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Found 91 results

  1. People who frequent my work know that I have a soft spot in my heart for small indie games. As I was browsing through the work of S. Jean, the developer of one of my favorite indie RPGs, Star Stealing Prince, and I happened to see that Lauren Shigihara was releasing a game on May 10th. If her name doesn't ring a bell, chances are that you've heard her work. She's the composer behind Plants vs. Zombies and has contributed music and vocals to games like World of Warcraft, Super Meat Boy, To The Moon, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Band Saga, and Cosmic Star Heroine. She's a big deal and finding out that she was making a game solo? Well, that caught my attention, but then I learned about the subject matter and I absolutely had to share it with all of you. Shigihara's game is called Rakuen and it focuses on telling the story of a young boy who's fallen ill and been indefinitely confined to a hospital. His mom reads him stories to lift his spirits. After some time goes by, the boy asks her to take him to the fantasy world from his favorite story so that he can ask the spirit who lives in that world's forests for one wish. In order to gain his wish, the boy will have to complete a series of quests to prove himself worthy by helping the alter-egos of the hospital's residents who live in that world. These problems aren't of the "go out and kill monsters" variety, though. Rakuen is an adventure game where players will have to solve puzzles and figure out solutions to the problems that plague a crazy cast of colorful characters. Those who live in the hospital all have their own unique problems that range from an old man who guards a broken music box to a little girl who never got to say goodbye to one of her friends after her diagnosis. Solving these problems will send players through dungeons with escape puzzles and mysteries in both the environment and in the character interactions. Over time, the boy begins to discover that the hospital holds more secrets than he ever could have guessed and that unraveling them might make the hospital a better place. As you might imagine, Shigihara composed the soundtrack to Rakuen herself, tying its tracks and vocals to the various denizens of her worlds. While the plot might deal with heavy concepts and situations (one plot line involves a woman in a coma whose husband hasn't left her side in months), Shigihara has done her best to alleviate the tone with whimsy and humor. Rakuen isn't so self-serious that it will play like a funeral dirge. There's hope and laughter and charm all over the screenshots and trailers. Ultimately, the game is about making the world a better place. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack" href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack">Rakuen Official Soundtrack by Laura Shigihara</a> Shigihara was inspired to create Rakuen by her work to create a song called "Jump." It was written for the album "Play for Japan" which was put together by Akira Yamaoka, a composer known for his work on the Silent Hill series and recent games like Let It Die and Rime. The album benefited the victims of the Tohoku earthquake disaster in 2011. Shigihara recalls creating the song, saying "While I was writing it, I imagined a story about a boy living in the hospital whose mother invents a grand adventure for them to go on (I think in the beginning, they originally braided bedsheets together to climb out the window and into a fantasy world). Later on, I told my friend Emmy (now the concept artist) about it, and we decided to make a little animated music video for it... However, after thinking more about the story, and being inspired by Emmy's concept art, I said, 'this is too much for just a music video, we should totally make a game!'" Rakuen releases later this week for PC via Steam.
  2. People who frequent my work know that I have a soft spot in my heart for small indie games. As I was browsing through the work of S. Jean, the developer of one of my favorite indie RPGs, Star Stealing Prince, and I happened to see that Lauren Shigihara was releasing a game on May 10th. If her name doesn't ring a bell, chances are that you've heard her work. She's the composer behind Plants vs. Zombies and has contributed music and vocals to games like World of Warcraft, Super Meat Boy, To The Moon, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Band Saga, and Cosmic Star Heroine. She's a big deal and finding out that she was making a game solo? Well, that caught my attention, but then I learned about the subject matter and I absolutely had to share it with all of you. Shigihara's game is called Rakuen and it focuses on telling the story of a young boy who's fallen ill and been indefinitely confined to a hospital. His mom reads him stories to lift his spirits. After some time goes by, the boy asks her to take him to the fantasy world from his favorite story so that he can ask the spirit who lives in that world's forests for one wish. In order to gain his wish, the boy will have to complete a series of quests to prove himself worthy by helping the alter-egos of the hospital's residents who live in that world. These problems aren't of the "go out and kill monsters" variety, though. Rakuen is an adventure game where players will have to solve puzzles and figure out solutions to the problems that plague a crazy cast of colorful characters. Those who live in the hospital all have their own unique problems that range from an old man who guards a broken music box to a little girl who never got to say goodbye to one of her friends after her diagnosis. Solving these problems will send players through dungeons with escape puzzles and mysteries in both the environment and in the character interactions. Over time, the boy begins to discover that the hospital holds more secrets than he ever could have guessed and that unraveling them might make the hospital a better place. As you might imagine, Shigihara composed the soundtrack to Rakuen herself, tying its tracks and vocals to the various denizens of her worlds. While the plot might deal with heavy concepts and situations (one plot line involves a woman in a coma whose husband hasn't left her side in months), Shigihara has done her best to alleviate the tone with whimsy and humor. Rakuen isn't so self-serious that it will play like a funeral dirge. There's hope and laughter and charm all over the screenshots and trailers. Ultimately, the game is about making the world a better place. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack" href="http://laurashigihara.bandcamp.com/album/rakuen-official-soundtrack">Rakuen Official Soundtrack by Laura Shigihara</a> Shigihara was inspired to create Rakuen by her work to create a song called "Jump." It was written for the album "Play for Japan" which was put together by Akira Yamaoka, a composer known for his work on the Silent Hill series and recent games like Let It Die and Rime. The album benefited the victims of the Tohoku earthquake disaster in 2011. Shigihara recalls creating the song, saying "While I was writing it, I imagined a story about a boy living in the hospital whose mother invents a grand adventure for them to go on (I think in the beginning, they originally braided bedsheets together to climb out the window and into a fantasy world). Later on, I told my friend Emmy (now the concept artist) about it, and we decided to make a little animated music video for it... However, after thinking more about the story, and being inspired by Emmy's concept art, I said, 'this is too much for just a music video, we should totally make a game!'" Rakuen releases later this week for PC via Steam. View full article
  3. There was once a game called Advent Rising. It was hyped up as the next great science-fiction adventure that would transcend games and become something more. Unfortunately, it released in 2005 with a multitude of bugs in an era where patching post-release was a rarity at best. Advent Rising caused the implosion of its development studio, GlyphX Games. A group of individual developers escaped the studio's downfall, banding together to form Chair Entertainment. The newly minted indie studio went on to develop and release Shadow Complex in 2009. The 2.5D metroidvania sidescroller adopted a more realistic aesthetic and spawned a series of novels authored by Orson Scott Card. The game released and seemed to fill a niche in the indie gaming world that hadn't been filled in quite that same way before. With a recent remaster, it seems like a perfect time to ask the question: Is Shadow Complex one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Tales of Phantasia 'The Koan of Drums' by djpretzel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01500) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  4. There was once a game called Advent Rising. It was hyped up as the next great science-fiction adventure that would transcend games and become something more. Unfortunately, it released in 2005 with a multitude of bugs in an era where patching post-release was a rarity at best. Advent Rising caused the implosion of its development studio, GlyphX Games. A group of individual developers escaped the studio's downfall, banding together to form Chair Entertainment. The newly minted indie studio went on to develop and release Shadow Complex in 2009. The 2.5D metroidvania sidescroller adopted a more realistic aesthetic and spawned a series of novels authored by Orson Scott Card. The game released and seemed to fill a niche in the indie gaming world that hadn't been filled in quite that same way before. With a recent remaster, it seems like a perfect time to ask the question: Is Shadow Complex one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Tales of Phantasia 'The Koan of Drums' by djpretzel (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR01500) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  5. In an unlisted year end YouTube video, the creator of Mega Man says that Comcept has finished the core game of Mighty No. 9 and are now entering the porting and promotional phases of development. In the video, Inafune wishes everyone a happy new year and talks about how hard the team at Comcept has been working to bring Mighty No. 9 to the public. Comcept's initial Kickstarter asked for $900,000 to make the spiritual successor to Mega Man, but the company received over $4 million in crowd funding. Usually receiving several times the amount of money asked for in a Kickstarter campaign results in delays, but Mighty No. 9 looks to be chugging smoothly along toward its spring 2015 release.
  6. Josef Fares founded Hazelight, a new development studio under EA, with a core team composed of veterans who worked with him on Brothers. The indie studio's first project is still unnamed, but is teased at the end of the video announcing Hazelight. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was a fantastic accomplishment and I really can't wait to see what Hazelight has in store for those two gentlemen on that train.
  7. We've written a fair amount about No Man's Sky over the past year. From impressions, to podcasts, to in-depth stories on its fascinating community (and how it helped save someone's life), people have had reactions ranging from disgust to enthusiasm. It's fair to say that the title from Hello Games proved to be one of the most divisive games released in recent memory. Despite the controversy surrounding its launch and the perceived gulf between its advertised features and the apparent features in-game, Hello Games has quietly continued working on their universe-sized sandbox. That work resulted in the 1.1 Foundation update, which added base-building, multiple game modes (Normal, Creative, and Survival), mobile saving, expanded inventory space, the ability to leave messages for other players, and gave players the option of hiring aliens to pilot freighters to give a massive boost to material collection capacity. It even gave PS4 players a photo mode that allowed them to take pictures of their adventures. Perhaps it strikes people as somewhat surprising that Hello Games haven't cut their losses and moved on to another game. After all, these updates aren't exactly providing the team with extra income since they release at the low cost of zero dollars. However, the team remains committed to the universe they created and has been steadily tweaking and adding new things to the worlds that have been found and those that remain unexplored. No Man's Sky 1.2, titled The Path Finder Update, expands on Foundation while adding a bevy of features in its own right. Ground vehicles have been added to provide players with ways to quickly and efficiently cover more ground on the planets they discover. They provide greater speed, protection from the elements, and more cargo space. There are currently three types: the agile Nomad hovercraft, the hardy, wheeled Roamer, and the gigantic mining vehicle Colossus. These vehicles can equip mining lasers and weapons to defend themselves from attackers and harvest resources from the safety of the vehicle. Vehicles also boost scanning capabilities. Expanded base-building features have more than doubled the available customization options for No Man's Sky architects. This will help players to set their bases apart from those created by other players since this update also allows players to share their bases online, allowing other No Man's Sky explorers to stumble onto bases created by others from around the world. New weapon types give players additional options on foot and in the sky. In addition to the standard bolt caster, the multi-tool can now be specialized into the short-range scatter blaster, the mid-range pulse spitter, and the long-range blaze javelin. Ships now can be equipped with the cyclotron projector, the cone-like positron projector, and the rapid fire infra-knife accelerator. A permadeath mode has been added with unique achievements for those who can manage to make their way through the cosmos unscathed. The survival mode has also been amended to start players on the nearest planet with a crashed space ship when they die in the cold vacuum of space. The ambient music selection has increased by over 50% with new soundscapes from 65daysofstatic. Players can rename everything they own and they can now own a lot more. Multiple ships can now be kept in storage for use as needed. The camera mode has received adjustments and will now be accessible on PC as well as PS4. The camera now has various filters that can be applied. Time can also be stopped and shifted around to get optimal lighting and sky positioning for the perfect picture. To demonstrate the capabilities of the photo mode Hello Games worked with game photographer DeadEndThrills. New traders have been added that deal with a new currency called nanite clusters. Traders on space stations will accept nanite clusters for rare blueprints. As the player's standing increases with various factions, the rarer the blue prints offered will become. Even the graphics have received an overhaul. The lighting has been made more accurate and revealing. No Man's Sky can now support high and ultra resolution textures. Post-processing has been improved and the game now supports HDR for compatible TVs and monitors. The results are definitely noticeable. A sweeping number of bug fixes for combat, UI, spawning, etc. You can find the full list of changes on the No Man's Sky site. There are more additions, too. For a visual overview of what's in store, check out the Path Finder trailer below. View full article
  8. We've written a fair amount about No Man's Sky over the past year. From impressions, to podcasts, to in-depth stories on its fascinating community (and how it helped save someone's life), people have had reactions ranging from disgust to enthusiasm. It's fair to say that the title from Hello Games proved to be one of the most divisive games released in recent memory. Despite the controversy surrounding its launch and the perceived gulf between its advertised features and the apparent features in-game, Hello Games has quietly continued working on their universe-sized sandbox. That work resulted in the 1.1 Foundation update, which added base-building, multiple game modes (Normal, Creative, and Survival), mobile saving, expanded inventory space, the ability to leave messages for other players, and gave players the option of hiring aliens to pilot freighters to give a massive boost to material collection capacity. It even gave PS4 players a photo mode that allowed them to take pictures of their adventures. Perhaps it strikes people as somewhat surprising that Hello Games haven't cut their losses and moved on to another game. After all, these updates aren't exactly providing the team with extra income since they release at the low cost of zero dollars. However, the team remains committed to the universe they created and has been steadily tweaking and adding new things to the worlds that have been found and those that remain unexplored. No Man's Sky 1.2, titled The Path Finder Update, expands on Foundation while adding a bevy of features in its own right. Ground vehicles have been added to provide players with ways to quickly and efficiently cover more ground on the planets they discover. They provide greater speed, protection from the elements, and more cargo space. There are currently three types: the agile Nomad hovercraft, the hardy, wheeled Roamer, and the gigantic mining vehicle Colossus. These vehicles can equip mining lasers and weapons to defend themselves from attackers and harvest resources from the safety of the vehicle. Vehicles also boost scanning capabilities. Expanded base-building features have more than doubled the available customization options for No Man's Sky architects. This will help players to set their bases apart from those created by other players since this update also allows players to share their bases online, allowing other No Man's Sky explorers to stumble onto bases created by others from around the world. New weapon types give players additional options on foot and in the sky. In addition to the standard bolt caster, the multi-tool can now be specialized into the short-range scatter blaster, the mid-range pulse spitter, and the long-range blaze javelin. Ships now can be equipped with the cyclotron projector, the cone-like positron projector, and the rapid fire infra-knife accelerator. A permadeath mode has been added with unique achievements for those who can manage to make their way through the cosmos unscathed. The survival mode has also been amended to start players on the nearest planet with a crashed space ship when they die in the cold vacuum of space. The ambient music selection has increased by over 50% with new soundscapes from 65daysofstatic. Players can rename everything they own and they can now own a lot more. Multiple ships can now be kept in storage for use as needed. The camera mode has received adjustments and will now be accessible on PC as well as PS4. The camera now has various filters that can be applied. Time can also be stopped and shifted around to get optimal lighting and sky positioning for the perfect picture. To demonstrate the capabilities of the photo mode Hello Games worked with game photographer DeadEndThrills. New traders have been added that deal with a new currency called nanite clusters. Traders on space stations will accept nanite clusters for rare blueprints. As the player's standing increases with various factions, the rarer the blue prints offered will become. Even the graphics have received an overhaul. The lighting has been made more accurate and revealing. No Man's Sky can now support high and ultra resolution textures. Post-processing has been improved and the game now supports HDR for compatible TVs and monitors. The results are definitely noticeable. A sweeping number of bug fixes for combat, UI, spawning, etc. You can find the full list of changes on the No Man's Sky site. There are more additions, too. For a visual overview of what's in store, check out the Path Finder trailer below.
  9. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC.
  10. An adorable roguelike is on its way toward becoming a reality as Pixel Princess Blitz reached its funding goal on Kickstarter yesterday. The indie project cleared its €77,700 goal with a whopping €102,418. The money will be used by the Hamburg-based indie group to create the PC version of their sandbox action RPG with a crazy endearing art style. The indie devs plan to port the title to PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch after the PC version of Pixel Princess Blitz releases mid 2018. Pixel Princess Blitz has huge ambitions to present an open world spread out over a grid that is explored in turn-based form. Encounters and dungeons are tackled in real-time with special attacks, reactive AI, and fluid action. Players will need to use the resources they discover to survive, outfitting themselves with upgradable items. Players who aren't careful could see themselves fall victim to permadeath, a system the devs describe as tough, but fair. Multiple factions inhabit the world and how players interact with them shapes how the story unfolds. In fact, every NPC that players encounter has a backstory and motivations that they pursue - that might even include a romantic relationship with the protagonist, Kuruna. Strengthening ties to NPCs can yield a slew of benefits, like combat companions and perhaps even the chance that they will show up to save your from the brink of death itself! Players take on the role of Kuruna, a young adventurer who travels the kingdom of Verad to help those in need. Some strange activities have been reported in the province of Hummingwoods, so Kuruna begins a patrol of the area that quickly becomes much more than she ever imagined. Keep an eye out for Pixel Princess Blitz sometime next year on PC. View full article
  11. For those of you that aren’t old enough to remember, there was once a mysterious video game feature called “local co-op” that dominated every gaming system known to man (except PC). For a long while, family and friends could bond by sharing a couch and enjoying the finer aspects of jolly cooperation. Then the internet happened and it seemed like the ways of local co-op would be lost forever to the ravages of time. With the rise of internet co-op, precious few video games even bothered to include the option to play with a physically present friend. In the midst of local co-op’s Dark Age*, a beacon of hope signaled that some developers still revered the old ways. Frima Games’ Chariot champions local co-op, emphasizing teamwork and creative problem solving. In fact, if it has one major drawback it is that such an emphasis is placed on the local co-op that playing through Chariot in single-player can feel a bit hollow. Chariot was reviewed on PlayStation 4. Chariot is a platformer that relies on increasingly complex puzzles built into its levels. Creatively making use of deceptively simple mechanics is required to progress. Players can sling a rope to either side of the chariot with one button and pull it forward or let the line grow slack with two others. Combine the rope mechanics with jumping and that constitutes the core of the player’s puzzle-solving arsenal. To further complicate matters, these mechanics are applied in different ways depending on the various environments players will encounter. The introductory caves give players a great opportunity to grasp the basics, but each new area, like the frictionless ice caverns or the lava-filled magma grottos, present their own unique challenges. Each level is fairly open and allows for a great deal of exploration. Intrepid players will be rewarded with valuable loot as well as precious item blueprints. Blueprints allow a friendly skeleton merchant to create useful items and upgrades for the chariot. Certain blueprints, like the royal lantern upgrade, are required to make progress into other areas of Chariot. To find the most powerful items and rarest treasures, players will need to grab a friend to play by their side. Many will be impossible to obtain for solo players. Co-op is the soul of Chariot and it is only when playing co-op that the full potential of Chariot shines through. There is no online co-op option; players will need to be physically present with each other. While it is possible to complete the game alone, it will be less frustrating to tackle the core story with a friend. During my solo time with Chariot, there were numerous instances when I wished I had a co-op buddy to provide backup on some of the trickier platforming challenges. When I was playing co-op, everything seemed to fall into place and, while there were still a number of falls and slip ups, everyone seemed to have a great time. I have mixed feelings about Chariot’s enemies. Called Looters, the small pool of antagonists don’t constitute a direct threat to the player; they’re only interested in stealing treasure from the chariot. At worst they pose an annoying inconvenience. Each player has an attack that can be used to fend off the attackers, either a sword or a slingshot depending on the choice of character. The problem is that Looters almost feel obligatory, as if Frima felt they had to include enemies because a platformer needs them otherwise it isn’t a real platformer. I can see why they might want to include enemies as a way of amping up the tension in tricky areas and to make the two characters feel distinct. It would have been a bold decision, but I think Chariot would have benefitted from a complete lack of enemies. The combat itself isn’t thrilling or complicated; most situations where enemies appear can be solved by standing on the chariot and mashing the attack button. These instances felt forced and broke the sense of flow that I had derived from the Looter-less sections. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it was a source of irritation. On top of satisfying exploration and mechanics, Chariot tells a simple story about a princess who, along with her fiancée, seeks to inter her father’s remains in a royal sepulcher**. The problem is that her father’s ghost haunts the wheeled coffin, aka the titular chariot, and demands a more suitable resting place as well as a hoard of treasure worthy of his kingly station. Chariot does a number of really refreshing and interesting thing with its simple premise. It is a welcome change of pace to see a leading lady in a platformer. This is clearly important given that I had to spend five or six minutes explaining to my six-year-old nephew/co-op buddy that the main character was, in fact, a woman. That really shouldn’t have to be so alien a concept as to invite a child’s incredulity. Chariot also succeeds in being an amusing, if not laugh out loud, experience. The voice acting for the king is perfectly petulant and demanding and, while it can get grating after repeated platforming failures, generally left me with a smile on my face. I’m somewhat tempted to dig into an analysis of Chariot’s messages regarding death and acceptance, but that can wait for an article all its own. Suffice it to say that there are more complicated and interesting things going on beneath Chariot’s surface than its friendly and cheerful exterior would imply. Chariot’s aesthetic perfectly complements its content. Though the premise, to be perfectly blunt, is to find a place to bury the protagonist’s dead father, Chariot manages to sidestep how potentially disturbing that could be by implementing an aesthetic that feels friendly and inviting. Colors really pop and every environment feels distinct. It has a painted, fairy-tale feel, as if it was adapted from a children’s bedtime story. The layered score lulls players into a state of zen as they make progress and roll the chariot on toward the next sepulcher. For those of you that aren’t old enough to remember, there was once a mysterious video game feature called “local co-op” that dominated every gaming system known to man (except PC). For a long while, family and friends could bond by sharing a couch and enjoying the finer aspects of jolly cooperation. Then the internet happened and it seemed like the ways of local co-op would be lost forever to the ravages of time. With the rise of internet co-op, precious few video games even bothered to include the option to play with a physically present friend. In the midst of local co-op’s Dark Age*, a beacon of hope signaled that some developers still revered the old ways. Frima Games’ Chariot champions local co-op, emphasizing teamwork and creative problem solving. In fact, if it has one major drawback it is that such an emphasis is placed on the local co-op that playing through Chariot in single-player can feel a bit hollow. Conclusion: Chariot is a great indie title that is best enjoyed with a friend or on a date night with a significant other. It emphasizes teamwork and problem solving with a minimum of violence. It is a great game for kids and adults alike as the challenges require some brainpower, but not to a frustrating degree. It also raises some introductory themes that deal with death and could lead to interesting conversations with children old enough to tackle such issues. I’m always a fan of games that take relatively simple mechanics and use them in stimulating ways. Chariot does this exceedingly well. It is a lovingly crafted, beautiful platformer that can be appreciated by all ages. Chariot is currently available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It will be coming to PC at an as yet unannounced time. * Fun fact: I’m guilty of perpetuating a common misconception regarding the time period that people have frequently termed Europe’s Dark Age. In fact, it was not nearly as devoid of activity, learning, or progress as people tend to believe (see beginning of The Importance of the Middle Ages). Or, for those of you with less patience for academic writing, here is a Cracked article. ** Chariot deserves credit for teaching me that I have been mispronouncing ‘sepulcher’ for years.
  12. What are stories? Conventional wisdom will tell you that stories are something along the lines of people describing a series of events with beginnings, middles, and endings. Usually, they tend to be interesting and sometimes they’re even factual. In fact, if we really want to boil stories down to their basics, they’re just the relation of events, real or imagined, to another person. It is one of the fundamental ways in which we communicate with one another. Though everyone tells stories, some people find it to be a necessity. For those individuals, writing novels, directing movies, developing games, become compulsions. Stephen King probably hasn’t written 85 novels, novellas, non-fiction books, short stories, and assorted other works just for the mountains of money (though I’m sure that didn’t hurt his productivity). I’d hazard a guess that he feels a need to write that can’t be satisfied. Maybe I’m going a bit too far out on a limb to guess at what motivates King’s prolific writing, but I know that I write short stories to clearly articulate ideas I have trouble sharing in casual conversation. That’s part of the reason why I write for a living, too. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was reviewed on PC. Maybe it is that background that helped me latch onto The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. In many ways, Ethan Carter is about stories and why we use them to make sense of the world around us. In a much more obvious way, Ethan Carter is a young boy who has gone missing. Before he went missing, Ethan was writing to the detective Paul Prospero who decides to investigate the strange circumstances around the boy’s disappearance. As the game begins, Paul arrives in Red Creek Valley with a mind to solve the mystery of the missing child. However, it quickly becomes apparent that there is more going on in Red Creek Valley than a simple kidnapping or runaway when players discover the severed legs and body of a murdered man. Things only seem to grow stranger from there, though I won’t go into more detail in an effort to preserve the mystery of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. Paul Prospero has a keen eye for crime solving, aided in part by an affinity for the supernatural. Examining evidence and reconstructing crime scenes allows the detective to visualize the events leading up to the murder and provides hints as to where the next piece in the puzzle might be. This element could have been very gimmicky, and in a way it is, but it worked in making me feel like an investigator. It helped me buy into the mystery. I think that’s the most important part of enjoying and understanding Ethan Carter; you need to be able to accept the central mystery and ponder over the bizarre set of clues that are scattered throughout the beautiful scenic landscape of Red Creek Valley. The Vanishing of Ethan carter is a deliberately slow burn. The walking speed is realistically sluggish, though there is a button that allows for sprinting for players that are in a hurry. The pace invites those with more patience to observe the effort that indie studio The Astronauts put in to make the environment come alive. Birds send lonely, mournful cries across the wide waters of Red Creek, ringing out against a backdrop of trees that have shifted colors in preparation for winter. The audio and visuals complement each other perfectly and can change on a dime if the situation calls for it. As players progress, it becomes very clear just how wide of a range The Astronauts have in terms of the kinds of games they could deliver in the future. Beyond superficial qualities like the way everything appears and sounds, the level design on display is also of a very high caliber. Though Ethan Carter is in reality rather constrained and linear, it rarely feel that way. A thick illusion of openness pervades the experience. Environments are cleverly designed to draw players toward their next objective in a number of subtle ways. Sometimes a unique tree will draw you down to the left or an unusual building will compel you to abandon the train tracks that you’ve been following. At several points I found myself thinking that there were entire unexplored areas, until I deliberately backtracked to satisfy my curiosity and found that they contained nothing but more wilderness. The slow pace of Ethan Carter also allows players time to consider the implications of the various situations they come across. Are they real? Is something beyond mortal experience casting a malevolent shadow over Red Creek Valley? What does it all mean, both in the context of the game and as an outsider looking to take meaning from it? While some of these questions are resolved by the time the credits roll, others are not and those are the ones we need to answer for ourselves. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter resembles games like The Stanley Parable or Gone Home that present an environment for players to explore and investigate. The core mechanical difference between the three is that Ethan Carter contains a number of simple puzzles and murders that require some thought and interaction. Some of you might remember that last year I wrote about my experience with Gone Home. While I applauded that it was trying something unique in the gaming space, it ultimately failed to resonate with me, despite the amount of effort that The Fullbright Company put into crafting the experience. It fell short because the solution to Gone Home’s mystery seemed obvious and the story one that, while not common in games, didn’t strike me as particularly compelling. I feel the opposite about The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. It is a layered tale full of unexpected twists, wonder, suspense, and horror. When I finished I had to pace around the room thinking about what had happened for a good twenty minutes. For me, the experience rang true and I felt the payoff of having heavily invested myself into a narrative that had decided to end in a bold fashion. Without spoilers, it takes real creative guts to end a video game the way The Astronauts chose to bring Ethan Carter to a conclusion. Will there be people who respond to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter the same way that I felt about Gone Home? Absolutely. Like Gone Home before it, Ethan Carter stands almost entirely upon the strength of its narrative and will illicit different subjective reactions from players. As for me, I thought The Vanishing of Ethan Carter was some of the finest storytelling in video games. Conclusion: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a must play for anyone who fancies themselves interested in video games as an artistic medium for stories. A rich, finely crafted environment awaits, full of surprises and riddles waiting to be solved. Players looking for action or mindless fun should seek out other games. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter could be called many things, but I don’t know that I could label it as a “fun” experience. It is enjoyable, certainly, but not fun in the traditional sense that many associate with video games. I don’t know that I’ll be playing it again in the near future, but I do know that I won’t be forgetting my time in Red Creek Valley anytime soon. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is currently available on PC and will be coming to PlayStation 4 sometime in 2015.
  13. Many of you might not know that, in addition to writing for Extra Life, I record a video game podcast called The JIM Show with two dashing gentlemen. Most of the time it is just discussion of the latest video game news, sharing our thoughts on the games we're playing, and embarrassing ourselves in front of microphones. However, sometimes we have interesting guests on the show. We've had indie studios like Tangentlemen or Brain & Nerd on to talk about the trials of going independent. We've had talented writers like Harold Goldberd, Nathan Meunier, and Walt Williams on to discuss their work. Heck, we even had a filmmaker, and one of the co-founders of Naughty Dog on our show. What I'm trying to get at here is that while we are mostly goofballs, sometimes we do actually have insightful and interesting talks about video games. This week our podcast was graced with the presence of Eric Trowbridge, the founder of indie studio Apixal and who is currently going through a Kickstarter campaign for Phoenix Dawn. We invited him on because he was clearly very passionate about making games; he quit a job of eight years to try and make his dreams a reality. At the time we interviewed him, his Kickstarter was $10,000 short of its goal with five days left. The day after we recorded with him he'd met his funding goal and there are still two days left in his campaign. All this is leading up to me saying that we had a great time talking with Eric and it was really inspiring how determined and dedicated he is to his project. Our conversation with him provided a window into the stressful lives of developers who turn to Kickstarter for funding. If that sounds interesting to you, you can listen to the podcast embedded below, download it from our hosting site, iTunes, or get our podcast app through the Amazon app store. Music for this episode is a remix of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, 'Forever Yours' by the fantastic Tim Sheehy. More great music like this can be found over on OCRemix.org (FOR FREE). Head over there and check out a place flowing with musical talent! Let us know what you think of the show and if you like seeing this kind of thing in the comments.
  14. One of the first films that many people will think of when presented with the term “video game documentary” will be Indie Game: The Movie. While it touched on several specific aspects of game design and philosophy, the film was more about the personal journey of each developer. Us and the Game Industry isn’t about the journey; it is about what video games are and the different ways that the people who make them think about them. It presents the audience with a variety of ideas from numerous different perspectives within the industry. We are even given a unique look into the design philosophies behind individual team members from thatgamecompany. Nowhere else are you going to see such an in-depth look behind-the-scenes of indie game development. Us and the Game Industry captures the passion of game development during a period between 2009 and 2012. It explores how indie developers approach the messages that they want their games to convey. It is a cry for more humanity in game development; for games that exist for a reason other than making money. At one point, Robin Hunicke describes the feeling of walking through E3 as an experienced veteran and realizing that many of them felt like the same game packaged under different art. The indie developers in the documentary are each attempting to make a game that is different in its core. Chris Crawford, one of the earliest video game designers and the founder of GDC, denounces the focus on graphics for many recent games. The audience hears the idea behind the game Mutazione, an adventure game from the German indie developer Die Gute Fabrik described as a “swamp opera” that was conceived of by illustrator Nils Deneken. We are presented with a number of games from Jason Rohrer, the developer of underground indie titles like Passage and The Castle Doctrine. We glimpse the thoughts of Alexander Bruce as he develops Antichamber, one of the most mind-bending puzzle games of the last decade. Zach Gage shares his thoughts on casual game development and games designed to waste time. However, the audience spends the most time with the developers at thatgamecompany, hearing the different ideas that went into the creation of games like Flower and Journey. In fact, since the documentary was filmed during Journey’s development, we see the iteration of ideas in pre-alpha builds that eventually become the finished game. Austin Wintory appears to describe the challenges of making an adaptive soundtrack that responds to the actions that players perform while in-game. “When you have something to say and you are using a medium and using lots of money and people’s time, their life, to say something… You want to make sure that what you are saying is something relevant and valuable.” – Jenova Chen The resulting film doesn’t have a cohesive story or any single answer to what video games are now or could be in the future. However, it clearly demonstrates how broad the term “video game” has become and the vastness of the unexplored territory yet before those who make games. It also reveals the differing views of the developers as far as why they choose to make games and what value they see in video games. Stephanie Beth and Clay Westervelt have made something special with their documentary. It is a thoughtful, unrushed, and thoroughly interesting look at the current state of game development. I have no doubt that in a decade and beyond it will become a valuable resource for video game archivists and historians to gain insight into how early games were made. If you are interested in game development, this is a great documentary from which to learn how the industry works. Us and the Game Industry is available for download on the film’s official website as well as on Steam.
  15. In Toren, a young girl must brave the dangers of a seemingly hostile world all by herself. While the premise might be one that many indie games have used in the past, Toren looks to use more of an adventurous spin. As the venturesome Moonchild, players are tasked with climbing a magical tower, the titular Toren. On the journey to the top, Moonchild will be faced with puzzles, monsters, and the impending enigma that awaits her at the top. The trailer makes me think of Ico crossed with some Legend of Zelda. Color me excited. Swordtales promises that, "players will witness the birth and the growth of a lonely girl named Moonchild, guiding her on a dangerous journey of discovery and transformation as she unlocks the mysteries of the tower." Toren has already received numerous awards and nominations including an Honorable Mention at the Independent Games Festival, a Finalist for Art Design in both InidePub and the Brasil Game Show awards and was the winner of the Best PC at the E-Games awards. Toren and Swordtales have even caught the attention of the Brazilian government; a government that has chosen to back Toren's development. Toren is expected to release early 2015 for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4.
  16. One part Ico and one part The Wind Waker, RIME has definitely caught our attention. RIME takes players to a mysterious island that harbors the ruins of a past civilization. As a (at least currently) nameless young boy, players explore the ancient artifacts that have been left scattered around the island. Here is the first trailer: No release date or price has been announced for RIME, which will be coming to PlayStation 4. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated indie games on the horizon. What are some of the games on your watch list, PS4 or otherwise?
  17. Following a successfully funded Kickstarter and a subsequent launch as an Early Access title through services like Steam, Habitat will be coming to PlayStation 4 owners as a downloadable title. Habitat tasks players with creating a new home for the residents of Earth as they flee the untenable remains of our homeworld. The only remaining solution is to piece together bits and pieces of debris that now orbit the planet. Players will lead a team of engineers as they manage the population and environment of their growing space station. On top of the day to day management of the station, players will need to protect it in the event of an attack by using whatever means are at their disposal including: missiles, lasers, and particle accelerators. “Since development began on Habitat, it has always been our wish to bring our space survival simulation to as many platforms as technologically possible,” said Charles Cox, founder of 4gency. “We are incredibly excited to announce that Habitat will be launching on PlayStation 4 in 2015 and can’t wait to see how the creative PlayStation community reacts to Habitat’s gameplay mechanics.” There is no solid release date for Habitat: A Thousand Generations in Orbit, other than the entire year of 2015. If you are set on checking it out in an unfinished state, Early Access is currently available on PC through Steam, Amazon, Humble Store, GameFly, Gamer's Gate, Green Man Gaming and Nuuvem for $14.99. I don't know about you, but I am very interested to see the final version of Habitat. Any game that lets you strap rockets to the robotic head of the Statue of Liberty and fly around in space is definitely worthwhile in my book.
  18. I have the pleasure of being involved in Extra Life both as a writer on this website and in a local capacity with the Minneapolis Extra Life Guild. Through my involvement in the guild I managed to connect with Dylan Zellmer who provides the social face for MurWare, an independent development studio that released their first game, titled Oley Poley, a little over two weeks ago. MurWare has decided that charity is a core part of their business and will be donating 5% of the profits from Oley Poley to Extra Life! That is just so great that I decided to have a chat with Dylan about the studio and what it is like to be a relatively unknown game developer. --- Jack Gardner: I'm going to be honest, I don't know much about MurWare. Could you tell me a bit about how MurWare came into existence and what it is all about? Dylan Zellmer: There's good reason for your unfamiliarity; we're brand new! Myself and two skilled programmers (Aaron and Ryan) decided to formulate MurWare about 60 days ago. Most of us have either been directly involved in the games industry, or have been toying with games creation for a long time. At its heart, MurWare is the quintessential independent development company. We want to keep our operations relatively small, and will likely hold onto our day jobs while creating and self-publishing fun games. It's likely we'll stick to the mobile games as we hone our skills, and set out to the PC and console space later-on. JG: What is your role in the company and the development process? DZ: I'm the artist. So far, I've been tasked with taking the overarching game ideas and bringing them to life visually. Being a three-man team, we collaborate on just about everything. I've also taken the helm on the social aspects of MurWare, and our outreach. We're hoping to find someone (FREE) to manage that piece as it's rather taxing on top of the rest of our work. JG: As a developer, what are your priorities for the games you make? DZ: Well, as an indie we aren't concerned with creating the next Call of Duty. Essentially, we're making games for ourselves, and are really stoked when other people enjoy them. From a design standpoint, I'm concerned with creating clean visuals that compliment our gameplay; gameplay being the most important aspect of our creative process. If we don't think something is fun to play, we won't let it past the early prototype phase. JG: Could you describe some of the challenges in being a game developer working on that company's first game and getting it onto the Android and iOS app stores? DZ: There are several, very real obstacles for us to overcome. It's amazing when you think of a studio like Supercell hitting the jackpot with their first outing (Clash of Clans). First off, staying organized and having any semblance of a plan to work with is problematic when we aren't devoted to the process full-time. Another large undertaking is discoverability. Even after making plenty of connections within the industry, it's not easy to get your app in front of key people. In the end, whatever success, or lack thereof, Oley Poley garners is an important step in the evolution of our studio. JG: On July 18, MurWare released Oley Poley for Android and (soon) iOS, could you tell me a bit about that game? DZ: Well, I describe Oley Poley as "The Dark Souls of cute and cuddly reverse-platformers"; whatever that means. A more general description of the game would sound something like an informercial, but I'll take a stab at it. It's inspired by the Coin-Op arcade games all of us used to shove our allowances into. It's fast-paced, extremely challenging, and wonderfully satisfying. The object of Oley Poley is to help him survive a never-ending stream of obstacles, and while doing so, earn points for your hard work. JG: You are personally involved in the Minneapolis Extra Life Guild. What is your story with Extra Life?' DZ: In 2013 I was introduced to Extra-Life by a long-time family friend. He thought it was a great opportunity for me to get involved in charitable giving while doing something I truly love; gaming. I thought it sounded like a perfect fit, formed a team (House Nerd), and raised more money than I'd ever hoped to. I was honored to donate to an institute that holds a very personal connection to another life-long friend whose son has received life-changing treatment therein; Gillette Children's Hospital. JG: MurWare is a relatively new studio, but you have already announced that 5% of the money earned from your games will go to charity and that this year's charity will be Extra Life! Not many devs, to my knowledge, give direct cuts of their game revenue. What led to the decision to make charity a priority for MurWare. DZ: To my knowledge (not extremely extensive, haven't dug for hours or anything) we're at least the only MN-based development team, possibly US-based development team, to give a direct cut of our profits to charity. (Editor’s note: MurWare is currently the only developer giving a direct cut of profits to Extra Life.) As I stated earlier, we all have day jobs, at the same company even, so our game dev career isn't ONLY about money; it's about doing something we love. The decision to give to charity was one that was made very early-on; it was important to all of us to do so. My hope is that we are able to receive enough exposure to start donating large amounts of financial support to great organizations like Extra-Life. As I mentioned earlier, discoverability is the hardest hurdle to overcome, so help us spread the word! --- It is absolutely amazing to be supported by a developer in this way! Thank you to the MurWare team for their support! Also, an update for the game was released today that includes new background music, art, and an updated logo. Oley Poley is currently available on the Google Play store for Android devices for $1.
  19. From 2009’s AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! — A Reckless Disregard for Gravity to this year’s Drunken Robot Pornography, Dejobaan Games has really built a name for itself in the industry as a developer that toys with absurd humor. I think that’s partly why I was so taken aback by the sincere and honest attempt at doing something new with Elegy for a Dead World. After I finished a single playthrough of the game, I sat back and chatted with Ichiro Lambe, the founder and president of Dejobaan Games. He asked me what I thought of the game and I told him that I’d have to think about it. It took me a while to answer. Elegy is unlike any game I have ever played. On the most superficial level, it is a side-scroller that tasks the player with moving from left to right in order to progress, but there aren’t any challenges or impediments. Instead, each section of game has a new backdrop of gorgeous alien terrain, depicting crumbling structures and technology. At certain points, the player will receive unobtrusive prompts to write something. The style the player is prompted to write in is determined at the beginning of the game when the player chooses between poetic, story, or blank verse modes. Elegy for a Dead World is all about how people respond to things and construct unique, individual narratives. It demonstrates how creativity moves all people, whether they think they’re creative or not. Each time the game prompts a new written input, it provides context (unless you are playing in blank verse mode) and leaves a number of blanks for the player to fill in with their own words. Of course, all text is editable, not just the blanks, so players never have words forced upon them. With this game, everyone can write a story, a poem, or something else entirely. Eventually, I told Ichiro what I thought about this strange game that’s based on the works of British Romance-era poets. I told him that the best way I could describe it would be to call this game an inspiration simulator. In a sense, it allows players to discover their own story as they tell it to themselves. That is a concept with which I could fall in love. However, I think there are several ways that Elegy for a Dead World could be improved. One of the main problems that I had was that the game seems to be fairly linear from left to right. Though my character had a jet pack, I never had a reason to use it other than to break up the monotony of moving from one side of the screen to the other. More exploration, more verticality to the levels, and more prompts would serve to fill out Elegy and make traversing the desolation of its world a bit more interesting. I would also be very curious see another implementation of this same approach to gamified storytelling that was based on different eras of poets and storytellers with different visual cues. I guess what I’m saying here is that I love the core concept of this game that I would like to see more of it in almost every respect. If you get an opportunity, check out Elegy for a Dead World. It is different in a way that should be appreciated and applauded.
  20. I really adore the game 6180 Moon (even though I am just awful at it) for its tight platforming and clever puzzle mechanics. So imagine my delight to find that the developer behind 6180, Turtle Cream, had returned to E3 this year with a rough build of a new game with a new central mechanic that I have never seen before. Long Take is another game that is both clever and challenging. The premise is that instead of controlling the main character of the game, you are merely the camera man who is trying to make the hero look good. Here is where it gets interesting: Everything outside of your camera frame ceases to exist. All manner of hazards from rockets to lasers can be avoided by zooming the camera closer to the hero. However, the proximity of the zoom has to be weighed against how fast the hero is moving. If the platforming protagonist leaves the camera frame, you fail the level and start over again. This means you have to be careful if he decides to go back to collect the last few coins in the level or makes a dash for the exit. This leads to a number of creative puzzles that revolve around where you point the camera. Though I didn’t have an extended play session with Long Take, it shows a lot of promise for such an early iteration of the concept. I only had a couple gripes about what I have seen thus far. First, the player isn't given time to survey each level to formulate a strategy beforehand (only a brief glimpse of everything before automatically beginning), which leads to a number of frustrating and seemingly unavoidable trial and error deaths. Second, I encountered a bug where things off screen continued to fire despite not being visible, which is really debilitating to the core concept of the title. There were a few other minor annoyances along the lines of the second complaint, but I was assured that they were due to the early build and would be ironed out before release. Overall, color me intrigued and hopeful that Long Take will live up to the pedigree of 6180.
  21. Picture yourself at ten years old. Imagine snuggling into bed at night and asking your parents to tell you that one story. They’d ask you which story you meant and you’d say as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, “You know, the one with the clowns, the talking mountain, and the dragons. The one with Aurora!” Your parents would laugh and begin, “Once upon a time…” Through some feat of technical and artistic wizardry, Ubisoft Montreal has managed to breathe the imagination of a young child hearing their favorite fairytale bedtime story into every aspect of Child of Light. Child of Light tells the story of Aurora, a young princess who is whisked away into the magical land of Lemuria. She struggles to find a way to return home to her ailing father and free the various creatures and people of Lemuria from the oppression of the evil Queen of the Night. It isn’t a tale that’s pushing many boundaries or a story many will be unfamiliar with, but that’s part of the brilliance of Child of Light. It takes a familiar premise and executes it so well that it doesn’t matter that we’ve heard similar stories before. Part of what makes the entire package of Child of Light work so well are the characters. While on her journey, Aurora befriends a number of interesting companions like Finn, the fainthearted magician; Robert, the swashbuckling mouse; and Rubella, a talented vocalist/clown skilled in the ways of combat. The cast is diverse and Child of Light uses that diversity to its advantage, giving each character a memorable personality and at least one opportunity to prove their worth. For the most part, the story is constructed very well, but the moments leading up to the climactic ending feel a bit rushed and left me scratching my head regarding a few questions that were never addressed. Some people might also be put off by the fact that all the dialogue in the game is conveyed in verse rather than straight prose. Personally, I really enjoyed it, especially the jokes that make use of the format. At the very least it is trying something new and different. Of course, Child of Light entirely hinges upon its protagonist, Aurora. Beginning the game as a 10-year-old girl, Aurora’s character arc throughout her journey tackles issues like growing up, love, grief, and what it means to be brave. From the opening minutes, I was struck by how refreshing it was to see that the adventure throughout the mysterious Lemuria was undertaken by a courageous, kind, and intelligent female protagonist. Maybe that says something about the video game industry at large needing more awesome heroines or perhaps that is just where I am at in my personal life or possibly both. Regardless about what that says, I couldn’t help but think that when my niece is old enough to play video games we’ll be able to sit down together and play Child of Light. When we do, she’ll be able to point to Aurora as a role model both in video games and in larger world; and that’s something that is really important to me. I also think it is equally important that our young men have awesome female protagonists in their games. I had two of my nephews over for an evening recently and I showed them the classic Miyazaki film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Their response when Nausicaä was revealed as a princess? “She’s supposed to be a boy.” That’s not their fault, but so many of the stories both in our games and other media have implanted this idea that women aren’t capable of the same heroism as men and that’s malarkey. We need more games like Child of Light so that the messages we are sending to our children aren’t so slanted and exclusive. Incidentally, I sat those kids (3 and 5 years old, respectively) down and had a chat with them on that topic, hopefully that straightened things out. The previous paragraph may have given the impression that Child of Light is for children, which would be misleading because it’s really a game for all ages. There is a very wide spectrum of behaviors and strategies that will serve to progress through the world of Lemuria. Players can opt to simply go from point A to point B if they wish, but Child of Light rewards almost all deviations from the path for those willing to explore. Rewards come in the form of chests that contain HP, MP, and Revive potions, stat upgrades, or oculi, which can be used to augment a character’s attacks, defenses, or to have some other effect in combat. While I never ran out of any single item in my playthrough, there aren’t any ways to obtain more potions or revives other than by finding them in the environment. This could potentially be a problem for players less experienced in RPGs, but it isn’t a likely scenario considering how many of each item I had in my inventory by the end. Speaking of the combat, it is an amazingly fun system from which I hope Final Fantasy takes notes. All combatants are placed on an action bar and progress toward the end at different rates according to their speed stat. After passing into the “casting” portion of the action bar, any attack that hits either the player’s characters or the enemies will cancel their attack and knock them back along the action bar. You can use this to a tactical advantage to get enemies trapped in loops unable to make a move. Each new character recruited to Aurora’s side introduces new potential strategies on how to deal with the assorted baddies that plague Lemuria. However, don’t let the apparent depth of Child of Light’s combat dissuade you. While thinking tactically feels rewarding and certainly make progress easier, even brute force, unthinking attack commands will get you through most fights. In my time with Child of Light, I only saw the Game Over screen once and that was because I ran into spiked walls a few too many times while exploring. Overall, I think Child of Light would be an excellent game to introduce someone to RPGs or video games in general. Child of Light is a largely single-player experience, but it can be played co-op to a certain extent. The first character Aurora meets in Lemuria is a firefly named Igniculus. Igniculus can be controlled via a separate controller to pick up collectibles, open doors and chests, heal characters in battle, and slow an enemy’s progress on the action bar. Granted, whoever is controlling Igniculus is getting the short end of the stick, but it is still a way to experience Child of Light with someone else who might not otherwise be able to play. Visually, this game is so charming it hurts. Everything has a dreamy, watercolor painting look to it from the characters to the environments. It lends a beautiful ethereal quality to the entire production that makes Lemuria feel both foreign and familiar at the same time. I cannot stress this enough: Child of Light is a pleasure to look at. Half of the time I wanted to see what was next in the story and the other half of the time I wanted to see what new creatures and environments were around the next plot point. One tiny nitpick I have about the visual design is that the character model of Aurora is rendered in 3D rather than 2D like all the other assets. This is an intentional design decision, but for what purpose I’m not entirely sure. It could be to make it clear that Aurora is from a different world than that of the Lemurians, but I wish they had gone a different route because the 3D model sometimes stands out in a less than pleasing manner. <a data-cke-saved-href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light" href="http://musique.coeurdepirate.com/album/child-of-light">Child of Light by Cœur de pirate</a> The soundtrack was put together by Quebec singer-songwriter Cœur de pirate and it perfectly complements the visuals and story. This is the kind of soundtrack that is absolutely essential for an RPG. Songs that players have to listen to repeatedly are made interesting and complex so that each subsequent listening players can discover something new about the music. There are certain elements that repeat throughout each song that give the soundtrack a certain cohesion. For an example of a game that does this very poorly, watch the opening minutes of The Last Remnant and pay attention to the music when it switches over into its battle mode. In Child of Light, the battle music that you hear hundreds of times is always thrilling; each time it would begin playing I took it as a call to action inspiring to do my best in combat. In fact, many of the songs in Child of Light are calls to action, albeit in different ways. Some musical pieces demand heroism or beckon the player onward, while others call forth compassion and empathy. Each track contains elements of innocence and excitement tempered with a strain of melancholy and mystery. And that mystery is part of what pulled me into the world of Lemuria and why I am so enamored with what Ubisoft Montreal has created. Conclusion: I have no doubt that in time Child of Light will be remembered as a classic. Everything about it is so well executed and enchanting that I really can’t recommend this game enough. At $15, it is certainly a must play for anyone who likes RPGs or has ever been interested in seeing what RPGs are all about. Visually and musically elegant, Child of Light should be used as a textbook example of how to tell a simple, but effective story within a video game. Certainly it has some minor blemishes, but none of them are large enough to get hung up on. I hope to see more games like this in the future. Excellent job, everyone at Ubisoft Montreal! Child of Light was reviewed on PlayStation 4. It is currently available on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U.
  22. Famed throughout the world for his talents as an illustrator and character designer, Yoshitaka Amano partnered with Ubisoft to craft an artistic rendering inspired by the upcoming downloadable title, Child of Light. Yoshitaka Amano has quite the legacy in the video game industry. There is a reason you might have gotten a Final Fantasy vibe from the completed piece; Amano designed the iconic look of the franchise himself. From 1987-1994, Amano worked for Square as their main character, image, and graphic designer. He has also continued to create logos and promotional images for the series up until the present. Child of Light releases as a downloadable title on April 30 on Xbox Live, PSN, Wii U eShop, UPlay, and Steam. It features a unique melding of traditional turn-based RPG gameplay and western folklore visuals. Personally, this is one of my most anticipated smaller-scale titles for the coming year and I am excited to see Ubisoft going out of their way to show support for such a cool project. Keep your eye on this one, folks!
  23. Today, Epic Games announced that they would be instituting a much more reasonable pricing model for developers to license Unreal Engine 4. Previously developers would have to pay an arm and possibly a leg or two in order to access an Unreal Engine. Luckily, with the rising costs of game development becoming apparent to everyone, Epic Games decided to lower the entry cost for video game creators looking to start out with top notch software. Beginning today, developers may license Unreal Engine 4 for 5% of whatever money they make from their product as well as $19 per month per Unreal Engine 4 user. This is a huge boon for smaller indie devs that couldn't afford the high, flat cost of creating a game using Unreal Engine 3. What does this mean for gamers? We can look forward to more visually impressive from smaller studios who will be free to pursue their creative visions and more features in games from larger studios that don't have to spend quite as much time focusing on the visual aspects of their blockbusters. For any fledgling game developers out there, now seems to be a great time to get into the trenches and start cranking out games.
  24. The five episode documentary series Super Game Jam is shooting to show people what its like to make a game in under 48 hours. Put together by Devolver Digital, the series will focus its attention on five teams of two people each as they attempt to create a game within 24 hours. Each episode of the docu-series will spotlight one of the teams, their struggles, and their journey to create the best game they can under intense time restraints. The average length of each episode will be around 30-40 minutes. This series will be a must see for those who want to better understand the game-making process. April - Episode 1 - Set in Utrecht, Netherland, the premier episode will feature Richard Boeser (Ibb and Obb) and Jan Willem Nijman (Ridiculous Fishing, LUFTRAUSERS). May - Episode 2 - Will be in Berlin, Germany featuring Christoffer Hedborg (Shelter, Pid) and Dominik Johann (Impetus, LAZA KNITEZ!!). June - Episode 3 - Features American game designers Adam Drucker (doseone, Samurai Gunn) and Sos Sosowski (McPixel, Doom Piano) in Oakland, California. July - Episode 4 - Devlolver will take viewers to Gothenburg, Sweden and showcase Martin Jonasson (Rymdkapsel) and Jonatan Söderström (Hotline Miami). August - Episode 5 - Takes place in England, where Tom Francis (Gunpoint) and Liselore Goedhart (Remembering, Nott Won’t Sleep) will create the final game of the documentary. Other than the months shown in the announcement trailer, no firm dates for these episodes has yet surfaced, but we'll let you know when they do. Also, it is important to note that these mini-documentaries will be releasing via Steam.
  25. Indie developer Heart Machine's foray into a world of pixels and adventure is aiming to be more than the sum of its parts. At fist glance, Hyper Light Drifter appears to be a pixelated, stylish take on the classic Zelda formula that's been a go-to template for game designers for decades. However, Heart Machine hopes to differentiate itself by implementing some of its own concepts, like a narrative expressed through visual design and an atmosphere conveyed by a canny soundtrack. From what we've seen of the development so far, Heart Machine seems to be on the right track. The approach to combat centers on the idea that the player should feel empowered when stepping onto the battlefield. Fighting should feel like it has weight with strong visual and audio cues resonating throughout a combat scenario. While conflicts should be fast, brutal affairs, Hyper Light Drifter is also attempting to satisfy its audience on a tactical level. There are many different enemy types that behave differently on the battlefield. Some adversaries will dodge or deflect attacks, others will attack en masse, and others will command legions of weaker creatures. In one of my favorite developer statements, Heart Machine had this to say regarding their game's emphasis on visual narrative, "We chose to recognize that gamers are smart." Hyper Light Drifter eschews text blocks, heavy handed exposition, and confusing UI in favor of a sleek, less-is-more approach. The idea is that the player should be immersed in the world and not be continually called out of it to consult maps and decipher their stats screen. Quests and dialogue will be conveyed in storyboard-like sequences that use color and music to effectively convey their meaning across language barriers. The soundtrack of Hyper Light Drifter is being handled by Disasterpeace, the artist behind the soundscapes of Fez and Runner2. The sound will work together with the visuals to create a mounting aura of anxiety as players venture deeper into the ravaged world of ancient technology better left forgotten. Hyper Light Drifter has come a long way from its hugely successful Kickstarter campaign last year. We can barely wait to get out hands on Heart Machine's creation and delve into the secrets of the future-past. Hyper Light Drifter is slated to release later this year on PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Vita, and Wii U.