are the six secrets to find. At the current moment in time I’ve only found one but I’m determined to find them all. I just don’t see how the developer managed to hide them so well in such a small level – kudos for that.

Box Life

You can play Box Life in your browser, over on Kongregate or you can download it for PC, or if you prefer, here’s a Mac download.

More information on Box Life can be found over on its Ludum Dare page.


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To Space, We Boldly Go: ‘Project Scylla’ Gameplay

Project Scylla

Ones for vibrant graphics and fairly sound gameplay, Questtracers are working on their latest title known only as Project Scylla, but now you can get a proper look at some WIP gameplay. Straight away you’ll notice the thick bold lines around Project Scylla which give the game a kind of friendly comic book feel, despite the depths of space staring at you in every direction. The jump into a full 3D world for Questtracers has quite clearly been successful, at least on the visual considerations.

Though Questtracers have mostly retained the cartoon vibe as seen in their previous games, Easter Avenger Ex and Kukoo Machines being prime examples, Project Scylla definitely pertains to a more core gaming experience. This is primarily because it’s a shmup based in space and there’s a whole legion of people who dedicate themselves to games of this type.

How does Project Scylla add up though? One particular thing that stands out in this early gameplay is the character communication, as they argue with each other and talk to the player, quite alike Star Fox with less animals and more headgear. The rest of the gameplay, as in the shooting part, seems pretty simple and not all that challenging but the game looks worth playing for its presentation and delivery in general.

If the backlog of games from Questtracers is anything to go by, then Project Scylla will be a free game and we already know it will be playable in a browser. So considering the quality of it, this should be a pretty impressive free browser game to play through.

More information on Project Scylla can be found on the developer’s official website.


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‘Renegade Sector Episode 12: Castle of the Insect King’ Released

The third episode of Alec Stamos’ action-action Flash series, Tales of the Renegade Sector, has been released on Stamos’ official site and on Newgrounds, where it’s quickly made its way to the front page of the ‘Games’ section.

The latest development in the Renegade Sector storyline is entitled Castle of the Insect King, and it follows Space Captain McAllery’s escapades in an alien swamp. This time round, he’s searching for a piece of the antagonistic Laserbeard’s treasure in the dungeon of a dilapidated castle, which used to be helmed by the ancient Insect King. And thus begins a journey involving insect battles, shooting and a leap of faith or two.

It’s evident that a considerable amount of hard work has gone into polishing up the Renegade Sector experience in recent months, and Castle of the Insect King is a testament to just how far this series has come since its inception. The controls in this most recent incarnation of the story are the smoothest, most fluidly executed yet, while the shooting mechanics remain as simplistic and satisfying as ever before. Of course, the graphics have clearly come on a treat since the earliest episodes, as you might well gather from comparing the screenshot above with the following image from its formative days.

Castle of the Insect King can be played for free on the official Renegade Sector website. If you’d like to try out the preceding episodes, check out the site’s Archive section.


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All Together Now: Multiplayer Neutronized Game Announced

Remember Roar Rampage, that browser game that let you commandeer a dinosaur and punch building? Well, it was pretty splendid, and that’s why we’re excited to hear that its developers, Neutronized, are developing its first multiplayer game.

The as-yet untitled game will apparently be fairly similar to gaming emerald Pong, although it’s spruced up significantly with the addition of power-ups and Double Panda characters. Present plans call for a server capacity of up to 100 concurrent players, although Neutronized have revealed that this figure could be upped to the sizeable sum of INFINITE!! if the game proves popular enough amongst players. And if it’s anything like their previous efforts, we wouldn’t be surprised if that ended up happening.

Although we don’t know a great amount about this new project, we’d certainly urge fans to keep both eyes on its progress in the near future. We’ll aim to keep you all posted once any update arise but, in the meantime, why not have a go at some of Neutronized’s other wacky contraptions?


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Steam Clay: ‘The Dream Machine’ Coming To Steam

They just keep on coming, don’t they? Our seemingly daily foray into the Steam registry appears to have unearthed yet another acclaimed indie classic that might just be on its way to Steam, this time in the form of The Dream Machine. At the moment, all that seems to be in the offing is a trailer, but it seems inevitable that more news will be incoming very shortly.

Previously a browser-based game, The Dream Machine‘s leap to Valve’s distribution service probably shouldn’t come as a great surprise given its eyecatching visual appeal and unique art direction. While the game itself is a standard point-and-click affair, what sets The Dream Machine apart from the rest of the pack is the fact that it was completely made by hand using clay, cardboard and other household materials. Watching it in action is almost akin to witnessing an animated children’s programme from the 1970s come to life, which is a concept that’s just as spooky as it is chuffing awesome. Take a look at the original trailer below and you’ll get an inkling of what to expect.


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More Than Meets The Eye: ‘AirMech’ Alpha Testers Offered MEGA Bundle

AirMech

Alpha testers of futuristic action/RTS AirMech are to be offered exclusive access to the newly-outed AirMech Alpha MEGA Bundle, developers Carbon Games have announced.

Priced at $20, the package will grant users full entitlement to every single AirMech, Unit and Variant currently included in the game’s Alpha build, along with a brand new, fully exclusive Alpha Striker Variant. Purchasers will also continue receive every subsequently released item of content whilst the game remains in its Alpha stage of development, including a new set of units set to be released next week.


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LD23: ‘Wunderworld’ Is A Simple But Lovely Dungeon Creator

Wunderworld

Out of the many glorious things to have come out of Ludum Dare 23, one of our favorites so far is Rat King Entertainment‘s dungeon creation tool, Wunderworld. You must try it out, oh you must.

While many of those who entered Ludum Dare 23 were worrying about level design, Rat King took a different approach and made a tool that allowed the player to create their own levels. Taking the theme of “Tiny World”, Rat King combined this with their love of for game development and Ultima Underworld to make Wunderworld – a dungeon creation tool. In this, you can build up a multi-tiered dungeon from a simply 9


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LD23 – ‘Lilac.27′

Lilac.27

With the theme of Ludum Dare 23 being “Tiny World”, the kind of game that I instantly thought up was the type I often played in my youth. These are colorful games, mainly platformers of some form, in which planets serve as levels with different themes. Lilac.27 pretty much captures this principal in a small but gift-wrapped intertwining of third person shooter and platformer.

Helming from the saccharine workshops of Villa Vanilla. Lilac.27 has you playing as Lilac the cosmonaut during her rainbow-colored quest to exterminate space vermin. Most striking visually (apart from the candy shop palette) is the shape of the game world, i.e. you’re on a very small planet. It’s a spherical trip across the landscape as opposed to a flat one and this does cause hell for the camera at times. The usual trick, when handling the camera upon such a curved surface, is to have it remain fixed to the player’s position with 360 degree rotation along the x axis. It’s awkward but usually works. The same can be said on the variation of this used in Lilac.27. The camera is controlled manually with the z and c buttons but this tilts it around the sphere rather around the player’s upright position. This leads to some weird camera angles at times but nothing that entirely disrupts the game.

Moving away from that slight issue, Lilac.27 is a small but well executed game. While the would is 3D the characters – Lilac and the enemies – are flat 2D images and the effect is rather pleasant. Overall, the graphics really make the game pop and shine the brightest out of all its features. The music is similarly cutesy but not as memorable on the ear as the visuals are on the eye. The gameplay itself is entertaining if slightly askew due to the aforementioned camera fiddling. You’ll be firing arrows at your foe which can be charged with a rainbow glow effect for more power when the mouse button is held down.

Lilac.27

You’ll practice your accuracy on friendly butterflies first (you monster!) before being assaulted by blobby aliens and then ones that shoot back. The most outstanding aspect of the game, at least for me, was when you step on to a pad at the end of each planet and are launched at great speed through space and on to the next planet. I’m not sure why I enjoyed this quite so much, perhaps it just feels like something out of a theme park and ignites a slight thrill. Whatever it is, it’s fun and I enjoyed being propelled to the different planets.

So, in conclusion, Lilac.27 is a fun if slightly awkward on occasion, action platformer and one which Villa Vanilla shows interest of doing more work on. So hopefully there will be an updated and expanded version of the game in the future – I’ll certainly be on the look out.

You can play and rate Lilac.27 over on the Ludum Dare page and you can play it in your browser of the official website.


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LD23 – ‘Obsolescence’

Obsolescence

Proving that being late to the party doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy yourself, Quick Fingers made Obsolescence in just 24 hours, though you wouldn’t be able to tell otherwise. Keeping with the theme of LD23, Obsolescence pits the human race at the very terminus of our existence and, as if a parasite, we have eaten up the resources of all the big planets and all that is left are dwarf planets, with minimal resources and space to spread our wide girth. The idea of the game, then, is to survive for as long as possible.

You’ll start Obsolescence off on a small planet and taught to rotate it with the mouse. In this game, your concern is not managing the planet – your thoughts are at all times with finding the next planet for which to send the termite-like humans to chew up next. As decades fly by every second, skyscrapers and homes are erected upon the planet and you’ll see the resources bar slowly deteriorate.

The gameplay itself actually revolves (literally) around paying attention to the radial dial around the planet and launching probes off into space missions. Once a few seconds have passed, decades or centuries in game time, the probe will return with feedback of its journey. What you don’t want is for it to bring back no results, which can happen. The least you can hope for are readings of photosynthesis which indicate a planet and the feedback will tell you how many degrees away this is from your last launch point – you’ll have to guess whether to rotate left or right. With a guesstimate or with pure luck your probe will come within the vicinity of a nearby planet and it will tell you how many nearby planets there are and how the resources are on said planet. You’ll be given the option to colonize that one and then the cycle carries of, or to stay on the current one and hopefully find a more resource rich planet. The more planets you colonize the tougher things go on, but the gameplay never changes, just the countdown becomes more pressured.

Obsolescence

This is a game with a pretty bleak outset and the game’s presentation adequately matches that. I absolutely love the sounds in Obsolescence, merely because sci-fi whirrs and beeps are fun to hear. But it’s more than that too – a gentle piano and ambiance really creates a tone to match the game’s outset and gameplay. Everything is a bit of a panic for you, but inevitably this is the damnation of the human race, as the game says in its introduction, “These are end times” and that permeates through the game.

Initially, I thought that Obsolescence could have done with something to vary up the gameplay as things progress. Perhaps some very light research elements, such as spending resources to make another probe or research a probe that travels quicker, or tells exact locations of nearby planets when it issues feedback. I then came to the decision that to do this, the game would have had to be made a little slower in order to give the player time to do such things. This would mar the experience, adding more to it or slowing it down, simply because the game captures desperation and hopelessness in its simplicity – a race against death.

Obsolescence isn’t the greatest thing ever made, but it captures the atmosphere it sets out to very well and supplies that feeling in its gameplay too. Considering this is a 24 hour effort, it’s pretty remarkable, though I still think something could be added to it to make progression feel more worthwhile over than a highscore. Then again, as things progress, you feel more hopeless as the human race dwindles and begin to lose hope as they swallow planets before you can find another suitor for them to move on to. Perhaps it’s fine as it is after all.

You can rate Obsolescence over on the Ludum Dare page, where you can also download it. You may prefer to play in your browser though, in which case, head over to Kongregate.


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Freebie: ‘Inner Dream: Night One’

Inner Dream

Sometimes You return once again with Inner Dream: Night One which is a prologue for their next game, proving to be interesting in concept and narrative, though a bit confusing.

Coming in as the equivalent of a quarter of the full game, Inner Dream: Night One aims to give players a taster of Sometimes You’s dreamy, surreal take on a modern day fairy tale. We last mentioned the developer upon reviewing Retention and the pros and cons mentioned in that review are nearly parallel to what we have to say about Inner Dream: Night One.

Once again, the use of photos by Sometimes You is very impressive in this latest effort from them. From forests, to seas and city landscapes, there are some really striking images for the player to gaze upon as well as explore as they make up the game’s environment. The fact that your mouse movement causes the screen to tilt adds to the effect greatly. Accompanying the photos are drawings which are similarly engaging in their depiction of a boys journey, which ended up being the more interesting story despite being a sub-plot.

So what is the story of Inner Dream: Night One? Unfortunately, that ends up being harder to answer than it should be. In essence it is simple, the developers surmise it as such:

“‘Inner Dream’ is a modern fairy tale about dreams. What if time frozen when you were sleeping? How could you wake up if everything around you now looks like a photo? Find your way in the world of dreams and make clock ticking again to find your way back to reality.”

Inner Dream

That is more or less the gist of the game and seems easy enough to understand. However, the game itself uses Russian voice overs which are supported with English subtitles. Said subtitles attempt to capture the poetry of the original script but sometimes get tangled up, plus, you’ll find the odd translation error just to confuse matters a little more. At times it becomes the kind of experience in which you’re reading through the text and then realize you have no idea what you just read so you need to backtrack, but it’s too late. The game seems to have a lot of lofty ideas and genuinely seems to be an interesting narrative, but is flawed by its inaccessibility. Saying that, the game is based inside a dream of some sort so maybe that’s, in some weird way, a good thing?

Luckily, you get a sense of the eerie from the many characters along your travels through their photographed depictions featuring some brilliant costumes. Interaction in the dialogue with these characters is done by selecting a question with the arrow keys and works just fine, in fact the whole game works fine mechanically. At times you’ll have to point and click through environments (read: photos) and find items – mostly the drawings mentioned earlier – these parts work fine though you could easily get lost at times. Again, though, this seems to fit with the game’s surreal outset – do we ever know where we are in dreams and do we understand what is going on?

There’s still room for improvement in Inner Dream: Night One, mainly in the translation, but the rest of the game is an odd but pleasant experience. There’s a great soundtrack that really blends well with the game, provided by Keratordash which you can actually download for free right here.

You can download Inner Dream: Night One for PC over on Desura.

More information on Inner Dream is available on the game’s official Desura page.