Janessa Olson, one of our IGM PAX Prime 2013 team members, writes on her hands-on impressions of Phobic Studios’ title Glare.
The fast-paced platformer is Phobic studios’ first game release outside the mobile market, and they do not disappoint. The gameplay is very similar to that of Rayman Origins; the player quickly advances through levels, jumping and ducking over obstacles to reach the goal. Your main weapon is a sort of flashlight that you use to push back enemies of the darkness, or to create new pathways. Like Rayman Origins, the controls of Glare are user-friendly, and the learning curve is inclusive to a variety of gamers, regardless of age or skill level.
While there is no release date yet for Glare, pre-orders are currently available through Phobic’s website and the game has been confirmed for PC, Mac and Linux. Here’s a video interview we put together with the developer, which also provides a look at how the game plays:
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.
Robots are amazing these days. They’re not only compact, but quiet as well. So quiet that, despite having followed the development of this promising platformer since the early days, the release of Joyride Laborotories Nikki And The Robots last week went completely unnoticed by me, and that’s just sad. Maybe it’s the chunky, colourful sprites. Maybe it’s the fantastically bouncy chiptune music (seriously, it’s goooooood) and maybe it’s the fact that secret agent Nikki is planning on saving the world wearing her most kitty-tastic catsuit, but the whole package is just strangely loveable. Here’s a gameplay trailer featuring all of those things, and more than a few robots:
This is one of those releases where everyone wins. The game will run on just about any hardware that you can put it on, and there are Windows, Linux & Mac versions available. The game itself can be downloaded for free, and if you don’t pay a penny then you still have access to both the level-sharing hub and the level editor. If you think the game is actually worth some money, though, you can pay whatever you want (anything over 1 euro will get you Desura/Steam keys as and when the game reaches those platforms) to gain access to an official level set. Right now it’s just one episode, but there’s more coming in the future.
The game is fully DRM-free, a small download, has a built-in updater and (as mentioned above) there’s an integrated level-sharing hub. It’s a remarkably fleshed out package, so give it a try. For those still on the fence against all reason (if nothing else, you can play a large chunk of the game for free!), we’ll be giving it the full review treatment once we’ve conquered the occasionally-fiendish first episode.
A fairly new project, currently called Woodle Tree (the name may change at a later time) is an upcoming 3D platformer created solely by Fabio Ferrara, an upcoming independent developer based in Milano, Italy. It may not look like much at first glance, but Woodle Tree has an adorable graphical style (reminiscent of Mario 64) and fun platformer gameplay that is enchanting (and nostalgic for anyone who played good 3D platforming games in the 90′s).
The story of Woodle Tree is fairly simple, you are a sprout given life by a larger tree and tasked to bring water back to your “thirsty land”. You do this by making your way through an extremely cute, 3D platforming world, using a variety of interesting gameplay mechanics in your search for water.
Most impressive is that Fabio Ferrara has based the entire game off of Unity 3D, making it possible for it to easily be ported to every major gaming platform (with Ferrara looking to release it first for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and if the demand is high enough, mobile devices at a later time). Ferrara is looking to release Woodle Tree for no cost on Windows, Mac, and Linux upon its completion.
Ferrara hopes to work closely with the indie community on his game, adjusting features and fixing bugs to make it as enjoyable of a game as possible. If you would like to check out the demo of Woodle Tree, it can be downloaded here. If you want to keep up with the game’s development, then make sure to follow their official Twitter account.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Escape Goat, it is a widely acclaimed puzzle platformer that has you playing as a goat trying to escape from a magical prison by making your way through a variety of intense puzzles. Created by the indie game developer MagicalTimeBean (EscapeGoat is mostly the creation of Ian Stocker), Escape Goat provides fun (but sometimes extremely frustrating) physics based gameplay that is not only innovative, but beautiful (in a 16-bit graphics kind of way, but that might just be a “me” thing). Up until now, it has only been available on Xbox Live Indie Arcade and PC’s, but now its come to your web browsers. This new web browser version (besides being the first look at the game for Mac and Linux gamers), comes with a variety of new upgrades, including: a built in level editor that allows you to create and share custom maps by giving a friend a simple url, two user created worlds that feature over 40 new rooms, and a localization of the game into French.
As a special promotion for the release of this browser port, the full Escape Goat game will be available for free online until Sunday, September 9 (a demo version will still be available afterwards, as well as the ability to share any custom levels you may have made).
Escape Goat is currently available on Xbox Live Indie Arcade, Windows, and now for any system that can load an internet browser at the official Escape Goat website.
Kornel Kisielewicz is a man with a mission: To make ALL the roguelikes. Not satisfied with converting Doom into a turn-based, randomly-generated dungeon crawl, he’s also tried his hand at adapting ultra-dark fantasy manga Berserk into one as well, and even the Aliens movies. He’s even taken a shot at returning Diablo to its most fundamental of genre roots. For the past year or so, his focus has been entirely on updating and refining DoomRL, but now he’s looking to update his back catalogue somewhat. AliensRL is here again, and heavily updated.
AliensRL is even more straightforward and refined than his turn-based take on Doom. More than anything, this is a tactical combat game set in a randomly generated tower complex. While currently keyboard-only, there’s only a few controls to remember, and very limited inventory management. Rather than lugging around a huge arsenal of gear, you have Light, Standard and Heavy weapons slots, and can only carry one weapon in each, and equipment such as health packs is automatically assigned to hotkeys. If this weren’t turn-based, it’d be an action game.
While limited to ASCII graphics, the game does use sound quite effectively. There’s a few droning ambient music tracks to help maintain the mood, and the sounds of the weapons and the aliens themselves are lifted straight from the movies. The piercing screams of the enemies are particularly loud and jarring, but I suppose that’s how it’s supposed to be. The ultimate goal of the game is, of course, to slay the alien queen. After several attempts, I’ve not even come close, but I’ve had fun trying.
AliensRL v0.8.2 is free, available now, and supports Windows, Mac & Linux PCs.
For a while there, it was looking seriously bleak for Shadowrun Online. Perhaps it’s because there was already an official singleplayer Shadowrun game licensed and in development? Either way, not too many people seemed willing to bite, and the game was short of its funding goal by a full quarter with just one day left to go. It seemed unlikely that they’d raise 25% of the target money in 3% of time. Statistically, it seemed likely that the game would go unfunded. And then they pulled out all the stops.
At the time of writing, there’s an hour or two left to put your money down for early Beta access to the game, and they’ve cleared their $500,000 target and sailed past it to the tune of $25,000. The ambitious multiplatform (Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android & even Ouya) turn-based tactical fantasy/cyberpunk MMO is good to go. Despite their difficulty finding funding, the game actually looks remarkably solid already, with a fair amount of gameplay footage being available for viewing on the Kickstarter page.
Can the market bear two related, but fundamentally different Shadowrun games? Well, it could back in the 90s – Shadowrun titles rolled out on both SNES and Megadrive/Genesis consoles, and despite both being great games, they were wildly different. So, I reckon there’s room for two sets of cyber-decking ne’erdowells on the post-cyberpocalyptic streets of Seattle. Congratulations to Cliffhanger Studios (what a name choice, eh?) on funding their game – here’s hoping that development goes smoothly from here on in.
Arcen Games are a hard-working bunch, that’s for sure. It wasn’t announced long ago, but the fourth expansion for their asymmetrical mega-scale RTS AI War: Fleet Command is now available to play, albeit in unfinished form. As per their usual M.O., they’re taking player feedback from an early stage to help guide the development of this new expansion.
Ancient Shadows is the title, and the big new twist brought in with this expansion is ‘Champions’. In what sounds like a rather Homeworld-esque twist, you can now opt to start the game as a nomadic faction of one of four races in an upgradable, modular super-ship. Through combat, it gains experience and more upgrade options present themselves. From the looks of the ship-builder screen (pictured below), it visibly grows over time, too. Beyond just being a fancy ship, it can travel outside of the usual bounds of the map and discover various NPC factions, which will offer missions and fill in yet more backstory lore.
As with the previous Light of The Spire expansion, Ancient Shadows seems to offer additional routes to victory through new mission objectives and interactions with neutral or friendly NPC factions. As with all AI War expansions, you can get a hands-on demo of this new content by running the updater in-game then grabbing the expansion installer from the official page here. The expansion itself will cost $5 when finished, but you can shave a dollar off that price if you buy in early.
Arcen Games have kindly given us a copy of Ancient Shadows for preview, and we’ll be digging into it soon to see how the new concepts and features are shaping up. The addition of a more mobile, aggressive approach to the game sounds like it might shake things up. It’ll be interesting in seeing how a match with a single ‘commander’ player with a base, and a flotilla of Champions works.
It’s no secret that Fractal Softworks’ Starfarer is one of my most eagerly followed alphafunded indie games. A shockingly in-depth space shooter/strategy blend with RPG elements – it might sound intimidating, but the combat is accessible, the interface is well designed and the sandbox elements are very reminiscent of Mount & Blade even at this early point. It’s been quite some time since a new playable build was released to pre-purchasers, but this one is fairly massive, to the point of actually having four staggered change-logs.
While the scale of the game is still sadly limited to a set of standalone missions and a single sandbox star-system to explore (the final game will have a large part of the galaxy to freely roam around), the individual components have all been tweaked, tuned and refined here. The ships themselves are much more interesting now – previously, they were just hulls onto which you mounted gear, but now each chassis has a built-in ability/feature that defines it. One might have anti-missile flares, another a short-range teleporter, a powerful but damaging booster engine and so on.
Another major gameplay feature is phase-cloaked ships, which can fade in and out of reality. They’re not just invisible, but largely invulnerable while cloaked, capable of even phasing through the front of an enemy capital ship, turning round, un-phasing and unloading some cannon fire into its exposed engines. There’s already a range of tools and tricks to counter these new ships, and they’re largely limited to the ‘high-tech’ factions of the game such as the Tri-Tachyon corporation.
The already-impressive AI has gotten yet another overhaul, too. The importance of this can’t be understated – while you have command over a fleet in Starfarer, it doesn’t work like a traditional RTS. You’re an admiral, and pass orders down to your captains. How these captains carry out those orders depends on how well supported they are, their morale, their personal skills, stats and so on. It’s much more RPG-like than you’d first think, and this requires ship AI capable of holding its own.
The AI feels a little more human now, and more aware of exactly what ship it’s flying – strengths and weaknesses included. There’s already been some players caught unaware by the newfound survival instinct of the previously hapless Buffalo Mk2 missile barges. When threatened and cornered, they’re likely to launch their entire cargo of missiles while retreating in order to save their own skin. Conversely, aggressive hunter-killer ships will now actively seek to bring down missile boats sitting on the edge of battle in order to clear the field for their less agile bretheren.
Reminiscent of Cortex Command, Starfarer may still be a long way from completion, but it already has a large and dedicated modding community. It’ll take a while for the current wave of mods (and there’s dozens, if not hundreds – some even adding whole new playable races) to update to the current build, but the game should grow even faster now that modders have these additional features to play around with.
Starfarer is available for Windows, Mac & Linux PCs, and planned to cost $20 when it finally hits V1.0. Until that fateful day, you can buy in early for $10. While there’s only a finite number of missions and a small sandbox, I’ve probably sunk more hours into this than many AAA blockbusters already, so I can easily recommend it if you’re a fan of space combat games such as Freespace, or would rather that Mount & Blade be about spaceships and lasers instead of horses.
I must be slipping – a visually creative game with quirky genre-blending gameplay, developed by a crew of ex-Demoscene folks responsible for the particularly stylish/trippy Masagin? How this one got by me, I have no idea. Project Ginshu by Duangle Games is billed as primarily a ‘defence game’, but with aspects of farming, puzzling and adventure, all apparently set in a strange universe known as the Doubt Field – home to the lost (and faintly familiar-sounding) treasure of Dora Do’El.
The game in the early phases of public alphafunding, and those that buy in early at the current price of $20 will get access to builds as and when they’re released. Much like Wolfire, the alphafunding trend-setters that they are, Duangle are making the whole process very open, with a full development blog and regular video updates showing off each new feature as it’s added. Here’s the latest, showing off the first generation of building-devouring critters, and some of the early defences you’ll use against them:
Looking pretty interesting so far, and navigating between the abstract planetoids looks to be a weirdly dizzying experience, but I guess that’s what they’re shooting for. My only reservation at this point is the price tag – while $20 (or more) is a fine price for a finished indie game, I’m just concerned that very few people are going to bite at that price, given that the game is still in Alpha. That aside, I’ll be keeping a beady eye on this one – it could be big.