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(?)!
Back in December of 2012, my radar lit up when a prototype gameplay video of something called Enemy Starfighter hit the web. I hadn’t heard of it before then, but I immediately knew it was something I had been waiting my life for: a dogfighting space simulator with an integrated “planning phase” akin to that seen in early Rainbow Six games. Select the ships for the job, customize their weapon loadouts, designate their targets, and begin the assault – then jump into the cockpit of the wing leader and engage the enemy directly. It all seemed like a game I would dream up while playing Wing Commander or Homeworld when I was younger, and it was real.
Today, Enemy Starfighter has come quite a way from that original prototype video. It is still far from complete, but developer Mike Tipul has seen fit to show us its current state in a new teaser trailer and several new screenshots over at the game’s website. Enemy Starfighter is the debut game for Tipul’s one-man dev studio Maurader Interactive, and he has been working on it non-stop for the past year. Both the intense dogfighting and the beautiful planning phase that we saw in the original video have been polished, and larger ships have been unveiled, including capital ships, carriers, and even beam frigates.
For the finished project, Tipul is planning to inject a bit of a roguelike element into the game by means of a procedurally-generated campaign. Players will be tasked with leading the Empire’s Harbinger Fleet from system to system, crushing any and all Federation forces that lie in your way. Every time you start a new campaign, the game will generate a new galaxy for you to conquer with different systems, different enemy forces, different missions, and – hopefully – different emergent stories for you to tell of how you crushed the Federation beneath your heel.
Playing the beta for Santa Ragione’s upcoming indie title, MirrorMoon EP, I am immediately reminded of another game of space exploration, Noctis. Like that spiritual predecessor, MirrorMoon EP sees players drifting aimlessly from star system to star system in a shared, procedurally-generated “galaxy,” exploring planets littered with strange features and mysterious ruins. A bit of multiplayer flair is added by the ability for players to name any system that they are the first to explore – a designation that will be seen by any other players exploring that galaxy. Throw in a bit of the zen-like feel of Proteus and an interactive cockpit that draws inspiration from the infamous controller from Steel Battalion, and I quickly found myself entirely immersed in this gem of a game.
Scheduled for release on September 4th, MirrorMoon EP is currently in beta (available for a discounted pre-order price of $8.99USD), providing players with a tutorial level from the planned single-player “Side A” and thousand-system galaxies on the multiplayer “Side B.” Santa Ragione have ensured that the game will procedurally create new galaxies as needed so that there will always be new systems to explore, and they are also actively using player feedback from the beta to shape the gameplay and puzzles encountered throughout the game. So why not check it out and let them know what you think?
I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of puzzle platformers (or even puzzle games, to be honest), but when they’re good, they’re good. With The Swapper, Finnish studio Facepalm Games has not only uncovered a fun new mechanic but also crafted an extremely intriguing science fiction tale around it. Though the central themes may not be completely original to sci-fi, the way they come into focus as you solve puzzles and explore the beautiful claymation world is deftly executed. This is a great example of how to tell a story with a challenging game.
However, for your enlightenment:
I hope you enjoy it. It’s quite difficult, but quite beatable, and there’s a proper ending movie and everything.
Jelly no Puzzle is the latest difficult puzzle game from Qrostar. It shares some similarities with his earlier Hanano Puzzle but has enough changes in the gameplay to make it a new challenge. Mainly, the jelly blocks push each other instead of being switchable.
Qrostar is still making tweaks to the game before finalizing it, but I found the current version very playable. The latest improvement-in-progress should help to compensate for colorblindness through adjustments made to the color values. So, if you have something to report or a comment to share with him, you can head over to his diary to post it. That’s also were you can find a link to download alternate versions of levels 38, 39 and 40 that were replaced during development.
The cult classic survival roguelike UnReal World is now donationware as of version 3.16. Creator Sami Maaranen cites faster releases as the reason for the switch, saying “massive AI, end-game and graphics improvements are underway and I’d like to keep releasing new versions whenever substantial new features are up and running”. People who already own a full license to the game are still entitled to free updates should it ever revert back to a paid scheme (a possibility that Maaranen acknowledges).
Although it’s a lesser-known roguelike, UnReal World has garnered a cult following for its complex combat and survival systems, as well as its unique portrayal of Finnish history and mythology. Unlike many dungeon crawlers, UW is extremely open-ended, allowing the player to play a number of non-combat roles such as hunter, hermit, fisherman, or trader. More often than not, the elements are your worst enemy, and understanding how to survive in an Iron Age Finnish wilderness is one of the game’s major challenges.
It’s maybe easiest to compare Antichamber to Portal, but it actually reminds me more of The Manhole, an old children’s adventure game where a boat ride down a river might take you into the teacup of a character you were chatting with earlier. Like that game, Antichamber is constantly subverting your expectations about what is possible, especially with regards to physical space, and gives you a relatively large amount of freedom to explore its interconnected world. However, whereas The Manhole was goalless and sometimes completely random, Antichamber has a logic behind it – a method to its madness – that makes it such an interesting puzzler (and a technical marvel, as well).
There’s no story to speak of in the game and barely even any text. Instead, proverbs are found on posters as you play, encouraging outside and inside the box thinking in life and acting as simple metaphors for the game’s puzzles. Antichamber is almost self-referential in this sense, since, according to its press page, the development got its start 7 years ago through “a series of naive programming mistakes” made by its creator, Alexander Bruce. And just as Bruce must have undoubtedly felt surprised, frustrated, and ultimately elated during his development of the game, so should fans of puzzle games that end up playing this terrific title.
Teleglitch is a top-down shooter set in a gloomy military research facility. The game reminds me of Doom in terms of theme and pacing, but has more of a survival horror bent to it, with scarce ammunition and high-damaging, fast-moving monsters. In a lot of ways, it feels like what I wanted Doom 3 to be – a mostly action-based game with less gimmicky horror elements.
Given the game’s tiny graphics, it’s impressive how detailed it looks. Overall, the aesthetics are great, with line-of-sight and sound design playing a huge part in setting a creepy atmosphere. I also like how much punch the guns pack – even a simple pistol distorts the screen and sounds explosive. This is particularly effective given the scarcity of ammo and gun-toting enemies (at least in the early stages). When I encountered my first shotgun enemy it was an exciting battle that ended with me backed pitifully into the corner of a small room – surprising, given how many similar enemies I’ve mowed down in other games!
Teleglitch also features a unique scavenging/crafting system that lets you combine items to make new ones. A nailgun, for example, can be created from a basic pistol if combined with some other items. This can be upgraded to a tri-nailgun with more materials. Armor is also crafted in a similar manner (out of the tin cans left behind when you eat food). It’s a cool idea that makes exploring more fun and gives the player options as they try to overcome the game’s high difficulty.
The influences on Teleglitch are multivarious (it’s also billed as a “roguelike”) but come together as a coherent and enjoyable experience. I haven’t gotten far enough to comment on whether it holds up throughout all ten of its levels, but so far I’m having a great time trying and dying. Action, horror, and roguelike fans should check it out – the full game is $13, but there is a four-level demo available.
Colin Northway’s physics puzzler Incredipede came out last week. In this unique game you guide a little cyclopean creature named Quozzle to the sunbeam at the end of 60 pre-made levels or a potentially infinite number of user-made levels (currently there are over a hundred in the in-game level browser). The challenge arises from controlling Quozzle’s legs, which are built out of long bones and squishy muscles. Some levels will give you a pre-made body and task you with the movement only, whereas others will let you place musculature or even bones. Needless to say, solutions to Incredipede’s levels can be quite varied and the free-form nature of the puzzles are a big part of the game’s appeal.
Overall, the production values are quite good, with attractive woodblock-style visuals by Thomas Shahan and sound effects by Super Meat Boy’s Jordan Fehr. Perhaps most impressive, however, is the game’s interface, which is quite intuitive, whether you’re adding legs to Quozzle or developing your own level to share with other players online. This is especially important given how often you’ll be tweaking your creations, which, if you’re anything like me, will veer toward the break-dancing, as-many-legs-as-possible variety.
Fans of Colin’s first title, Fantastic Contraption, will feel at home with Incredipede, as they are similar games at heart. Incredipede is available for $15 direct or from GOG.com. An 11-level demo is playable on the game’s website but does not include any of levels where you get to design your own Quozzle.
Steam Greenlight: Incredipede