PICO-8 is a “fantasy console” that lets people build and share small games with a full suite of built-in editors. According to the website, “the harsh limitations of PICO-8 are carefully chosen to be fun to work with, encourage small but expressive designs and hopefully to give PICO-8 cartridges their own particular look and feel”. Some of these limitations include a 128×128 display resolution, with a 16-color palette, 128 8×8 sprites, and 4 channels of “chip blerps” for sound and music.
The tools are only available to players who have paid for Lexaloffle’s Voxatron, a voxel-based arena shooter that also comes with its own game engine, but anyone can play PICO-8 carts for free via the online BBS (PICO-8 users can also share carts with one another in a special PNG format). It’s fun just browsing the BBS to check out the various games, demos, and experiments, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, I suggest trying the games by Benjamin Soulé, which really push the console’s limits and show off the wide range of games that can be made with its tools. They’re fun, too!
It’s a bird! It’s a snake! It’s Snakebird, a challenging new puzzle game from Noumenon Games, the creators of Nimbus! (Would you believe that I get paid absolutely nothing to write amazing lead-ins like that?) Your goal in each level is to get one or more colorful snakebirds to the exit using their unique anatomy, which lets them twist, turn, and balance on a single segment of their long bodies. Collecting fruit will extend the birds by one segment, making it possible to reach new areas but also easier to get trapped. And you’ll get stuck or killed plenty of times in this unforgiving game – even levels that look relatively contained can be confounding, with plenty of pitfalls, spikes, and small spaces to contend with. Being pretty bad at puzzlers, I can barely make it out of the first area myself, but at least that means there’s plenty of time for me to appreciate the lovely landscapes and wonderful little details.
Thankfully, Noumenon has included an undo feature to make the trial-and-error style nature of Snakebird less frustrating. Personally, I would have loved to see a mouse shortcut for undo given how often you use it, but it’s a small gripe for what seems to be an attractive and unique experience for fans of hard-won puzzle games.
Seems like Transhuman Design has been busy, with multiple games being developed by multiple teams in the group. Best known for their team-versus-team games like Soldat and King Arthur’s Gold, one of their upcoming projects that caught my eye is a gory 2d run n’ gun called Butcher that looks and feels like a gratuitous hybrid of Abuse (the old DOS game by Crack Dot Com), Doom, and Liero. The prototype – a short, three-level demonstration – is available to download for Windows and Linux and is also playable in your browser (Chrome recommended).
Royals is a fun little strategy game from Asher Vollmer, one of the creators of Threes (iOS). As a peasant seeking to attain royalty, each turn on the game’s randomly-built map takes a year of your life, which you can spend accruing resources in a variety of ways. Saying anything more would spoil the fun of figuring out how everything works. You can download Royals on a “pay what you want” basis.
Version 1.0 of Kerbal Space Program, the premier game from independent Mexican studio Squad, has achieved liftoff.
Kerbal Space Program has been under development now for over four years, and this final update before leaving Early Access brings with it some of the most requested features yet. The aerodynamics model has been completely overhauled, making atmospheric flight more realistic – and more challenging, with the addition of re-entry heat. Additionally, interplanetary prospecting and off-world mining have also been added, allowing players to establish mining colonies to gather and process the mysterious “ore” into fuel. And the kerbals that will be stationed on those colonies will no longer all be unisexual: Female kerbals have arrived. Finally, in addition to a collection of new and polished spaceship parts, Squad has also gone through and added interiors to every manned part, allowing players to take a more immersive look through the eyes of their brave kerbal explorers.
Whether you are a veteran kerbonaut, or you’ve never played the game, right now is a fantastic time to check out Kerbal Space Program. Even as version 1.0 leaves the launch pad, Squad is busy planning future updates, with more features, more learning, and more exploration.
A third Samorost game is “coming later this year”, according to Amanita Design, who released a lovely trailer for the game this month. You’ll definitely want to watch this one fullscreen to see all the little details in the artwork.
Just walk around and explore the futuristic sights and sounds of the “city of the pff” in Tom van den Boogaart’s Bernband.
Handmade Hero is a project by Casey Muratori to program a “complete, professional-quality game” from scratch using C, C++, and assembly language and document the entire process through a series of videos. According to Casey, every line of source code will be explained on camera, and people can follow along live on Twitch, every weekday at 8pm for about an hour or two (the project began on November 17th). The videos will also be archived on YouTube.
Although it’s unclear exactly what kind of game Handmade Hero will end up being, Casey says that the project will take at least into 2016 to complete. Before the release, however, people can pre-order the game for $15 and receive access to the full source code. Also, two years after the game’s release, the source code will be released into the public domain.
For more information about the project, see Casey’s announcement on his personal website.
As a new-ish father, I can’t even imagine going through what Ryan and Amy Green and their family went through (and are still going through). That Dragon, Cancer is a point-and-click game about their 5-year-old son Joel’s four year battle with cancer. Joel died in March. Not a conventional adventure game by any means, the goal of TDC is to go follow the Greens through their experiences in a series of vignettes that appears to mix real world settings (like the hospital) with surreal places and imagery that are meant to evoke certain emotions. Although it’s a nightmare scenario for any parent, the Greens say that their game is ultimately about hope and imagination.
Originally designed as an Ouya exclusive, the game is now slated for a simultaneous release in 2014 on Ouya, Windows, and Mac.
Andrew “Zarf” Plotkin is a well-known and influential figure in interactive fiction – on top of penning classic IF games like Spider & Web and Shade, he also developed the Blorb package format, Glx API, and Glulx virtual machine for making and playing them. His latest game, Hadean Lands, is four years in the making (following a successful Kickstarter) and is apparently one of the largest and most complex IF games to date, spanning 73,000 words of printable text and 170,000 words of logic (according to Andrew’s twitter). In the game, you play a young alchemist who has awoken to find him or herself trapped in a crashed starship, armed only with your knowledge of alchemical rituals and whatever ingredients you can scrounge up on the ship.
I’ll spoil some of the unique features of the game after the jump: