Super Mario Pac

[youtube id=”IcQUhLpzjRY” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Super Mario Pac

Here is a free cool game that mixes the classic ZX Spectrum game Jetpack, Mario Sunshine and Super Mario World. In Super Mario Pac, Mario is trapped and being attacked by evil creatures, he must use his plumbing skills and the FLUDD backpack he acquired on a recent holiday to escape.

super mario pac

Control Mario, moving him left, right and water-thrusting him into the air, in order to collect and assemble his pipe escape route and poison any plants in his way. Use the FLUDD water cannon to drench the attacking enemies. Don’t forget to refill your FLUDD backpack regularly or you’ll really be in trouble!

super mario pac

So as you can see in the video you just fly around and shoot water at the turtles as you try to kill the Piranha plant, it’s that simple, but in that simplicity it’s actually fun and it’s free so why not and you get the music and graphics of Super Mario (with a bit of haze in some spots) so why not.

super mario pac

You can check out the main site and get the game here.

Dark Disciples II

[youtube id=”MqLmrdN7os0″ width=”633″ height=”356″]

Dark Disciples II

Freeware CRPGs are less common that -say- freeware adventure and platform games, mostly due to the fact that they need to be bloody big to be any good; a simple fact that translates into tons of content, detailed mechanics and buckets of Tolkien-esque words. Enter, Dark Disciples II, the honestly named and vastly improved sequel to the original Dark Disciples.

Dark Disciples II Dark Disciples IIDark Disciples II

 

 

 

It impressively is a rather huge freeware, tile-based, non-linear RPG sporting an impressive number of quests, characters, monsters and areas, that let’s players freely explore its four continents and even come up with some interesting characters. I suggest you give it a try. I did.

Phenomenon 32

[youtube id=”V2cueICJHek” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Phenomenon 32 is an incredibly immersive experience, designed to be savored slowly and carefully. It is after all a hard and demanding game, that simply cannot be completed in one sitting.~Konstantinos Dimpoulos

Phenomenon 32

I’ve been meaning to write about Phenomenon 32 for quite some time now, but hurdle after hurdle, combined with the fact that this is an impressively vast game, shamed this very Lair to a belated coverage of the game. Still, better late than ever, eh? After all, the thing is still around, freeware as ever.

phenomenon 32

So, uhm, let’s start with some basic facts first. Phenomenon 32 was developed by Jonas Kyratzes, the immensely (multi) talented, inventive and controversial developer of The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge and The Museum of Broken Memories, and can briefly be described as a black and white, 2D, exploration, platform game, albeit one with quirky RPG and strategy elements. The game can be downloaded here.

phenomenon 32 - PC - Indie Game - Screenshot-2

Phenomenon 32, being Kyratzes’ most ambitious project so far, is much more than the sum of its parts. Besides the beautiful black and white visuals, its atmospheric soundscape and a deeply depressing and simultaneously surreal game world, Phenomenon 32 is an incredibly immersive experience, designed to be savored slowly and carefully. It is after all a hard and demanding game, that simply cannot be completed in one sitting. It also is a game filled with surprises and little touches of excellence, that go far beyond what you might expect from a free game.

phenomenon 32 - PC - Indie Game - Screenshot-3

As for the plot, well, it’s one of the best I’ve ever encountered in a video game ever and a key part of Phenomenon 32. Set in an alternate version of the 70s the game is engrossing, deeply political, truly unique and thought-provoking, and is supported by some quality writing and impressive voice-work. You really have to play it. Really.

Dark Scavenger

[youtube id=”nUzfYcfY35Q” width=”633″ height=”356″]

This is flash-driven game that stores its save data in your browser cache.  The game does warn you of this during start up, which is nice – but an odd design choice in my opinion. ~Nick Herber

Dark Scavenger

I will admit that this was a game I had heard nothing about, despite getting mentioned on Destructoid and winning an honorable mention at an indie games convention.  When our friends at Digitally Downloaded asked me if I wanted to review it, I said sure!  Dark Scavenger is a mesh of genres, with a sort of over-the-top sci-fi story presented in a hybrid point-and-click adventure game with a somewhat more traditional RPG combat system.

Dark Scavenger

Psydra games pulls together a mostly static, but bright and colorful art style as you move around maps and click on items that then generate events.  Sometimes you simply find a resource, sometimes you initiate a fight with something or someone, and other times you wind up with branching dialog.  Some of these dialog pieces present puzzle-like elements as well, where you can leverage items you have in your inventory.

Now, speaking of inventory, this is really where the game does most of its heavy-lifting.  Your goal as you move around from one map to another is to pick up and find resources for the rest of your motley, Dark Scavenger crew.  When you move on to a new map screen, you are given a chance to turn your resources into one of your three crew members.  That resource is then turned into a weapon, an item or an ally.
These new inventory items degrade with use – so your tRUSTY sword may run out in 7 uses, whether that be as a puzzle use or in combat.  Combat takes place with a sort of traditional enemy-facing-you approach with some limited combat animations occurring.  You can combine items and weapons in some instances, which is a big help.  My favorite was the ‘big red button’ – which then allowed your single-hit weapon to strike every enemy on screen (particularly helpful during a tougher-than-average fight with a three-headed brute late in the second chapter, for example).

Dark Scavenger

You get the usual number-crunching that takes place in this kind of combat behind the scenes.  For example, the wolf-like creature you are fighting may be vulnerable to your static gun’s electricity damage, but resistant to another type.  Or maybe your weapon and item combination can stun the creature, forcing him to forfeit an attack that round.  You do have a health bar, which can be replenished with items as well, and can be diminished by not only combat, but as a result of how you interact with certain environmental puzzles as well.
Dark Scavenger
Working through the environment itself is a pretty straightforward affair.  If you can interact with an element, your mouse will cause that element to glow with a red outline if you hover over it.  You can then left-click on it to interact.  Pretty basic, but it does the job.
This is a largely text-driven game.  There is very little in the way of animation to discuss here, and I will be honest – by the end of the game the menu-driven combat and heaps of dialog were starting to blur together.  What started relatively fresh and interesting had lost its sparkle during the last leg of my 5-ish hour session (it may not have helped that I sat there and literally played it straight through over the course of an afternoon only getting up to use the restroom or grab a soda).
Dark Scavenger
So, what did I think of the game?  It was alright.  I always have a tough time with indie games, because they are generally lower in production value (usually by a significant margin) than more polished games, and because their distribution tends to be a bit more limited (Psydra did say that Gamersgate plans to carry this title as well), they might not feel like as good of a bargain for what you get.  Dark Scavenger rings in at $10.  Given the very unique nature of this game, I would strongly suggest giving the demo (which gives you a limited taste of the first chapter) a try if you are considering purchasing, and their site can be found here.
Dark Scavenger
Scoring this game?  I’d probably say a 7/10 – it’s a decent indie effort, and I don’t feel like my time was ill-spent, but it’s not a game that’s going to overtake the Mass Effects or Final Fantasy titles I play either.

Cavenaut

[youtube id=”JX73XEPs4oA” width=”633″ height=”356″]

This turns what I’m sure would’ve been a very frustrating and annoying game into a very addictive one which allows steady progress through its large number of screen… ~Simon Lethbridge

Cavenaut

Crikey! No sooner have I reviewed one game featuring a ‘spelunker‘ – the game named after the rather hazardous pursuit, no less – than another one veers into my radar’s bloopiness. Unlike the previous example though, this adventurer has slightly more noble intentions.

Our nameless hero is apparently a famous explorer and, during his no doubt many and varied trips and expeditions, he discovers strange signs in the ‘misty mountains of Peru‘ (in 1950 if you’re interested). What else can he then do but head off into the spooky peaks and investigate?!

This results in a very basic flick-screen mazey game which you start above ground in a thinly forested area. Our stick-figure hero can walk only in the four basic directions and accordingly you can steer him any way you like from the first screen. Your first job, however, should be to find a shovel which has two main uses.

Gameplay

Cavenaut

The first danger you’ll face are the enemies which can be found lurking on most screens in the form of snakes and frogs. They can’t be killed but move in predictable patterns so they can be avoided fairly easily. There are also a good few obstacles as well. Above ground there are trees and bushes and only the latter can be cleared (temporarily) by smacking them with your shovel. It doesn’t take too much exploration to find the entrance to the caves though, and down in these murky depths there are more bushes and enemies and even more hazards.

Areas only appear from the darkness as you get close to them, for one thing, and you’ll need to dig your way through many passageways with your shovel, but it only works on the lighter-colored loose dirt. By far the most common hazard, however, are the spike pits and arrows. At first these appear sparingly but before long entire screens are dominated by them, appearing, disappearing, and firing in increasingly complex patterns which require very precise movement.

Cavenaut

Contact with any enemy or hazard results in instant death (which is accompanied by an amusing noise) but you only need to start that particular screen again. Given the huge number of obstacles and sometimes trial-and-error nature of the game, it would be torturously difficult to play through were it not for the bounteous gift of infinite lives. This turns what I’m sure would’ve been a very frustrating and annoying game into a very addictive one which allows steady progress through its large number of screens (played flawlessly, the game would take well over an hour to finish).

It’s somewhat reminiscent of the kind of games found on early consoles such as the VCS and Intellivision (which is rather cool actually) except for its larger scale, and it builds towards a satisfying and not-entirely-expected climax which includes some challenging-but-nicely-designed caves, temples, and watery bits (with restrictive currents, of course). Don’t be put off by the black and white graphics and largely silent gameplay – not only is Cavenaut an addictive adventure but it’s also a free one! 

Final Score

RKS Score: 8/10

Extras

[mp3-jplayer tracks=” Cavenaut-Soundtrack-Title-Music-Short-Version.mp3, Cavenaut-Soundtrack-Title-Music-Long-Version.mp3, Cavenaut-Soundtrack-Ending-Theme.mp3″]

[Via Red Parsley]

[See more from Bruno R. Marcos]

Check out more great [Indie Game Reviews]

[Download the Freeware version of Cavenaut]

Organ Trail: Director’s Cut (Multi-Platform)

[youtube id=”B1FUcNkaLPU” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Just like in Oregon trail, things break on your station wagon, friends get hurt. They may get bit by a zombie and you may be forced to put them down, or they may get dysentary, or one of 9 other diseases, and if you don’t heal them with medkits they eventually die. ~Grace Snoke

Organ Trail: Director’s Cut

Published by: The Men Who Wear Many Hats

Available for: iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam

Reviews on: PC and Android Genre: Choose-your-own-adventure Zombie survival

Released: Jan. 10, 2013

Depending on your age, you may remember playing the Sierra Games classic, Oregon Trail, at school. If you were really lucky, and your parents had a lot of money, you got to play it on an Apple II at home. Personally, I remember playing the game a lot at school and only getting to the end once. It was a hard game filled with a lot of hard choices for a 10-year-old. But it’s a game we look back on fondly.

“NAME died of dysentery” is probably one of the most common quotes people give from the game.

If you miss the game, or just want to revisit the classic, you can download it and play it through Chrome here:http://www.virtualapple.org/oregontraildisk.html

Organ-trail

But if you want to see the modern take on the game, which is what this article is about, check out Organ Trail – a morbid twist on the iconic Oregon Trail game. Produced by The Men Who Wear Many Hats and released Jan. 10, 2013, the game is available for purchase, download and play via iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux and Steam. You can play a flash version of their game, for free, here:http://hatsproductions.com/organtrail.html

They describe the game as “a retro zombie survival game. Travel westward in a station wagon with 4 of your friends, scavenging for supplies and fending off the undead; Faithfully recreated it as if it were on the Apple 2. Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes and references; this is a must have for any zombie survival fans.”

I first encountered Organ Trail at PAX East 2012 when it was still in development and was enamoured with the idea and kept an eye on it as it developed. When Humble Bundle had it as a part of one of their Android bundles, I immediately picked up the bundle so i could play and test the game on multiple platforms. It’s rare that I get the opportunity to play games on more than one platform and see how they compare to each other.

Organ-trail

You start the game learning there has been a zombie apocalypse. You have to fight your way to safety. As you are fighting, you are joined by a priest named Clements. He rescues you and asks you if you know of anyone who would be handy in this situation. You and him talk and head to D.C. to pick up your friends…in a station wagon.

I won’t spoil the story too much, but Clements isn’t with you for long, but gives you his diary to help you out, explaining how much of what things you need. You and your party leave D.C. to head cross country with the supplies you’ve scavenged thus far. Just like in Oregon trail, things break on your station wagon, friends get hurt. They may get bit by a zombie and you may be forced to put them down, or they may get dysentary, or one of 9 other diseases, and if you don’t heal them with medkits they eventually die. As you travel from city to city, you have to scavenge for supplies such as food, ammo, fuel, money, medkits and car scraps and upgrades to survive. You can also buy, sell or trade for items at each town or rest stop. Pay close attention to the health of your car and your party members. Rest to heal, but know for each hour you rest you consume food. Repair your car when needed. You can even take on jobs at towns to earn money or parts.

Organ-trail

As you travel, you have to survive driving through a horde of zombies, being chased by zombie dogs and other animals or fighting off bikers and bandits. Factor in a day and night cycle and a weather system and the game becomes very interesting and challenging.

I have yet to reach the final location of the game on the West Coast on either PC or Android, but I have made it decently far before I died. The game creates a custom tombstone with a phrase of your choice when you die and your score can be posted to the leaderboards.

Gameplay: 8/10 for PC; 5 of 10 for Android
There is a huge difference in controls for this game depending on the platform it’s played on. For PC, the controls were great. You were able to aim your rifle with your mouse and move around better than when playing on Android. With Android, you can try to aim the rifle, but unless you are very accurate with your fingers and you don’t slip up, it’s hard to aim and hit the zombies coming after you.

Organ-trail

 

Graphics: 9/10 for both
If you keep in mind that the game is 16-bit and still looks good while being a stylized-retro game, you’ll understand why I rate the graphics 9/10. It’s not designed to look like a modern game. It’s designed to look like a late 80’s game and in that aspect they did extremely well.

Sound: 9/10
Also created in classic, retro tradition, the music fits the 16-bit game. If you’re interested in the game’s soundtrack, you can download all of the tracks, for free from here:http://hatsproductions.com/organtrailsoundtrack.html

Story: 8/10
The story is very simple, very easy to follow and in the same mindset of Oregon Trail. Long story short, you’re traveling West to escape the zombie apocalypse with your friends in a Station Wagon.

Organ-trail

 

Overall: 8.5/10
Packed full of zombie mechanics, themes, references and challenges, this is an extremely fun and frustrating retro zombie survival game. If you liked Oregon Trail as a kid, this is another game you would enjoy on any platform. If you want to test it out before you buy it, play the flash version linked above.

Disclaimer:  Author purchased the games through Humble Bundle and chose to review the game with her purchase.  No codes were given in exchange for review.

Containment: The Zombie Puzzler

[youtube id=”LkbuW8K8h0E” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Containment: The Zombie Puzzler

Do you like games wtih zombies?  Do you like puzzle games?  What if there was a game that put those two things together?  There is.  Learn more about Containment A Zombie Puzzler in this review.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

I recently acquired Containment A Zombie Puzzler through Indie Royale’s May Hurray Bundle.  Having heard of the game from a number of friends who are game developers as well as hearing about the game being selected for PAX 10 this year and seeing as a part of the bundle, I decided to get it.  Fast forward to July and I finally got around to playing it.

Unlike a lot of zombie games, this is not a shooter.  This is not a see how long you can survive.  This is not a run for your life, you’re going to be eaten by zombies, nor is it close to Plants vs. Zombies.  It’s a true puzzle game WITH zombies and boss zombies you have to fight.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

The game has two play modes:  Campaign and Survival mode.

In Campaign mode, you play through three acts which tells a story of how the zombie apocalypse started, what people are doing to survive.  The story is actually pretty entertaining and leads into new puzzles as you go on through the story.  Each act has 5 parts.  Depending on how good you are at puzzles and how fast you are at moving people around in the game will tell you how long it will take you to complete it.  The campaign will take at least 2 to 3 hours to complete.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

In Survival mode, you have to complete puzzles quickly.  You get rated on how many zombies are killed, time it takes to complete and how many survivors you have.  There are 3 different survival modes and you can rank up against other s in the game Leaderboard depending on how well you do.

Both versions are a lot of fun to play, but I have to say that Campaign mode gets harder and harder with new zombies and new bosses to defeat at each stage and Survival mode gets harder the further you get into the game.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

Did I mention that the zombies can turn your puzzle pieces into zombies?  I think I forgot to mention that.

I mentioned this was a puzzle game.  You get 4 types of non-zombies:  The Soccer Mom (as I call her) dressed in Pink, Army Dude dressed in Green. Police Officer in Blue and Anarchist in Orange.  To defeat the zombies, you have to surround on four sides (corners do not apply) with the same color.  You can surround groups of zombies.  Zombies on the edges only have to have 2 sides (sometimes three sides) before they are killed.  The colors vary each time for the fighters.  As you use them, they disappear and more fill in from the top.  Continue matching colors as you can until you defeat all the zombies.  But you have to do it quickly, otherwise the zombies will keep eating your defenders and you will run out of defenders and lose the round.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

You get bonus points for various events in the game, such as if you trap zombies or have a cascade effect. A cascade effect is where defenders drop down into a region and can automatically surround and kill a zombie already there.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

A nice feature of the game is you can restart individual blocks in an act, or the entire level.  It’s up to you.  If you fail, you get to chose where to restart as well.

Overall, as a puzzle game, this was pretty fun, especially as it tells a story.  In addition to putting puzzles together, you get bonus items to use (grenades, firebombs, airplane attack, etc.) but you also kill your people with those attacks.  There are also areas where you can interact with the environment to blow pieces of it up.

Containment - The Zombie Puzzler

There are also additional mini puzzles in the game.  For example, in one act, you need to surround several power supplies with defenders of the same color.  While defeating zombies and preventing zombies from walking into the group and turning them.   This game definitely makes you think.

The only downside of the game is the freaky repetitive noises.  The sounds get quite annoying after a while.

If you like puzzle games and zombies, this is a great game to add to your collection.  This is available on PC through Steam, as well as for iPads and other iDevices through ITunes.

For more information on Containment or on the development company, BootSnake Games, you can visit the following websites:

Game Rating: 4/5

You can also check out this video by bootsnake games  to see some gameplay:

Snakes of Avalon

snakes of avalon
Let’s start with the easy bits. Snakes of Avalon is a freeware adventure game that comes with a traditional point-and-click interface and is the creation of Igor Hardy and Alex van der Wijst, who apparently employed the musical talents of Thomas Regin and the acting of Drew Wellman. It also is quite an excellent offering that happens to take place in a single room. Well, sort of, as this is where Snakes of Avalon stops being your average AGS game.
snakes of avalon

It is, you see, set in a bar named Avalon starring a hopelessly drunk, obviously unshaven, very confused and quite alcoholic character in what can only be described as a trippy (near) murder mystery. Actually, make that a deeply surreal (near) murder mystery, sporting a variety of all powerful hallucinations, ugly babies, beer, sinister wives, tons of toilet humour, a perpetually occupied toilet, dirty glasses, at least one time-machine, living posters, love, murder, obscure movie references, a Lucasarts logo and a majestic, yet sadly stuffed, talking moose. As you might imagine such an intoxicated design makes sure the game feels much bigger than your average one-room offering. Or is it actually bigger than that? Better play it and find out.

snakes of avalon

Space and even time in Snakes of Avalon is a most relative thing after all, and the protagonist’s warped perception of everything makes sure the game is actually much longer and quite a bit more challenging than its excellent and confined location would imply. As for the puzzles themselves, well, they are at times taxing, enjoyable and -impressively- make sense in the demented game world.

Oh, and the thing does look delightfully odd too, with its deeply cartoon-like art, smart animation, brilliant cut-scenes and lovely background art, though admittedly the music is what will really blow you away. Provided you enjoy your Jazz, that is. And if you prefer listening to it from a dear old scratched record than say one of those mp3 thingies, you’ll be in musical heaven.

Dead Hotel

As I am semi-randomly and very slowly going through the Interactive Competition entries, I couldn’t help but notice that Dead Hotel is the only game that has been specifically programmed to run as a proper executable for Windows using its very own engine. Out of respect for the extra and, for all I know, difficult effort I decide to give it a look. Didn’t regret it, mind.
Dead Hotel
The game itself is a menu-driven affair, not dissimilar to Snatcher (sans graphics of course), that puts gamers (or should I say interactive readers?) in the shoes of a former policeman trapped in a hotel and facing a zombie apocalypse. Rather banal, I know, but it is pretty well written, though admittedly very short and obviously not quite complete. It’s more of a demo really. A demo with some interesting and i-f compatible combat mechanics.
More importantly, it’s like a demo of something really promising. The engine, you see, sports a lovely, retro-esque, chunky font, looks fine, can support such things as hit-points, combat and inventories, is fast and already features sound. With a few modifications and additions such as maps and graphics, it could end up being able to produce something really amazing, and I’m definitely looking forward to this. Not that I didn’t enjoy the 15 minutes I spent with Dead Hotel
You can download Dead Hotel, as well as the other IF Competition games, for free over here. Actually, you really should. There are more than a few gems waiting for your attention.

Delve Deeper: Treasures and Tunnels

Delve Deeper
Delve Deeper is an excellent game. It’s smart, unique, easy on the retro-loving eye and, now that the Treasures and Tunnels DLC has been released, pretty huge too. Fresh off the indie forges of Lunar Giant and costing less than one (rapidly devaluating) dollar, Treasures and Tunnels extends the game with 10 new levels -including the brilliantly named Big Orc Candy Mountains- and 25 brand new relics; that is 50% more Delve Deeper maps, 30% more treasure and absolutely no extra fat. Oh, and apparently each level is custom-tailored to be tackled by different teams of dwarfs, whereas each new relic is designed to influence both new and old maps.
Delve Deeper
You can download Treasures and Tunnels via Steam; it does obviously require that you own Delve Deeper. As for the people still wondering what Delve Deeper is (besides -as already mentioned- excellent and a game), let me just say it’s a turn-based, strategy/RPG affair with lovely pixel-art graphics and board-game influences. Here are a couple DLC piccies to further entice you:

Dead Meets Lead

Dead Meets Lead
One of the reasons I don’t usually review games I haven’t particularly enjoyed is that I often can’t be bothered to properly play them, let alone take the time to actually write the review. Apparently then, Dead Meets Lead is quite an exception. I never particularly enjoyed it, didn’t play it exhaustively, yet here I am writing about it. Why? Because it does have some redeeming features, you see.
Dead Meets Lead
Dead Meets Lead is -at heart- an indie and definitely innovative arena shooter, that might not feature much shooting, but does try to make up for it by sporting both pirates and zombies. Sadly though, innovation isn’t a priori a good thing; some things haven’t been attempted for the simple reason that they just don’t work. Melee arena combat is apparently one of those ideas. Then again, things could have been better if the controls, the camera and the hits each enemy can take were balanced in a better way, but this is not the case. Enemies can take ages to defeat, more often than not the action takes place hidden behind a building or something, and the WASD-mouse combination isn’t ideal for sword-based arena shooters. Oh, and don’t get me started on the zombies that restrict your movement by ensnaring you in the most frustrating of ways…
Dead Meets Lead
To the game’s defense though one could add that by featuring a shotgun it does turn itself into a rather lovely yet more traditional arena-shooter. One would of course be only partly correct, as the ammunition for the shotgun (and the rest of the firearms that are eventually unlocked) is far too sparse and in certain levels simply absent, which is a crying shame. Shooting the zombie hordes as a cursed pirate on a bleak exotic island is immensely enjoyable and goes on to show how great Dead Meets Lead could have been; especially if it had bothered to include a few save-points in its brutally hard levels.

Sadly, as it is, all it manages is to more or less waste the potential its setting, plot, graphics, music, interesting upgrade mechanics and overall polish had created. Still, I’m pretty sure that you dear reader might just enjoy Dead Meets Lead more than I did. Guess you should have a look then; click here. The demo should help you decide whether this is for you or not.

Verdict: A quality indie production with some interesting touches, that has sadly been let down by its core gameplay mechanic.

Update: The game has since gone freeware: Here is the statement from their website:

We’ve had a great time with Dead Meets Lead, but since we’re shutting down operations (or rather, they’ve been down for a while now) we’d like to do one last thing for the community. Starting from today, we’re making Dead Meets Lead a freeware so that those who haven’t tried the game yet get a chance to play it too. Everyone is free to download and play the game, just use the product key below and go to the download section to get your copy. Hope you’ll have a good time with the Captain and his adventures!

17ad0e29-d567-4455-a7a3-108541e01558

Cthulhu Saves the World

Cthulhu Saves the World
I was never particularly fond of JRPGs you know; never even cared for Link’s 16-bit adventures on the SNES. Cthulhu, on the other hand, now that is another matter entirely. The lovable Great Old One has always been among my, let’s say, top five mythical beasts, a fact that combined with an incredibly cheap price and a high-flying indie flag led to my playing of Cthulhu Saves The World. Oh, and the Breath of Death VII CRPG the developer kindly bundled with it made the choice of buying said bundle even easier. Apparently and after 15 hours of playing with the thing I can say it was a wise choice indeed.
 Cthulhu Saves the World
Cthulhu Saves The World is, happily, much more than a retro-styled, top-down RPG with turn based combat. It is a truly funny retro-styled, top-down RPG with turn based combat. It’s one of the few games and possibly the only RPG I’ve played on a PC that sports humour that is actually any good. Really. I verified this with the help of at least three (they were four) male and female test-subjects; they all laughed and thought that the heroic version of Cthulhu the game so obviously enjoys ridiculing is a great idea indeed.
Cthulhu Saves the World
What’s more the game itself is rather good too, though definitely not exactly my kind of CRPG. It’s pure hack-and-slash with minimal exploration, only slightly confusing dungeons and simplistic combat. If it weren’t for the demented plot, the brilliantly hilarious cut-scenes, the hundreds of hidden jokes, the excellent and deep combat system, and the fact that the game wisely rewards gamers with something different every hour or so, I’d have probably given up on it, and would have lost one of the most ridiculous game finales this side of Monkey Island 2.
 Cthulhu Saves the World
Oh, yes, also the chance to discover one single gold piece in well hidden chest in one of the later dungeons. How very silly eh? Almost on the same level of silliness of not sporting an in-game map…
Cthulhu Saves the World
As an added bonus the graphics are excellent in their retro, pixel-artsy way and the music will definitely evoke that 80s console music feeling; not that I particularly adore it, but, well, some do. And after you beat the game, you’ll unlock a ton of extras and new game-modes to make sure your purchase lasts you another 10 to 15 hours. Now, that definitely is what I’d call value for money.

Verdict: A hilarious, rich, incredibly cheap and actually good RPG. Get it.

Rush Bros

Rush Bros

Who has played one of their favorite games while listening to your favorite song? I know I used to play games from Quake to World of Warcraft listing to my favorite tunes being played with Winamp on my desktop. Rush Bros is that mix of a fun game and your favorite music all in one. Now we look at all games by looking back at classic ones as well and we get the feeling the makers of Rush Bros did the same.

Rush Bros

In a nutshell, Rush Bros is a platformer game in the likes of MegaMan, Sonic and even newer indie games like Super Meat Boy. You navigate the beautifully created levels with your little rocker running, jumping and avoiding various traps placed throughout each level. The key is taking in your environment. You can just barrel your way through, especially if you are used to playing these types of games, but if you do you are missing the point and the fun.

Rush Bros

The game may have Rush in its name, but you want to take in the almost psychedelic colors and motions of the level design. I cannot stress this enough, they look awesome and go along great with the music. There are tons of things to avoid in each level like spikes, spinning saws and blades that come out the ground and more, but along with that is also the challenge of keeping in motion. The music keeps you on task whether you use the games soundtrack, which is very good or add your own personal soundtrack off of your system. I personally think the game is perfect for faster music be it Pop, Dance, Techno or even Dubstep.

Rush Bros

There are 41 levels and they start off short and not too hard to navigate so you get used to it. You won’t always be able to just rush straight through. There will be keys in the form of music notes to collect that opens doors allowing you to progress. At first the keys are close by and you might just need to jump on a platform to get them. In later levels you may need to go far to get a key and then back track to open the door. This adds an element you saw in later Sonic games like Sonic CD where going back and forth is a level is important.

Rush Bros

There are also power ups in the game. The power ups come in handy if you are trying to beat your best time or if you are playing against someone else. Most of the time the power ups take some skill to reach but can do things like speed you up, give you double jump and more, but there are also some that slow you down which again can be critical in versus play.

Rush Bros

In reviewing I not only play a game, but see what others have thought about the game and I found people like to talk about Rush Bros not being ground breaking. While it is true there are games that allow you to use your own music and there are many platform games in the vein of classics we all know and love, but for us the key is, is it fun. If you like a fast passed game with beautifully design, challenging levels then Rush Bros is for you. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel sometime a good game is a good game and does not need to be 1000% new to be great.

Rush Bros has that retro feel and gameplay, but it is original in how it is brought to the player. I found it is a game you can play over and over and even just switching the music you play a level on makes it a bit different as elements on the map react to the music. You can have fun playing friends and people online which reminded me of Sonic 2 versus mode, including the split screen. There is a lot to love here for platform lovers, music lovers and lovers of fun game design. It is definitely worth a pickup.

Thunder Fleets

thunder fleets
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… Not the most encouraging way to start a review, I know, but I simply didn’t want to sound overtly optimistic really. Wouldn’t want anyone to get instantly excited about Thunder Fleets and recklessly stampede over to the game’s site now, would we? Of course not, for as you might have guessed Thunder Fleets isn’t a particularly good game and all this stampeding around might result to some sort of broken web-things.
thunder fleets
Still, the game does initially sound vaguely interesting, or at least it did before I actually loaded it. It is after all supposed to be some sort of naval warfare RTS taking place in the WWII-torn Pacific Ocean, where gamers have to wrestle the interface and act both strategically and tactically in order to either subdue the Japanese Imperial Fleet or the American one.Well, in theory at least, as I just can’t see how anyone could stick with Thunder Fleets for more than a couple of hours; the time needed to fully realize that this is as sub-par an offering as they go.
thunder fleets
Mind you, I really do hate writing nasty stuff about aspiring indie developers and the fruits of their work, and I’ve already fought and won a titanic battle against sarcasm. Frankly, that would have been cheap and uncalled for. Let’s just say that Thunder Fleets starts off with a lacking yet boring tutorial that fails on far too many grammatical levels and manages to exclude key information, goes on to provide with some incredibly dull and visually poor battles, only to end up in what can only be described as an explosion of frustration. Now, I’ll have to admit there’s a chance I didn’t give the game the attention it deserved, but two hours of wrestling with the scrolling mechanics and enduring impressively uninspired grey ship-like things firing at other grey things was too much, even though I did sense that some interesting ideas and mechanics were struggling to make themselves felt…
thunder fleets
I could go on and try to ridicule the thing, but I wont. Sadly knowing that the developers are reading this, I’ll humbly suggest a few things to vastly improve the game and give it a fighting chance in the rich world of commercial indie games, where it will apparently have to compete with such acclaimed games as AI WarVVVVVVEufloriaThe Dream Machine and Revenge of the Titans. I also promise that should Thunder Fleets get an update in the correct direction, I’ll be more than willing to re-review it.
thunder fleets
Here goes then: 1) Make sure the screen scrolls properly when the mouse hits its side; 2) add some music and proper sound effects; 3) make the thing playable in windowed mode; 4) fix all spelling and grammatical errors; 5) redo the tutorial from scratch; 6) redesign the interface and, above all, make sure the buttons that select tactics indicate whether they have been pressed or not; 7) add more tactical options and let players -at least- control the facing of their ships; 8) make sure the graphics are passable; 9) polish the thing; 10) add some historical bits of info; 11) add a simple intro and 12) drop the price, as an asking price of 11 euros for a game like this does feel rather outrageous.


Verdict: Almost passable for a freebie I’m afraid.

The Dream Machine

the dream machine
Plato, Jung, Freud, a young ordinary couple and some exquisite visuals are the true stars of The Dream Machine; an episodic, indie point-and-click adventure game I have already enthusiastically previewed and now finally get to properly review. Well, properly review its first two chapters to be precise, as apparently the third and far from final one is just around the corner and not quite available yet. Besides, reviewing unreleased stuff can be quite tricky. Impossible some might say.
Now, following my urge to simply instruct you dear reader/minion-thing to immediately hop over to the Dream Machine site and grab it -for it is a great game indeed- would be way easier, but something tells me this wouldn’t be much of a review then.
the dream machine

Anyway, let us now focus on the picture posted above. How could we describe it? Well, beautiful I suppose. Unique might come in handy too. And stylish. Yes, yes, deeply atmospheric also. Slightly ominous is another one. Definitely nice. Then again the word we are indeed looking for here ishandcrafted. Yes, as in properly, physically, manually crafted using traditional non-digital components. Everything you’ll see in the game -every backdrop, every character, every animation- was actually created by hand and photographed. This dear friend is 3D, but not of the 3D Studiokind:

the dream machine

Stunning visuals aside, the Dream Machine is an impressively good and rather traditional indie game of the point-and-click sort, that is less traditionally played via a browser and somehow manages to save your process in a cloud; or was that clouds? I frankly wouldn’t know. Steam also sports some sort of a cloud they tell me, but I’m pretty sure I was once taught clouds are made of steam and, well, did I mention it’s a great game? It is. And it’s got a great and appropriate soundtrack to go with it too.

The puzzles, though relatively easy, are varied, excellently integrated in the plot and -importantly- never feel out of place or immersion-breaking. In the surreal and perfectly paced story of the game, after all, oddness feels integral. Besides, and without wanting to spoil anything from the plot which slowly progress from helping a likeable young couple find its way around a new apartment to discovering some rather disturbing truths, I really wouldn’t care much for another vaguely disguised take on Tolkien and/or Stoker, let alone another half-baked adventure pathetically apeing genre classics. This actually is a truly original game that manages its characters, storytelling and twists way better than your average Hollywood movie.

Oh, and The Dream Machine is also one of those rare few game that constantly evoke the sense of wonder and excitement the games of yore used to. One simply can’t expect the wonderfully wonderful wonders awaiting around the next corner and I can’t help but feel this is what games were supposed to be all about.
Verdict: A wonderful, smart, visually stunning, polished and downright brilliant adventure game.Buy it. Now.

The Button Affair

The Button Affair
Do you remember The Cat That Got The Milk and what it did with/to Kandinsky? Excellent! The Button Affair has absolutely nothing to do with it, apart from the fact that it’s vaguely in the same wide genre of action games, looks absolutely stunning itself and is the work of the very same, very talented developers. As a further way to differentiate itself from its predecessor it even sports a plot that goes a bit like this:
The Button Affair is the story of Enzo Gabriel. His quest. To steal the priceless Button Jewel from the infinitely wealthy business tycoon Victor Meirelles.
Yes, that definitely does sounds like something taken straight from a ’70s action movie and is perfectly complemented by the game’s beautifully stylized visuals that can’t help but remind me of the elegant aesthetics of Another World. Just have a look at this trailer and you’ll see for yourself dearest reader:

Oh, and if you simply have to know, The Button Affair is one of those fashionable runners that seem to be cropping up everywhere. Only not boring. And actually enjoyable. And very well done too. Also, innovative. Helps charity too and will happily run on both Mac and Windows PCs.

A Valley Without Wind

A Valley Without Wind
Arcen Games, the creators of the amazing AI War, have never been afraid to try radical new ideas and wildly innovate while offering deep gameplay and unique visuals. Their latest offering though, the brilliantly named A Valley Without Wind, does indeed surpass anything they have dared to dream, and even more impressively actually create, so far. Now, the best way to describe AVWWwould be as the spaced-out spawn of MidwinterTerraria and Lords of Midnight after a chemically altered night everyone is trying to forget everything about, but I simply can’t see how anyone besides me would be able to comprehend a description of this sort.
That’s why I’ve wisely come up with an alternate description too: it is a procedurally generated, side-scrolling, 2D arcade adventure, with strong exploration, RPG and strategic elements, that is sort of infinite. Is this better? Does it make sense? Well, I sure hope so, for I have only entered the still-in-BETA world of AVWW for a couple of hours and am incredibly impressed. I’m also pretty certain that it’s only by playing AVWW that one can properly understand and  fully appreciate the thing, but here’s another try:

A Valley Without Wind

Did the picture help at all? Right. Better provide you with the developer’s description then:
Environ has been shattered in the wake of an unknown cataclysm, with only small pockets of humanity left in its wake… What will you do in this strange new world? 
The creators of AI War bring you a procedurally-generated 2D side-scrolling adventure of limitless proportions. Survive and explore a vast persistent world filled with dangerous creatures, powerful magic, and ancient technology. Do so while helping other survivors establish settlements, gathering resources to craft, fending off evil invaders, and more.

Intrigued? Excellent. On to the news bits then, as you too can now have a taste of A Valley Without Wind by downloading a pretty fantastic AVWW demo. What’s more and for a mere $10 (that’s a hefty 50% discount on the launch price, that is) you can also pre-order the game and gain instant access to its current version, which, incidentally, is getting constant updates. As for me, well, I’ll be playing said BETA and will soon let you know all about my slightly more coherent thoughts on AVWWAVWW is available both for Mac and PC. You can purchase the full version for $14.99.

Rad Raygun

Rad Raygun

Rad Raygun, the Mega Man-inspired XBox Live Indie Game, has been gaining fans since it’s recent release. The throwback game title is part of a lifelong gaming journey for programmer and Corinth, Texas resident Chris Bryant.

“I was born in 1981, so the Nintendo Entertainment System was my first console,” Bryant recalled. “But I can distinctly remember watching my older brother play Asteroids and Missile Command on the Atari 2600. To this day, just seeing the Asteroids cartridge brings back some good memories.”

While continuing to game as he grew older, Bryant notes that even as the technology advanced, his heart remained with the classics, noting Super Mario Bros., a game he states he still plays today.

“I know it’s cliche, but I still play it in absolute awe,” he said of the 1985 Nintendo classic. “How did they get it so right? The graphics, sound and play mechanics were not only groundbreaking but flawlessly executed.”

Bryant’s love for games quickly turned into a dream of designing them, a goal he states started before he was even old enough to drive.

Rad Raygun

“I spent most of my childhood trying to learn anything that could get me in the video game industry, such as programming and 3D animation,” he said. “I can remember being 13 or 14 and wanting absolutely nothing for Christmas. All I wanted was knowledge. I wanted to know how to make games. I would make little text games in QBasic. I would also download other people’s source code and dissect it, trying to figure out how it worked. In 10th grade Computer Science class, I built my first two actual games, a clone of Pong and a clone of Frogger. In fact, I got in trouble for sharing my source code for Frogger because my classmates were playing that instead of paying attention in class! But, it all worked out…the teacher said he’d let it go if I shared the source code with him as well.”

Rad Raygun

Two years ago, the idea for Rad Raygun came into Bryant’s head. He reached out to a peer with the concept.

“I still have the e-mail to Chris Hernandez, a co-worker of mine and Rad Raygun’s creative director,” Bryant said. “His reply of ‘I’m absolutely 1000 percent into it’ was huge. I knew I had an amazing talent on my team that I could rely on for not just artwork, but a creative storyline as well.”

For the first year, everything for the game was developed for the PC version, according to Bryant. The programmer recalls issues with long load times when finally tested on the XBox 360, requiring a significant amount of time re-writing the code in a way that wouldn’t interfere with the level design already completed for the indie title. With just days to go before launch, more problems with load times came to light.

Rad Raygun

“The Xbox 360 is indeed a powerhouse, but only when used correctly,” Bryant noted. “The engine had serious memory management issues that weren’t visible on the PC. I spent days tweaking and optimizing the engine in hopes of alleviating the issue. This was the ultimate low for me. My team dedicated their nights and weekends to this project for over two years and, only two days from launch, I wasn’t sure if it would ever see the light of day.”

With a looming deadline, Bryant managed to find an issue he’d overlooked numerous times.


“While examining the game’s memory usage for the 100th time, I noticed that the maps were allocating way more memory than they should,” he noted. “It turns out that there was a bug in the level editor and the maps were exported with a ton of extraneous data at the end of the files. I wrote a tool to clean up the extraneous data from the map files, reloaded the game on the 360, and all of my framerate issues were gone.”

Following Rad Raygun‘s launch, Bryant says while he now feels a little extra pressure to make his next game, he is enjoying hearing back from fans of the game.

“I’m still trying to let it all sink in,” he said. “It sounds cheesy but this is really a dream come true. It really means a lot to me when I hear that people ‘get it’ and are able to connect with the game on a nostalgic level, sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Rad Raygun is available for 80 Microsoft points at this link.

Fracuum

fracuum
Like a psychedelic version of the Atari 2600 Adventure on steroids, Fracuum is a brilliantly designed and utterly mind-bending maze game. It has you navigating a complex and expertly designed labyrinth that feels quite a bit like a zoomable fractal, while avoiding baddies and collecting points and power-ups. Play it and have your mind messed with.

A Thousand Free Games

Okay, one thousand free games would be a tad excessive, but half a dozen ones would be more than appropriate for this most interesting of springs. Besides, I hadn’t done one of those freeware lists for quite some time now and the voices were rather angry; they also insisted on being as eclectic as possible…

 

Vidiot

Vidiot

Vidiot: Described by its creator as Halo meets Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, this is a truly demented offering and a delightfully weird collection of mini-games. Oh, and it can easily be used do emotionally scar your kids and/or pets.

 

Poacher
Poacher

Poacher: Metroidvania done by wise game critic and accomplished adventure designer Yahtzee and done right. Also, with a healthy does of humour. Also, also, one of the very few games pitting you against rabbits. Fluffy ones too.

 

Unga needs Mumba
UNGA needs MUMBA

UNGA needs MUMBA: Hunt a mammoth! Be a successful stone age hunter! Feel like Unga! Meet Mumba! Love Nonga! Enjoy the excellent graphics and voices! Solve puzzles! Explore caves! Point! Click!

Orbiter 2010

Orbiter 2010

Orbiter 2010: Still haven’t managed to buy Mass Effect 3? Well, I wouldn’t worry. Orbiter is here and it will let you explore space in a much more realistic and cost-effective way. Should probably last longer too, as this is a proper simulation.

Masters of Constantinople

Masters of Constantinople

Masters of Constantinople: Text away in a tale of intrigue, mystery and Byzantine betrayals while the Empire crumbles and knowledge has to be preserved. It’s a very interesting choose-your-own-adventure affair with more than a few meaningful choices.

 

[vimeo width=”560″ height=”420″]http://vimeo.com/36934912[/vimeo]
Epic Sax Game

Epic Sax Game

Epic Sax Game: Because it almost sounds rude and is the most brutally hard rhythm game I’ve ever encountered. Still, persevere and you’ll be rewarded.

Egress: The Test of STS-417

Egress - The Test of STS-417
I really do love freeware (and not-so-freeware), indie, AGS-crafted adventures. I enjoy their imaginative takes on the genre, their unexpected themes, their wild puzzles, their sheer variety and their pixel art visuals that so nostalgically remind me of my gaming youth. It’s only rarely though that I’m blown-away by their (relatively, to be precise) high-res graphics and lavish animated intros, and the newly released Egress has a pretty stunning opening cinematic. It sports some lovely, hand drawn, frame-by-frame 2D animation, and though short, it’s even more impressively accompanied by a few ending sequences, to go along with the game’s multiple endings.
 Egress - The Test of STS-417
Eye candy aside, and there’s quite a bit of it as Egress is very good looking first-person adventure indeed, this short sci-fi offering is a also a good and atmospheric game. Set in the outer reaches of space, it follows you, the commander of a two man recon team attacked by a weird black blob, as you explore a mysterious planet, search for you partner (his screaming is rather annoying apparently), try to figure out what’s going on and, quite obviously, save yourself. All this with the help of a pretty standard interface and against some mostly easy but definitely enjoyable puzzles.
You can download Egress either from its very own, lovingly crafted site over at Krams Design(where you can also show your appreciation by donating and getting some excellent wallpapers as a reward) or via the AGS forums. The game is of course happily freeware.

At A Distance

at a distance
Terry Cavanagh is a brilliant game designer, an inspired artists and -from what my dark sources tell me- a very good person too. Following the release and well-deserved success of the second best platformer of all time, he has been coming up with some incredibly wild designs while, hopefully, working on a very intriguing CRPG. Anyway, following the release of American Dreamand Hero’s Adventure Terry has finally unleashed the ground-breaking At A Distance. A game that has already confused, frustrated and brilliantly entertained visitors of more than a few gaming exhibitions.
At A Distance - indie game - gameplay screenshot

At A Distance, you see, is a psychedelic two-player puzzle game that’s been designed to be played on two computers running side by side. It is a game sporting unique visuals, an amazing atmosphere, fantastic mechanics and an uncanny ability to feel like a collaborative board game that has somehow made it inside a computer. It is thus an original and very much indie offering in which the right player will be looking at something like this:

At A Distance - indie game - gameplay screenshot
whereas the left player will be admiring this:

At A Distance - indie game - gameplay screenshot

Both players will have to try things out, discuss, think, navigate, jump and come up with puzzle solving ideas all the while looking at each others screens. Intrigued? Good, you should be, for I’m not saying anything else, besides pointing out that though you could tackle the game by yourself, really reader, don’t.

Simply visit the At A Distance site and download the game for free for it has finally been publicly released.

Kinky Island

kinky island - pc game - indie game - gamplay screenshot
Kinky Island is most definitely not a game about alien invasions and will not replace Mass Effect 3. It is, or more accurately will be, an indie point-and-click adventure with a sexy twist. Actually, it will be a game about sex. Just like the original Larry. Or, well, obviously inspired by the Land of the Lounge Lizards but set on the aptly named Kinky Island.
kinky island - pc game - indie game - gamplay screenshot
Basically, Kinky Island will be a game created with the ever-handy and very freeware AGS development tool. It will most obviously be a pretty naughty offering too (rumors speak of -wait for it- full frontal nudity), sporting quite a bit of humor, lovely pixel-art graphics, traditional gameplay, over 30 locations, 20 fully animated characters and some hopefully interesting puzzles.
kinky island - pc game - indie game - gamplay screenshot
Problem is the game was supposed to happen ages ago. Its intriguing, not particularly safe for work and most playable demo has been around since 2006 and can still be downloaded from the AGS forums. But, after that cheeky peek at a smart and properly sexy game and for almost five years nothing much seemed to happen; until, that is, the original team decided to revive, expand, improve, polish and eventually publish the project.
kinky island - pc game - indie game - gamplay screenshot
What’s more and as this new attempt at Kinky Island will be a vastly more ambitious take on the naughty, humorous point-and-click sub-genre, the game will apparently be commercially available. Provided, that is, you too dear reader help it out via its IndieGoGo campaign. You will find there a ton of exciting goodies and all the relevant info you might ever need.

Atom Zombie Smasher

Atom Zombie Smasher
Killing zombies is part of a gamer’s daily routine, which is all fine and apparently dandy, but I simply can’t stomach another undead infested FPS. Bombing thousands of undead along with some unfortunate not-quite-dead-yet citizens, on the other hand, is another matter entirely and as Atom Zombie Smasher emphatically showed me, a most refreshing and enjoyable, if not downright noble, pass-time. Oh, and it’s a novel way to battle stuff too, though you probably know all about it already, what with Atom Zombie Smasher being a part of the biggest and least humble of Humble Indie Bundles so far.
Atom Zombie Smasher
Anyway, as simply reminding you of its existence wouldn’t do anyone any good, let me just point out that in Atom Zombie Smasher you get to evacuate yellow and blue dots (civilians and scientists apparently) while destroying pink dots (those would be the zombies), in what can only be described as an unholy fusion of RTS, action, orbital bombing and tower defense mechanics in one impressively coherent whole.  Add the between levels strategic and slightly reminiscent of RISK portions and you have a deep, satisfyingly difficult and unique game; yes, with zombies. In a nutshell, it is thus an engaging, addictive and downright fun affair that had me using my upgraded artillery throughout more than a few nights.
Atom Zombie Smasher
Admittedly though, dots of varying colors and, after a certain point, bigger dots don’t sound like much when it comes to visuals, but this lovely indie game manages to look good in a way vaguely reminiscent of the original GTA, only with some added pyrotechnics. Besides, it does feature an utterly brilliant soundtrack, that puts much grander productions to shame.
Atom Zombie Smasher
What’s more, the dozens of extra game modes, unlockable, brilliantly illustrated vignettes and a multitude of little touches add a polished feel to Atom Zombie Smasher, which more than makes up for its minor shortcomings. Only a couple of different enemies and a handful of playable units would have made a lesser game feel pretty poor indeed… And the difficulty curve is far from perfect too, which does admittedly make for a more rewarding first, uhm, dozen of hours.

Verdict: Orbital terror at its best and least terrifying. Also, a zombie murder simulator to cheer you up while perfecting those tactical skills.

Martian Marine Lander

Martian Marine Lander

Here’s a little indie gaming treat for cheapass gamers like myself: Martian Marine Lander. The premise is simple: guide your Martian spacecraft full of Martian Marines down to Earth so that the invasion can begin. Of course, Earth has defense forces, and they’re keenly interested in turning your craft into space dust, so the lander needs to be protected by dexterously angling your force fields to absorb damage while floating down to the surface.

Martian Marine Lander

It’s harder than it sounds, as inertia tends to keep your craft rolling in the wrong direction just when you need the shields to be facing elsewhere! And don’t think you can just plummet down at a breakneck pace to avoid all the weaponry altogether: making a run for it causes the Lander to explode into so many little pieces from the stress.

Martian Marine Lander

 

This game reminds me of classic retro games you could find on your Atari 2600 in that the game difficulty adjusts to your level, giving you new challenges to overcome, yet with modern music and graphics. In fact, I found myself sucked into the game for a considerable length of time before realizing that food and water were also an important part of my regular routine.


If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out http://www.martianmarinelander.com/ and shell out the mere $4.95 it costs to download the full game, and enjoy!

Fate of the World: Tipping Point

Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a unique, deeply political, scientific and thus truly rare beast. It also is an indie game that plays a lot like a card game and is tasking you, the player, with saving the world. Well, humanity to be precise, as I’m pretty sure that the world will do just fine without us. Shockingly though, saving humanity does not involve fighting aliens with ridiculously sized guns or destroying hordes of zombies while exposing nefarious conspiracies. No. This time around it involves tackling real societal problems and their environmental and political consequences in a frighteningly realistic manner.
Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
Fate of the World is after all based on the scientific and political theories of Prof. Myles Allen, and does an incredible job in transforming an apparently complex set of ideas into a game; not that I’m aware of the good professor’s theory mind, but I’ve apparently been exposed to quite a few similar ones. The EU’s official environmental policies do, for example, spring to mind: environmentalism mixed with moderate free market doctrines and capitalist developmental ideas…
Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot

Problem is that such a profoundly political game cannot simply be judged as a mere piece of entertainment software. It should and will have to face political and scientific criticism and -happily- what with me being a geographer, there are a ton of things I disagree with. Now, I could tire both you and myself by providing an extensive critique, but I will simply stick to my key problems: a) the game seems to ignore the political importance of the masses, b) it considers capitalism as a natural and unchangeable socioeconomic reality, c) it fails to see such facts as the strong relationship of services and production and d) it is incredibly deterministic.

Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
Now, this doesn’t mean that the game isn’t good or that it doesn’t base itself on a sound scientific base. It’s just that I couldn’t help but notice a few things I strongly disagree with and mainly that generally irritating bourgeois, supposedly technocratic school of thought. It does make quite a few decent and generally accepted points though and I can’t help but admit that some of the game’s ideological problems might be attributed to the fact that turning a theory into something enjoyable, let alone playable, is very difficult indeed. But I really don’t want to sound negative. Really. Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a great, deviously educational, rich and incredibly thought-provoking game.
Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
I am, after all, most impressed with what Fate of the World actually achieves. It’s an astoundingly simple to play strategy game that manages to be both deep and educational. Let me give you an example of play: you have to make sure that the living standards of Africa rise, while its carbon emissions fall; you thus buy agents for northern and southern Africa (each agent allows one card to be played in the region he/she is stationed); you buy and play an equal number of cards to your agents (cards are usually certain policies); you click the end turn button and hope for the best. Sadly Africa gets destroyed. Well, the first few times you tackle its problems at least.
Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
Playing, you see, is easy and the mechanics straightforward. Understanding the consequences of your choices is another matter entirely and this is what makes the game such a brilliant offering. You could help industry, but damage the environment and them wages. You could go for supposedly eco-friendly fuel and somehow kill off the panda. You could educate people only to have them revolt (which does make a lot of sense) and so on and so forth. What’s more you have a ton of scenarios and cards to play around with and a multitude of connections to discover.
Fate of the World - Tipping Point - indie - pc gameplay screenshot
Oh, and if you already own the original Fate of the World, you should really upgrade it to Tipping Point. It features some apparently important updates and fixes, and two whole DLC packs. You can get the game and the upgrade pack right here.

Verdict: Despite some political shortcoming only a few will notice, this is an excellent strategy game, that can indeed educate on certain environmental truths. Definitely worth your time.

Wizorb

Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

Wizorb (2011)
By: Tribute Genre: Bat ‘n’ Ball Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: PC First Day Score: 952
Also Available For: Apple Mac, Xbox Live
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

As video games evolve over the years it’s inevitable that advances in technology will see new genres born, and equally inevitable is that sadly a few older genres will become extinct. One that I thought had gone the way of the latter is that of bat ‘n’ ball games, or brick-breakers, or Breakout clones, or whatever you prefer to call them. They originally came about as a one-player version of the first commercially successful game ever – Pong. This obviously makes them one of the oldest and most basic types of game around which shouldn’t make their demise too surprising! But wait… What’s this? Splendid indie developer, Tribute, has sought to revitalise the ailing genre with this very game!
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

The fruit of their endeavours is Wizorb which, as unlikely as it may sound, it actually a RPG-ish take on the traditional bat ‘n’ ball style of game. It’s set in the once peaceful Kingdom of Gorudo which has been cursed and is now threatened by a mysterious evil presence. Their last hope for salvation rested with a skilled swordsman named Owain but shortly after embarking on his mission to rid the land of evil, he disappeared. Then, when all hope seemed lost, a stranger stepped forward to save the helpless townsfolk: Cyrus, a wizard from a distant land who’s versed not only in both black and white magic but is also master of a secret magic art called… Wizorb!
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

The quest undertaken by Cyrus encompasses five ‘worlds’ (which are actually themed areas of Gorudo), each of which consists of twelve levels before a boss battle. As with most games of this type, successful completion of a level is achieved by destroying all the bricks on it and there are several different types. However, each single-screen level also includes a few enemy creatures and these need to be destroyed as well by smacking them with the ball, or ‘orb’ as is the case here, and keeping it in play by deflecting it with the bat, or ‘magic wand’. The orb does of course gradually increase in speed the longer it’s in play but Cyrus isn’t restricted to the wand and orb method of clearing the bricks. He’s also able to deploy various magic spells and it’s from here that at least some of the game’s RPG-ness comes.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

He can use splendid magical abilities at any time as long as he has sufficient power available and there are two types – black and white. There are also two variations of each which are used depending on where the orb is in relation to the wand at the time of use. If it’s very close, using black magic will unleash the Magna Orb which can smash through lots of bricks at once while using white magic will slow the orb down and give you limited control of it for a short while. If the ball is not close to the wand, using black magic will shoot a Fireball which can destroy bricks or hurt enemies (including bosses – hooray!) while using white magic allows you to alter the orb’s trajectory. There are also two other magics – Teleport which allows you to reposition the ball after losing a life and Recover which refills a portion of your magic-meter if you manage to hit the orb with the wand eight times without hitting a block or enemy.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

Each magic uses up a set percentage of your reserves but luckily using Recover magic isn’t your only means of replenishing your supplies. Destroying bricks often results in items drifting down the screen and these can include potions (replenish 20% of your magic), coins (ups your gold reserves by one), gems (worth ten gold coins), keys (unlock doors), hearts (extra life), or most rare of all, a fairy (which flies around the screen randomly dropping items). As you make your way through the game though, other items called Curses start joining the more helpful items which have a variety of effects depending on the curse. They might shrink your wand, increase the speed of the orb, steal some of your magic or gold, prevent the orb from causing damage for a short while, impair your wand’s movement, or even cost you a life.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

As well as several different sizes of normal bricks, there are also lots of other kinds such as shield blocks, ones made of stone or ruby, the inevitable unbreakable variety, and each world has its own generic ‘decoration’ brick as well (crates in the first world, bushes in the second, etc). There are also several block-sized features like bumpers, switches, runes, and treasure chests which may contain either a reward or a curse! Some levels feature doors. Ones that are already open generally lead to a similar exit elsewhere on the screen but locked ones need to be opened by hitting switch blocks or collecting keys. These either lead to a bonus room with lots of bubbles filled with items, or to a shop where you can use your gold reserves to buy other items, some of which are available in-game and others that aren’t.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

The shops sell several helpful items for very reasonable prices such as potions, a longer wand (snigger), extra lives, magnets (sticky wand), slow orb (orb starts at half-speed), multi-orb (three orbs at once), strong orb (double damage), or even a jewel crown which blinds you for being greedy! There’s also all sorts of different bonuses to aim for, some of which are awarded at the end of a level, others at the end of a world. Talking of the worlds, each is named (Clover Village, Slime Forest, Rotten Mines, Cursed Castle, and Netherworld) and home to some of its own features including one type of enemy for each – Wolfkids (who live in towns), Slimes (which move slowly by hopping), Eyeballs (who thrive in dark areas), Ghosts (which can teleport), and finally, Skull Knights (who can deflect the orb with their sword).
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

Each world also has a boss, which usually takes the form of a giant version of that world’s standard enemy, and it’s own graphical theme – medieval-style town, grassy plains, rocky mines, royal castle, and even spooky, mystical, spacey stuff! Regardless of the theme, however, the graphics are absolutely fantastic throughout. As a recent game, Wizorb obviously doesn’t feature state-of-the-art 3D environments and ten billion polygons per brick and all that stuff but Tribute pride themselves on being perveyors of fine pixel art and to that end it is a success, for it is indeed a wonderful-looking game. The presentation is of the highest quality and includes plenty of detailed options and instructions screens, and in-game, things are of an equally high standard.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

The levels themselves have had about as much detail packed into them as you would think possible without distracting from the actual gameplay. Each world has a great style and, while some are more colourful than others, all are superbly detailed and full of character. There’s also a lot of nice touches like the pink slimy curses, watching a Magna Orb smash through tons of bricks, or even the old codger himself, Cyrus, who makes a few appearances. All the sprites are detailed and appealing (even the enemies) but Cyrus is my favourite! The audio is also superb with lots of nice effects and some great music. Each world has its own tune (Slime World has the best in my opinion) and there are a few others for the title screen, bonus rounds, boss fights, etc.
Wizorb - pc gameplay screenshot

However, of greater importance than the aesthetics with games like this is the design of the levels and the controls used to play them. Happily, both aspects of Wizorb are also superb. Movement of your ‘wand’ is achieved by either mouse or keyboard and while both are accurate and fairly forgiving, the mouse obviously offers greater accuracy, although efforts have been made to keep the keyboard option as close as possible. You can launch the orb in any direction you want at the start of a level or life as well which certainly makes tackling the more fiendishly-designed levels a little easier. It’s not an overly easy game to actually play but the increase in difficulty is nice and gradual and you can save at any time too – each reload gives a full quota of continues so it doesn’t take too long to see all the game has to offer.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUh09N-EzoM[/youtube]

When such an apparently simple game offers as much as this one does though, it feels like a privilege to see it all, and there are plenty of bonuses and achievements to keep you playing which is all the more impressive given the game’s meagre asking price. There’s even a village you can explore called ‘Tarot’ which is in ruins at the start of the game but by making donations to villagers you can help to rebuild it and then make use of its services. Things like this are what make Wizorb such an appealing game to play – it’s always clear how much love and effort has gone into it which makes you love it back even more! It’s a great game anyway but if you have even the merest hint of fondness for bat ‘n’ ball games, Wizorb is an essential purchase – it could be the best couple of quid you ever spend.

RKS Score: 9/10

Metal Dead

Metal Dead - indie games - gameplay screenshot
Even though one of the loudest clubs of my youth is no more, metal music is far from dead. Just like the demise of Sierra and the sad Star Wars-fueled downward spiral of Lucasarts never really spelled the end of the adventure game as a popular genre and a quality alternative to the mindless, militaristic shooting of things, heavy metal is still happily around. And no, I’m neither talking about that Kickstarter thing nor about Brutal Legend. I’m talking about Metal Dead.
My dear reader shouldn’t be surprised to find out that Metal Dead (by shiny, new indie developers Walk Thru Walls) is indeed a 2D point-and-click adventure created with AGS. We both, after all, do love a good adventure and Metal Dead is a very good one indeed. And it feels fresh and funny too.
Metal Dead - indie games - gameplay screenshot
Metal Dead is, you see, the closest we’ve come to the brilliance of Maniac Mansion since, well Maniac Mansion. It’s the Shaun of the Dead of adventure gaming. It’s a tongue-in-cheek take on the zombie genre that’s more surreal and smart than an open, and usually clumsy, parody. It’s odd, smart, funny, delightfully weird and capable of taking the tired zombies theme and turning it into something smart and quirky (admittedly with a little help from heavy metal music and the assorted stereotypes).
The game, a very traditional inventory-based and dialog-driven point-and-clicker, manages to masterfully weave the essentially non-violent and slow paced nature of the adventure game around an action-packed and ultra-violent theme, while impressively maintaining the light-hearted and surreal feel of the finest of Lucasarts and Sierra offerings. Happily, the blood-splattered humorous feel is also to be found in the game’s puzzles, which, though generally easy, are logical, well integrated and actually fun.
Metal Dead - indie games - gameplay screenshot
Though pretty short (stopping the zombie apocalypse shouldn’t take more than 5 hours), Metal Dead stays refreshingly silly and engaging throughout and never outstays its welcome, while constantly offering a response for absolutely anything you might think of doing and, of course, something surreal to do. You’ll be talking with the severed zombified head of your best mate (an ingenious hint system), killing zombies, saving doctors, unlocking hilarious achievements and murdering mutated cannabis plants, all the while combining items, engaging in brilliant dialogues and even guessing passwords.
On the audiovisual side of things, well, things are simple but effective. There is no voice-over and only a few tracks of music, but you’ll probably never complain. Imagining the sound of the characters’ voices is something I always enjoyed… Oh, and I do quite love the graphics. Simple, clean, unique and very expressive.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCfeBoLnMRs[/youtube]
Verdict: You’ll love the bloody humor. You’ll love the plot. You’ll love the characters. You’ll love the puzzles. You’ll love the price. Buy it.

Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone - indie gaming - gameplay screenshot
Having already covered the release of Thomas Was Alone over at the IndieGames blog (see? that’s where newsbits go these days) I thought I’d take my time and finish the game before reviewing it for my very own, very cozy place. But first a bit of history.
Thomas Was Alone is a game by Mike Bithell and Mike Bithell is one of the first indie game designers I started writing about sometime six years ago. He was still a student back then, but had already come up with more than a few intriguing ideas and was more than capable of creating beautiful games. Games like Reunion if you remember, which I deeply enjoyed and (hint, hint) would love to see evolved.
Then, things and games happened and Mike went on and crafted a particularly successful flash game named Thomas Was Alone which you can no longer play online. It was an utterly lovely game. A refreshing puzzle-platformer that provided you with rectangle characters and a geometric world, in which said characters could climb and bounce on top of each other in order to solve platformer puzzles.
Thomas Was Alone - indie gaming - gameplay screenshot
Then, even more things happened (mainly glowing press and, apparently, brave choices) and Mike decided that Thomas Was Alone simply had to realize its full potential and become a full-blown, downloadable and thus logically commercial indie game. Following a modest IndieGoGo campaign the game was released and you can (and frankly should) buy it now for Mac and PC over at its very own and most aptly URLed site. There’s even a demo available to help you make the right choice.
History lesson over. Time for a review.
Well, the official description of the game goes a bit like this: a minimalist game about friendship and jumping and floating and bouncing and anti-gravity, which is pretty accurate, but fails to add the words terrific, story-heavy and brilliantly narrated somewhere. A grave marketing mistake surely, as what we are talking about here reader is easily one of the very best platformers ever. A game that has earned its place among classic platformers Manic Miner and VVVVVV; a rare action offering that can proudly sit next to Alphaland (an inspiration perhaps?) and claim it really knows its storytelling.
Thomas Was Alone - indie gaming - gameplay screenshot
The plot and its delivery, you see, are central to Thomas Was Alone, which does force me to namedrop a bit more. Remember that Portal game? Good. Now, do the math and find out what I want to say, by keeping in mind that I easily preferred Thomas‘ take on interactive storytelling.
As for the gameplay itself, things are both straightforward and innovative. You get to control a variety of subtly yet brilliantly animated rectangles, each with its own unique personality, set of abilities, shape and color  and guide them through an excellently designed set of levels that will mainly tax your brain, but also -a bit- your reflexes. What’s really lovely is just how well each rectangle’s defining ability is tied to its character; what’s downright impressive though is that said rectangles are so much more interesting than your average multi-polygonal mainstream hero. They have a soul and that’s coming from a person who simply doesn’t believe such things exist.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDaa3Cq6c7M[/youtube]
So, uhm, as I said earlier, buy it will you? Don’t make me go on about how lovely the stylized graphics are or how addictive the game can get. I’m very busy these days, you know, and am pretty confident the less I tell you about it, the more fun you’ll have discovering the many graces of Thomas Was Alone.

Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass

Adventure gaming has covered a staggering variety of themes, plots and characters, has toyed with a multitude of ideas and has come up with some truly wild stories, but has never dabbled with professional wrestling. Well, not until Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass (and admittedly it’s less known prequel) it hadn’t, for the latest Wadjet Eye Game and Icebox Studios release does indeed enter the ring of b-grade professional wrestling (with its eyebrow emphatically raised) and points and clicks its way to gaming victory.
Da New Guys - Day of the Jackass - gameplay screenshot
Now, truth be said, ever since I reached the mature and enlightened age of 10 I’ve discovered that wrestling is simply not for me and moved on. It was far too silly and not funny enough to keep me interested, a fact that makes the achievements of Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass all the more important, as it effortlessly and despite an overburdened schedule kept me glued to the monitor for hours. Also, I laughed.
Being a sequel of sorts to 2004 indie darling Da New GuysDay of the Jackass is a traditional point-and-click adventure sporting some decidedly non-traditional protagonists and a delightfully dry sense of humour. It plays with its plot, distorts its setting and actually comes up with an enjoyable story that serves its gameplay well.  Brain, you see, the worst and most irritating brawler in wrestling has won the title belt and gotten himself promptly kidnapped. It is thus up to his mates, tough-guy Simon and soft-spoken Defender, to rescue him.
This of course is easier said than done, as this game not only looks old fashioned, but actually plays the old fashioned way, meaning that, yes, it is indeed tough. Da New Guys took me hours to beat and, unlike most recent adventures, actually demanded I consulted a walkthrough and even used a pen to note and sketch stuff. It can actually be difficult to the point of frustration and at times overtaxes ones ability for lateral thinking.
Da New Guys - Day of the Jackass - gameplay screenshot
Still, after the first relatively subdued yet difficult act of the game is over, Da New Guys reveals what it’s really made of and that’s a huge variety of taxing, innovative, fresh and fun puzzles. Yes, they are tough, but not all games need to cater to all tastes. What is after all the point of being indie if you are afraid to take a few risks?
As for the game’s graphics, well, they too are a matter of personal taste. They are far too idiosyncratic to please everyone, but they definitely have a certain charm, are very well animated indeed, and do grow on you. Besides, we adventurers do appreciate consistency, depth and production values and Da New Guys is bound to please the hardcore gamer hiding inside you and me reader.
Oh, and it’s got a lovely soundtrack and sports some excellent voices too. The included achievements and unlockable art should also be considered signs of care and affection for a truly unique project.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AkWir830bGk[/youtube]

Verdict: A great adventure game that successfully and hilariously challenges the hardcore point-and-clicker.

Waves

Waves - Banner
It’s been over a week since the last time I loaded Waves and did thus have all the time one could ask for to calmly look back at the game. Hadn’t I been so wise in my decision to wait before writing this review all I’d be able to come up with would be something along the lines of best game ever, which would frankly be silly. Or at least over the top. Monkey Island 2 hasn’t been bested yet. Neither has Manic Miner.
Waves - Gameplay Screenshot
Besides, I can see clearer now. The destructive addiction is most probably over and I have even stopped dreaming of glowing platonic shapes. I will thus say that Waves is merely the best twin-stick arena shooter I have ever played and, believe it or not, I loved arena shooters ever since I first played Robotron. And have  constantly been reminded of their greatness with a little help from Smash TVGeometry Wars and my favorite single-stick shmups included in the Bundle of Wrong.
Waves, now, was actually good enough when played with the humble mouse and keyboard combo to force me to buy an Xbox (eeerk, I know) controller for my PC; an act bordering on sacrilege while simultaneously trigerring a revelation. Those newfangled console controllers are pretty amazing beasts aparently! And they can make games like Waves even better. They can actually make them brilliant. And elegant exercises in moving, shooting and on-the-fly tactical thinking.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxxOdqKvnpA[/youtube]
Having played with Waves for over 30 hours (quite an achievement for a game without a single line of plot) I have come to deeply appreciate what Squid in a Box and the ever talented Rob Fearon have managed to pull off. Waves is a beautiful and expertly designed game, sporting excellent controls, intricate yet easy to grasp scoring mechanics, psychedelic graphics, smart smart-bombs, a ton of impressively varied game modes, a brilliant soundtrack and some lovely touches of anarchic humour. It’s even got achievements that will force you to play it in truly imaginative ways.
Oh, and as beating a friend’s high-score can be too enjoyable to be considered healthy, please do join me in having some Waves fun on Steam. You must have by now understood what a fantastic indie offering it really is.

Verdict: A gloriously addictive psychedelic drug without any side-effects whatsoever. It will though give you neon nightmares. Grab it and let it grab you back.

J.U.L.I.A.

 [youtube id=”ETqeakFb6bI” width=”633″ height=”356″]

J.U.L.I.A.

I am so glad I decided to not provide you with review scores reader dear; so absolutely delighted. Summing up J.U.L.I.A. in a simple score would have been utterly impossible. Even deciding on what I really thought about it turned out to be pretty taxing. Better though to start at the beginning.
J.U.L.I.A. is a science-fiction game, casting you as Rachel Mannors, the sole survivor of a space expedition gone spectacularly wrong. Rachel, an awkwardly 3D modeled yet decently voiced character,  is woken up from cryo-sleep by J.U.L.I.A., the spaceship’s AI, only to discover she’s all alone in a malfunctioning ship light-years away from Earth and apparently stranded in a solar system with dully named planets. What’s more, something has gone spectacularly wrong on said planets. Something that eventually led to the death of the rest of the crew and the endangerment of alien life.
gameplay screenshot
Truth be said, J.U.L.I.A., and that’s the last time I bother with these fullstops, has a very interesting, if slightly melodramatic, plot. A proper science fiction story to be precise, that isn’t afraid to touch upon important matters and never fails to be atmospheric. What’s more, JULIA is one of those very rare games you can’t simply describe with a screenshot and a genre categorization. You’ll have to go on and play it (its demo at the very least) in order to fully understand its gameplay; you know, just like back in the old days, when reading a review and looking at some pics in a magazine simply left you bewildered…
At its core though the game can be described as a choose-your-own-adventure styled piece of interactive fiction with an interesting graphical GUI and a ton of mini-games thrown in. Needless to say, the text adventure-y parts of the game are by far the best. They are well written, brilliantly supported by the graphics and cut-scenes and -especially towards the end- by a fantastic map system. The problem though is that these section are pretty short and essentially without any challenge to speak of.
gameplay screenshot
Most of the challenge is to be found in the aforementioned mini-games and, sadly, this is where JULIA‘s main problem lies. The vast majority of mini-games on offer are ridiculously easy and feel largely unconnected to the game’s setting and the situations at hand. What’s more, the difficult ones are usually both too hard and badly explained, making for a gaming experience that ranges between dull and frustrating.
On the other hand, I am really glad I played JULIA. Despite its shortcomings, it’s a very brave, very ambitious and definitely innovative game with a strong focus on telling a story that’s actually worth sharing. I do believe it’s the first step in the right direction; a diamond in the rough, an impressive new way of approaching interactive fiction and an idea that has to be nurtured and supported, if only to give the devs a chance at perfecting their formula.

Verdict: A flawed but unique gem.

Waveform

waveform banner
Waveform, the soothing indie game I previewed some time ago, is an elegant and incredibly simple to play offering that has just been released for the PC (with a little help from Steam), though I’m pretty sure it would make a killing over at them touch-based mobile devices. Now, don’t take this wrong reader; I don’t consider Waveform simplistic or shallow – far from it. I’m just pretty confident its unique game mechanics would greatly benefit from touch controls.
Anyway. On to the game proper. Waveform has you using the mouse to control the wavelength and amplitude of a light wave that looks and behaves suspiciously close to a sine wave. Moving your mouse cursor right or left will modify the former and up or down the latter, thus hopefully plotting a route that will help your circular avatar thingy avoid obstacles and grab a ton of points. It’s this simple really or, as some would wisely point out, a triumph of minimalist design.

waveform banner

 

Happily, said simplicity doesn’t mean that the game is boring. It means instead that this is one traditionally easy to learn yet hard to master offering. Also one that actually affords gradually building up its complexity with a steady introduction of new gameplay elements, new mechanics, new enemies and new ways to treating them, meaning that you will definitely have something fresh to look forward to every few levels. And there’s over 100 well designed of them.
Not all is perfect though. Especially as things get more hectic the controls can feel a tad unresponsive. Oh, and despite the variety on offer and even them hidden levels, said things can actually get repetitive, especially when you are frantically trying to play through the game for a review… Then again, and in what can only be considered a showcase of spontaneous dialects, it remains both fun and addictive; a bit like Tetris actually. What’s more, Waveform is indeed something one has to definitely try in order to experience an oddly relaxing yet essentially arcade game.
waveform banner

 

As for the game’s graphics, well, they are all spacey and slightly psychedelic and nice, and help that overall feel of a properly polished game. As, of course, does Waveform‘s amazing soundtrack. And the ton of little touches, black hole levels, achievements and extras that the devs have kindly packed in this rather lovely and bravely original game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9K85eS0cxY[/youtube]
Verdict: A refreshing and actually successful attempt at a spectacularly innovative arcade game. Definitely worth a try, if only to experience how something truly new feels like.

Spelunky

Spelunky-gameplay screenshot

I don’t often do game reviews. I certainly wasn’t planning to do one when I first downloaded Spelunky for XBox Live Arcade when it came out on July 4. However, after becoming totally addicted to the game I feel compelled to do just that. This game is something special.

Spelunky, written by Derek Yu, originally appeared in 2009 as a freeware game for Microsoft Windows. The game will instantly take veteran gamers back in time with a 16-bit console feel and music soundtrack and side-view platformer style. The object of the game is to take your adventurer through four different environments full of challenging enemies, booby traps and random surprises.

Spelunky-gameplay screenshot

Along the way there are various treasures to tempt you. Collecting these are not required to complete a level but are required to run up the score and to ensure you can purchase items when you find a shop. The player is armed with bombs that can blow holes in the floors and walls and ropes to help reach high places.

Health is scarce in Spelunky. You begin with four hearts, all of which can be quickly lost in countless ways on each level. More hearts can be gained by rescuing “damsels” hidden in each stage, but doing so requires carrying her all the way to the exit.

Spelunky-gameplay screenshot

The charm of Spelunky comes with a unique combination of familiarity and surprise. It somehow borrows elements from numerous classic titles while managing to throw curveballs at almost any turn. That treasure chest or clay pot you just busted open could be full of treasure, helpful items or enemies. Picking up a valuable treasure might trigger a trap. Adding to the surprise factor are random levels. While each world has four levels to pass, the levels appear at random from a far larger pool, sometimes adding in total darkness or zombies as well.

Spelunky-gameplay screenshot

Spelunky is also an incredible challenge, yet somehow contains enough balance to remain charming. Personally, I am reminded of the very balance that hooked me on games like Lode Runner in the 1980s and the original Prince of Persia in the 1990s. Spelunky joins those titles on a short list of platformer games that have driven me just insane enough to demand that I have to try again, knowing that I’ll do better on my next go-around, only to dodge my previous mistake in favor of making a new one. Passing a level is extremely satisfying, even if you didn’t get any further than you have before by doing so.

Spelunky-gameplay screenshot

There is also an element of risk versus reward that exists in very few games of this kind. You will often find yourself at the end of the level, able to simply exit the door and move on, but tempted by trying to gain just a little more treasure stashed nearby. If you pull it off it is quite a thrill, but more often than not you’ll simply end up losing valuable health or finding sudden death, wondering afterward why you didn’t just leave while you could. Greed can also be costly due to time. Taking a page from 1980 arcade classic Berzerk, lingering too long on a stage will bring out an invincible enemy (a ghost in this case) that will end your point-pressing attempt cold if it catches you.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Caj23gbl0n8[/youtube]

All told, Spelunky is easily the most addicting and charming game I’ve come across on XBLA to date. I know people often hesitate on grabbing a game for 1200 Microsoft Points, especially if it doesn’t have a household name attached to it, but in this case it is more than worth the price. Spelunky is as addictive as it is challenging and will provide hours of entertainment before you’ve even realize you’ve been playing for hours. A must-buy.

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land

Call of cthulhu wasted land
Sometimes the truths of the universe are too shocking for us to accept and some other times cosmic realities simply cannot be understood. Still, I just can’t comprehend why Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land is the only (and thus first) Lovecraftian, turn-based, tactical game I’ve ever encountered; let alone one of the few games to use the trenches of WWI as a dark and desperate setting.
On the other hand, ignorance is bliss and creative people get strange dreams courtesy of the Outer Gods, who have been slumbering and waiting for an ambitious take on X-Com that will actually feature Dark Youngs, undead soldiers, mad mages, hints of Reanimator and the spawn of Cthulhu. Happily, said dreams spawned The Wasted Lands, which, as should have already been made blatantly obvious, is a lovely turn-based, tactical affair with a few RPG touches.

Call of cthulhu wasted land

You get your characters, your action points, your experience points, your oppressive 3D terrains, your campy but delightful plot, your spells, your otherworldly monstrosities, your cultists and your zombified soldiers in one of the most honest (and cheap) strategy games I’ve recently played. What you also get is a truly elegant adaptation of Chaosium‘s Call of Cthulhu rules, the first ever sanity mechanics to actually work in a wargame and a most successful atmosphere.
On the downside, this is a really short game sporting ten or so missions, that will last you for roughly ten hours, and, irritatingly, a game with a few control problems. Apparently, its iOS roots haven’t been ironed out, but trust me when I say that you’ll very soon be used to its, uhm, eccentricities. Oh, and you can only grab it over at the universally unknown Intel AppUp online store, meaning that more middleware will have to be installed on your ever-encumbered PC.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gU_7aj1bp8g[/youtube]
Still though, hadn’t had this much fun with a turn-based strategy game, since, well, X-Com and that should be all you need to know.
Verdict: Cthulhu would smile and devise new tactics.

Independent Adventure Games for the masses

paris
Independent video game developers are like the artisans of yore. They aren’t wage slaves, they don’t exploit anyone else’s work, they are neither masters nor slaves, but creative people who strive for the quality of their product and don’t have to succumb to whatever ridiculous market realities managers can come up with. In short, they are to be supported, fiercely guarded even, as they’re (more or less) involuntary combating dominant modes of consumption and production. Oh, and let’s not forget the fine games the indy/bedroom developers have historically come up with. Games like Another World, Skool Daze, Darwinia, Simon the Sorcerer and countless others that are all the proof you should ever need…

Then again, I simply refuse (i.e. can’t be bothered) to let this post deteriorate into a quasi-political rant with artistic tendencies. We’ll hopefully have time for this at a later date. For now, I think I’ll stick to the news. The indy adventure gaming related news to be precise.

XiiGames

Well, for starters (not that there’s much more on the menu, mind you), xii games of What Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed, Anna and Spooks fame are working on a brand new adventure game set in a not-so-distant future when a particle physicist’s mysterious and spectacular death sparks a race to find his hidden vault and claim his terrifying new discovery. An indy dream team has already been assemble, but despair not. xii games is still hiring.

Fatman

On to some SOCKO! Entertainment news. Remember them? How about the first commercial AGS adventure ever released, the cunningly named Adventures of Fatman? Ah, lovely, I knew you would (pssst, if not, the game has been released as a freeware memory stimulant; get it here). Well, seems that the seemingly defunct SOCKO! team was just that: seemingly defunct. Behind the scenes they’ve been working on Fatman S.O.S. (Save Our Superheroes) their second game, which they hope to fund by selling a brilliant and particularly deluxe re-release of the original Fatman game. Give ’em a hand.


The Blackwell Convergence

 

blackwell convergence-screenshot

It has come to my deeply shocked attention that despite the recent Gnome’s Lair reviews of both Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound, there are still gamers, adventure gamers even, that have yet to try a Blackwell game. How very odd. I mean, it’s not everyday a fully indie, retro-styled, well written and impeccably produced adventure gets made, is it? Of course not. And The Blackwell Convergence is the latest in the Blackwell series, which, as you should have already guessed or known, is an indie, retro-styled, well written and impeccably produced series of adventure games, with Convergence being the third installment.

Convergence, just like the Blackwell games before it and -hopefully- the Blackwell games that will follow, is all about getting the restless dead (in their ghostly form) to actually rest. In New York. Interestingly, New York is as much a character as any of the protagonist duo: Rosa the psychic and Joey the 30s ghost.

the blackwell convergence gameplay screenshot

Now, point-and-clickers that have already enjoyed the previous games in the series, will definitely have to also play this installment, as it feels bigger and more lush than ever, while sporting the best graphics in the series yet and a truly fascinating plot. As for the characters animated portraits, well, they make a welcome return, as does the excellent voice-acting and writing. Oh, and it’s got horror bits in it too.

Newcomers to the series -the genre, even- on the other hand will appreciate the built-in tutorial and the fact that no previous Blackwell experience is required to fully enjoy the delights of Convergence. Besides, its puzzles are very simple and generally enjoyable, and the game is relatively short, clocking in at roughly 5 hours.

Verdict: Oh, come on. You must have guessed that. Blackwell Convergence really is a great adventure game.

Versus: Games for the Ages

versus - A Compoetition for the ages
I know you know dear reader, but I simply had to blog this. I do love pretty screenshots, outrageous indie game mechanics and TIG Source competitions you see. Versus, the latest competition of the sort, the one cunningly subtitled Games for the Ages, is all about crafting games that pit at least one human player versus another human player. What’s more all the entries have been uploaded to the compo site and are freely available for you to download, enjoy and -should you feel so inclined- rate.
versus - A Compoetition for the ages
There are 81 wildly innovative (and plain wild) games available to try, including the incredible AGI Combat for the trigger happy adventure gamer, the rather unsettling A Cure for Friendship, the deeply spiritual Jesus vs. Dinosaurs and even the particularly silly Macig – The Gambling. Expect surreal genre mixes, visuals any indie gamer would love and some truly frightening sounds; all in glorious multiplayer!
versus - A Compoetition for the ages
Here are a few screenshots to spice things up:
versus - A Compoetition for the ages

Aquaria

Aquaria screenshot
Not every game can win an IGF Grand Prize (actually only one game per year can, and that’s ..uh.. not many games and definitely not every; yes) and only one game ever managed to grab the 2007 version of said illustrious prize. It was none other than Aquaria and happily this indie masterpiece is available, meaning you too, and yes that does indeed mean you, can grab a fairly priced copy here or download the incredibly hefty demo there.
Aquaria screenshot
Now, before going off downloading and/or wisely buying stuff, before even enjoying the sheer beauty of Aquaria‘s video teaser, better read a bit of the official word:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G40cXjcz-9c[/youtube]

Aquaria was the winner of the Seumas McNally Grand Prize at the 2007 Independent Games Festival, features over 175 strange and wonderful creatures (including several massive and ancient “bosses”), 8 magical forms with unique abilities, 50 original music tracks, and over 2000 pieces of hand-painted 2d artwork.


Fish Fish Bang Bang

fish fish bang bang - screen

Aha! So, you never expected Rob Fearon would create an arena shooter using only one key… Well, it’s quite understandable really, as nobody (ever) expects Rob to create an arena shooter using only one key. His chief weapon is, after all, surprise. Surprise and an incredible ability to create games that are immensely fun, weird and look as psychedelic as a cartoon version of the Yellow Submarine (a truly odd example admittedly, as the Yellow Submarine was quite a bit a cartoon). Oh, well…

Important thing is Fish Fish Bang Bang is -unexpectedly- almost here and you’ll very soon be able to play its demo and (very soon after that) the complete version in all its indie glory. As for me, I did try the rather impressive early preview build of the thing and can confirm that, yes, this is a single-key arena shooter with surreal melt-o-vision graphics, outrageous sounds, addictive gameplay, unique mechanics and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. It also is fantastic little game, that can even play itself.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=odHWuUbwZCU[/youtube]

Find out more about Fish Fish Bang Bang by clicking here.

I Fought the Law, and the Law One

Airwave
Ben304 has done it again, lucky reader. Yes, he has. This incredibly talented crafter of indie adventure games has just released the first part of the apparently episodic Airwave. You can download the first episode, the brilliantly named and Clash-referencing I Fought the Law, and the Law One for free by following this very link.
The game is a pretty traditional point-and-click adventure with a simplified and intuitive interface, the usual spectacular art and animation we have come to expect from Ben, a fully and rather excellently voiced introduction, an amazing soundtrack and the mandatory and always enjoyable puzzles. Interestingly, this first Airwave installment also sports a unique and -dare I say- fantastic plot. The player is cast as Elodie Major, a tiny indie radio station producer, that has managed to inspire the people of a small town called, well, Wave. All is not rosy though and Elodie has to fight powerful mainstream record labels and keep the station pure and loyal to quality music, while discussing the math behind quality metal songs.

Related @ Gnome’s Lair:

Gemini Rue: A Noir review

[youtube id=”foZp9ToBewA” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Gemini Rue

You should have heard of Gemini Rue by Wadjet Eye Games by now. It is, after all, the indie, AGS-authored, point-and-click adventure that has actually (well, finally) made it to a more mainstream gaming audience, earning glowing reviews left and right. Then again, being of a more indie persuasion, you, precious reader, might remember Boryokudan Rue by  Joshua Nuernberger, the dystopian, neo-noir sci-fi adventure with a thing for both action and mystery that won the 2010 IGF Student Showcase award; well, they are both the same game, though publisher Wadjet Eye have added a full voice-over and helped with polishing things over.
Gemini-Rue
Gemini Rue titleGemini Rue title
The result is a truly impressive game, that, interestingly, has one of the best plots I’ve recently seen. Oh, and lots and lots of beautifully rendered 2D rain. Anyway. The two playable characters of Gemini Rue, Azriel and the aloof Delta-Six, star in a mature adventure that sits somewhere between Blade Runner, Rise of the Dragon and Beneath a Steel Sky. The pace of the realistic sci-fi plot is excellent and the storytelling itself quite remarkable, as Gemini Rue follows Azriel, the rogue police officer with a dark past and Delta-Six, the inmate at the Center 7 facility who has had his memory wiped, in a mostly dark story taking place in a beautifully noir setting.
Azriel’s attempts to locate his brother take him to the dark city of Pittsburg on the unnaturally rainy planet of Barracus, where the Boryokudan, an organization not unlike the mafia, are running things and engaging in a most destructive, yet apparently exotic, drug trade. Delta-Six, on the other hand, spends his days in the aforementioned rehabilitation facility, where he attempts to discover his true allies and his true identity while trying to escape. As you should have guessed, those seemingly disconnected stories collide in the dramatic and definitely climactic final part of the game, that leads to a pretty brilliant finale. Mind you, these are not happy Sierra characters in a fairy-tale land and they most definitely are not people you’d invite over for tea and biscuits.
Gemini-Rue
The game setting, the game world if you prefer, feels both big and interesting. It’s a labour of love that you’ll love to explore, especially if you care for its decidedly retro aesthetic. What’s more, it’s mostly evenly split between the gritty, rainy planet Barracus and the sterile Center 7 facility. A deep visual contrast, that helps highlight the differences between the two playable characters and the situations they are in.
The characters in Gemini Rue, though not all of them extensively developed, are for the most part well-written and believable, with the two leads being by far the best and more elaborately developed. Gemini Rue does after all  focus on them protagonists, and has them face a dark setting, more than a few, uhm, unhappy scenes, betrayal, death, and their dark pasts. This, you see, could also be described as a game about identity; also as a game that treats amnesia as punishment.
The Gemini Rue controls follow, for the most part, a pretty standard point-and-click system, but do sport a few intriguing new mechanics and additions. You, beside fiddling with your traditional inventory, get to shoot stuff in a tactical-arcade manner, control two characters, use a handy phone/digital organizer thing, access terminals and even physically manipulate other characters. The puzzles themselves are mostly easy, yet highly entertaining, very well implemented, and feel perfectly integrated into the plot, and, before everyone starts screaming against the shooting sequences, let me just remind you that combat systems appeared in quite a few Sierra games too. What’s more, the action sequences work, fit nicely into the setting, help change the game’s pace, and are perfect for the sluggish reflexes of the average adventurer.
Gemini-Rue
I did really enjoy playing through said shoot-outs, (almost) as much as I enjoyed playing through the game without a walkthrough and getting only mildly -and, importantly, very briefly- stuck; never in a truly old-fashioned hair-pulling way mind. There’s nothing in there that can’t be solved with a bit more exploration and some thinking, whereas the only part I disliked was a pretty tedious mechanical little puzzle that was both generic and not that well explained. Oh, and this is wisely sized game too -should take you anything from 6 to 8 hours on the first playthrough- without any boring and/or filler parts. The fact that Wadjet Eye have implemented a fantastic in-game commentary makes a second playthrough necessary…
As this review is finally coming to its conclusion, I know I just have to mention the visual retro glory of Gemini Rue with its deeply atmospheric VGA graphics, the impressive character portraits, the weather effects, the tons of top-quality animation, the successful framing of each room, and the lively yet hand-painted backgrounds. The sound consists of some lovely ambient effects, mostly rain apparently, a very impressive -in most cases- voice over, and some atmospheric, subtle and slightly bleak music, that sadly doesn’t play throughout the game. All in all, Gemini Rue is a brilliant mix of old and new on every level, that manages to be entertaining and even (mildly) thought-provoking. If this were released sometime during the nineties it would now be considered a major classic.

Verdict: One of the very best commercial indie adventures I have ever played. It’s beautiful, gripping, seamlessly combines the old with the new and I would thus describe it as an absolute must-buy for adventure gamers of all persuasions. Get it here. Now, please

!

Skin & Bones

skinandbones
It’s been a while since I played through the truly enjoyable and immensely colourful demo of the newly released Skin & Bones offering, and, well, I thought I’d let you know. It is, after all and as far as I can judge, a lovely platform/puzzle game with a distinct retro 16-bit feel to it and two playable characters. Definitely one to bring back those memories from the Amiga era, then, though should you try it, you’ll probably notice the obvious Head over Heels influences too. Worth a try.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6CwxcYvc7I[/youtube]

8-Bit MMO

This is pretty cool for fans of classic and indie games. This MMO game allows players to interact in a top down world that is very original Zelda-style. It is pretty much a giant world or sandbox as they call it that allows you to build or movie buildings like castles or homes and fight something they call Lawyercats and there is even PVP.

8-bit mmo logo

Check out the video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBNBYwb5nZg[/youtube]

Here is the official press release.

A video game development project named ‘8BitMMO’ was publicly announced today. 8BitMMO is a free online videogame where up to 250 concurrently connected players can shape the world block by block. The game’s engine allows for a wide variety of player made buildings.  Players can build solo, or group up and create their own towns with friends for cooperative building projects.  In either case, a grief protection system protects the player’s creations from unwanted interference. The game is humorous in tone, with amusing quests and unusual enemiesThere is also basic Player vs Player and Player vs Environment combat.

8-bit mmo - gameplay screenshot

“I am amazed with the creations players are coming up with,” said the game’s developer Robby Zinchak of Archive Entertainment. “People are creating some genuinely cool architecture – everything from towering windmills to sports arenas. One player even made a huge statue of a flying dragon. The community is very inventive, and I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with next!”

8-bit mmo - gameplay screenshot

The project was first started in 2001, but underwent multiple total-rewrites and art style changes. While the game is still currently in ongoing development, it is fully playable on the project’s website. As the project is Java based, it can be easily run on Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Future updates to the game are planned to introduce more features and content.

To play 8BitMMO, visit http://8BitMMO.net

Tidalis

There really isn’t much to say here. Give the Tidalis demo a go and you’ll immediately know whether this little indie puzzler is for you. Simple as that, really. I simply don’t feel I have to actually provide you with a review of the thing. Wait! Here’s the link you’ll be needing.

Tidalis - Gameplay Screenshot

After all, were I to review Tidalis, I’d just let you know that it’s a puzzle game with obvious arcade elements that requires both a quick mind and quick reflexes. I’d also probably mention that it plays like an inspired cross between Tetris, Columns and those laser reflection games of yore, while sporting some decent chip-tunes, a slick, polished but not spectacular presentation (despite them beautiful backgrounds), excellent controls, and a ton of available options. Oh, and I’d probably mention Tidalis features a frantic multiplayer mode, a weird co-op thingy and an impressive amount of single-player options that actually -drastically too- change its very nature.

Tidalis - Gameplay Screenshot

As for the fact that it comes with a built-in editor (editors to be precise, as Tidalis does indeed let you create anything you’d think will improve or change it enough for your, err, creation to be properly interesting), well, I guess I might mention it, provided I weren’t too tired of mentioning all the little features the thing comes packed with.

Tidalis - Gameplay Screenshot

What matters and would have mattered most would be one thing though; my verdict. Here it is then: Tidalis is an excellent and very polished action-puzzler, that impressively lets you decide how to play it, and you really should play it! You’ll probably be too addicted to do anything else -or review it- for quite some time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L28SWHTgqM[/youtube]

Better yet, let me rephrase this: TIDALIS IS AMAZING. BRILLIANT TOO. Oh, and it’s available for Windows and OS X via a lot of online outlets including Steam, D2D and its very own and pretty official website.

Indie Game Gems: Mr. Gravity

The Indie Game Gems feature will focus on the hidden treasures that can be found on your XBox 360 for just one dollar.  For those that don’t look up from the latest Call of Duty long enough to notice, XBox Live Indie Games contains a massive amount of games created mostly by smaller studios and downloaded for very little money.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

This section will sort through the heavily stocked shelves of XBox Live Indie Games to find the hidden gems that will provide fun well worth the low prices.

We start this regular feature with Mr. Gravity, a game developed by students at the University of Utah and released last spring.  The object of the game is to help a happy little fellow named Mr. Gravity traverse through a maze and reach his bride Mrs. Gravity, who is patiently waiting somewhere else in the maze.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

Along the way, Mr. Gravity must use the power of gravity he holds to cling to walls and avoid spikes and obstacles.  He also must collect as many gems as possible along the way, though he can complete a level without doing so.  Once he reaches his smiley wife at the end of the maze the level ends.

Mr. Gravity nails the feel of some of the earliest days of video gaming.  The concept sounds simple enough and seems easy enough at first glance, yet is difficult to master.  It doesn’t take long for the game to become quite challenging yet still manages to find a perfect balance that allows it to frustrate you just enough to make you keep trying again rather than turn it off.  I felt reminded of what hooked me on the original Lode Runner on my oldCommodore 64 in the 1980s on some of the upper levels of Mr. Gravity, as the more frustrated I grew each time a narrow move saw me crash into a spike the more I wanted to beat the dang level because I felt I could.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

At the end of each level the player is awarded stars based on their performance in the areas of gem collection, speed of completion and how many lives were needed to get to the end.  You need certain amounts of stars to unlock later worlds, giving the player a reason to go back to earlier levels again and play them in different manners in order to obtain them.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

The graphics for a game like this don’t need to be complex yet don’t need to be too simple, and Mr. Gravity nails this aspect to.  The fairly simple graphics are given a color vector look and glow, reminiscent of classics such as Tempest and more modern hits such as Geometry Wars.  Both characters in the game change facial expressions based on what is going on in the level with a simple yet fun charm.  The background music is excellent, especially for an indie game, and adds a great extra element for the player while attempting difficult moves.

Mr. Gravity - Indie Games - Gameplay screenshot

Mr. Gravity is well worth the price of 80 Microsoft points (or $1.00 in human talk) and far more.  It manages to bring several original and uncommon puzzle game aspects together to make a challenging yet addicting puzzler with far more replay value than most puzzle games from far bigger game studios.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxKvdyzP8XI[/youtube]

Please share this article with your friends before trying the game for yourself or you might not be back on the internet for quite some time.  You can download the game from the XBox website by clicking here.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

Abobo’s Big Adventure

As much as some followers try to stick the “classic arcade” tag on me, I am every bit as much of a fan of the 8-bit console era of the later 1980s. Back then, if I wasn’t sleeping, eating, showering or doing my homework I was on my Nintendo Entertainment System, and I wasn’t adverse to skipping one of those listed tasks at times to play it.

Abobo's Big Adventure

Months back I learned of Abobo’s Big Adventure, a fun looking Flash-game parody of the entire NES era, and began looking forward to it. The game went live last night and exceeded my expectations, something that is difficult to do with me.

Yes, you are Abobo, the big muscle-headed ugly guy made famous in Double Dragon and you are pretty darn grumpy. Seems a variety of 8-bit characters kidnapped your kid and you are out to get him back. Thankfully they skip explaining how a guy that looks like Abobo managed to become a father.

As you begin your game you are instantly bombarded with characters from just about any NES-era game you can name. You’ll have to do battle with those pink sweater-vest guys from Kung Fu, characters from Renegade, River City Ransom and even T&C Surf Designs. You’ll encounter Goombas, Mega Man boss enemies, the masters of the Pro Wrestling ring and so many more. Even the title screen is full of any 8-bit game character you want to name, from the Duck Hunt duck to the Eggplant Wizard from Kid Icarus. Finally I got to live out my life-long desire to punch Kid Niki in the face, even if I had to dodge exploding barrels from Donkey Kong while doing so.

6

The game plays right in your browser and can use arrow keys or a gamepad to play. As with the 8-bit games of the day there are only two buttons to learn to use. Just pick up and play, and play you should.

Abobo’s Big Adventure is the ultimate 8-bit tribute game and a must-play for any fan of the era. You can stop reading this article now and go do just that by Clicking here.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

VVVVVV

vvvvvv - logo

Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV is a wonderful and most brilliant game. Really. You have thus to buy and play it immediately or -failing that- smash your computer to tiny, sharp bits and send them over to EA. Here’s the link in case you failed to notice the previous, less obvious one. You know, just to make sure. There. Review done.
What do you mean you are not convinced yet? Here, go play the demo. That should do it.
vvvvvv - gameplay screenshot
Not enough? Very well then, you win oh imaginary reader. I’ll review the thing properly, as I admittedly wasn’t blown away by it the first time I tried to play through its demo, and if it weren’t for the glowing reviews I wouldn’t have given VVVVVV another chance. That of course, would have been a huge mistake, as after returning to said hefty demo I was impressed enough to promptly grab the full version of the game. A wise choice and a criminally belated review as it turned out.
So, on to VVVVVV: the review then. Well, VVVVVV is an indie platform game with C64 style graphics, a proper chiptune soundtrack and a rather unique lack of a traditional jump button. It also is quite brilliant. Actually make that the best platform game released since Manic Miner, meaning that I actually do consider it a way better game than any Mario offering you’d care to mention, all Sonic the Hedgehogs ever, Castlevania and, indeed, Jet Set Willy. It’s that good, it is.
vvvvvv - gameplay screenshot
Despite being incredible simple, all you can after all do is go left, right and reverse gravity (and consequently walk on ceilings apparently), VVVVVV offers a unique, varied and deep platform experience, that will test both your puzzle solving abilities and your platforming skills. Also it’s difficult, as my 1735 in-game deaths should easily prove. Then again, it is difficult in the fairest of ways and does help us average gamers by providing a ton of well placed save points. Not that trying and retrying screens isn’t enjoyable mind. Even the occasional feats of rage are fun in a decidedly old-fashioned way.
What’s even more enjoyable is that each screen in this glorious flick-screen platformer has its very own, usually silly, sometimes helpful and always appropriate name.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sf06P-_1lkU[/youtube]
Oh, and the simple graphics, besides allowing for some impressively expressive 8-bitish characters, do much more than a simple screenshot can convey. They move, change their colours and create a beautifully psychedelic visual experience, that -coupled with the huge and hugely imaginative variety of enemy sprites- makes VVVVVV one of the most interesting and visually unique indie games ever released. Did I mention it sound brilliant too? I did. Great. Let me then just add that it even comes with an incredibly simple, definitely not preposterous yet rather enjoyable game story, and a more than a few extra modes and be done with it.
Verdict: Second only to Manic Miner, though you should take the fact that I’m an overtly nostalgic gnome into consideration. Anyway, just play it!


Chains

Chains - Gameplay Screenshot

Chainsis beautiful. That much is instantly obvious. After all, were it not for its visual appeal I’d have probably ignored it in this modern sea of small casual indie games, the Internet seems to have become. I would of course have been wrong.

Chains, you see, might on the surface seem like another game that uses the rather tired idea of making things disappear by matching them with, err, things of the same colour, but it really has way more than that to offer. It sports a brilliant and very versatile physics engine, that, combined with the excellent level design, make for a rather excellent and quite unique game. Not to mention an addictive one too. And wait till you see them graphics in motion while listening to that utterly brilliant electro soundtrack…

Chains - Gameplay Screenshot

Only negative thing about this lovely indie offering is its size. Weighing in at twenty levels, the whole thing will be over in a few hours, though admittedly it is infinitely replayable. Oh, and the levels are so varied, they could almost be from different games. From different genres even, as one has you frantically clicking around in typical arcade fashion, while another has you thinking in a most tactical manner or solving flow (you’ll see) puzzles.

What’s more, great care has also been given to the overall production of Chains, what with its three difficulty levels, player profiles, detailed stats, hints and even colorblind option.

Chains - Gameplay Screenshot

To grab a (dirt-cheap) copy or try the demo visit the official Chains: The Puzzle Game website.
Verdict: An absolutely excellent indie game. Hypnotic, short, sexy and definitely more enjoyable than drinking expensive wine in the cold (?). Play it!

Circulate

Circulate - PC - Gameplay Screenshot
Truth be said, I’m not much of a casual games fan and even less so when I’m too busy to spare the few precious moments needed for that extra drink. Also I’m not in the best of moods. And ButtonSmasher has been taking up too much of my gaming/blogging time. Oh, yes, and Circulate, the brand new game I’m supposed to be reviewing here, is definitely advertised as one of them casual offerings. Then again, were I wearing a sombrero (sombreros always make you happy, mind) I’d definitely describe it as an indie, physics based, action heavy puzzle game, which definitely sounds a lot better and is closer to the truth too.
Circulate - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

So, what precisely is Circulate, I pretend to hear you ask. I mean, besides an indie, physics based, action heavy puzzle game. Well, that’s not a very easy answer to give unfortunately. Circulate, you see, has the player spinning whole levels around and occasionally clicking on -for lack of a better word- spheres, while trying to get them spheres in containers, trying to make them vanish, or generally moving them properly around while avoiding a variety of obstacles and traps. A concept that is apparently way easier to understand than explain.

Circulate - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

And is it a good a game, I pretend to hear you ask again, while thinking I should cut down on the habit. Why, yes, yes it is. Innovative and maddeningly addictive too. The learning curve is just perfect, the controls are intuitive, the levels incredibly varied and more than enough to keep you sleepless for a few nights (there are 120 of them), the kaleidoscopic graphics are beautiful, the music is just fine, the tutorial mode works perfectly and the game is an absolute blast to play. Add the numerous options available, including the one to play Circulate in windowed mode, its modest price and the very reasonable hardware requirements, and you got a game any PC gamer should try.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umVdDP0vYQE[/youtube]

That’s a (seven and a half) out of (ten).