Lucas Pope has released a very early development build of his latest project, Return of the Obra Dinn. While the website warns that there’s “not much content”, the build does a great job of conveying the game’s wonderful atmosphere and introducing a few of the key concepts behind the title. Obra Dinn is the name of the merchant ship on which your adventure takes place. Lost on route to the Orient in 1802, the ship has returned to port four years later, and you’ve been sent to investigate as an insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office. Figuring out what happened aboard the Obra Dinn appears to be the central premise for the game, but how you accomplish that task is anything but ordinary.
Pope was the creator of the surprise hit Papers, Please, which made the seemingly mundane job of immigration inspector feel exciting and personal. It’s great to see him take that unique outlook into his next game, but with such wildly different themes, mechanics, and audiovisuals (which he describes in great detail in his fantastic TIGForums DevLog). Can’t wait for more.
LISA was successfully funded on Kickstarter on December 14, 2013.
Steam Greenlight: LISA
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 a turn-based reality, an alternate spacetime of real-time has been discovered. Unfortunately, the conflicting spacetimes have ripped apart the cosmos in a “real-time/turn-based time-vortex.” That is the setup for Funktronic Labs’ upcoming game, Nova-111, where turn-based strategic planning meets real-time reactions and urgency. The player is placed at the helm of the titular Nova-111, a relatively harmless research vessel tasked with exploring cavern after cavern in an effort to rescue survivors stranded after the vortex smashed the two spacetimes together.
Along the way, players will discover powerful upgrades to their ship and encounter many different types of obstacles in the form of environmental dangers and monsters. Some of these monsters will attack in turn-based time, and some in real-time. These two time scales, along with the monsters’ differing attacks, fuse together to create an almost puzzle-like experience, and the player is quickly taught to approach enemy encounters more in dances of infighting and timing rather than simply engaging in direct combat.
Revenge of the Sunfish was a delightful find in 2008. Equal parts horror and humor, it’s a bizarre, genre-blending game that reminds me vaguely of both WarioWare and the cult classic PS1 title LSD. Five years later, JinxTengu is following up Sunfish with a sequel that looks much more ambitious but lacking none of the crude charm and aggressiveness that made the original so enjoyable to play.
According to this interview with JinxTengu, the game is slated for an October release on PC, with iPhone and Android to follow. A $5 price tag is probable.
Set on the border of the fictional communist country of Arstotzka, Papers, Please puts you in the shoes of an Arstotzkan immigration inspector, approving and denying entry to a long line of hapless travelers each day. This entails shuffling documents around with your mouse and highlighting discrepancies in them, such as mismatched passport information or photo identification. With each passing day, your time limit remains more or less set, but the number of possible discrepancies you need to be aware of increases, ramping up the challenge.
This is a lot more exciting than it sounds, since your entire family is counting on your paycheck and a good day on the job will barely allow you to cover the necessities of living. Even when you’re 99% sure that someone has the right papers, it’s always a tense moment as they walk out the door and you listen for the familiar click-clack of a costly citation paper being printed out. But what elevates Papers, Please above a game jam novelty (far above) is that there’s a lot more going on than what takes place in your cramped inspector’s booth – politics, violence, moral ambiguities, and even humor pass through along with the people, and as you keep playing you start to realize how much power you have in your little role. It’s not long before your decisions begin to extend beyond your family’s sustenance (although that remains paramount).
It’s a bizarre premise for a video game, but it works very well, thanks to some great design on the part of creator Lucas Pope. The myriad details and keen audiovisuals bring the small booth of the immigration inspector to life, and from behind the dull counter top I felt more like a spy than in most of the spy-themed action titles I’ve played. Glory to Arstotzka(?)!
IGF 2013 Excellence in Design nominee Starseed Pilgrim was released on Steam today (Steam releases were offered to all the nominees this year). This unassuming and enigmatic puzzle platformer has become a hit with a number of indie game developers, including Bennett Foddy (QWOP) and Braid creator Jonathan Blow, who called it his game of the year for 2012. Since so much of the enjoyment from Starseed comes from figuring out how the game works, it’s hard to describe even the basic goals without spoiling it. If that sounds fun to you in and of itself, you should probably give it a go.
This is a guest post by offal.
After years of releasing engaging short-form games, prolific digital artist Aliceffekt is nearing completion of his first independent commercial project, Hiversaires, for iOS. Committing himself to full time development at the beginning of February, Aliceffekt has worked solo on the game, handling design, code, art, and music.
When Twinbeard Studios’ Frog Fractions was released in October, I played it for only a few minutes before dismissing it as a cute parody—a humorous dig at the multitude of terrible edutainment games. Luckily, I was recently persuaded to check it out again and was rewarded with an extremely unique and surprising experience. I don’t want to say too much about the game for fear of spoiling it, but I will say this: It’s worth finishing.
Frog Fractions is free to play on the game’s site, so hop on over and try it out for yourself.
Desperate Gods is an open source “digital board game” developed by Wolfire Games for Fuck This Jam, a week-and-a-half-long game jam based around making games in genres you generally dislike. In his design overview, Wolfire’s David Rosen describes how he enjoys board games but feels that their video game counterparts lack a lot of what makes them fun. Check out the video above to see how he and artist Aubrey Serr tried to overcome these problems while developing a unique board game from the ground up.