Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Watchlist: Neon Chrome

Title: Neon Chrome
Developer: 10tons Ltd
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Release 2016
A ruthless cyberpunk top-down shooter
Two years ago, 10tons surprised me with their blood-soaked dual stick Crimsonland, a furious shooter that throw massive hordes of enemies at you and mixed up the action with weapon unlocks and perks. Neon Chrome follows the same basic structure of dual stick action, unlocks, and sci-fi, but with a new focus on cyberpunk megacorps, stealth, and a more cautious approach before the explosions start.

Waging war against the massive tower of the titular megacorporation and its Overseer, you remotely control augmented "assets", divided between classes like assassin or hacker. As you battle through each procedurally-generated levels, you unlock new cybernetic enhancements, more weapons, and skill buffs, to face survive increasingly dangerous defenses.
I've been playing the beta for the past week or so, and Neon Chrome feels like quite change from the instant non-stop action of Crimsonland. The pacing is easily the biggest difference, as enemies aren't aware of your presence when you first arrive, If you're a hacker, you might be able to disable some lasers or turrets, while an assassin with a cloaking augment could even the odds before going on the offensive. New enhancements, ranging from an armed drone to stronger melee and increased speed, can be chosen as you move between levels, while more offensive power-ups let you unleash area-clearing lasers and missile strikes.

You'll need those tools because the enemies in Neon Chrome are more advanced than the charging hordes of Crimsonland. Rotating turrets, mines, and security drones defend rooms, and heavily-armed soldiers patrol, wielding shotguns, machines, or even riot shields which force you to flank and attack enemies' exposed backs. Alerted foes can call in devastating reinforcements that only give you a couple of seconds to prepare, and powerful bosses will test your shooting prowess.
Neon Chrome is still in beta, and will be releasing later this year. You can learn more about the game here.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 3/26

Title: Unnamed Game
Developer: Keen
A nautical adventure. Trading, fishing, ports, and harsh seas
Title: The First Tree
Developer: David Wehle
A third-person exploration game centered around two parallel stories: a fox trying to find her missing family, and a young couple dealing with a death in theirs. Players take control of the fox on a poignant and beautiful journey that crescendos at the source of life, and perhaps results in the understanding of death.
Title: Echoes
Developer: Javanicus Studio
Echoes is a third-person puzzle-platformer in which the world has been flooded and the surface is akin to a boundless mirror. The player journeys through airy heights and watery depths, controlling a mysterious black figure capable of walking on water as well as upside down under water. Progression requires climbing towers to dive deeper and befriending glowing fish to light the way, while hiding from monstrous sea creatures.
Title: Niten
Developer: Donald Macdonald
In search of the past and the present find yourself lost on a remote island off the coast of Japan. Uncover the mystery where ancient Japanese culture meets breathtaking scenery, blossoming cherry trees and a sky that tells a story in its self. Watch the weather turn and see the sun go down, feel the chill of the morning mist and let the glowing fireflies guide you as you search to uncover the truth of the island.

IOS Review #115: Super Arc Light

Title: Super Arc Light
Developer: No Code Studios
Platforms: IOS Universal, Android
Price: $0.99
There's almost something refreshing about those pure and simple games like Super Hexagon or Canabalt or any other of those simple-to-control, laser-focused, arcade-y experiences. Super Arc Light is another entry to that list, a radial shmup that only requires a single finger to control but focus and timing to succeed.
Super Arc Light's set-up couldn't be more simple: there's a base in the center of the screen, there's a single turret guarding the entrance's perimeter, and there's an endless wave of geometric enemies approaching. It's a formula as old as Space Invaders, presented here in a slick minimalist style, colorful rounds contrasting against the stark black-and-white battleground. There are no extra modes to unlock, no alternate difficulties, nothing to upgrade. Super Arc Light is pure distilled shooting action.

Shooting those encroaching waves is easy as well. Your turret automatically travels around the base's circular entrance; holding down slows time and fires your weapons, while letting go causes you to reverse direction and rotate the opposite way. It may take a few attempts before you get a handle on the one-touch control scheme, but when you do, combat becomes a hectic back-and-forth dance as you swing back and forth to deal with enemies on one side, spinning around to take out a new pattern, then back again to grab a power-up.
As you survive longer, new weapon power-ups are unlocked and added to power-up pool, ranging from the basic forking triple shots to blinking ion beams, horizontal split shots, and gracefully homing missiles. Enemy types are equally varied; single ships that hover around, fast movng x wing-likes that change direction, rotating patterns in the shapes of triangles and squares, large swarms that require quick precise shots.
While the lack of gameplay of modifiers or modes means Super Arc Light might get repetitive after a while, the simple, direct, easy-to-control but not-easy-to-win gameplay makes it perfect for those quick sessions when you need an instant adrenaline boost of action. You can purchase Super Arc Light for $0.99 on iOS and Android.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Watchlist: Ludus

Title: Ludus
Developer: useful slug
Platforms: PC
In development
Play as the head of a gladiator school
If you've seen Starz's bloody stylized Spartacus, you're well versed in the concept of a ludus. The ruthless brutal training, the wealthy domini overlooking their warriors, the practice duels, the blades and shields and helms. The in-development Ludus places you in control of a titular school, as you manage your gladiators and train incredible fighters to appease the bloodlust of the crowd.

Ludus is essentially a blend of business management and RPG. The Coliseum, fame, and favor await, but first you must purchase, train, and equip your gladiators. The game is turn-based, divided between a management phase and battle phase. In the former, you can acquire new fighters, improve your training staff, gather better weapons and armor from shops.
But most importantly, you must navigate the social spiderweb that is the Roman elite. Friends and foes, allies and rivals, wealthy sponsors, Ludus will let you develop relationships and react to events that can affect your ludus, gladiators, or your own reputation. And much like in Spartacus, sometimes success in the arena requires some backstabbing outside.

The arena combat will be akin to the bouts of games like Punch Club and other management games. As trainer and owner, you won't be controlling your gladiator directly, but rather giving orders regarding stance and intensity of attacks. The aptitude and performance of a gladiator will depend on your training and their equipment, from sword and shield to crushing sledgehammer to trident.

But winning isn't enough; you want to give the crowd a show, and also make sure your pre-fight hype and behind-the-scenes machinations make the battle a pleasing spectacle. Gladiators will even have personalities, basically hero or villain, to further enhance the crowd-pleasing elements of a fight.
You can learn more about Ludus and follow its development on the game's blog.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

No Money, No Problem: 7DRL 2016

Last year's 7DRL (Seven-Day Roguelike) challenge gave a vast and varied array of games, from the synthesizer-controlled roguelike aptly titled Synthesizer and the RoboRally-inspired Garbage In Garbage Out to Malleus Goblinficarium and scroll. This year's selection is just as interesting and unique; here are twelve intriguing roguelikes from 7DRL 2016. For many more, you browse the full list of entries here.


Hook & Shield
A Hoplite-inspired roguelike from the developers of Card Crawl. Use your hook and throw your shield Captain American-style to defeat deadly foes and traps
As a person cursed by the titular being, you must traverse and fight through her webbed realm, which dynamically deform and shifts as you travel
Switch Hook
Another roguelike with a ranged hook, this one from the developer of Pixel Dungeon. Using your switch hook, you can tactically swap places with monsters to evade danger and destroy other enemies.
In the far future, guide crashed drones through dangerous unknown alien landscapes.
The Trapped Heart
A hex-based roguelike where positioning is key to overcome enemies' protective shields
Quaestum Facere
You're a mercenary. Do jobs, earn money, get better gear and weapons before finally retiring
Marsh Adventure
A puzzle roguelike from the developer of Arcane Tower and Power Grounds, where you play as a morphing druid on tight grids.
Doomed Looters
Explore and survive an endless dungeon as several classes, ranging from wizard to warrior
Small World
Survive passing days and night to charge your solar-powered teleporter and escape an alien world
Star Squadron Commander
Tactical space fleet combat, as you lead fighters, frigates, and cruisers into battle
Arena combat game whee you fight off other cultists and foes to become the avatar of  dark lord Azzafel
A heist roguelike focused on stealth and inspired by Thief 2

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 3/19

Title: Jupiter Hell
Developer: ChaosForge
A modern, yet classic sci-fi roguelike, spiritual successor to Doom, the Roguelike.
An epic battle of a lone marine against the forces of hell, taking place on the moons of Jupiter.
Title: The Long Journey Home
Developer: Daedalic Studio West
Forge alliances with strange alien races. Explore distant worlds for the secrets and technologies they hide. Harness your crew’s skills, from archaeology to diplomacy. Make deals and moral decisions that change the universe. Do whatever it takes to survive.
Title: Lethe
Developer: Koukou Studios
'Lethe' is a first-person horror game featuring physics-based psychokinetic gameplay as the only means of survival, Crushed under the debts of his recently deceased step-father, Robert Dawn, a passionate journalist with an unremarkable career stumbles upon an early 20th century article with great potential. 
Title: Fortress
Developer: Matthew Steedman
Fortress is a turn-based mobile game that combines chess with trading card games like Magic.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

IOS Review #114: Telepaint

Title: Telepaint
Developer: Acid Nerve
Platforms: IOS Universal
Price: $2.99
In this follow-up to their boss-slaying debut Titan Souls, developer Acid Nerve bring a new array of pixel art challenges to mobile, this time of the more cerebral category. Telepaint combines easy controls perfectly suited for touch with tricky space-bending puzzles.
Telepaint's format is simple: you're a paint bucket trying to reach a waiting brush. Auto-walking makes that goal an arduous one, but thankfully, each level features a number of portals that you can link to teleport around the environment.  Activating these portals are the core of Telepaint's puzzles, requiring timing and planning to survive hazards and tricky puzzle elements.

While auto-movement and the need to manually link portals together may sound like a recipe for hectic gameplay, Telepaint quite brilliantly lets you pause the game and tap portals while time is stopped, This small addition turns what could have been fast-paced game of hurried taps into one where thinking steps ahead is the key to success. You must consider what direction you'll exit portals, how that will make you bump off walls, and how you'll interact with certain obstacles, and pausing the game gives you the time to mull over which portals to use.
While early levels only have you thinking about portals, soon Telepaint begins adding more puzzle elements, from spikes and movable blocks to gravity swapping and clones. Colored keys will unlock blocks of the same color, while switches will disable or activate platforms when you walk pass, and so on. These elements are combined in all manner of permutations, creating crafty scenarios that challenge your ability to plan ahead. Which direction to push a block, which order to grab keys, when to activate switches, all these parts to consider means this seemingly simple puzzler isn't as easy as it may appear.

The colorful bright tone of Titan Souls can be seen here too, through Telepaint's charming pixel art and the explosions of paint that coat the landscape with each death. Tough levels soon become color-splashed. artful reminders of your past attempts.
Telepaint features over 100 levels and is available for $2.99. You can find the game here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

SitRep: Rain World (2016 update)

Title: Rain World
Developer: Videocult
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, PS Vita
Releasing 2016
When I last wrote about Rain World, the atmospheric alien survival platformer was being shown at PAX 2015. Now over a year later, the game made substantial progress in every aspect and is steadily creeping towards release this year.
Perhaps the greatest progress made is in the overall sense. Each of the game's 12 regions are compete, totaling over 1,400 rooms across Rain World's sprawling world. The UI and in-game map has been overhauled and polished, new creatures have been added, music and audio now adds a rich soundscape to the environments, and the developers are now focusing on polishing each region, add set-pieces, more secret species, and other late-stage features.
One particular region is so massive that it's estimated to be six-times the size of a typical area in the game. This Superstructure will be a late-game region that will test all your skills and knowledge honed over your journey through Rain World's other diverse locations.
But no addition is as impressive as the scavenger. The developers had a goal with this species, designing one as effective and intelligent as your own slugcat. These creatures are expert climbers, are able to wield spears and debris with deadly accuracy, but most importantly, they're social animals. Packs are lead by alphas, they spread information amongst themselves, and share tools. Working together, they can take down predators like the fearsome vultures. Interestingly, scavengers have personalities and memories, so saving a long scavenger could help you earn a pack's trust; they may even let you travel alongside their group. But act aggressively, and they'll welcome you with a spear to the gut.
Rain World is slated to release this year, and is currently at the IndieMix showcase at GDC. You can learn more about the game in its TIGSource devlog and Twitter page.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 3/12

Title: Way of the Red
Developer: Hobbler Toppler
Way of the Red is a 2d action platformer with a focus on fun combat. Splatter blood across the land through four massive zones, each with their own unique environments, characters, and secrets. Use satisfying and versatile sword techniques to shred enemies to pieces. Mutate your character with the mysterious red seeds, and learn new abilities from hidden characters.
Title: Mira
Developer: Jerzy Rojkowski
"Mira" is an adventure game inspired by Slavonic myths. It emphasizes primarily the exploration of the presented world and the story of the title heroine, a nanny in an orphanage existing after World War II. The player, by moving along hand-painted boards and, owing to his interaction with that world, will become acquainted with new parts of the story. But not only: by his own decisions he will impact its end.
Title: Tides of War
Developer: Wolf Pack Games
Tides of War: Letters of Marque is Heart-pounding naval combat with wooden ships and Iron men! Take command of your ship and crew to set sail into battle with iconic ships from the golden age of sail. Balance your offence and defense to outlast, dismast, sink, board, and plunder your enemies. Become a Pirate Lord in the Brethren of the Coast or hunt down your nations enemies as the Captain of a Ship of the Line.
Title: Glitch Hit
Developer: Tony Barks
Glitch Hit is a platformer with main mechanic being ability to punch trough glitches and all kinds of different stuff.

Friday, March 11, 2016

PC Review #142: HyperRogue

Title: HyperRogue
Developer: Zeno Rogue
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Android
Price: $2.99, Free
Roguelikes have taken us from the ASCII depths to sci-fi battlefields and all manner of worlds and time in between. HyperRogue drops you into a new land, a non-Euclidean space where the rules are always changing and one wrong move can be your last.
HyperRogue is more puzzle game than pure roguelike; it's actually quite reminiscent of chess. Much like how in chess, you carefully move pieces across the board and must always be cognizant of the dreaded check, HyperRogue is a game of carefully planned steps as you avoid being cornered with no way to escape. You're a fragile being, only able to take a single hit, and you enemies are equally thin-skinned. Instead success and survival revolves around not getting surrounded and trapped by encroaching beasts. You can't even make a move if that move places you in immediate danger, so movement and exploration becomes a puzzle of positioning.

But while HyperRogue's combat may be simple but surprisingly tactical, its world is anything but simple. The landscape spreads out in a circular plane of interlocking tiles, extending outwards from the red-brick crossroads. But this is no normal space; it's a place of distorted distances and looping paths that extend into infinity and straight lines that somehow never intersect, a non-Euclidean world of adjacent biomes where retracing your steps is a trying task
Undying sand worms roam the parched desert, forcing you to flee rather than fight. Walls shift with each step in the living caves. Each step erases the floor behind you in the land of eternal motion. Enter the mirror world, and you'll be accompanied by clones of yourself. Each new land you discover has its own unique quirks and inhabitants, from one where safe crossing relies on avoiding dangerous tiles through minesweeper-style rules, to the oceans where pirates and sharks lurk.

Exploring and understanding each of HyperRogue's biomes is a satisfying and challenging task, forcing you to adapt, observe, plan each step to avoid or flank enemies or maneuver around some hazard or element in a level. While your driving goal is to collect treasure and locate the fabled Orb of Yendor, your immediate task is always to plan each move, study the world, learn its intricacies.
HyperRogue is available as both a freeware download and paid game; the paid version is the definite version, gets the latest updates first, as well as additional worlds not found in the free version. You can buy HyperRogue on Steam, itch.io, and on Android. The free version can be downloaded here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Watchlist: Fabular

Title: Fabular
Developer: Spiritus Games
Platforms: PC
Releasing 2017
A Top-down Medieval Space Adventure
After years of relatively quiet, space shooters are pretty common nowadays. From the realistic sim combat of Elite to the arcade-y action of Zigfrak or the upcoming Everspace, a lot of games have you blasting away at enemy fighters in the endless abyss. But how many let you take down foes with ship-mounted battle axes? Fabular blends the tropes of medieval fantasy with top-down sci-fi action.

As a space knight with a armored and heavily-armed mount, you traverse Fabular's unusual sci-fi medieval world, engaging in a mix of text adventure-style encounters and direct real-time battles. Traveling the game's starmap is a test of resource management, with fuel always a concern, while text encounters will offer tough and intriguing choices inspired by storybook tales like The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.
But while Fabular's medieval world is certainly quite fascinating, its combat is equally interesting. The classic fantasy RPG archetypes are all avaible through customizing your loadout with different ships, skills, upgrades, and weapons. Warriors can wield fierce axes and shield plating, or draw enemies in range of blades with a grappling hook. Unleashing automaton tech transforms you into a sci-fi mage, bending enemy shots around you with repulse field or swarming enemies with homing mines. Lasers, rockets, energy projects can destroy enemies from a distance, but be careful, as the factions you encounter can just as well-equipped and formidable as your own space knight.
Fabular is expected to have a Kickstarter in April. You can learn about the game on the developer's site, Tumblr, and Twitter page.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 3/5

Title: UnDungeon
Developer: Laughing Machines
UnDungeon introduces a unique mix of action, roguelike, and old school RPG under a pixel skin. It combines the exploration of the world, communication with its dwellers, and battles with dangerous foes. You will crush your enemies in a realtime, dynamic, and fleeting bloodshed.
Title: Lost Sea
Developer: Eastasiasoft
Lost Sea is a 3D action game that takes place inside a procedurally generated archipelago. It's up to you to form a ragtag crew of survivors and explore the surrounding islands to hunt for the resources you'll need to upgrade your ship and make your escape.
Title: Racers: Dirt
Developer: 21c.Ducks
An intense top down rally-cross game Control the car through dirt roads to win races. Show off your drifts, use nitro, and make takedowns! 4 race modes through the circuits with various themes, career mode, plus multiplayer
Title: Jarvis
Developer: Christian Yngvesson
Jarvis is a colorful action-packed Metroidvania game set in a far away land where an evil force has awakened. Amidst the chaos an unlikely hero is summoned forth. In order to save the lands from the evil that plagues it, you must venture through haunted forests, dark caves, ancient ruins, demonic castles and defeat the dark entities that stands in your way
Title: Nome
Developer: Outlandish Games
NOME is a 2D survival rogue-like-like adventure game where you play as Nome, a curious space faring salvager who journeys to distant planets to discover new elements, treasures and sometimes more than you bargain for. Awoken by a mysterious voice echoing in his mind, Nome is compelled to gear up and search for the voices origin

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Watchlist: Need To Know

Title: Need To Know
Developer: Monomyth Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Releasing late 2016/2017
A surveillance thriller sim
Information is power. It can fuel new discoveries and breakthroughs, promote change, change the tide of a battle. Need To Know takes that central conceit, along with the themes and ideas brought to the forefront by games like Papers Please and The Westport Independent, and places them in the very relevant context of modern-day surveillance.

Need To Know put in the shoes of a young talented analyst in the employ of the Department of Liberty, an NSA-style agency fighting a digital war against terrorism. This means your job is to go through your daily allotment of profiles and decide if these people are valid threats. That decision rests on your research into each person's life, digging through text messages and financial records and browser histories and other means to determine guilt.
With each successful job, your reputation improves, security clearances open up, more advanced tools and more complex operations becomes available. Operations to locate fugitives and expose cults, operations where your the options are "assault" and "neutralize",

But with those more advanced tools come more power. The world is your oyster, so to speak. The information-gathering means used to spy on suspected terrorists can just as easily let you learn more about the woman you're in a relationship with. Or to blackmail and sabotage a co-worker. Or to make a fortune on the stock market. Or manipulate an election. If you can cover your tracks, you can use information and skills for your own personal gain and perhaps for other more corrupt agendas.
If the immoral path isn't your goal, Need To Know also lets you take other road and expose the illicit actions of the Department to the world. Act as a whistle blower, leak information to secret partners, and you'll be able to undermine the agency from within.

Need To Know will follow a relative linear narrative, with hefty amount of side jobs and the means to use your powers to pry how you see fit. The choices you make will affect the story, and while some suspects will be the same every time, other missions have new suspects to track and investigate. Post-launch, the developers will also be adding an Arcade mode, which will test your skills with increasingly challenging missions and randomly-generated suspects.
Need To Know is currently on Kickstarter, and is already 380% funded with all stretch goals achieved. The campaign has seven days left; you can support it here, and learn more about the game on its site.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

IOS Review #113: Blackbox

Title: Blackbox
Developer: Ryan McLeod
Platforms: iPhone
Price: Free
While a lot of games on mobile try to replicate more control schemes with digital d-pads and buttons and virtual steering wheels and so on, others go the opposite route, using the tactile nature and portability of mobile devices to great effect. The Room, Shadowmatic, and Monument Valley let you play with, push, twist objects. Zombies, Run! tracks you location through GPS. Device 6 had you rotating your device to follow the twists and turns of its word-corridors. And now, the enigmatic puzzler Blackbox presents you with conundrums that could only be done on a mobile device.
At first glance, Blackbox is quite unassuming, with a sparse black background and minimal assortment of colored squares acting as its main menu. But delve into the game's array of puzzles and Blackbox blossoms into something special. None of its 50+ puzzles are solved by interacting with the screen; instead you must use every other sensor and utility on the device to figure out solultions.

What that means is that your phone is quite literally transformed into a puzzle box. Solving a puzzle is an exercise in experimentation, rotating and turning your device, interacting with exterior various switches and buttons, using specific features like the camera, or even making noise into the microphone. Some puzzles may take multiple sessions to fully complete, or require you to return to the game at different times, or when your phone is in a certain state.
Like the best puzzlers, Blackbox is rife with those wonderful a-ha moments, as you realize what each challenge is asking of you and how you need to use that knowledge. It's challenging, unorthodox, and might be the best mobile game since Device 6 to blend the unique capabilities of the mobile device with gameplay.

Blackbox is free to download, with an optional $1.99 hard level pack available, and more levels to come in the future. If you're interested in learning more about Blackbox, the developer wrote an informative Medium post regarding the game's creation and future.