[This is a guest review by Tof Eklund.]
Katawa Shoujo is a visual novel that takes place at a school for the disabled. The game’s protagonist, Hisao, arrives there reluctantly after a long hospital stay for life-threatening arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). His first episode occurred when a girl at his school confessed to him, setting the tone of heartbreak, isolation, and the difficulty of human connection for the game. Thus the game’s logo, a yellow heart criss-crossed with bandages: wounded and frightened.
This is a relationship/dating sim game, but it is closer in feel to Evangelion than any of the “harem” anime and manga (Tenchi Muyo, Love Hina) that it may seem, on casual inspection, to resemble. Each of the girls that Hisao can wind up falling in love with at Yamaku Academy has a different disability, and that, combined with the fact that there is (semi-)explicit sex in this game, is the reason some people have dismissed it, unplayed, as a fetish-fest.
The Humble Bundle guys have launched a new pay-what-you-want bundle aimed at Android users. The games included are Anomaly: Warzone Earth HD, Osmos HD, and the puzzle game EDGE. World of Goo is available as a “beat-the-average” bonus game. If you buy the bundle you’ll receive the Windows, Mac, and Linux versions of these games, as well.
Katawa Shoujo (lit. “Cripple Girls”) is a visual novel that was developed by Four Leaf Studios, an “international team of amateur developers”. Based on a sketch by doujinshi Raita Honjou (who’s also the character artist for Valkyria Chronicles), the game takes place in a high school for disabled teenagers. 4 years in development, Katawa Shoujo was released early this year and the team disbanded soon after.
I haven’t played it, but most of the comment threads about the game seem to start with someone wondering out loud whether it’s as perverted and exploitative as it sounds, to be answered by fans who claim the subject matter is treated tastefully and that the actual sex, which is minimal, takes a backseat to the development of the characters and their relationships.
Brogue is a roguelike that’s been in active development since 2009. It’s unique in that it eschews all other attributes – dexterity, intelligence, charisma, wisdom, etc. – in favor of strength, which can only be gained through potions. Likewise, this single stat only determines one thing: whether or not you can wield better weapons and armor without incurring a penalty. Potions of strength are obviously important in Brogue, but so are scrolls of enchantment: enchanting items not only increases their power, but also reduces their strength requirements.
In a game like Nethack, for example, you’ll often encounter monsters and items that are similar to one another, like the four different types of short swords that only deal slight differences in damage. In Brogue, however, everything is much more distinct. Many monsters have unique attacks, like thieving monkeys or goblin conjurers that summon spectral blades to chase you. And it’s easy to tell whether a weapon or armor is better by simply looking at the strength requirement (although some types of equipment have special abilities, too, like hammers and spears which deal damage across multiple spaces).
Brogue is streamlined, and even though it sports ASCII graphics it reminds me of console roguelikes like Shiren the Wanderer, due to its intuitive interface (fully mouse-accessible) and simplified mechanics. It still manages to be challenging, but the challenge lies less in knowing trivia about the game than simply making smart decisions. The graphics are actually very pretty, too – Brogue’s dungeons are quite naturalistic and sport all kinds of colorful areas, from green-and-brown fungus forests to blue-and-purple sun-lit grottos. Even caustic gases and deadly wildfires look great as they spread slowly across the floor… just make sure you don’t get backed into a corner while you’re admiring them!
TIGdb: Entry for Brogue
The iPad version of Windosill was released earlier this month and adds a sketchbook gallery, level select, and “translucent mode” that lets you see how each level is put together (although you can’t tell from a screenshot, many of the objects in the game are 3d polygons). The original game, which can be played in your browser or as a download from Steam, came out in ’09.
The brainchild of Patrick Walker, Windosill takes you through 11 simple puzzle rooms. The game is criminally short, but nonetheless quite enjoyable. The toy truck that leads the way is perhaps a hint about how to best play it – by not only solving the puzzles but also goofing around with the fanciful, abstract dioramas that make up each room.
The browser version is free up until the halfway point. It’s currently on sale for about $1 on Steam.
TIGdb: Entry for Windosill
I think you all know how this works by now! The latest Humble Bundle features the games of Introversion (Darwinia, Multiwinia, Defcon, and Uplink), as well as two beat-the-average games: Petri Purho’s Crayon Physics and Bit Blot’s Aquaria (Bit Blot is me and Alec Holowka). Name your price for six games and help charity at the same time!
TIGdb: Entry for Introversion
The alpha version of Joseph White’s voxel-based top-down shooter Voxatron was released today through the Humble Indie Bundle site (although, as you can see by the title, it’s a “humble indie debut”, and not a bundle). As with previous humble offers, you can pay what you want for the game and all future updates, including the awesome built-in model and level editors. Payment can be split as you see fit between the developer, two charities (Child’s Play and the EFF), and the Humble Bundle guys.
For more information on Voxatron’s release and its future development, check out Joseph’s blog.
Scoregasm is the latest from Charlie, creator of Space Phallus, Irukandji, and Bullet Candy Perfect. It’s an arena shoot ‘em up where the goal is to keep your combo number up by destroying enemies repeatedly. This also replenishes a Close Range Attack that earns double combo points and also turns bullets into high-value hearts. If you maintain your combo count toward the end of the level, you may qualify for an extra-intense “Scoregasm Frenzy” (cough) that offers up big scoring opportunities and opens up alternate level paths.
Presentation-wise, Scoregasm doesn’t seem to distinguish itself from the other glowy arena shoot ‘em ups out there (aside from the moaning!), but the Close Range Attack is fun. Check out the demo, which features roughly a third of the game’s levels.
TIGdb: Entry for Scoregasm
New teaser for Voxatron out, with the announcement that an alpha will be available soon for people who pre-order. The alpha comes with the voxel/map editor that you see in the video.
Judging has begun for this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition, with 38 entries available for play, either online or as downloadable files. You can also download every entry in a big package. Voting, which is open to anyone, lasts until November 15th.
Emily Short is writing short summaries of all the (non-broken) entries on her website.