Friday, May 30, 2014

IOS Spotlight #69: Perfect Paths

Title: Perfect Paths
Developer: Hyperbolic Magnetism
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $3.99 (currently 50% off)
Let's get it out of the way now: Perfect Paths is clearly inspired by SpacChem. And as a mobile game, I feel that Perfect Paths is the superior experience. SpaceChem was a port; this was built from the ground up for IOS.
Smooth responsive controls and a touch-friendly interface makes Perfect Path easy to control and that's a big plus, allowing you to focus more on the execution and planning and timing and less on the actual act of drawing out your path. But what always matters first is the gameplay and in that aspect, Perfect Paths does not disappoint. At its most basic level, your goal is actually quite simple. All you have to do is move the colored blocks onto the like-colored tiles. It's reminiscent of Trainyard, but Perfect Paths has its own style and challenge. This is a game of logic, of step-by-step planning, of counting turns and meticulously setting up your commands and paths. It's the kind of game where, once you know how all the elements work together, you could succeed on your first try if you think ahead and consider how and when and where each move will affect the next. Unlike Trainyard, where you'd just draw rails, Perfect Paths'...paths are incremental, designed around intervals of commands. You can make blocks move in various directions, push each other, link together, disconnect. The early levels are easy, but soon more mechanics are layered on and the simple obvious solutions won't work. Synchronizing paths, figuring out where and when to make blocks interact with each other, while still allowing them to reach their own tiles, watching your carefully-designed array of commands in motion, refining and improving and perfecting, that's what Perfect Paths is about.
If you enjoyed SpaceChem and/or Trainyard, or like logic-based puzzles, you'll probably like Perfect Paths. It's challenging and tricky and satisfying and just a fun puzzle game.

You can purchase Perfect Paths for $1.99.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

IOS Spotlight #68: Robot Tsunami

Title: Robot Tsunami
Developer: Ground Up Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $4.99
True to its title, Robot Tsunami is about fending off massive hordes of mechanical foes. Armed with an array of weapons on variety arenas, you must blow away your enemies as they approach from all angles.
Perhaps it's best to first talk about what Robot Tsunami does well. It's a fun dual-stick shooter with solid controls and you have a diverse arsenal at your disposal. Even better is that each weapon has a secondary firing mode; the lightning gun fires bolts that slows enemies, the assault rifle shoots grenades, and so on. Further expanding your arsenal are the special towers and defensive items you can collect and place throughout the arena. Rocket turrets, laser walls, force fields, teleporters, and more allow for a nice range of different strategies. The robots are equally diverse, from charging fodder to explosive-wielding grunts as well as shielded enemies and other larger, better-armed foes.
However, while Robot Tsunami is enjoyable, there were several areas where I felt the game faltered. I felt that the weapons didn't seem powerful. It's a plus that they're different and have alternate firing modes, but they just felt weak and not that satisfying to use, no matter if it was a rocket launcher or flame thrower. Also the item pick-up system seemed unbalanced and unpolished. As far as I could tell, there was no way to really set where the items go, so you might activate a turret and barrier and end up with your rocket turret stuck behind a force field (which it can't fire through). On that same note, you only have a limited amount of time to grab items so if you miss one, you have to wait up to 30 or 40 seconds for new pick-ups to appear. I felt this hurt the game's pacing and its hook of shooter + tower defense, because I found myself either without items and just relying the usual tactic of running and shooting or saving items rather than using them tactically because I wanted to have some back-up if I got overwhelmed and missed a pick-up.

There also wasn't a tangible sense of progression. Playing the game unlocks new maps and challenges, and maps offer different weapons, but I felt like the game grew stagnant after an hour or two, without much to look forward to or encourage me to improve my scores. And lastly, while artistic tastes are subjective, I thought Robot Tsunami's visuals were kind of bland, compared to the vibrant and unique styles that other shooters and similar games offer.
I wouldn't say Robot Tsunami is a bad game; it does quite a few things right. It has solid controls, the gameplay itself is fun, and I liked the varied enemies and weapon modes. But I think there are some issues that hold the game back from being great.

You can purchase Robot Tsunami for $4.99.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

IOS Spotlight #67: Biosis

Title: Biosis
Developer: Concolor Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
I've said it before and it's worth repeating: good games get buried all the time on the App Store. It's so easy to overlook a great experience. Seeing the few reviews and lack of attention for Biosis is pretty disappointing, because it's a fantastic game, in both its visuals and mechanical elements. The screenshots might make it easy to compare to something like Contre Jour or Cut The Rope, but I think that's unfair, since Biosis outclasses those games in terms of gameplay, visuals, and variety.
Biosis is a story of love in an otherworldy landscape. You control a small being, gathering enough plasma to resurrect his mate. And the landscape does truly feel otherworldy. The art style is key here. Biosis has an almost Giger or Cronenberg-esque vibe, a world that's just wet and dripping, organic, alive, yet gorgeous in its own way. You feel less like you're simply activating puzzle pieces but rather manipulating an alien ecosystem to your advantage.
This element of activity and life is present in the gameplay as well. While Biosis and Contre Jour share some similar mechanics in terms of linking to objects and swinging between them, Biosis is much more varied, with interactive creatures offering growths that push or attract, swinging cables, light bridges, cannons, retractable platforms, and more. Each creature also has a secondary function, and Biosis combines these numerous mechanics in various ways to present interesting puzzle scenarios. Magnetic creatures repel you when angry. Cable-like tongues can be drawn in. Light bridges can be sped up. Having to activate and deactivate these creatures and switch their states manually makes the act of playing Bios feel far more involved and interactive compared to similar games.
Biosis is not an easy game. Levels soon feature numerous creatures and an equally varied amount of hazards to avoid. The game becomes as much about figuring how to use all the elements on screen in conjunction as it is about enacting that plan, requiring tight timing and precision. Reaching the exit is hard; collecting the three plasma nodes (or four if you purchase the special Pro Mode) is a challenge.

You can purchase Biosis for $1.99

IOS Spotlight #66: Swipecart

Title: Swipecart
Developer: Mike Hendry
Platforms: IOS Universal, PC
Price: $1.99, $4.99 (PC)
If anything, playing Swipecart brings to mind Temple of Doom's thrilling escape on a minecart through the crumbling tunnels and rickety tracks. Barely in control, with an array of obstacles to overcome, Swipecart offers a fun experience formed around a simple touch-friendly control scheme.
Mechanically, Swipecart is quite true to its name. Each level begins with you swiping the screen to build momentum, and then you're off, rolling through a variety of drops. dips, hills, jumps and seesaws, cannons and more. On the track, your only control is braking so the game becomes about gathering the right amount of momentum (too fast and you might overshoot a jump, too slow and you won't make it up hills), maintaining your momentum throughout the track, and then bleeding off that momentum to stop between the finish markers. So it's basically all about momentum and while in terms of controls, the game is light, the assorted tracks squeeze a solid amount of different challenges and obstacles to navigate, combining them in interesting ways to test your skills. Alongside earning the best times and scores on levels and collecting hard-to-reach collectibles, you can also customize your rider and cart and even make and share your own levels.
I found Swipecart fun, but the nature of the game means it can get repetitive and much of the game comes down to trial and error as you figure how much speed you need in the beginning and when you need to start braking to stop at the finish. You can purchase Swipecart for $1.99.

The game is also on PC, playable with the mouse or a gamepad, and while playing the game on a bigger screen is nice, I found that, true to its namesake, Swipecart is best played on mobile, with swiping and touch controls.

IOS Spotlight #65: CiRCA6

Title: CiRCA6
Developer: Rishi Mody
Platforms: iPhone
Price: $0.99
One can never have enough twitch arcade games. Or at least that's my opinion. It's such a diverse genre, offering a wide range of mechanics and art styles. CiRCA6 is a recent entry and while mechanically simple, it's a fun challenging experience.
Perhaps the most apt description of CiRCA6 would be Spout with enemies. Like in Spout, you direct your thrust to propel yourself around the screen, but rather than blasting a path through destructible environments, in CiRCA6, your thrust is also your means of defense as enemies encroach from all sides. Some take the direct approach and rush in, while others zigzag, and it's a challenge to simultaneously maneuver between the hordes while also blowing them away with your weapon. Power-ups such as slow motion provide you with a temporary edge in the fight, but in the end, all it depends on your own abilities, leading enemies into chokepoints, and skillful movement. The minimal style keeps the screen uncluttered as you fight and flee your way to a high score.
You can purchase CiRCA6 for $0.99.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Watchlist: Flagship

Title: Flagship
Developer: Urban Logic Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development, 2015
Flagship is a real-time strategy game set on a galactic scale, played from a first person perspective. Command your fleet from the bridge of your ship, explore the stars and expand your territory.
From Drifter to FTL to games like Star Citizen, Sins of Solar Empire, and the X games, PC has no shortage of epic space games. The upcoming Flagship approaches the genre from a different angle, placing you at the helm of your own massive ship through an immersive first person perspective.
Rather than being confined to the usual birds-eye view, Flagship drops you in the glass-windowed bridge of a space-faring warship, an entire armada at your command. Interact with screens and sensors to issue commands, direct your forces, target enemy vessels, and  more, then watch the maneuvers unfold outside, as massive cruisers pass overhead, fighters swoop by, as a losing battle causes fires to break out and cables to come loose, all against the backdrop of procedurally generated planets and blinding suns. Reading through Flagship's devlog, Urban Logic has great ambitions for the game: docking and seamlessly transitioning from ship to space station, hangar bays and other areas of the ship to explore and interact with, elements such black holes and nebula clouds, a desperate story of conflict as an outnumbered human race fights against a powerful enemy, resource management, sending crew to board and capture ships, even the ability to fly fighters.
Flagship has been in development for several months and for a pre-alpha, already looks quite impressive. You can learn more about the game's development on IndieDB. The developers hope to release Flagship sometime in 2015; a Kickstarter is planned for later this year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

IOS Spotlight #64: RedShift

Title: RedShift
Developer: Belief Engine
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
RedShift takes a classic movie scenario - the ticking bomb - and crafts an tense randomized adventure around, as you race against the clock.
In RedShift, you're the last survivor in an facility on the verge of an explosive meltdown. No time to waste, only to navigate the labyrinth of corridors, find the terminals, disable the reactors to stop the inevitable explosion. RedShift is a simple game; you move left and right, travel down hallways to reach other areas of the complex, search for fire repairs to extinguish the flames that block your path. But as the clock ticks ever downward and the map grows larger with each new room and corridor, you realize that this isn't just a facility, it's a maze and you need to stay focused and attentive to succeed. Each playthrough offers a new randomized facility and the tension always remains high, thanks to that unseen clock. Running to your next terminal and passing one you already activated, glimpsing how much time you have left, only makes the race against more intense.
RedShift may not last very long or offer much depth, but it offers a tense experience as you navigate the doomed halls in your desperate attempt to save the day. You can purchase the game for $1.99

SitRep: SuperHOT

Title: SuperHOT
Developer: SuperHOT Team
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Currently on Kickstarter, Summer 2015 release
SuperHOT was one of my favorite indies of 2013. While only a short prototype developed for the 7DFPS challenge, it was a promising game that combined stylish minimalist art with a unique "time moves when you move" mechanic, turning shootouts into art in motion and a puzzle action as you weaved between bullets and planned around your limited ammo. It was a project just begging to be expanded and explored further...and thankfully the developers thought the same. SuperHOT is back, bigger and more stylish than ever before.
The innovative mechanics and oh-so-satisfying gunplay remains intact, but the appearance and scope has evolved and matured. The minimal art has been upgraded to a textured, more detailed look that retains the contrasting red-on-white color scheme of the original. The gameplay has seen similar growth, promising a larger arsenal of guns and explosives, smarter and varied enemies, an endless arena mode, and Oculus Rift support. Perhaps what's most exciting about this expanded SuperHOT is the developer's vision for new levels: "shootout in a subway train, showdown on the top of a skyscraper in rain, jumping into a moving elevator...fighting in the middle of a motorway during rush hour." No longer will SuperHOT's action be confined to corridors and simple rooms, but expanded to visceral scenarios that rival the best action scenes.
Oh, and swords. You can slice bullets in half with a sword. 
SuperHOT is currently seeking funds on Kickstarter (almost 50% funded in only a few hours!). You play the original prototype here.

The Watchlist: Eidolon

Title: Eidolon
Developer: Ice Water Games
Platforms: PC, Mac
Releasing 2014, pre-order for $10
Eidolon is a game about exploring a mysterious landscape and uncovering the stories of the people who lived there once before. It is a game about history, curiosity, interconnectedness, and the slow and inevitable beauty of life.
Set in the far-future wilderness of Washington state, Eidolon presents the player with a vast landscape to explore and endure. It's a place long abandoned and ruined, yet beautiful thanks to a minimalist art style reminiscent of games like Proteus or Skipping Stone. However your journey through the world of Eidolon will not be merely one driven by discovery or the desire to uncover about the mysterious fate of those who once resided there. You must survive this landscape as well. Armed with a bow, fishing pole, and other equipment, you must gather and hunt and flee. Wildlife ranges from the harmless - frogs, dragonflies - to dangerous predators such as bears, wolves, and even bio-engineered animals, and the elements aren't your friend either, threatening disease and biting cold. Festering wounds, starvation, and exhaustion are as much a threat as any animal. Even with a bow, you're very much at the mercy of the wilderness; it's always better to run and hide rather than fight.
Build campfires, gather supplies, explore, survive, discover relics and artifacts that piece together the story of Eidolon's abandoned world. Eidolon is shaping up to be a compelling experience, offering both engaging survival elements and a unique open world to discover. You can learn more about Eidolon on its Tumblr blog and TIGForum devlog, as well as preorder the game here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

PC Spotlight #93: inSynch

Title: inSynch
Developer: Them Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $4.99
Gameplay-wise, inSynch is simple. Four lanes converge at a center pit, and various shapes travel towards the middle. It's your job to bounce these shapes into the pit with a button press. Timing is key here. So as a game, inSynch isn't very deep.
But as an experience, an audiovisual experience, inSynch shines. The stop-motion animations give the game a wonderful textured look, and the shapes move towards down the lanes, not as static figures, but imbued with life, dancing, unfolding, reforming, flapping, twisting and turning like abstract dancers. Their graceful movements add to the gameplay, requiring you to learn the patterns if you want to time your bounces. The music building as you progress, changing with your performance, a smooth soothing soundtrack that draws you into the experience. inSynch is a relaxing game; in fact, in Explore mode, it's impossible to fail. Complete a track in Explore and you unlock its more challenging Exploit counterpart, where you can fail and the seemingly sedate gameplay becomes a test of skill and reaction.
InSynch's simple gameplay is bolstered by its finely crafted aesthetic, a playful mix of stop-motion animation and reactive music. You can purchase the game here and vote for it on Steam Greenlight.

The Watchlist: Cogmind

Title: Cogmind
Developer: Grid Sage Games
Platforms: PC
In development, tentative 2014 release
A science fiction-themed traditional roguelike in which you play a robot that builds itself from components found or salvaged from other robots.
If you're a fan of roguelikes, no doubt you've had the "What is a roguelike" discussion at least once. Some ascribe to the rigid classic definition, that roguelikes must be turn based among other aspects, while some accept the looser more-encompassing definition that includes platformers, first person shooters, and other genres. Cogmind looks like it could be the roguelike to please both camps, combining Rogue's ASCII visuals and turn-based gameplay, with modern features such as detailed animations, particle effects, module-based customization, and destructible environments.
An expanded version of a 7DRL entry, Cogmind is a classic sci-fi roguelike, as you control an reactivated robot and fight through the expansive complex in which you were created. Perhaps what's most appealing about Cogmind is the depth of customization at your disposal. From different power sources and means of propulsion to weapons and gear, you can craft a character that suits any playstyle: the stealthy hacker, the armored tank, the melee-focused glass cannon, and much more. As you traverse the halls and areas, you gather new parts and equipment from defeated enemies, allowing you to program followers, hack into computers and security systems, all in a stylish ASCII art style. Now personally ASCII is usually a turn off for me, but Cogmind's fancy particles and cool weapon animations brings the turn-based action to life. 
Cogmind is still in development, and the developer hopes to release the game sometime in 2014. You can play the original 7DRL version here and follow the game's development on its blog and TIGForum.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

IOS Spotlight #63: Lumena

Title: Lumena
Developer: Elevate Entertainment
Platform: IOS Universal
Price: $1.99
Elevate has been calling Lumena as a "no-nonsense rhythm game" and that's easily the most succinct description. A twitchy reflex game, Lumena is all about rhythm and reaction.
Playing Lumena couldn't be simpler. You fling colored disks at revolving patterns of light, as the lights flash and pulse to the rhythm. Each of the game's six levels has its own soundtrack and to last the required 60 seconds, you must learn the song, the beat, and time you flings accordingly. If there was one flaw with Lumena, it would be that the game's reliance of its soundtrack makes the gameplay too focused on trial and error. Success comes from learning the music and remember how to react the beat-based patterns, rather than pure reaction like other twitch games. While the trial and error may turn some off, I found the great electronic soundtrack, smooth controls, pulsing colorful style, and randomized colors helped alleviate some of that frustration
Lumena combines fast-paced gameplay with an engaging soundtrack, making for an enjoyable experience that can grow repetitive over time. Come for the flashy style and twitch gameplay, stay for the music. You can purchase Lumena for $1.99.

No Money, No Problem: The Fourth Wall

Title: The Fourth Wall
Developer: Logan Fieth
Platforms: PC
So if you've been following me on Twitter, you probably saw my incessant tweets about the recent Kickstarter for Four Sided Fantasy (successfully funded!). Made by developer Logan Fieth during his time at Digipen, The Fourth Wall was the original game to explore the screen wrap mechanic seen in Four Sided Fantasy.
I had my doubts that manipulated screen could work as a mechanic or even make for a challenging game, but The Fourth Wall proved otherwise. As you guide your character on his journey through this gray-scale world, you can freeze the screen at any time, basically making the entire perimeter of the screen act as one big portal that warps you around when you move off-screen. It's a simple mechanic using in a cool challenging ways and makes you consider the level space differently; large gaps become easily passable by simply jumping off and falling down from the sky, impassible pillars are bypassed by crossing to other side of screen, and more.
I definitely recommend giving The Fourth Wall a try (and Perspective too, while you're at it). The Fourth Wall is short but smart, and I'm eager to see how Four Sided Fantasy expands on its already-interesting concept.

Download The Fourth Wall here.

The Watchlist: Relativity

Title: Relativity
Developer: Willy Chyr
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
In development
Relativity is an exploration-puzzle game that imagines a universe with a different set of physical laws.
Set in a sprawling hub-based environment, Relativity is an upcoming puzzle game where physics and gravity can be manipulated to solve brain-teasers and navigate twisting Escher-inspired levels. By manipulating gravity fields and placing special cubes, you can move through the world of Relativity unbound by physics: walls and ceilings become floors, space bends around you (recursive geometry means falling off a ledge drops you back onto the area you fell from), and you'll be able manipulate and control other elements as well. Similar to Antichamber, Relativity isn't linear, but spread across hubs and branching areas to explored and solved at your pace. The soft colors and almost-sketched visuals gives the landscape a unique art style.
Relativity is still in development, making steady progress. In fact, the game was showcased at the recent PAX Indie Minibooth. You can learn more about Relativity on its official site and follow its development on TIGForums.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

IOS Spotlight #62: Wayward Souls

Title: Wayward Souls
Developer: Rocketcat Games
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $4.99
The short version? With Wayward Souls, IOS finally has its Dark Souls.
The long version? Well Wayward Souls may not be comparable to DS in some ways, but they do share other elements. From the start, Wayward Souls is a challenge. You will die many times, as you face foes of all shapes and sizes and abilities. This isn't a hack and slash; timing and smart positioning is key to survival. Limited magic and gear makes each use a tactical decision, weighing the best angle, the best target, using now or saving for a potentially worse fight around the corner. And like Dark Souls, clearing an area with a sliver of health left through your own skills and smart use of magic and abilities feels so rewarding. From the close-range slashing of the Warrior to the Rogue's evasive backstabbing, each class feels decidedly different and unique, each requiring a different finesse to master Your decisions and honing of your playstyle doesn't end with choosing a class. From choosing between what gear to forge, what skills to upgrade, what magic you collect, your skills and abilities could vary significantly between playthroughs. Along with the randomized levels, this makes every new attempt feel like a fresh new challenge.
But any impressions of Wayward Souls would be incomplete with mentioning the visuals. There's a level of polish and charm here that makes exploration a joy. Flashes of lightning in the castle window. Hanging lanterns swinging when you bump into them. Stylish magic effects. The myriad enemy designs. The controls are equally polished, responsive, and free of excessive buttons; not once have I died due to some control issues.
 Polished, finely tuned, charming, challenging, Wayward Souls justifies the hype. You can purchase the game for $4.99. The developers plan to expand the game with a fourth area, an endless mode, and other content and each content update, the price will increase $1. Rocketcat is also working on a PC version and have also mentioned a possible PS Vita version in the future.

IOS Spotlight #61: Bicolor

Title: Bicolor
Developer: 1Button
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $0.99
I enjoy minimalist puzzle games and 1Button has become my go-to developer for delivering on that front. Between their games ON/OFF, SEQ, and PILE, they've proven that they can craft challenging puzzle games with interesting mechanics and a minimal style. Bicolor adds to that collection.
Like 1Button's other games, Bicolor is a minimalist puzzle game centered around a simple idea. Each level consists of tiles of two different colors, some numbered. Your goal is to simply fill in the screen with a single color. However two elements make that simple goal a challenge: one, tiles can only move on tiles of the opposite color and two, the numbers indicate how many spaces a tile can move before clearing. So you must not only find the right path that lets you use all numbered tiles, but also essentially draw the paths to allow you to move other tiles of different colors. The controls are smooth and responsive and each level requires planning and thinking steps ahead, as it's easy to paint yourself into a corner. Thankfully the game alleviates any frustration by allowing you to easily undo moves with a swipe and offers IAP for hints if you're hopelessly stuck.
Bicolor's simple aesthetic belies its challenging nature, offering over 100 level of tricky puzzles, with more coming in a future update. You can purchase Bicolor for $0.99.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Quick Fix: Outer Wilds, Transistor, Twin Souls

Outer Wilds still in development
Outer Wilds is a game I've praised several times here, a freeware game that captures the feeling and atmosphere of discovery in an unexplored space frontier. What I didn't realize was that the game was only an alpha and, in a recent update, developer Alex Beachum stated
We’re currently working towards a full release of the game, which will feature (among other things) a completely fleshed-out version of the overarching mystery. The alpha release will remain available in the meantime, so feel free to check it out (if you haven’t already exhausted its secrets) while we work on the full release.
Download the current version of Outer Wilds here.

Transistor available to preorder
SuperGiant's follow-up to its acclaimed debut Bastion, Transistor leaves The Kid behind and drops the player into a gorgeous sci-fi city. But the satisfying combat, atmospheric world, and RPG elements remains intact, as you guide Red in her fight against The Process and wield the powerful Transistor, an intelligent weapon that grants you devastating attacks and abilities
You can preorder Transistor through Humble or Steam. The game releases May 20th.

Twin Souls reveal
Path of Shadows was a very promising student project, a stealth game where darrkness was your weapon as you stalked through cell-shaded fantasy environments. I was happy to hear that the developers planned to expand the prototype into a larger experience. That game has finally been revealed.
Now titled Twin Souls, the game is described as a spirtual successor to the original student project, "a 3D indie stealth game in which you control a warrior with the power of Shadow Control. It combines the essence of Tenchu with the modern approach of recent gems like Mark of the Ninja and Dishonored."
You can keep track of Twin Souls on the Lince Works and David Leon Twitter pages. A Kickstarter for Twin Souls is starting soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

PC Spotlight #92: Unclaimed World

Title: Unclaimed World
Developer: Refactored Games
Platfroms: PC
Price: $12.99
Crash-landed, alone in an otherworldly wilderness far from home. Survival is the only option. Unclaimed World puts you in control of stranded scientists carving out a means to survive in a dangerous alien landscape.
Like other similar games, Unclaimed World tasks you with surviving a deadly world, guiding your colonists' actions, gathering resources, crafting new and better tools, fighting off the predators and ingenious species that roam the environment. Hunting food, building fences to keep creatures at bay, scouting the area for materials, learning about the world and managing your small group. In truth, in its current form, the game feels lacking, which given being in alpha and on Early Access, should be expected. At the moment, Unclaimed World is a game about survival, with deeper and more expansive colonization features planned for the future. A playthrough takes about an hour, with an option to continue surviving as long as possible. Perhaps the clearest example of Unclaimed World's current state is the fact that it lacks the ability to save progress.
Now I'm not saying Unclaimed World is a bad game. What's there is fun and challenging and intriguing. The controls are simple and intuitive. The detailed visual style and animations sets the game apart from others in the genre such as RimWorld and Outpost. But where Unclaimed World excels most at the moment is in potential. Features like disease, more wildlife, a more expansive ecosystem and agricultural system, and more colonial mechanics promise to make Unclaimed World bigger, better, and more fleshed out.

You can purchase Unclaimed World on Steam.

PC Spotlight #91: Fract

Title: Fract
Developer: Phosfiend Systems
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $14.99
Playing Fract, I keep being reminded of another game I had played this year: NaissanceE. Like NaissanceE, Fract immerses the player in an alien world, but while the former was an otherworldly place, the latter's environments are engaging in a different way
Fract is set in an expansive open world, an abstract landscape of machinery and geometric architecture. If NaissanceE compelled you to explore through tension and an unsettling atmosphere, Fract compels you deeper into its world through the desire to discover and understand how everything works. The world is a synthesizer dissected and magnified to create a sprawling landscape of weird music-driven technology and structures, a reactive world that moves and shifts in your presence. If anything, perhaps the world is too open; without hand-holding, objective markers, guidance, it's easy to get lost as you navigate areas. While I enjoyed this lack of direction, some might find it frustrating.
However Fract is more than just a musical exploration game. Complementing its world design, the game's puzzles are designed around learning and manipulating music. To bring the abandoned technology back to life, you must play with synth and bass and other musical elements, moving platforms into place and guiding light to reinvigorate the world with sound and life.  Fract eases you into these puzzle aspects, teaching you the basics of manipulated pitch and bass and melody, eventually giving you free reign to craft your own electronic music through an in-game synthesizer. I found the puzzles challenging and different, both brain-teasing and educational in a way, but I preferred exploration and discovering the world over solving Fract's puzzles.
Fract welcomes the player to discover its abstract synthesizer landscape, a world where music, puzzles, and exploration coalesce to offer a unique and visually impressive experience. You can learn more about Fract on its website and purchase the game on Steam, Humble, and GOG.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

PC Spotlight #90: RocketsRocketsRockets

Title: RocketsRocketsRockets
Developer: Radial Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $4.99
If it wasn't clear from the title, RocketsRocketsRockets is about rockets. Flying rockets, shooting rockets, avoiding rockets. Those with a rocket fetish will definitely be pleased here. Of course what's really important is how the game plays, and RocketsRocketsRockets is fun and fast
While the game is very bare-bones at the moment, the core gameplay is great. It really feels like you're controlling a barely in-control rocket (in a good way, the controls are tight but loose enough to feel wild and intense). The whole visual style is very appealing, with the twirling, twisting, sweeping vector lines you and your projectiles leave in their wake. RocketsRocketsRockets has a very Luftrausers-esque feel, as you circle and strafe your opponent, deftly avoiding missiles, leaving a trail of mines to intercept an enemy, rushing headlong and releasing a hailstorm of bombs. Either against the AI or in local multiplayer, matches in RocketsRockersRockets are always hectic, always beautiful, full of close calls and rapid evasion.
RocketsRocketsRockets is still early in development, and the developer plans to follow a Minecraft-style business model, increasing the price as new content and features are added. An expanded single player campaign, co-op mode, online multiplayer, rocket customization, Steam Workshop support, and more is planned for the game's future. You can purchase RocketsRocketsRockets on Steam Early Access.