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.
In bigblueboo‘s Argument Champion, your goal is to win the hearts of your audience by making positive connections to your idea and negative connections to your opponent’s idea. This is done via a simple word association minigame, but it’s not the minigame that’s clever, so much as the way it’s tied to the game’s central premise that arguments are won by appealing to emotion. The ideas themselves are, as evidenced by the hilarious scenario depicted in the above screenshot, largely inconsequential.
This game was released in 2012 for one of the A Game By Its Cover game jams that was inspired by the original AGBIC competition held on the TIGSource forums.
Just walk around and explore the futuristic sights and sounds of the “city of the pff” in Tom van den Boogaart’s Bernband.
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 is a quirky side-scrolling RPG set in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Beneath the charming and funny exterior is a world full of disgust and moral destruction. Players will learn what kind of person they are by being FORCED to make choices. These choices permanently effect the game play. If you want to save a party member from death, you will have to sacrifice the strength of your character. Whether it’s taking a beating for them, or losing limbs in a Yakuza style apology, or some other inhuman way. You will learn that in this world being selfish and heartless is the only way to survive…
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.