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

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Indie Gala Joins The Fun With An Android-Centric Bundle

It’s clearly Bundle Season. The Humble Bundle just ended, Indie Royale is still running, Indiefort has just started, and now Indie Gala has jumped in, looking for a piece of the action. To be perfectly honest, I can’t see this one shifting too many units, as the base price games are all for Android – not exactly the most widespread of platforms in this iDevice-dominated world, sadly. Still, there’s a couple interesting bits in the ‘pay above average’ section for us PC types.

Not having an Android device of my own, I can’t really say much about the core lineup, although it does look fairly solid overall. Great Little War Game looks like a fairly polished Advance Wars style game (with hexes), although the art style does look about as generic as possible. Smiles HD is a simple block-switching/color-matching type casual puzzle game, although those are ten a penny these days. Cardinal Quest is a pretty solid ‘light’ Roguelike, and it looks like it includes both Android and PC (via Desura) options, which is always nice. Legends of Yore is another, even lighter Roguelike, apparently using the same free art-set that was so effectively used by Realm of The Mad God a while back.

For those that pay a bit higher, there’s three PC games. Turba (available via Steam) is a musical block-matching puzzle game, but I can’t say I’ve heard much good about it at all. Manor of The Damned (Desura) is a cute Zelda-like action RPG about vampires and all things grimdark and gory – not too sure if the washed-out aesthetic works in 16-bit style, but it looks fairly solid. Last, and probably most notable, is Pitiri 1977. Activated via Desura, this platform adventure caught my eye when the first trailer was released some time back, but I regrettably never got the chance to play it. There’s some beautiful hand-drawn art on show, and some interesting concepts. Maybe the pack is worth it just for this?

So, brave and richer-than-me readers, I pose a question to you: Is this bundle worth the money? An especially big question to those with Android devices. Share your thoughts in the handy comment box below – it’s what it’s there for, after all.


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Freeware Game Pick – ‘Brogue’

The Roguelike – randomly generated dungeon crawl survival RPGs, to those new to the term – has a long and complex history. From the original Rogue, we’ve seen things expand into adventures based around arcane meta-knowledge such as Nethack, and sprawling open-world adventures like ADOM. We’ve even seen a fair amount of comedy, with Dungeons Of Dredmor holding the crown of silliest roguelike on the scene. Brogue (for Windows, Mac & Linux) is a little different, in that it’s a return to genre basics, while taking all the modern knowledge the genre has accrued back to the source.

Essentially, Brogue is a remake of the great grand-daddy of all dungeon crawls. You – a scurrilous sort with no class (ha) – are venturing into a deep, monster-filled dungeon on a quest to retrieve the magical Amulet of Yendor, then return to the surface. The graphics are ASCII (text-based) once again, but use colour to great effect, making it quickly obvious whether you’re walking on hard stone or wading through a shallow, plant-filled marsh, and your line of sight is clearly defined at all times. Character development is kept minimalist and simple, with your attributes slowly growing over time through use, and many heavier pieces of equipment needing enchantments to become light enough to wear. You really only have to worry about your moment-to-moment choices, and early decisions very seldom cripple you later on.

While character growth is simple, the dungeon isn’t. Brogue expands massively on the old room-corridor-room formula by making the dungeon into a complex, convincingly active environment, while still keeping each floor limited to a single screen. Monsters have dens that they sleep in, and can fight and hunt each other. Whole floors may be dominated by natural ravines and chasms rather than tunnels, and pits can be descended at the risk of injury if you need a quick way out of your current floor. Visibility is also a major issue, and some environments, such as thick overgrowth, will block your view of enemies, and vice versa. Such environments can be interacted with, too. A heavily overgrown chamber full of monsters becomes easily traversed after you torch it all, cooking the creatures within. A maddened, burning animal can set you on fire if it collides with you, though, so everything needs to be considered.

Having the game set in a more organic environment does wonders for the feel of exploring the procedurally generated caverns. Enemy AI is also smarter than you might expect, with more intelligent monster species being quite capable of taking you in a fight, and using the tools they have to hand. Spellcasters will try to keep their distance whenever possible, and if they escape, they’ll heal and return to harrass you later. Predatory creatures may prioritize easier meals than you, allowing you to bypass fighting if you wish, too. Not everything is hostile, either. Some animals may treat you as a friend. Having a wild monkey bouncing around distracting your enemies is always handy, and you can recruit some fairly powerful friends later on.

Despite the ASCII presentation of the game, it has a surprisingly modern and intuitive interface. The leftmost edge of the screen is used as an overview of what creatures are within sight and what their status is, and you can use your mouse to perform almost all actions via a menu bar at the bottom of the screen. Mousing over a target gives you a huge amount of information via tooltips, all presented in plain English form. If you’re strong enough to gain a damage bonus when throwing projectile weapons, then it’ll tell you exactly that when it gives you the damage potentials on a throwing dart. You can learn a lot about each new enemy type just by reading the description. While random chance plays a strong part in the game, you’re always told the odds in the most coherent way possible.

Brogue doesn’t fall into the key traps of Nethack and other ‘high end’ Roguelikes, and requires little in the way of meta-knowledge. You won’t know what potions and scrolls do until you try them, and there’s not much in the way of ‘hidden’ uses for things that aren’t spelled out by the instructive tooltips, so exploration and experimentation are recommended. There’s no shops or economy to concern yourself with, and any gold found is purely for post-death (or victory) bragging rights a the end. If you’re really stumped and can’t see an obvious solution to a problem, the game even offers a full AI-controlled autopilot mode. It’s quite capable, although a bit conservative in it’s item usage. It’s interesting to see how far it can get without any human input.

Brogue is really an excellent little dungeon crawl, and it still being actively developed, so check back with the official regularly for new builds and updates. It’s accessible and intuitive, has a good UI, excellent plain-text descriptions of what you’re seeing, and ASCII graphics that use the full range of colours and brightnesses to make a much more vivid and lively environment than you’d expect possible in pure text.  Due to the graphics-free nature, it’ll run on just about anything with a monitor, and there are Windows, Linux and Mac builds available. Easily recommendable both to fans of the genre, looking for a more complex dungeon to conquer, and for newcomers wanting something with less stats to crunch and rules to remember.


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My, What Big Pixels You Have: ‘The Crystal Catacombs’

The Crystal Catacombs

Roguelikes are becoming quite the hot thing to develop at the moment, and why? More than likely because they can offer players a high dose of replayability and they are something that small developers can put can adequately achieve. It’s all about the procedural generation folks. Even more so with the dungeons. Combine both of those things together and that is exactly what The Crystal Catacombs has to offer. Though it’s a lot more than just that too.

Rendered in those familiar, but colorful, big pixels and in a 2D form, The Crystal Catacombs has you taken up the role of treasure hunter Captain Vasil Ravencraft. He encounters the fabled catacombs and it is you who needs to guide him through them, over and over and over again. But you’ll never have the same experience twice, and thus reveals the beauty of the roguelike. The Crystal Catacombs contains seven Crystal Realms to travel through altogether; each unique due to their random concoctions of enemies, traps, hazards, treasures and bosses.

The Titanic Jelly Snail...FEAR IT!

Essential to this type of game are those all-important magical artefacts, which can offer you some extra powers to aid you. The Double Jump Boot, Dragon Armor, Crystal Skull and Grapple Spikes and many more are yet to be found. You won’t just rely on these alone though – choosing your class from the start will affect your playing style and gaining experience points to level up with will cause you to become a force to be reckoned with. Well, maybe not.

Unfortunately, as great as all of this sounds, The Crystal Catacombs is only about 40% complete and you’ll never guess what – the developers are looking for funding on Kickstarter. This is actually the second time the game has been submitted to Kickstarter as last time it failed – sad face. Maybe this time we can make it work though, yes?

The funding is to recruit people to make the game sound, look and play even better. Plus you can secure yourself a copy of the game or help design it, be in it and so on. More information over on the Kickstarter page and the game’s official blog.


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Open Ended Role Playing Game, ‘Cult: Awakening Of The Old Ones’, Hits Kickstarter

Cult

As has been noted on a number of times, we’re in an era which is seeing many hobbyist game developers take their projects onto the next stage, and in doing so the question of money pops up. David Hagar started coding a game in Python using the libTCOD roguelike library about two and a half years ago, and despite all the work that has gone into it his ambition has meant that he has barely scratched the surface of what he is creating.

Like many of us, David had a dream of creating a particular type of game, it just so happened that the game ended up being rather huge. His love for both open-ended sandbox experiences and role playing games has driven him to creating Cult: Awakening of the Old Ones. It’s a retro styled role playing game at heart, and by that we mean that you’ll looting, exploring dungeons, discovering different civilisations, fighting demons, getting involved in politics, crafting weapons, building a house…and so on. The important thing to take away about Cult is that it should be a true role playing experience, as in you are given the freedom to do pretty much what you want.

Cult: Awakening Of The Old Ones

As Cult has become so big now, and there are a few others adding elements like art and music to make the game more appealing, David has set up a Kickstarter in order to fuel the game’s development and pay those who are helping out. The funding won’t likely speed up the development of the game, but it does make it more likely that a playable version will be released sooner. David has said that he could see himself putting years, even decades more work into Cult, so the investment is a long term one.

There’s plenty of rewards up for grabs as usual for those who help fund Cult. Copies of the game, posters and custom elements in the game ranging from a character and a single tile set to being a producer giving weekly feedback. Head over to Kickstarter or the game’s official website for more information – there’s a lot of it to soak in.


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Survival Horror-Roguelike, ‘Routine’, Gives Us A Spaceman To Gawp At

Routine

Despite the connotations of the title, Routine is something quite special, or at least that’s how we perceive it in this early stage. Since we last saw it, Routine hasn’t seen much more development time. This is due to the hiring of two new people to the one man team, one of which is on a work exchange basis – i.e. you do the art for my game and I’ll program yours.

Now that the art work on the other game has been done, Routine comes back into focus so we expect to see many more updates from now onwards. Why are we drawing attention to it once again then? Well, we can’t resist to be honest and there are two more screens we want to share and that’s enough of a reason to be honest. We became interested in Routine initially because of the premise, it’s a combination of sorts. First it’s a survival horror set in an abandoned moon base. That by itself is enough to make us listen attentively. Then you have to take into account that it’s also a roguelike, meaning it has permanent death and some random generation in hazards and items.

Routine
Routine

Most importantly is that the gameplay doesn’t resort to shooting things. Oh no, this is a proper survival horror which involves running away and hiding when under threat – it’s that or death…permanently. The couple of new screenshots we have move past the simple environment displays we’ve seen so far and introduce the game’s main character. They look fairly typical of what you might expect but that’s not too important anyway considering the game is first person. Still, it’s nice to look at something more regarding the game and we’re genuinely expecting to be further impressed in the coming future.

There’s not too much information on Routine at the moment but you can explore the official website if you want to give it a look.


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Lovecraftian Roguelike ‘Infra Arcana’ Gets A Big Update

Infra Arcana

After several months with no updates, a rather large one has just popped up for the Lovecraftian roguelike Infra Arcana, giving it a new lease of life and many improvements. The reason for such delay would be clear from the changelog – there’s a new map generator for a start.

If you haven’t come across Infra Arcana before then prepared to be soaked into retro sentiments. The graphics are a lovely combination of tile-set and ASCII, which leaves the game’s visual intricacies to your imagination while still offering a smooth look all round. Controls-wise, you’ll be using your keyboard only and in true retro fashion will have to issue commands and actions with the several lettered keys. There are help menus for those that need them which can be brought up by typing in a question mark.

The setting is of interest too, taking place around the early 20th century, your goal is to explore the lair of a dreaded cult called The Church of Starry Wisdom. It is only by travelling down through their decrepit dungeons that you’ll hopefully come across an artifact called The Shining Trapezohedron. It’s very likely that you’ll die on the way down though.

Being a roguelike through and through, the game features randomly generated levels and with the new update they seem even more varied than ever before. The dangers lurking within are even more threatening too – not only are there more monsters but the older ones have some new abilities. Being Lovecraftian, there’s always a sense of something lurking while you’re playing, and if you’re not careful then the game is all too happy to inflict a sudden drop of sanity upon you via fear or shock.

It need not be said, but Infra Arcana is highly replayable and certainly very challenging. You can grab your free download of Infra Arcana from the Downloads page with the later and all of the older builds present, a couple are available for Linux as well as Windows.

More information on Infra Arcana can be found over on the game’s official website.


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‘Gnoblins’ Provides Adequate Roguelike Experience Despite Pre-Alpha Status

Gnoblins

Proving that dungeons needn’t be the dark and miserable places they’re so often thought of as, Gnoblins‘ dungeon architecture is realised with an appealing and clean 3D feel. This is quite a juxtaposition to the game’s harsh roguelike rules of permadeath and randomly generated levels, not to mention the fairly visceral approach to combat from the first person view.

The game takes its name from the minions that can be recruited to stick by your side and contribute to the continual slaughter. At the moment these more complicated features re omitted in this pre-alpha release, somewhat understandably. Other missing features are crafting your own items and building your own dungeons but sound and music features in this latest build at last. It’s early stuff still, but details like the game’s interface already looked detailed and polished, combat is bloody and there are chests to loot – that’s enough to keep some people satiated for at least some time.

Of course, if you really invest into the game by means of playing it a fair amount and thus accumulating feedback, good or bad, then you might consider informing the developers of your impressions so that they may improve the game for the future.

You can download the early access build of Gnoblins once the terms and conditions have been read and accepted over on the download page.

More information on Gnoblins can be found over on the game’s official website.


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Bloodsucker: ‘The Sun Is Deadly’ Sneaks On To IndieCity

The Sun Is Deadly

Originally made for that wonderful Indie Buskers game jam, The Sun Is Deadly has since been updated and spruced up with more levels. If you missed it the first time around, then you can now buy it over on IndieCity.

The inspiration for TSID is quite clear – Thief: The Dark Project. You’ll be playing as a vampire with a craving for blood (who would have guessed?!) but, as the game’s title clearly points out, sunlight isn’t so good for your pale skin. The game takes around a a number of towns which house your many victims. There are guards hanging around and they will bust your bloodsucking tendencies if they catch sight of you, so sinking your fangs into them first should be a priority.

The main problem that TSID presents to the player is navigation, but you do have the power of telekinesis fortunately, with which you can pick up large objects in order to carve a safe path of shadows to the next juicy neck. Your ultimate goal, apart from getting through the levels in record time (obviously), is to find the Golden Box of Jewels in order to lure the most beautiful virgin to your graveyard. Virgins love jewels.

If you bought the Indie Buskers bundle then you’ll already have access to TSID, otherwise you can pick it up for £1.20 over on IndieCity – quite the bargain.

More information on The Sun Is Deadly can be found over on its official website.


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‘To The Moon’ Is Going In To A Box This Summer

To The Moon

They say that birds should be left to fly freely but this Freebird is about to shoved into a box. To The Moon – undeniably one of the most beautiful things humans have created – will be receiving a retail release courtesy of Lace Mamba Global this summer. The UK and Ireland will release date is July 6th while Germany, Austria and Switzerland will get the game’s retail version on August 31st, with other territories following shortly after.

If you haven’t played To The Moon yet then all you need to know is that it is a visual novel presented as a point and click adventure. The story and music is absolutely astounding and the game makes pretty much everyone cry upon completion. No more needs to be said apart from either try the free, hour long version and find out yourself or read our review for a few more impressions.

As well as this retail version of the game, it was recently announced that it will be coming to Steam at some point.

More information on To The Moon can be found on the game’s official website.


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Tales of Maj’Eyal Updates to Beta 40 After Dev’s Scrape With Death

Tales of Maj’Eyal (aka TOME 4) is a bit of a sleeper hit. A heavily tactical, graphical and story-driven roguelike, relatively unknown compared to the recent success of Dungeons Of Dredmor but very much a fan favourite, with it edging out even Dredmor in a public vote late last year. Development on the game almost halted in a very permanent way last week, as the developer totalled his car.

Fortunately, it seems that he got away with relatively light injuries, although there’s not much left of his poor car, so to help fund a replacement, he’s put up a request for donations. Completely optional, of course, but well deserved, as TOME is one of the best roguelikes I’ve played, period. For those who haven’t tried it, give it a shot – it’s far more easygoing and accessible to start out with than most games in the genre, with a focus on gradually escalating tactical challenges rather than your personal war against the random number generator.

There’s been one major update to the game, and one minor update since the accident, and the change-log for the two combined is pretty enormous. The two updates introducing new weapon types, skill trees, balance revisions and some useful tweaks to quest structure, including helpfully putting quest locations on your map, rather than leaving you to stumble around in the woods until you find what you’re looking for. It’s available for Windows, Linux & Mac, so there’s really not much excuse to pass on this one.