Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PC Spotlight #56: Vertiginous Golf

Title: Vertiginous Golf
Developer: Lone Elk Creative
Platforms: PC
Price: $5
The easiest way to describe Vertiginous Golf is to imagine that if the citizens of Bioshock Infinite's Columbia decided to take up golf, the result would look something like Vertiginous Golf. There have been other over-the-top golf games on various platforms, but the aesthetic and the expansive course elevates Vertiginous Golf.
From the moment you start the game, the game's atmosphere draws the player in. A normal menu doesn't welcome you. Instead you find yourself outside an old-style parlor and within, screens unfold from the walls, allowing you to select various menu options. Take a seat and you'll be transported to the world of Vertiginous Golf, where the courses are suspended in the clouds and full of steampunk-style obstacles. From rotating platforms and conveyor belts to helicopter drones and multi-tiered levels, the courses of Vertiginous Golf are over-the-top and just fun to explore and master. Not only are you able to overcome these obstacles with proper drives and power, you can also control your mechanical hummingbird companion and fly around the map, allowing you to better plan your hits.
Vertiginous Golf currently only contains one nine-hole course (able to be played solo or with up to four others) and a tutorial course, with more to come, but the game just feels incredibly polished and is a joy to play. You can purchase Vertiginous Golf from the developer's site.

PC Spotlight #55: Crashtastic

Title: Crashtastic
Developer: Mark Smith
Platform: PC, Mac
Price: $9.99
Games like Burnout and Flatout have proven one fact: gamers like smashing cars into things and seeing beautiful destruction in their wake. Cause and destructive effect, it's just fun. Crashtastic is still in pre-alpha, but it promises a fun mix of creativity and chaos.
In its early state, Crashtastic consists of a handful of challenges and a sandbox mode. Challenges range from simply driving certain distance, completing difficult jumps, and overcoming other obstacles; the sandbox is still bare bones at the moment, with only a ramp, halfpipe, and straight piece of road to use. But the focus isn't the modes; it's on building your own vehicle. You have a number of different pieces to use, including rockets for propulsion, braces to provide support, wheels, and rods of varying length to craft your mobile (or not-so-mobile) masterpiece. Crashtastic shines here, allowing you to build as crazy a vehicle you can think of, and watching physics tear it apart when you try to drive it. Driving full speed into a wall and seeing your vehicle explode into pieces and your driver ragdoll around is always satisfying.
As stated before, Crashtastic is pre-alpha, and thus feels incomplete at the moment. Luckily more parts, more levels, and more polish is coming, and in its current state, it's still just fun to build something and complete the challenges in different ways. You can purchase Crashtastic from the developer's site; the game has already been Greenlit.

Monday, November 25, 2013

IOS Spotlight #34: Polarity

Title: Polarity
Developer: Bluebutton Games
Platforms: IOS Universal, Ouya
Price: $4.99
With solid mechanics and good touch controls, Polarity finally gives IOS a proper first-person puzzle platformer.
Compared to the genre as a whole, Polarity isn't the most original or innovative or even the best in the genre. We've rotated level, manipulated boxes, lasers, forcefields, activated platforms in other games before. But the genre has always been lacking on IOS and Polarity does it justice with its varied puzzle mechanics. Across twelve levels, you'll be reorienting parts of the environment, swapping your polarity to turn force fields into barriers or carry boxes through, or jumping over gaps while manipulating switches to move platforms. The controls are simple but work: left side moves, right side adjusts the camera, and there are icons for jumping, for actions like picking up boxes and pressing switches, and for switching your polarity. While the camera feels too loose, even on low sensitivity, the overall control scheme is effective for solving the game's challenges.
Polarity isn't the longest experience, but that doesn't mean it's not challenging. Some level can take 15 to 20 minutes and they're all well designed and fun to interact with and solve. You can purchase Polarity for $4.99, and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight. Polarity is also available on Ouya

PC Spotlight #54: Pixel RU2

Title: Pixel RU2
Developer: C63 Industries
Platforms: PC
Price: $16.77 (on sale for $10)
Pixel RU2 (Are You Squared) is a minimalist game that combines platforming, puzzle solving, and shooter elements to make a fun, if lacking experience.
The first thing to note is that Pixel is still in alpha and very early in development. Right now, the game consists of three levels (two finished, one playable but not visually complete) and a level editor. However the mechanics present are very promising. Your little cube can move and jump, swap gravity VVVVV-style, and fire projectiles. Colored gates block your path, only able to be passed once you swap colors; other obstacles alter the level's orientation or kill you outright. Enemy pixels fire at you relentlessly, forcing you to evade their bullets and destroy them with your own. The elements combine to give Pixel a unique style, as you solve color-based puzzles, altering gravity to turn walls into floors, all while evading and fighting other pixels.
Pixel RU2 has a lot of potential and solid framework thanks to its fun mechanics, but its current form is just lacking content, as is to be expected with alphas. You can purchase Pixel RU2 from the developer's site and Desura, or vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

No Money, No Problem: DataJack

Title: DataJack
Developer: Epic Banana
Platforms: PC
Sometimes it's easy to consider freeware games as inferior to paid releases, for whatever reasons, as if because they're not given a price might mean they're less worth one's time. I've seen and played enough free games to know that a price tag doesn't correlate to a game's quality and in my opinion, the recently released isometric action RPG DataJack is up there with games like Nitronic Rush, Toribash, Stealth Bastard, Zineth, in terms of free games with quality and depth rivaling the best paid releases.
DataJack is not the most visually astounding game, not is it the most polished. Made by one man over five years, there are bugs and glitches, which kind of to be expected. But what matters is the gameplay and in that aspect, DataJack is more than worthy of your time. A mercenary for hire in a corporation-run cyberpunk future, you must use skills and weapons in a variety of missions, from assassinations to heists to hacking valuable information. How you build your character, and how you approach your job is up to you. Sneaking around the back of a complex, equipped with silenced weapons, a sword, and bionic legs for faster movement is a valuable option. As is blowing out the wall with C4 (the environment is destructible) and laying waste to those inside with gunfire, while taking reduced damage due to your armor implants. Or maybe you want to buy a powerful hacking device from the street dealer outside your apartment, disable your enemy's defenses digitally, and turn their turrets against them. You have a wide range of options, thanks to upgradeable and moddable weapons, implants, hacking programs, and more, and each missions is small sandbox that allows you to tackle your objectives from a variety of angles and tactics.
DataJack is fun, challenging, with tons of depth, and a great cyberpunk atmosphere. You can download the game from Desura or download it directly here. If you're interested, you can also donate through Paypal on the developer's site.

PC Spotlight #53: The Ball

Title: The Ball
Developer: Teotl Studios
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99
If I were to compare The Ball to film, I say it's a B-movie. It won't blow you a way with innovation, you won't be emotionally riveted by its story, but it's fun and entertaining and you get to steamroll undead Aztec creatures into bloody pulp with a giant ball.
Your character finds himself lost into the sprawling halls and trap-laden temples of an ancient ruin deep within a mountain. After only a few minutes, you find your only weapon: the Ball and the device that controls it. The titular Ball is an incredibly versatile tool. It acts as platform over spikes and other hazards, able to trip switches, a battering ram to smash through barriers. It can shield you from arrows and dangerous projectiles, move heavy obstacles, and when the otherworldly denizens of the ruins come for you, it becomes your instrument of destruction, crushing your enemies to bloody stains.
The Ball is a good six to seven hours of bloody puzzle solving and action, that's been expanded with free DLC (there's even a Portal crossover level!). It may not be the most immersive experience or the most engrossing narrative, but it's certainly gory fun. You can purchase The Ball from the developer's site, Steam, and other stores.

PC Spotlight #52: Luminesca

Title: Luminesca
Developer: Matt Glanville
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $9.99 (on sale for $4.99)
Games have explored the skies and beyond. the flickering corridors of futuristic abodes and the candlelit halls of medieval castles. But few have let us explore below and experience the dark depths of the ocean. Even in Bioshock you were isolated from the aquatic world outside, but Luminesca lets you discover the mysteries and secrets beneath the sea.
Across two Chapters, you play a Lum, a small creature exploring the caverns and caves and the shadowy mechanical ruins below the surface. You're equipped with a spotlight to illuminate the sunless world around you, activate switches, and you won't be alone, as fellow Lums and other weird denizens of the depths roam the environment. Luminesca isn't the hardest game; sure you'll be solving physics-based puzzles, avoiding crushers and other hazards, and unlocking new areas, but I never felt in danger. The game's greatest strength is the ambiance, the Limbo-esque atmosphere of darkened structures to discover, the dark world lit by the unusual creatures around you. The world of Luminesca is a joy to explore and discover.
Luminesca is currently consists of two Chapters, the second being more challenging and puzzle-focused, with more to come. You can purchase the game from the developer's site, Desura, and other sites. Luminesca was recently Greenlit.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Watchlist: The Banner Saga

Title: The Banner Saga
Developer: Stoic Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac
Releasing January 2014
The Banner Saga is an epic role-playing game inspired by Viking legend. Hand-painted landscapes portray a world eerily suspended in perpetual twilight. Cities and towns begin to crumble into chaos. Heroes abandon their hearths and homes to traverse the snowy countryside, gaining allies along the way to help battle a strange, new threat.
Over a year after an incrediblY successful Kickstarter campaign, The Banner Saga is nearing release. Perhaps one of the game's most striking elements is its hand-drawn art style, that brings to mind the animation of Disney classic films. But beyond its artistic prowess, the Banner Saga promises a deep tactical experience set in a world of politics, tough choices, survival, warfare, and Viking mythology.

Embroiled in a landscape of warring clans, giants, and struggling peasants, you must guide your clan as you traverse an expansive and fight other groups and a new threat endangering the land. Combat is turn based and strategic, with characters able to utilize special skills and the permadeath always looming. But the meat of the game is the journey. Your caravan, consisting of villagers, soldiers, and others that join during your quest, travels across the map. Food and supplies are constant factors to consider; run low on food and watch your people starve to death or abandon your cause. Setting up camps allow you to rest, restore moral, and upgrade your heroes. However this journey is not merely a physical challenge to endure, but one of mental and political fortitude, as you met alliances with other clans and carefully consider your options and choices when the lives of your men are at stake.
Banner Saga's single player campaign will be only part of what the full games offers; the game's Factions PvP multiplayer is actually available to played for free on Steam. You can experience this harsh Viking world of survival and battle when The Banner Saga releases on January 14, 2014.

PC Spotlight #51: Another Perspective

Title: Another Perspective
Developer: Shaun Spaulding
Platforms: PC
Price: $5
Considering my love for puzzle platformers, you'd think I would have heard of Another Perspective before glimpsing it on Steam Greenlight. One viewing of the trailer was all I needed to check this game out, and I am  not disappointed. Another Perspective uses its unique mechanic to great effect, molding challenging puzzles with an interesting story.
You find yourself alone in a endless series of rooms. You're looking for something, but you don't remember what or why. Some doors are open for the start, while others require you to collect keys to unlock. Gathering these keys start out easy at first, your usual running and jumping...and then you're not alone anymore. You learn that you can swap places with a shadowy clone of yourself. Swapping leaves your clone stationary in that location, be it over a gap or next to ledge, allowing you to use your clone as a platform. The spatial puzzle platforming ramps up quickly in terms of pieces to consider and difficulty. Soon you're dealing with two clones, three clones, four. You're juggling multiple versions of rooms, each layout different depending on what clone you're controlling. You're unlocking gates and maneuvering through mirrored rooms. This isn't a precision platformer; the difficulty is all puzzle-based.
The cute but eerie art style adds to the game's charm and text displayed through the game slowly unravels a meta-philosophical story about the self. I played through the game in a good four to five hours and enjoyed every minute. There's really not much replay value but the experience is fun and challenging. You can purchase Another Perspective from the developer's site, Indie Game Stand, and other stores, and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

PC Spotlight #50: CoBots

Title: CoBots
Developer: Digital Tuna
Platforms: PC
Price: $5.99 (currently on sale for $4.79)
Co-operative games are nothing new. There have been dozens of co-op games over the last few years, but CoBots combines co-op gameplay with an interesting sci-fi setting and puzzles to solve..
Either solo or with a friend, you control two maintenance drones on a doomed space ship. What makes this co-op gameplay different is that the two drones are forever linked. Tethered to each other, you'll need to guide them through myriad hazards, ranging from crushing machinery and deadly gears, to maze-based puzzles. Working in tandem to operate switches and maneuver around the danger-filled ship. The art style and atmosphere of the ship made exploration and traversal interesting and fun, from the moving bowels of the ship's engines to the star lit exterior. While the game is best played co-operatively, you can also control both bots in single player and I found it actually played quite well as a solo experience.
CoBots may not be the most revolutionary experience, but it's a fun game, made better with a friend. You can purchase the game from the developer's site or Desura.

IOS Spotlight #33: Crowman & Wolfboy

Title: Crowman & Wolfboy
Developer: Wither Studios
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
Crowman & Wolfboy combine the auto-running platformer with precision challenge and a unique art style.
The titular characters are disillusioned with their evil ways and leave their villainous life behind, but the darkness from which they spawned won't let them go that easily. With the thrashing, gnashing shadows forever encroaching, you must navigate expansive gaps and dangerous hazards like saw blades, deadly thorn bushes, and more, collecting light orbs along the way. Your duo automatically runs; you control when they jump and can swipe to change direction. The game is very challenging, with precise timing needed to avoid obstacles and stay one step ahead of the darkness pursuing you across 30 levels.
The monochrome art style and animations gives Crowman & Wolfboy tons of charm and personality. Your two characters work in tandem; swiping to jump will have Crowman flapping upwards while holding Wolfboy in his talons while wall-running will see Wolfboy scaling the surface with his companion on his back. You can purchase Crownman & Wolfboy for $1.99

Monday, November 18, 2013

PC Spotlight #49: Super Kaiser Earth

Title: Super Kaiser Earth
Developer: Evil Mountain
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $4.99 (currently on sale for $1.49)
Combine Starmade's ship building with top-down tactical combat and you'd get Kaiser Earth.
You are in command of the Earth's defense, in an era where alien races and enemy fleets roam the galaxy with the planet in their sights. It's up to you to decide which threats to prioritize, but it an imminent asteroid strike or an group of enemy ship closing in on the planet. Many times more than one threat will be approaching, forcing you to choose the greater threat. To combat these threats, you're able to build ships based on various blueprints, customizing each with modules ranging from shields to thrusters to laser, rockets, and more. As time goes on, vendors provide new parts, and each vendor giving certain bonuses and stat boosts for staying loyal to their store. Combat itself can be played two ways. The traditional method is tactical, in which you pause the game and direct the direction of your thrusters, aim your weapons, activate your shields. This control method allows for greater strategy and more tactical depth. The second method was added in a recent update, and is more action oriented, with your ship controlled by the arrows and you aiming with the mouse. Both work well, although I preferred the slower more tactical scheme.
Kaiser Earth is fun, although I did find it got repetitive after a while. It could use more enemy types and modules, and I wish that the ship building wasn't confined to blueprint types. The developer is planning more updates, with new enemies, weapons, modules, and event types coming. You can purchase Kaiser Earth on the developer's site and Desura.

PC Spotlight #48: They Bleed Pixels

Title: They Bleed Pixels
Developer: Spooky Squid Games
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99
They Bleed Pixels combines hard-as-nail platforming with fun combat, pixel graphics, and lots and lots of blood.
Yes, combat. So many precision platformers are purely evasive affairs and while They Bleed Pixels will certainly have you avoiding spikes and saws and blades by mere inches, combat is also a central mechanic. After finding a bleeding book in the library of Lafcadio Academy for Troubled Young Ladies, the young girl finds herself thrust into terrifying nightmares of creatures and dangerous spike-filled worlds, as she is morphed into a being with flesh ripping clawed hands. But she is far from defenseless. Platforming and combat are intertwined and the numerous traps are as much as danger to you as they are tools to boost your combos. From sliding attacks to juggling strikes and kicks, your moveset is quite diverse and allow you to chain intensive combs to fill your combo meter. Once filled, you're able to set a checkpoint on anywhere you wish, which adds a slight strategic edge as you decide where and when is the best time. I found the combat very satisfying and the freedom to chain together your moves in various ways or boot enemies to spikes doesn't get old.
Across eleven level, you'll need to wall slide and double jump over expanses of spikes and saw-filled rooms and fight teleporting wraiths, sword wielding brutes, and other enemy types. Prepare to die a lot, but you'll get your revenge when you kick your enemies into spike and blades. You can purchase They Bleed Pixels on Steam.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Watchlist: Witchmarsh

Title: Witchmarsh
Developer: Lou Sgarbi, Joe Conway, & co.
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development, Kickstarter late 2013/early 2014
In Witchmarsh the player creates a team of investigators and leads them into the depths of the Massachusetts swampland to solve a case of mysterious mass kidnappings.
Witchmarsh takes supernatural action out of hellish apocalypses, fantasy worlds, and old English moors and dumps it in the mysterious world of 1920's Massachusetts. Set in a semi-open hub-based world of speakeasies, prohibition, and flappers, of unearthly runes and Lovecraftian beings lurking in the bayous, the game is an action RPG focusing on exploration and tactical gameplay.
Players will be able to develop a group of four varied characters out of twelve , from the tough Innkeeper to stat-boosting Bard and the gear-crafting Technician to the Priest and Alchemist. Combat will be mix of firearms, melee, and magic, with myriad options available based on what characters are under your control and how you've built their stats and skills.
Not much has been revealed about Witchmarsh, but its intriguing setting, atmospheric pixel graphics, and strategic combat already sounds promising. You won't have to wait long to learn more, though, as the developers are planning a Kickstarter in early 2014. You can follow Witchmarsh's development on the game's Tumblr.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Fix: The wonderful pixel art of Witchmarsh

I'm hoping to get some more information about Witchmarsh to give more in-depth preview, so in the meantime enjoy some screenshots of the game. You can learn about Witchmarsh here.

PC Spotlight #47: Tetrobot & Co.

Title: Tetrobot & Co.
Developer: Swing Swing Submarine
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $11.99
Tetrobot & Co. takes the block-based puzzles and charm of Blocks That Matter and ups the challenge with new block types and new mechanics.
Unlike Blocks That Matter, Tetrobot is not a puzzle platformer. You won't be jumping over gaps or manipulating blocks to build platforms to climb. Tetrobot strips out the running and jumping, and puts the focus primarily on the puzzles. That's not a negative or a con; Tetrobot is a pure puzzle game. Across dozens of levels, you'll guide your little bot through the brain-teasing scenarios, collecting various block types to distribute elsewhere. From lasers to gates that only open to certain blocks, from having to build certain shapes or use blocks in unusual ways, the puzzles don't get old and remain challenging throughout. Replay value consists of collecting three circuitry parts in each level; obtaining pieces require the player to think outside the box, perhaps having to complete certain puzzles differently so they have blocks left over or having to use blocks in other rooms.  Clean colorful visuals and charming touches such as "Faceblox", the Facebook style pages which hint at each block's usage and function, round out the package.
Some may miss the puzzle platforming format seen in Block That Matter, but Tetrobot's puzzles are fun and challenging and offer hours of content. You can purchase the game from the developer's site and Steam.

The Watchlist: Edgar

Title: Edgar
Developer: Wrought Iron Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development, Kickstarter soon
EDGAR is a 2D adventure platformer starring the father of Gothic poetry, Edgar Allan Poe. Fight monsters and get loot as you chase Jack the Ripper through an alternate version of Victorian London. EDGAR is currently being developed in Unity3D by a small of team of developers. The goal of EDGAR is to create a 2D lootfest with heavy influences from Gothic literature, while combining it with imaginative gameplay and quirky customization. Bram Stoker's Dracula, and over a dozen other literary classics will have deep-rooted places within the plot of EDGAR, giving players a chance to get a "feel" for the Victorian era, even when the game is presented in a fantastical manner.
 If it wasn't apparent from the title, in Edgar, you play as the famous author Edgar Allen Poe. But don't expect to spend your days writing manuscripts; Jack The Ripper has taken your wife, leading you on a chase across the supernatural world of Victorian London and Gothic fiction. From London's lamp-lit streets to its waste-filled sewers, from the White City of 1893's World Fair to the colorful but dangerous Witching Woods, you'll explore a fantastical landscape where Teddy Roosevelt, Dracula, and others all roam.
But to combat the wolves, bats, mechanical monstrosities, blood-weeping moose, plague victims, and myriad other enemies, you'll need weapons and loot and Edgar promises not to disappoint in that category. You can wield a number of different weapons, ranging from melee weapons to Tesla-created firearms, rifles, and pistols. The loot is even better; you'll be able to equip everything from a silly shark suit to a Draft Punk-style helmet and Centurion armor. Some gear even provides special abilities, such a wolf armor set that transforms Poe into a menacing direwolf. Puzzles will also be present, some which will require two players to solve. (You'll be able to play co-cooperatively alongside Jules Verne.)
Edgar is still deep in development, but what's already created seems extremely promising. The developer has also mentioned that there will be a Kickstarter. You can follow Edgar's progress on the game's TIGForum devblog as well as the developer's site.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

PC Spotlight #46: Avalance 2 - Super Avalanche

Title: Avalanche 2 - Super Avalanche
Developer: Beast Games
Platforms: PC
Price: $9.99 (currently 50% on the game's site)
One trailer calls Avalanche 2 a "massively expanded sequel." That phrase couldn't be any more accurate. Avalanche 2 takes the foundation of the flash game and layers tons of fun new additions on top of that original framework.
The general gameplay remains the same. Your little chalk-white figure starts at ground level and blocks of various sizes fall from above, building towering structures to ascend as high as possible while avoiding getting crushed. Take too long and you'll get engulfed by rising lava. The gameplay is intense, as you avoid destruction by mere moments and make risky leaps to safety. But Super Avalanche certainly lives up to its name with a myriad of new mechanics that take the formula far beyond the original game: power-ups ranging from jetpacks to shields, coins to purchase upgrades and customization items, enemies to evade and defeat, bosses to overcome, dangerous hazards to avoid, shops to purchase items, banks to store or withdraw coins, and more.
Combine all these new aspects with the same challenging mix of evasion and platforming and you get a rewarding challenging game that's still being updated with new content. There's even a co-operative mode so you evade death with a friend. You can purchase Avalanche 2: Super Avalanche from the developer's site or Desura, and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

IOS Spotlight #32: Commander Pixman

Title: Commander Pixman
Developer: One Minute Games
Platforms: IOS Univeral
Price: $1.99, lite version available
For the longest time, I've considered 14px to be the best Super Meat Boy-style game on IOS. But after discovering Commander Pixman a few days ago, I think I have to change that.
Pixman's retro graphics may be simple, but they have a nice charm and style to them. But you don't get this game for the visuals; you buy it for the gameplay and Commander Pixman does not disappoint. Over 130 levels await you and you will die many, many times before you reach the end of each. Each level may only take a few seconds, but it may take minutes to finally learn the best path and complete one. Timing, quick reflexes, and perfect precision is required to beat the three-star times and you can also earn a badge for killing all enemies. Yes, killing; you're not defenseless in Pixman, instead armed with a raygun to shoot down the numerous enemies found in each levels. Enemies aren't the only dangers; spikes, collapsing platforms, portals, turrets, mines, crushers, and more all wish to destroy your jetpack-equipped pixel man. And perhaps most rewarding are the replays, as you see all your attempts at once until one emerges victorious.
You can purchase Commander Pixman for $1.99 or try the first twenty levels in the lite version.

IOS Spotlight #7: Hanger

Title: Hanger
Developer: Christian Ostman
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: 0.99
A mobile port of the popular flash series, Hanger is a fun platformer for IOS devices
The controls are smooth and responsive: buttons for swinging left and right, a button to shoot or disconnect your grappling hook. The graphics are simple but stylish, and you get a nice amount levels as well as an endless mode to swing through. And the best part: your little character is quite fragile, so banging into any obstacles could (and most likely will) cause you to lose limbs and body parts. It's quite common to finish a level with nothing but a head, arm, and chest left and finishing every level intact is a challenge.
You won't get much depth from Hanger, but 0.99 (currently free), you will get some bloody, grapple hook fun with smooth controls and a nice art style.

IOS Spotlight #8: Stickman Downhill

Title: Stickman Downhill
Developer: Djinnworks
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Developer Djinnworks is no stranger to IOS or stickman games. Their previous games  - Stick Stunt Biker, Line Runner 2, Stickman Base Jumper, and more - have all been well received but Stickman Downhill may be their best IOS game yet.
Each track is a downward rush through narrow tunnels, over boulders, and across massive jumps. The sense of speed is fantastic and you always feels like you're riding a thin line between crashing and maintaining control. The highlights - besides the hilariously ragdoll wipeouts - are the art style and physics. Each area has almost painted look that adds a sense of scale to the fast paced action. Each jump and landing feels like heavy and weighty; you can even see the bike's suspension reacting to the impact. 
For 0.99, Stickman Downhill offeres over 70 levels of downhill mayhem. While there is IAP to unlock bikes and tracks, you can just as easily unlock each level pack by just playing the game and most bikes by performing in-game tasks, so the IAP is only there for the impatient gamer. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

IOS Spotlight #31: Cally's Caves

Title: Cally's Caves
Developer: Jordan Pearson
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: Free
Time and time again, we've seen games go unnoticed and overlooked and Cally's Cave is yet another fun hidden gem on the App Store. Look beyond its rough art style and animations and you'll find a great game with tons of weapons and excellent touch controls.

Cally's parents have been taken and the unexplored cave system outside her home filled with dangerous monsters. Our brave heroine must descend into this deadly world, armed with her sword and guns to rescue them. The story isn't more than a framing device for the platforming and monster killing, but it's fun and it works. The meat of the game is the gameplay, as it should be. Across sprawling levels, filled with coins, hidden chests, and enemies ranging from knife wielding bandits to slimes and bats, Cally will need to be fast on her feet and with her trigger finger to survive. Cally's Caves is free, but that doesn't mean freemium. Currency is earned extremely generously, and in no time, I had earned a coin doubler and unlocked a number of upgrades and weapons. Extra health, triple jumps, and many weapons from a trusty shotgun and assault rifle to a freeze rifle and laser turrets, you'll need all these skills and equipment to defeat the enemies and bosses within the caves.
Cally's Caves' rough drawn art style may not appeal to some, but I found the graphics quite charming and they definitely give the game a look all its own. Don't overlook Cally's Caves and its large levels, fun gameplay, and myriad guns. You can download the game for free.

The Watchlist: Dragons of Elanthia

Title: Dragons of Elanthia
Developer: Simutronics
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing December 2013
Dragons of Elanthia is a fast-paced and high-flying multiplayer shooter that puts you in control of a powerful and ancient dragon! Set in a world wracked by uncontrolled magic, the game features an ever-expanding roster of dragons and riders.
The upcoming Dragons of Elanthia promises to take intense multplayer combat to the skies as you battles others upon the ultimate mount: massive weaponized dragons. From the rumbling innards of an active volcano to the massive caverns and towering forests, you'll be able to choose from a variety of riders and dragons, team up, and fight sprawling aerial warfare where danger can strike from any angle. Evasive maneuvers and skilled use of unique abilities and upgrades (ranging from health buffs to area-clearing shockwaves and defensive shields) are a must, with each battle becoming a hectic array of magic spells, explosions, and swooping dragons. Multiplayer modes will range from simple deathmatch to siege, in which one team must defend their castle base from the opposing team.
Dragons of Elanthia will be free to play, and launches in December. You can support the game on Kickstarter, and vote for it on Steam Greenlight.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

IOS Spotlight #30: Wake Up, Arnie!

Title: Wake Up, Arnie!
Developer: Massive Hamster Studios
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
Wake Up, Arnie! drops the player in a dark world of dreams and nightmares and offers varied platforming and a nice art style.
Playing as the titular Arnie, you must run and jump through the three worlds of platforming and dangers, from the ever-encroaching darkness to various enemies that roam the level. Contact kills you, so evasion and timing is a must. What starts as simple jumping across falling platforming and gaps become reflex testing leaps over numerous enemies and between projectiles. The art style is the other highlight, with a hand drawn look and film grain flair. I did find the movement to be tad to slow and the jumping could be unresponsive at times, but I don't think those those flaws didn't really impact the game as a whole. Replay value is offered in the form of hidden or hard-to-reach collectables that require extra exploration to find.
You can purchase Wake Up Arnie! for $0.99

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Watchlist: Frog Sord

Title: Frog Sord
Developer: MECH6 Games
Plarforms: PC
Releasing 2014, alpha soon
FROG SORD is an action platformer inspired by Super Meat Boy and Ninja Gaiden.
 In one glance, you know exactly what awaits you in the upcoming Frog Sword: vibrant pixel graphics, challenging platforming, and sword wielding action. You play as the titular Frog, swinging the titular "Sord" as you platform over spikes and across gaps and through dangerous enemies. From the forests seen here to subterranean tombs and sand-logged ruins, you'll need to wall jump and air dash and time your attacks to survive. With influences like Super Meat Boy and Ninja Gaiden, you can expect a game where your skills and reflexes are your only allies; there will be no upgrades or power-ups to overcome the bosses, special enemies, and hazards that await.
Frog Sord is still in development, with an alpha tentatively set for December and a full release planned for sometime in 2014. You can follow the game's progress on TIGForums, IndieDB, and the developer's site.

PC Spotlight #45: Fjords

Title: Fjords
Developer: Kyle Reimergartin
Platforms: PC
Price: $7
Fjords is the kind of game that makes you pause for a second when you first see it. The retro style and abstract trailer don't easily provide a clear idea of what Fjords is. What it is a platformer where the world is at your command, able to be molded and manipulated to suit your needs,

You play a simple delivery man, tasked with bringing pizza to a group of scientists. Not so easy, when these scientists have destroyed the world, creating a glitched fractured landscape to traverse. You can move left and right and use a grapple hook to ascend; you're not able to jump. The world is completely open. There's no set paths and you can puzzle your way around obstacles using various methods. Now those methods are what sets Fjords apart from other retro-styled platformers; from a computer terminal, you're able to hack into the world and change its variables true or false. Choosing the best variables at the best time opens up a range of options. Waterfall false will disable the life-ending waterfalls that block your path, while bombs true cause you to leave explosives that blow through the levels, opening up new paths. Warp around the levels, materialize boats to cross expanses of water, fast-travel between different hubs, and more. The world is at your fingertips.
Fjords isn't the prettiest game or the longest and the graphics and gameplay may not appeal to everyone, but it's certainly different, innovative, and fun. You can purchase Fjords here.

No Money, No Problem: ISIS

Title: ISIS
Developer: Liz England
Platforms: Browser
Price: Free
A playthrough of ISIS only takes a good 15-20 minutes. You can make different choices, different options on other plathroughs, but the story remains relatively the same. ISIS is a short narrative game; where you choose different options to change the story of your one-man crew and his ship's AI orbiting the sun, but really saying any more than the basic premise would ruin your enjoyment. What I found most interesting about ISIS was how the writing was able to change your perspective and get the player thinking differently thanks to the wording and atmosphere.
You can play ISIS here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quick Fix: Kickstarters & New Steam Releases Galore!

Some promising Kickstarters that deserve your attention
Explore a steampunk world, engage in airship combat or fight up close with a variety of guns and gear, and battle sky whales, krakens, and more

A "Stealth Puzzle Action RPG", where you control an alien subject trying to escape the Metroidvania-style levels of a secret government facility

A co-op Contra-style action shooter, with physics-based destruction, over-the-top chaos, and even crazier vehicles

An atmospheric isometric adventure game, with the gritty industrial sci-fi horror tone of Alien, Event Horizon, and Sunshine

Exciting New Releases
I know a lot of indie gamers prefer Steam over other stores, so here's a trio of excellent games that just released:

Risk of Rain - A hard-as-nails sci-fi action roguelike, with multiple characters to choose from, tons of items to stack, and hordes of enemies that want to destroy you
Project Zomboid - Isometric survival in the zombie apocalypse is now available on Steam Early Access
Survivor Squad - If isometric action isn't your style, you can kill zombies from a top-down view and tactical gameplay

Thursday, November 7, 2013

PC Spotlight #44: Outlast

Title: Outlast
Developer: Red Barrels
Platforms: PC
Price: $19.99
It started with the Penumbra series and grew more prominent with games such as Amnesia and Slender: survival horror games with a focus on helplessness and avoidance rather than combat. The most recent game in this burgeoning genre is Outlast.
In Outlast, you play journalist Miles Upshur on his journey deep into the Mount Massive Asylum...a journey he'll soon regret. It doesn't take long for what started as a simple trip to investigate the secrets within becomes a struggle for survival in the dark corpse-littered halls. You'll explore the asylum from its ravaged lobby to the blood splattered cells to the water-logged depths and beyond; you won't be alone. Raving psychopaths and other...things lurk in the darkness, and they all want to do horrific, horrible things to Miles
If there's one thing that Outlast excels at, it's immersion. You're not simply guiding Miles through Mount Massive; you are Miles. The first person perspective puts you in his shoes, as you huddle under a bed to hide from a bloody lunatic, as you race down halls in sheer panic, glancing over your shoulder for a glimpse at the enemy at your heels, as you slam doors shut in a mad rush to gain a second more to hide, as you peer out a locker as...something lurks outside, hunting you. You won't find any guns here, any weapons to equip; you're armed with your camera and its night vision and all you can do is run. The night vision filter is pretty brilliant; turning any room with an eerie unsettling space and bringing to mind the tense scenes from found-footage movies like Quarantine and Blair Witch.
Outlast isn't the longest game, but it's always atmospheric, and always scary. Play this at night, with the lights off, and prepare for one hell of a night. You can purchase Outlast on the developer's site, Steam, and other sites, and the game is also coming to PS4.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Watchlist: Interstellaria

Title: Interstellaria
Developer: Master Cold Rice
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, IOS, Android
Releasing late 2014
In Interstellaria you command a crew of eager explorers. Combat, trade, and diplomacy is handled by giving your crew commands. Survival means watching out for hull leaks, defeating hostile invaders, and destroying enemy vessels. You have to balance pushing your crew to learn new skills, while also keeping them fed and rested. In addition, at any time you can take complete control of the captain and adventure planet side to collect important artifacts, ship resources, and valuable data.

We've explored distant worlds and alien landscapes and games like FTL has put in the captain's chair of our space-faring vessel. Interstellaria promise to combine on-foot exploration and combat with stylish pixel graphics and a vessel and crew to maintain, and care for.
Interstellaria is a game of two distinct halves. One half is maintenance and travel. Granted a ship to travel across the universe and distant systems, you must equip and maintain the integrity of your ship, and furthermore the crew housed within. Ships can be upgraded with new and better equipment, and crewmembers can boost the stats of your vessel. Hull leaks, invaders, life support failure, and enemy ships are only some of the threats you'll face, and the health and vitals of your crew will always be a concern. But not all every encounter must be resolved aggressively; you'll encounter scenarios that offer moral choices and friendly alien races. The other half is on-foot exploration of planets; as the captain, you'll land on these worlds, outfitted with specialized armor and weaponry, and fight an assortment of enemies and bosses, gather loot, and unlock new equipment and ships. Every world is unique, with its own hazards and style.
Interstellaria is planned to be release in December 2014. You can support the game on Kickstarter

Monday, November 4, 2013

IOS Spotlight #29: Naught 2

Title: Naught 2
Developer: Blue Shadow Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
It takes a lot for a platformer to stand out on the App Store. Naught 2 caught my attention due to its atmospheric art style and gravity shifting gameplay.
The first aspect that stands out is the art style, a mix of Limbo-esque black and grayscale environments, contrasted by bursts of color. The game has a textured organic look, with pulsating grasping roots, oily dripping pools, and other weird fauna and flora. But navigating these game's 30+ levels are not as simple as moving and jumping; instead you rotate the environment itself. Your character Naught is nicely animated, maneuvering into a slide when you turn the floor into a steep slope or landing in a crouch after a long fall. The rotating mechanic allows for curving twisting world, moving obstacles, and hazards at all angles. And later levels drop you into the dark underwater depths and unleash dangerous creatures and bosses to evade. I didn't find the game that difficult but the exploration, cool gameplay mechanic, and visuals made up for that in my opinion.
Replay value consists of hard-to-reach or well-hidden diamonds in each level, as well as a time trial mode that unlocks after you complete each zone. The developers are already working on more levels that will add "new enemies, more skills and many more secrets" and they hope to release the game on Steam Greenlight and PS Vita later. You can purchase Naught 2 for $1.99

No Money, No Problem: Dengen Chronicles

Title: Dengen Chronicles
Developer: Mangatar
Platforms: PC, Browser
Price: Free to play
Trading card games have been around for decades; I remember the Pokemon, Digimon, and Yugioh crazes when I was a kid. The recently released free-to-play Dengen Chronicles mixes card-based battles with manga art, and RPG elements.
Choose your bloodline, be it ninja or robot, and then you'll be thrust into various battles against varied and challenging opponents. Each battle, you choose from a selection of offensive and defensive actions, as well as a number of stat boosting or support ability cards, and then engage. These battles play out in short comic panels, and victory grants you currency to upgrade your characters. The RPG elements had some depth to the gameplay, allowing you to equip gear and level up, and the art is vibrant and stylish.
I'm that well versed in the card game genre, but the game was fun and offers the play some strategic depth thanks to the gear and skills. You can download Dengen Chronicles from Desura or play the game in your browser here.

PC Spotlight #43: Papers, Please

Title: Papers, Please
Developer: Luca Pope
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $9.99
Strip away all its other elements and Papers, Please would still be a fun game of logic and matching. But amidst the story and premise, that simple game of logic and studying documents becomes a thoughtful experience with surprising emotional resonance.
You're the lucky citizen who's been tasked with running the border patrol booth of the USSR-esque country Arstotzka. From this tiny booth, you hold incredible power; with your stamp of approval, you can allow the tired huddled masses into your country or turn them away. At its core, that's the extent of the gameplay: look for discrepancies and signs of errors and forgeries, interrogate the suspicious citizens, and make your decision. But Papers, Please is so much more than that. From your little window slot and desk, you become the linchpin in fates both big and small, from the entire country to the individuals before you to your very family. Do you allow that mother into your country, separated from her son for so long, despite an erroneous entry ticket? Do you overlook mistakes to earn more money for your starving family, barely clinging to life in their government-provided tenement? Do you abuse your power to strip and search the people before you, or turn them over to Arstotzka's secret police for more earnings? It's these choices, this subtle world building, the realization that your decision is more than a simple Decline or Entry, but that effect the entire lives.
Across both its story campaign and endless mode, Papers, Please is an engrossing experience that may surprise in its ability to test your morals and present difficult choices. You can purchase the game from the developer's site, Steam, and a variety of other stores.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No Money, No Problem: Path of Shadows

Title: Path of Shadows
Developer: 5 Students from IDEC
Platforms: PC
Of all the genres I've played, stealth is one of my favorites. There's just something so satisfying about out-thinking and out-maneuvering your enemies rather than using brute force, about moving through the darkness mere inches from unsuspecting foes. Path of Shadows offers a new take on the stealth genre by granting you dominion over the darkness itself.
Crafted over ten months and submitted for IGF 2014, Path of Shadows is fantasy stealth action: you play as a reincarnated warrior, given purpose and power by a dark deity. The game is merely a taste of what a potential full project would offer, but the thirty minutes of gameplay demonstrates a promising and fun foundation.
Your shadow- and sword-wielding warrior moves through a cel-shaded world. You're able to use special vision to see through walls and create distractions to divert patrols, but your most powerful ability is to manipulate shadows. You can teleport between shadows, create new shadows to hide, use the darkness to swallow up bodies, and even perform aerial attacks and dual kills with the shadows.
The current demo is essentially a proof of concept; the developers are hoping to find a developer or a source of funding to continue making the game. Be warned that since the game is early, it's not well optimized and may not run well on some computers. You can download Path of Shadows here.

PC Spotlight #42: Creeper World 3

Title: Creeper World 3
Developer: Knuckle Cracker
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $14.99
Tower defense is a genre that has spread and thrived on every platform, from Fieldrunners and Sentinel on IOS to Toy Soldiers on XBLA. The strategy of tower placement and holding back the enemy hordes has proven to be an addictive thrill and Creeper World 3 takes tower defense to new heights with a massive amount of content and imbuing the genre with aggressive offensive tactics.
Set eons into a future where the universe has been terrorized and ravaged in a struggle with the titular Creeper, you travel from system to system, clearing planets and unlocking new weapons and equipment. The campaign is massive, divided between three different modes with more to come, and user-generated content with strong community support.
On each map, you face the Creeper threat: a liquid menace that flows across the landscape and destroys everything it touches. The only way to stop this enemy is to disable the emitters peppered across each map; this simple change shifts the whole focus from simple defense to going on the offensive. Set your base in a strategic location and build a network of reactors and energy collectors (but don't go overboard or you'll strain your ammo and power production). You'll need to set up a defensive fortifications, lest the Creeper flows in from an unprotected angle and ruins your plan, and then go on an aggressive offense. Set up beachheads with mortars and cannons, leapfrog your energy relays and guns, take back higher ground or terraform the area to build barriers and gain a height advantage. You can even build anti-Creeper turrets and remote drones for aerial assaults.
With each level, new map formations and dangers will test your strategic planning. Spores, asteroid-shattered worlds, overwhelming Creeper from all directions, and much more will offers a variety of challenge throughout the game's campaigns. Creeper World 3 provides an addictive mix of tactical defense and offensive strategies and hours of content. You can purchase the game now from the developer's site, GamersGate, and ShinyLoot; Creeper World 3 will be available on Desura on November 9th.