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).
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.
Just walk around and explore the futuristic sights and sounds of the “city of the pff” in Tom van den Boogaart’s Bernband.
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:
I’ve been wildly interested in ants since an early age, and have often wished that there were more games that allowed you to take control of an ant colony, such as the classic SimAnt, or 2008’s Ant Rush. So I was especially excited earlier today, when Formicarium crawled onto Kickstarter.
Billing itself as a strategic simulation game, Formicarium allows players to “become the invisible mind guiding an ant-hive through difficulties and dangers.” Drawing inspiration from other titles such as Dwarf Fortress and The Sims, the game aims to simulate a procedurally-evolving world where insects and arachnids struggle to survive the environment, and each other – with the player guiding their own colony of ants.
Similar to Dwarf Fortress, the colonies or “hives” of Formicarium will consist of multiple “cross-section” levels, extending downwards from the surface. Chambers will need to be dug, food will need to be stored, and new ants will need to be be birthed. All the time, the player will need to keep an eye out for potential dangers from the surface, including antlions, spiders, bees and wasps, and more.
Formicarium is being created by a team of just two people. The development side of this duo is Konrad Feiler, whose history as a mathematician and software engineer is being put to good use developing a procedural world, filled with all manner of bugs behaving in realistic manners. On the design side, artist Dorota Orlof has provided an incredibly eye-catching style, bringing each of the game’s “characters” to life through a clean and colorful approach.
So far, the duo has a working prototype of Formicarium, and they are now moving to bring the project to full fruition as a game on both mobile devices as well as PC and Mac. To reach that goal, the Formicarium Kickstarter campaign is aiming to raise just a modest $20,000. If the idea of being the overseer of a virtual ant colony – struggling to survive in a procedurally-simulated world of competition and danger – appeals to you, head on over to the Kickstarter page for Formicarium to learn more and pledge. You can also keep an eye on the game’s website and Twitter for more news, and even vote for it over on Steam Greenlight.
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
Legend of Grimrock 2 launched fairly quietly about a week ago. The sequel to the successful 2012 dungeon crawler, Grimrock 2 seems to improve and expand on nearly every aspect of the first game without sacrificing any of the classic exploration, combat, and puzzle solving that defined it. Probably the biggest change is the inclusion of expansive outdoor environments – whereas Grimrock 1 took place entirely underground inside dark dungeons and caverns, Grimrock 2 let’s you explore the surface of the Isle of Nex, traversing opulent beaches, forests, and other outdoor locales. Monster AI is also noticeably improved, and though the combat retains the “dance-like” quality of Grimrock 1, it’s not as easy to lead opponents around the same four tiles without getting hit. Monsters are more likely to anticipate and dodge your attacks, and are less inclined to walk into the range of your weapons. New races, new classes, an upgraded skills system, and a friendlier UI round out a list of improvements that should please fans who were satisfied with the original.
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.