It’s easy to be wary of high-concept indie titles based around some quirky concept like time travel, gravity, teleportation, guns that shoot science instead of bullets, etc. When they work, of course, they work marvelously, like Portal, Braid, Antichamber, The Swapper, Fez, or any of the best puzzle platformers. But there’s no denying that there is a glut of gimmicky imitators in the genre, and more often than not the concepts, no matter how interesting they sound on paper, are stretched thin across never-ending tutorial levels. So despite Capybara’s strong record it was with some trepidation that I embarked on Super Time Force Ultra, the updated PC version of their time-traveling run n’ gun Super Time Force (which won Microsoft’s first-ever IGF “XBLA Award” for a publishing deal on Xbox 360 and Xbox One).
Thankfully, STFU shrugs off the stereotypes quickly and easily, and while the game is certainly unique and innovative, it has the frantic pacing of a good run n’ gun that is not found in most puzzle platformers. On top of that, there is an element of light tactics that strangely enough reminds me of Sega’s 1988 cult classic arcade game Gain Ground. It’s a mad idea that I would not have been brave enough to work on, but I’m happy that Capy was.
In what is hopefully part of a continuing trend, Crimzon Clover has been released on Steam as Crimzon Clover WORLD IGNITION, giving PC players around the globe easy access to one of the best doujin bullet hell shoot ‘em ups. Originally released in 2011 at Comiket 79, the game was largely created by one person: Yotsubane, also known as the Cave superplayer Clover-TAC. From there, its popularity led to an enhanced edition on Taito’s NESiCAxLive, a digital download platform for Japanese arcades, followed by this recent port to Steam.
In Crimzon Clover you have two main attacks, a rapid-fire shot that fires straight ahead and a lock-on shot that creates a quickly-expanding circle around your ship, targeting every enemy it touches for a powerful homing laser attack. On top of that, there is a third button, called the Break Button, which does different things depending on the status of the Break Gauge. Destroying enemies fills up the gauge and if it’s filled above a certain threshold, hitting the button fires a bomb that clears bullets. If the gauge is completely full, however, you enter a “Break Mode” where your firepower and scoring ability are increased dramatically for a limited amount of time. During Break Mode it’s also possible to enter a “Double Break Mode” that ups everything (including enemy ferocity) even further, turning the screen into a page from a Magic Eye book.
Fans of Japanese shoot ‘em ups already know about Crimzon Clover and this port, but it’s also a great introductory shmup that is polished and offers a lot of modern conveniences like tutorials and novice modes to help new players get accustomed to the brutal level of difficulty. Plus, the relatively simple, memorization-free scoring system and sheer destructive firepower at hand should be enjoyable for veterans and newcomers alike. If I have one complaint, it’s that the graphics veer toward the garish and it is often hard to find your ship’s tiny yellow hitbox amidst the sludge of bullets, stars, and machinery. But it could be argued that this eye-bleeding quality is part of the game’s appeal. In any case, at $10 on Steam, it’s never been easier to play this previously obscure jewel of the genre.
Following a successful Indiegogo campaign that raised nearly double its $48,000 goal, Thomas Biskup has been working steadily to bring his legendary roguelike ADOM to a generation of players that might be more familiar with “roguelikelikes” and “roguelites” than the genre that inspired them all. First released in 1994, ADOM (full title: Ancient Domains of Mystery) is widely considered to be one of the “Big 4″ defining roguelikes, along with Nethack, Dungeon Crawl, and Angband. An incredibly expansive and challenging game, it’s remained relatively obscure to mainstream game players, due in no small part to its ASCII graphics, closed source, and lack of updates past 2002. With this renewed development, Thomas seeks to remedy that (although as far as anyone knows, the source will remain closed).
A lot is planned for ADOM and a lot has already been done: a lovely graphical tileset, sound, a mouse-driven UI, and new monsters, items, quests, classes, and more. You can experience all of these in the current public version (1.2.0p23), which also includes a new tutorial mode. It’s also on Steam Greenlight, where you can vote for it and help get it released on Steam as a paid, “deluxe” edition alongside the freeware game. The price of ADOM on Steam has not yet been settled on.
It’s great to see the creator of one of THE classic roguelikes throw his hat back in the ring. There are many good reasons why these games have had such a strong and long-lasting influence and hopefully people who missed out on them the first time around will take this opportunity to try one out.
Village-building simulator Banished was recently released on Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store.
From the website: In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture. Options for feeding the people include hunting and gathering, agriculture, trade, and fishing. However, sustainable practices must be considered to survive in the long term.
Frozen Endzone entered public beta toward the end of last year. This futuresport uses the same turn-based system that was implemented so well in Frozen Synapse, the creator’s first game – instead of players taking discrete turns, there is a planning phase before both players’ moves are executed simultaneously. The sport behind Frozen Endzone bears some small resemblance to American football, with robotic athletes running and passing a ball to reach the endzone, although obstacles (both hand-crafted and randomly-generated) are present on the field.
Mode 7 is planning all the single and multiplayer features that are expected of such a title, but are counting on a successful beta period to help them achieve these goals. So if this type of game sounds like your thing, you should take a look – the developers clearly know what they’re doing with fast-paced tactics titles.
After what seems like forever on the exhibition circuit, Mark “messhof” Essen’s fighting game Nidhogg has been finally released, on Steam. In it, two players face off in a fencing duel across one of four surreal arenas. Death is temporary, but comes swiftly and gives the other player a brief opportunity to race towards the “goal-zone”, thereby winning the match (and receiving the honor of being devoured by a dragon). Early versions of the game let you attack, parry, jump, and throw your sword, but the release adds some new moves, like sweep kicks and jumping off walls.
Nidhogg offers local and online multiplayer, a single-player mode, and a tournament mode that supports 3-8 local players. The dynamic soundtrack is by electronic musician Daedalus.
You play a samurai wielding a sword and a gun in a small arena, and the first player to 10 kills wins. The fast paced gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who has played Towerfall’s versus mode, though Samurai Gunn is more focused on close-ranged combat as your bullets are limited and easily deflected.
There’s not a great deal of content for the 15 dollar price tag, with nothing but the basic versus mode and a co-operative survival mode. However, the game has a great deal of polish put in to it and part of the fun is discovering the subtler mechanics, like changing stances or playing dead– or just tapping the up button in the post-game scoring to make it look like your character is laughing.
The game also has phenomenal sound design, with excellent music by Doseone (which was released as an EP with added vocals), and a different voice for each character.
Desktop Dungeons was finally released on Steam a month ago, after a long beta period. The roguelike-inspired puzzler was first introduced as a freeware game in 2010, when its popularity led South African studio QCF Design to turn it into a larger scope commercial title with numerous improvements, including a fully-realized town and, of course, more dungeons, monsters, character classes, and all that good stuff. The visuals and audio are completely new, as well.
If you never played the original, don’t be thrown off by its name and inspirations: aside from the fantasy theme and randomized levels, Desktop Dungeons bears very little resemblance to a traditional roguelike. The tightly-packed, single-screen levels, static monsters (who only attack when attacked), and transparent rules make the game feel more like a puzzle game than a dungeon crawl. But that’s not a bad thing – the freeware version was so fun that I made my own tileset for it, and this one is better in all respects.
After nearly a year of open beta, Path of Exile has finally reached version 1.0. The release will conclude this chapter’s story and bring with it a slew of new features, including a prestige class, the Scion, which is unlockable by beating the game in Normal Difficulty. It’s also available on Steam for the first time.
Path of Exile’s itemization and passive skill tree impressed me when the open beta first began, and since then it seems like Grinding Gear Games has made good on their promise to continue making improvements and expanding their ambitious multiplayer modes. And it’s free-to-play still, so if you’re a fan of ARPGs, there’s no reason not to try it out – PoE is supported entirely by the purchase of cosmetic effects and account improvements (extra character slots and stash tabs).
The 0.22 update for Kerbal Space Program is scheduled to launch tomorrow, and will bring with it a new research-and-development system.
This update will be the first version to allow players access to the structured “Campaign” mode, which attempts to provide more structured gameplay than the current “Sandbox” mode. Players will now be able to collect scientific data on their various missions, which can then be used to progress along a branched tech tree and unlock new, more advanced parts. The game’s development studio, Squad, has plans to add even more of a “tycoon-like” structure to the game in future updates, with a part-cost system and procedurally-generated missions.