Fantastic Arcade 2016

By: Tof Eklund

On: September 26th, 2016

fantastic

This year’s Fantastic Arcade is happening right now, so if you’re in Austin or a short drive away (n.b., a “short drive” in Texas is anything under 8 hours), you should go. Admission is free, gas is cheap, and Shine Boch actually tastes good if you drink it in the Lone Star State.

There’s a complete schedule of events here. Festivities started on the 22nd and run through this Thursday (the 29th).

If there’s a tear in your beer (Shiner or otherwise) because, like me, you can’t go, you can play the games of Fantastic Arcade (some of them) at home with this itch.io bundle, presented by Juegos Rancheros in conjunction with Fantastic Arcade, and benefiting the Juegos Rancheros nonprofit.

Unlike Fantastic Arcade itself, the bundle’s not free, but for $15 you get five new games by Moppin, Takahashi, Saltzman, Klondike, Lawhead and SOKOP. Viva los independientes!

Synonymy

By: ithamore

On: August 15th, 2016

Synonymy is a non-profit, educational word game narrated by Richard Dawkins in which players are challenged to find the paths between random words through their network of synonyms. By taking the synonym of a word, and then a synonym of that synonym, and so on, you can ultimately arrive at any other word in the English language.”

It is rare when I’m impressed by a word game, and I love word games. The Steam demo is also a good example of a tastefully crafted demo, so please take note.

DevLog Spotlight: Leilani’s Island

By: Derek Yu

On: July 28th, 2016

Leilani's Island, by Ishi

I started work on it around a year ago on a whim because I was reading a lot of game design articles and couldn’t resist the idea of a small platform game. It’s really expanded a lot beyond that though! I’d like to start showing it to and discussing it with more people as I continue. The aim of the devlog is to show new exciting things that go in, but also discuss some of my design processes and that kind of thing.

Leilani’s Island lavishes attention to its details – watching Leilani roll into an enemy close-up reveals all kinds of design considerations at play, from particle effects to physics. You can just tell that it feels really good to control. This attention to detail is a quality that’s also reflected in the devlog – creator Ishi has been updated the log at least once a week since February, 2015, revealing the game’s influences and evolving design. According to Ishi, Leilani’s Island draws some inspiration from the personality and physics of Wario Land and Donkey Kong Country, but in the animated gifs he’s posted Leilani promises to be even more intricate than the games from either of those series. The artwork, animation, and music (by Leila “Woofle” Wilson) should be at least as good as Nintendo and Rare’s work on those titles.

Preview: Highfleet

By: Derek Yu

On: July 18th, 2016

The other day, I was wondering to myself: “What ever happened to the guy who made Hammerfight? I liked that game.” Hammerfight, released in 2009 by Russian game-maker Konstantin Koshutin, is an action game about piloting flying vehicles armed with medieval weapons like hammers, maces, flails, and swords as well as the occasional long-range cannon. Its dusty Steampunk world was beautifully rendered – bashing it out with mutant bugs and other pilots was often as lovely as it was brutal, with colorful faction banners streaming about and little people cheering you on in the background. I quite enjoyed knocking my enemies about, too, since a meaty hit could send someone’s airship smashing into a wall, with bricks flying everywhere. Unfortunately, the physics-based movement also took its toll on my poor wrists and constantly swinging my mouse around in circles became painful and repetitive after awhile.

Koshutin’s newest project, Highfleet, seems to share some things in common with Hammerfight: mid-air duels in a dusty, lovingly-rendered world. Instead of floating ships with melee weapons, however, it looks as though you’ll be piloting more traditional aircraft and engaging in dogfights not dissimilar to Vlambeer’s Luftrausers (but slower-paced). From browsing the game’s Facebook page and Twitter, it looks like there will be a lot more to the game, too, like an overworld map and ship construction. Could be really cool (and a lot easier on my wrists).

No release date for the game has been announced.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight

By: Derek Yu

On: July 7th, 2016

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, by rdein

It’s become a joke to talk about Cave Story and Dark Souls when describing other games, but in the case of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, I’d be remiss not to: the series has never been shy about its influences. In Reverie, the fourth game of the Momodora series, rdein has done a fantastic job joining the simple charm and tidy aesthetic of Daisuke Amaya’s little masterpiece with the methodical combat mechanics and level design of From Software’s Souls games. The result is something of a “perfect” Metroidvania, which feels neither meandering nor linear, frustrating nor dull. And it’s easy to see why rdein considers this to be his best-looking and most polished game yet: out of all the many beautiful animations and effects in the game, there’s not a single pixel that seems out of place.

In this bustling age of indie game development, it can be refreshing to see a title that shows restraint in its design without being minimalist or abstract. You’ll love Reverie if you enjoyed any of its influences. At this year’s Summer Games Done Quick (going on right now), it produced one of the marathon’s most heartfelt and inspiring runs:

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*Looks Around*

By: Derek Yu

On: June 23rd, 2016

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“Are they all gone yet?”

Punch Club

By: Derek Yu

On: February 24th, 2016

Punch Club, by Lazy Bear Games

The Rocky Balboa-esque boxing theme and pixel art are what got me to try out Punch Club, a management game from Lazy Bear Studios. On the surface, the idea of moving direct control away from the fighting seems like a bad one, but it’s satisfying to see your training pay off as your character punches, kicks, and blocks on his own. Outside the ring, it’s all about efficient management of time and money – you want to spend each day training and sparring to improve your chances of winning, but your character also has to buy food and gym membership, which means taking on construction and pizza delivery jobs to make ends meet. Making things more difficult is the fact that your three main stats – strength, agility, and stamina – actually drop a little bit at the end of each day. Just like in real life, it takes sustained work to keep your physique in good shape.

The biggest problem with Punch Club is the skill system. When I played the game, its three main build paths were very imbalanced. Initially, I went with a strength build, called the Way of the Bear, and found halfway through that I had hit a wall against the agile opponents whom the game heavily favors. The intent behind strength characters is that they get fewer opportunities to punch, but can end matches quickly if they can string some hits together. In practice, unless your agility stat is comparable to your opponent’s, you probably won’t land a hit at all. The Way of the Tiger, on the other hand, allows you to focus solely on agility and a little bit of stamina, learning counterattacks that use your opponent’s strength against them. The supposed weakness of agility – damage potential – ends up not feeling like a handicap at all. And the stamina-focused Way of the Turtle is apparently even harder to succeed with than Bear.

It’s a shame, because the interplay between the resource management and fighting works well fundamentally. If you were given more interesting and well-balanced choices in terms of designing your character and his (or even her?) story, it could have found a permanent home on my phone (where I think this game is best-suited). As it is, one time through is enough for me.

Dwarf Fortress 0.42.01: Taverns, Temples, and Troupes. Oh My!

By: Alehkhs

On: December 1st, 2015

Winter is here, and with it the next release of Tarn Adams’ Dwarf Fortress has arrived.

Dwarf Fortress 0.42.01 continues to build upon the “living world” features added in last year’s major release, allowing players even more interaction with the larger world outside their fort (or lone adventurer). Troupes, mercenaries, refugees, scholars, and more will now visit your fort. Social interaction will also play a larger role so inns, taverns, and temples have been introduced as social areas. Libraries have also been added for more bookish individuals, collecting the various written works and technological advancements of the world.

To aid in the new mingling scene, the inhabitants of your world will now compose poetry, music, and dance forms. While these are currently only described in text, the Dwarf Fortress community has already begun to provide some fantastic real-world interpretations from those descriptions (Listen:The Superior Rampart; Listen:The Grasping Oaks). Of course, these features are also available in the game’s Adventure Mode. Rather than running a fort, players can instead lead a performing troupe on a world tour!

For a more complete changelog, and to download the latest version of Dwarf Fortress, head on over to Bay 12 Games.

Kickstart This: Home Free

By: Derek Yu

On: October 14th, 2015

In Kevin Cancienne’s Home Free, you play a lost dog trying to find its way home in the big city. Each city is procedurally-generated, not each time you play, but once for your entire game. Although it’s unclear whether you can really win (by finding home?), lose (by starving?), or restart your game, or what happens when you do, I think this is a pretty cool and bold way to make each player’s game feel personalized.

I’m also impressed by the quality and variety of the dog animations in the game, even in this early pre-alpha stage. Hopefully it’s as fun as it looks to run, jump, and socialize with other canines when the game releases in a year or so.

Nova-111

By: Alehkhs

On: August 25th, 2015

From funky-fresh indie studio Funktronic Labs‘ comes sci-fi adventure/puzzler Nova-111. Bringing together a mix of turn-based movement and attacks with both turn-based and real-time threats, Nova-111 manages to evoke memories of the classic Chip’s Challenge.

Players control the Nova, a scientific vessel that has been flung into a strange dimension of mixed time, and are charged with guiding the ship and 111 collectible rescuable scientists back to safety. Along the way, upgrades can be found for the Nova that give the player more ways to move about the environment and manipulate time. Puzzles present themselves not only in navigating the terrain, but in the crafty and effective dispatchment of enemies. Combine this with the vibrant art and groovy music from Funktronic Labs, and progressing through Nova-111 can quickly approach a dance-like experience of timing and positioning. With global leaderboards for both “least turns” and “least time,” it surely won’t be long before some amazing speedruns appear.

Nova-111 launches on PC (via Steam, and DRM-free from the game’s website) and PS4 today; Xbox One on August 28th; and PS3 and PS Vita on September 1st. A Wii-U release is expected later this year.

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