Au Sable

By: Paul Eres

On: November 5th, 2009

Au Sable is a game by the maker of All of Our Friends Are Dead, Amon26, and appears to be at least a spiritual sequel to that game. Fans of the previous game might enjoy the new one. For those who didn’t play that one, they are both platformers which focus on delivering dark and creepy feelings.

There’s more variety than the first game, and the controls feel tighter, and the art is just as nice. My only complaint is that the mouse cursor is off by default and the only way to learn how to turn it on is in the ReadMe file (which I missed and played through the game with that difficulty).

Again, you can get a taste of the game from Ortoslon’s playthrough if you’re sleepy or unconvinced by this review.

  • fuzz

    it’s intentional that the mouse cursor is off by default, it’s to make it seem like the character has never used a weapon before, so they can’t easily handle it.

    also, there’s some weird grammar in the post. it should be “platformers which _focus_ on delivering dark and creepy feelings”.

  • Paul Eres


    and yes it’s intentional, but it’s still a complaint; i don’t think ‘it represents his unfamiliarity with weapons’ is that great of a reason to make me constantly click on the other monitor D:

  • Dusan Vlahovic

    Amazing ambient, love the graphics and the music. Very dark game, but very enjoyable.

  • Dinsdale

    How peculiar that this gets priority over, I dunno, release of Gratuitous Space Battles and awesomeness of Rocketbirds Revolution (among quite a few things that went unmentioned).

  • SillyRabbit

    But those aren’t low res platformers and their creators aren’t attention whores.

  • Paul Eres

    @dinsdale – i don’t like reviewing games i don’t own, and i can’t afford to buy every interesting indie game that comes out; now if cliffski sent me a review copy i’d review it. so another factor is that this game took 20 minutes to beat and was free; whereas cliffski’s game is longer and costs like $30. besides, you can always review the game yourself, there’s a section in the forum where anyone can review a game for the frontpage and it’ll get posted.

    @sillyrabbit – if you don’t think cliffski is an attention whore you don’t know him very well :D (he’s a great guy though of course, but he’s not above doing things just for attention; though neither am i)

  • Paul Eres

    p.s. i’m the last person to defend 2d lo-fi platformers, i get bored with how they dominate tigsource as much as the next person, but this one is kind of special among them, much like glum buster and seiklus were

  • Sergio

    You tell ’em Paul.

  • Dinsdale

    @Paul Eres – well, I see your point but I guess what I’m getting at here is that, for example, if it wasn’t for, I would still be clueless about the release of GSB, which is, I believe, for most of us higher up the priority ladder than this Au Sable. Then again, I could be missing the point of this particular independent gaming related information source.

    I like this websight, if only it was as informative as some other indie sources.

  • RT-55J

    Played through and finished it. Not very impressed. It may be “dark” but I didn’t find it to be either creepy or scary (aside from one or two moments). The gameplay, while incorporating a couple of nifty ideas, wasn’t that interesting either.

  • SillyRabbit

    When you read TIGS or the forums you have to keep in mind that there’s a certain type of game, art style and type of polish the community goes for. The more “mainstream” it looks the less attention it’ll get. God forbid it’s 3D. Gamedev embraces other games more but people there would rather write tech demos all day than participate in the indie scene. The ugliest lofi mundane game will get gobs of attention here because it looks a certain way or is just “weird”. That Gamasutra article on the indie aesthetic couldn’t be more dead on, poor Craig Stern got rocks thrown at him for that one when he was 100% right.

  • Paul Eres

    @ Dinsdale

    i definitely agree it should be more informative, but i’m not the main editor, i review games occasionally when the mood hits me; none of us are paid for this, so i tend to review the types of games i like to play or the games people recommend to me. like in this case, ortoslon recommended i review au sable, so i played it and liked it well enough so i did. i have no more special insight into where indie game news comes from than you do; i.e. it’s not like these developers email me when they release new indie games, i have to find out through the same sources you do.

    i’ve always seen timw’s blog as more of an indie game news place, whereas this is more of a “source” of indie games: a place where indie games are made. this site is more developer oriented, rather than journalism oriented (as witnessed by the recent two posts on dev engines)

  • fuzz

    i don’t believe tigs is meant to be informative, appeal to any particular aesthetic sensibilities, or favour any game over another. it’s just because this is quite a brilliant game, and paul played it and liked it, that it is posted “instead of” gratuitous space battles/rocketbirds revolution (neither of which i think are particularly good games). and i don’t know how you can think amon26 is an “attention whore”; he doesn’t advertise himself at all beyond his blog and the tigsource forums.

  • Paul Eres

    @ SillyRabbit

    there are other game blogs which focus more on ‘mainstream’ indie games though; for instance, destructoid, or rock paper shotgun. every niche has its corner of the web.

    besides, it’s a little strange to complain that an indie game blog isn’t covering mainstream-looking indie games; it’s true to an extent but for me one of the entire points of playing indie games is to play games which aren’t like mainstream games, since if i wanted to play games that try to be like those i’d read joystiq or kotaku instead. and those games are often reviewed in mainstream news outlets anyway. one of my complaints about tigsource is actually the opposite of yours: i think it focuses too much on high-profile and famous indie developers and ignores the very obscure. part of the reason i was brought on as an editor was because i often complained that tigsource only covered the more famous indie developers and games.

  • mr. podunkian

    @Paul Eres — while i might agree with everything else you’re saying, to compare this game/all of our friends are dead to glumbuster/seiklus is outrageous!

  • Derek


    The last four pages have posts about Hammerfight, Fatale, Critter Crunch, Capsized, Machinarium, Darkwind: War on Wheels, Love, Gratuitous Space Battles, Shank, Super Meat Boy, and Marian. (And two 3d game tools.)

    I know you mean OTHER than those games, but just to add to the discussion.

  • gpsychosis

    As a response to Mr. Podunkian, I’d like to weigh in that Au Sable succeeded in offering me the same degree of emotional immersion I experienced with Cave Story. Somehow, this was accomplished with a fraction of the finesse seen in Pixel’s impeccably polished work.

    Cave Story’s narrative was very minimally integrated into the gameplay, unlike Glum Buster (probably my favourite independent game). Seiklus struck me as fairly emotionless, and I could not fairly compare it to Au Sable’s particular brand of immersion.

    Personally, I would definitely put Au Sable in Glum Buster’s camp of emotionally immersive games, right up there with Virtanen’s Seven Minutes. These three games would seem to be incomparable in terms of mechanics, scale, and polish, but I would say that they’re trying to accomplish the same eerie reaction–with varying degrees of aggression. Perhaps the linearity has something to do with it.

    I’m trying to be unbiased, but if anyone finds my comment inexplicable, it’s probably because I espouse a somewhat Cactus design philosophy.

    Also, shotguns.

  • Nikica

    I enjoyed All of Our Friends Are Dead so I’ll be sure to play it ASAP.

  • SillyRabbit

    I didn’t mean the front page news as much but point taken. You guys do an awesome job but I just wish the community was a little bit more open to different aesthetics and gameplay. Didn’t mean anything personal.

  • Paul Eres

    i agree that the community in the forums is somewhat overly enamored of 2d metroidvanias and shmups, but, i really don’t think posting about one 2d lo-fi atmospheric platformer warrants an accusation of not being open to different aesthetics and gameplay.

    and if the problem is in the forums and not in the front page, make a thread about it in the forums. there are already several such actually, with titles something like ‘stop making metroidvanias’ and ‘what’s so great about pixel art’ and so on. that’s the place for that kind of discussion, not here.

    and think about the developer for a bit: if you had worked hard for a year or whatever, making your game, finally to see it reviewed on tigsource, would you want to click and see comments like yours and Dinsdale’s on it, calling you an attention whore and saying your game shouldn’t be posted and some other game should be? it’s just really bad taste.

  • plvhx

    paul, why are you so worried about your readers being sleepy lately =/

  • Battlerager

    Playing this with the sound cranked way up and listening on headphones is quite the experience.

    Lovely, lovely sound design.

    Also, the graphical style just… seems more coherent to me than AOFAD was. (I still loved that game, just saying)

  • ortoslon

    plvhx, because he wants to link to my videos

  • Paul Eres

    exactly, that and a lot of people complained about me using the word ‘tired’ last time and i repeated it to spite them

  • Davioware

    Tigsource does a great job in selecting the games it reviews. They have posted many, many articles and updates about GSB.. other “smaller” games deserve attention sometimes.

  • Barold

    this game was a fun experience.

    is there more than two endings?

  • Daniel

    I’m late to the party, but I think tigsource does a great job of selecting games to review and put on their home page.

    I find, in general, the games which are promoted usually have less “fluff” about them and the core game play mechanic is never far off. The game featured on this page included.

    So it’s fun, you know? One doesn’t have to wade through 1/2 hour of settings, familiarisation of controls, intros, etc. to have a good time. I can roll out games I download from time to time and have a bash, then put them away.

    To me, this is the great feeling I got from games of a bygone era and I like the fact that there is a place (tigsource) where I can still experience games like this.

    Okay, maybe I’m being a bit melodramaic, but it’s how I feel about it :-)

  • Alex

    Terrible pretentious garbage lacking in any substance or message. Anyone who likes this is devoid of thought, they see reds and blacks and shaking text and assume it is meaningful. This is nonsense pretending to be art.

  • Dinsdale

    well I finally got around to playing Au Sable and… to some extent, I have to agree with the above ramblings. won’t go as far as to say that anyone who likes this is a dumbass but there really doesn’t seem to be any actual substance to this other than pretentiousness and desperate attempts at OMG SO DARK AND DEEP – which by itself wouldn’t be a problem if the platforming part wasn’t so bad and bug ridden.

    all of our friends is much better, gameplay wise.

  • Amon26

    Well, I’ve got some work to do when it comes to clear story telling, and this is by no means a technical masterpiece. However, it did entertain a few people, it kept me busy for 9 months, and hey.. I think I did an alright job for not knowing what the heck I was doing, so “woohoo! yay me!” :D

    That’s my two cents. Now I’m off to drink paint thinner and download naked pictures of Marlon Brando.

  • godsavant

    I must say, despite how much I wanted to like this game, it just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny; the art design is dull and haphazard (there isn’t enough clear distinction about where the player may or may not stand), and the instant-death mechanic is rather annoying, considering the slew of box-fetch puzzles in almost every stage. The cryptic dialogues and surreal cutscenes make no sense plot-wise, instead trying to ‘disturb’ the player using a rather cheap gimmick.

  • Paul Eres

    i don’t think something can be both cryptic and make no sense — cryptic implies hidden meaning, not no meaning. i agree that it’s cryptic but not that it’s meaningless

    and dinsdale, the main substance to me was the interesting mechanic of the shotgun. i liked that it was composed of many separate shots, so close attacks did more damage than grazings or further attacks. not enough shooting games use short-range guns, it adds a much higher level of challenge to run and gun games. i was actually quite disappointed when i got the missile launcher because i felt the shotgun was much more interesting from a gameplay perspective, whereas the superpowerful missile launcher made the game much easier and felt a lot like contra

  • godsavant

    I believe I said it made no sense “plot-wise”, since I was trying to understand the story throughout the entire second half of the game.

    Btw, Paul, are you up for the podcast today? It’s 2 PM PST.

  • fuzz

    to the Dinsdale and Alex: how is this in the least bit pretentious? that word seems to be bandied about a lot, but this game does exactly what it sets out to do and nothing more or less. there is a vague story that’s referred to, but no “deep” underlying meaning.

  • Paul Eres

    i see, but well, i don’t think anyone said that those things have to make sense plot-wise; the last game didn’t have a plot, and something can have an interesting story without having a plot. this game doesn’t really have a plot, but that isn’t to say those words don’t make sense in other ways

    maybe about the podcast, will see — when is that on eastern time?

    and yeah, pretentious is the favorite invective of tigsource trolls, so i wouldn’t try to look for any sense behind their words. well not no sense, i think in the way they use it what it basically means is ‘this game takes itself seriously, as if it is good, when it in fact is not good’

    the only way to avoid being pretentious by that def is either to be actually good (in their eyes) or for a game to not take itself seriously (like, say, runman, where there’s a lot of over the top silliness)

  • godsavant

    @ Paul: That would be at 5:00 PM EST.

  • CosmicMaher

    I fail to see how this is pretentious. Do you moronic trolls even know what that word means in the English language?

  • undertech

    Easy there, they’ll just paste up a definition from M-W and try to drown you in text. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

  • plvhx

    ‘tired’ is the new ‘whilst’.

    by the way, this shit’s great. congrats amon.

  • Dinsdale

    I agree. in a true sense of the word AuSable isn’t pretentious so let’s drop the semantics already. I just used the word in the same context everyone else did when The Path got released.

    funny thing is that the more I play AOOFAD, the more I like it. Not just gameplay, but the whole “pretentious” deal – reds and blacks and shaking texts with obscure meanings – same things I so dislike in AuSable. for whatever reason, that stuff just works for AOOFAD, making it genuinely unsettling, chaotic experience.
    I guess it’s because AuSable brings nothing new or different to the table. it just seems desperate.

    that aside, I owe Amos an apology. my earlier comment was way too harsh and despite my feelings towards AuSable, all things considered, it is an impressive piece of work.

  • Dinsdale

    Amon, even.

  • Amon26

    No problem Dinsdale. It’s all perceptive. What scares one person will bore another, so I don’t take offense. I’m happy you got a thrill out of even one of them.

  • buraldo bivera

    i agree, it’s all individual perspective. the dark, corrupted atmosphere and the shaking would disturb or frighten others but for me it made me feel right at home and i enjoyed it.

    the game was a nice experience but i agree about what others are saying about the text. it didn’t work like it did in AOOFAD. maybe you should be more subtle with it or try something different or something, i don’t know

  • CosmicMaher

    I’m not sure how even the Path is. I just think the Path is bad at conveying any sort of point, but that hardly makes it pretentious. Is there something wrong with trying to be deep?

    Anyways Amon26 I like both of your games, keep it up :)

  • Koholint

    The Path isn’t pretentious in and of itself, but the creators definitely are.

  • fuzz

    @ Koholint: no, not particularly. they just don’t happen to like most games very much.

  • Anarkex


    >Is there something wrong with trying to be deep?

    Sometimes I think it’s giving them too much to say they’re trying. The following passage sums up pretentiousness.

    Being profound and seeming profound – Those who know they are profound strive for clarity. Those who would like to seem profound strive for obscurity. For the crowd believes that if it cannot see to the bottom of something it must be profound. It is so timid and dislikes going into the water. -Nietzsche

    As for Amon26, I rather liked All Our Friends Are Dead, as well as what little I played of Au Sable. The nature of horror-type games lets me write all the cryptic quotes and flourish off as theme and atmosphere. It reminds me of Lovecraft, so I don’t really think of it as pretentious. For someone people speak of as a beginner, you have some excellent ideas, and I’m interested to see what you’ll come up with as you learn more. I didn’t finish Au Sable, however, because frankly I got kind of bored of it. The mechanics are very simple yet very unforgiving. It’s hard when I can only enjoy your aesthetics by progressing through a game that, were it not for aesthetics, I would consider a waste of my time.

    Again, at this point, it’s forgivable. Your games are pretty spectacular for what they are. But there are two ways to go from here. The hard way is to improve on your mechanics to make deeper and more complex games that are as awesome to play as they are to look at, and turn out some of the best games in the western indie scene, stuff worth paying for. The easy way is to ignore me and keep pushing the “art” aspect, and keep getting friendly loving pats on the back from indie blogs each time you release a new game. I don’t really care, it’s all the same to me, and game making just might not be something you want to put it all into.

    But either way, best of luck, really. Even if you never made another game, I’d still appreciate what you have done well: two of the few platformers that have successfully instilled in me a real sense of dread and unease.

  • Paul Eres

    regarding that quote, sometimes things aren’t cryptic but seem so due to going over one’s head or just being unfamiliar. for instance, nietzsche’s own zarathustra wasn’t intended to be cryptic, yet a lot of people who read it have no idea what he’s saying because of all the allegories, they’re unfamiliar with his world and what he meant so it seems cryptic to them even though it was clear to nietzsche. so is nietzsche’s zarathustra pretentious according to that nietzsche quote?

  • Caleb

    @SillyRabbit’s comment about the Craig Stern article:
    I read that article and I can’t understand how Stern could be 100% right when he contradicts himself. He begins by saying that the “indie aesthetic” favors graphics that are too simplistic and then concludes by saying that the indie scene is shooting itself in the foot by focusing too much on graphics that take too much time and effort to craft. The article certainly didn’t have a thesis, just an intent to bash an undefined “indie” boogeyman. There is, ultimately, no indie aesthetic, just a bunch of us humans with different preferences. I don’t think the “ugliest lofi mundane game” will get gobs of attention here.

    I tried two games tonight. One was the demo of Dark Salvation. RPS (Rock, Paper, Shotgun) led me to that one. I thought I was gonna love it because I was in the mood for a Quake clone but the level design was confusing to impenetrable and the animation and voice acting were laughable. Nothing wrong with RPS; I’m glad they led me to that demo.

    But, I’m much more pleased that TIGSource led me to Au Sable. Spoony (from Spoony Experiment) has put me into a Lovecraftian mood lately and so this game really resonated with me. I turned the lights off and put headphones on; maybe that helped. Anyway, I thought the main character was cool and I especially liked the bull enemies. I loved the falling scene and the end of the bell scene made me shiver. Gameplay hasn’t really blown me away yet but everything is implemented well enough that I can’t complain. I thought dying could have been more freaky but I suppose that could be annoying and maybe it does latter on, I’m too tired to finish tonight but I will be coming back to it.

  • raigan

    why doesn’t my mouse work with this game?!?!?!?