If there's one thing that the folks at Double Fine aren't known for, it's being pigeon-holed into making the same game. In fact, almost all of its titles are wildly different from one another. From the likes of Brütal Legend to Stacking to Broken Age, nothing the studio does is derivative of its past works.
It's not exactly a flag that Double Fine waves proudly, but it maybe kind of is, in a way. That's why when I sat down with publishing manager Greg Rice last month to talk about Costume Quest 2, he almost sheepishly started off with "Well, it's the first sequel we've ever done," (apart from the add-on to Double Fine Happy Action Theater, which hardly counts).
The statement struck me as unusual as I mentally ran down the company's list of titles. "Has Double Fine really gone this long without iterating on any of its other games?" I pondered. Apparently so, and Costume Quest 2 will be the game that finally breaks the streak.
And, that's okay, because more Costume Quest is never a bad thing.
As a result of THQ's fire sale at the beginning of 2013, several IPs were ushered off to new homes, just waiting for someone to advance their stories while being published under a new banner. One such example is Homefront, which was met with a relatively poor reception upon release in 2011. Now, Crytek has scooped up the rights and plans to reinvent the property with a sequel.
Homefront: The Revolution sees a continuation of the world that Homefront introduced us to, but from a different angle. It's now four years after the initial invasion by North Korean forces, and the United States is completely occupied. The North Koreans have opted to establish their base in Philadelphia, which is the setting for the game.
We have been keeping our eyes on Chasm for a long time now. Ever since it initially showed up, it looked like it checked off all the right boxes to be a retro dream game. It has procedurally generated dungeons, Castlevania-esque inventory and map management, and absolutely gorgeous pixel art.
Upon starting up the demo at PAX East, all of that was there. I delved into the demo with reckless abandon, and was promptly killed by a wayward slime. Hmm. As it turns out, Chasm requires a bit more caution and care than expected. One missed jump can land protagonist Daltyn in a spike pit, but more frequently, one mistimed sword slash can leave him open to attack.
While scoping out titles in the Indie MEGABOOTH at PAX East, I ran into long time Destructoid community member Andrew Benton, and we continued to look at games together. Dyscourse was on my list to play, so we both started up the demo on separate computers.
Though my experience with the choose-your-own-adventure style game was neat enough on its own, the real magic came afterward. After talking with Andrew, I learned that we experienced wildly different stories, despite starting in the same spot and being presented with the same challenges. It highlights Dyscourse's main strength: it varies significantly based on the player's choices throughout the many-branched narrative.
When I was talking to one of the developers of Extrasolar on the show floor at PAX East, I said something that I now regret. "This looks like something I would really like, but might not appeal to a ton of other people." He responded gracefully, simply saying that they have a healthy number of players, and a good percentage of players see it through to the end.
To be fair, the presentation of Extrasolar in the Indie MEGABOOTH was intentionally muted. There, it was shown as a simple exploration game on an extrasolar planet. The player tells the rover where to go, and after a set amount of time it sends back a photo. The intrinsic value of that alone was enough to get me started, and I urge others to sign up for it now to experience it as intended. If you need further convincing, then keep reading. Prepare for minor spoilers.
Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the game as loved as it was. With regard to a sequel, any deviation from this formula would result in something that just wasn’t Hotline Miami.
So, Dennaton Games isn’t going to.
Judging by the build of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number that was at PAX East, the pieces are in place to give fans of the original more of what they want. The two stages on display showed off the exact style that many have come to know and love, but also expressed how Dennaton is ready to offer something a little new.
Navigating through the outer reaches of space is hard. There are multiple systems to account for, from piloting to shields to weapons control, each with its own specialized training necessary. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime takes all of those essential tasks and leaves them up to a two-person crew on a mission to save space bunnies and fight constellations.
The result is a frantic dash to man the right stations at the right times, and although it looked dire at one point, it was never completely unmanageable. After it was all over, I got to breathe a sigh of relief, and felt closer to my impromptu space lover after having been through the ordeal together.
Mushroom 11 caught our eyes about a month ago, with its unique puzzle gameplay hook: the globular green collection of fungal cells is not directly controlled by the player. Instead, players simply click or tap to "erase" cells, while the mushroom has the curious capability to regrow a new cell for every destroyed cell.
It is one of those ideas that seems so elegant that it is surprising nobody had ever thought of it before. With that core mechanic applied to physics and engineering puzzles, Mushroom 11 is shaping up to be one to watch closely.
Whether it's the smartass name or the numerous references to action stars, there's nothing subtle about Broforce. Then there's the seemingly never-ending barrage of explosions and showers of pixelated blood that make the stage look like a particularly frustrating Super Meat Boy level.
Broforce is now on Steam's Early Access service, and whilst there's plenty of features on offer in its current state, there's still some work needed to just nail that core gameplay.
Sony discovered the 12 person team's game as part of its Latin America, Incubation Program and has been "instrumental" in getting it exposure, flying Palacios out to GDC to rep the game, and technology, giving the team dev kits.
Palacios discovered me, hustling to take advantage of his good fortune, while I shambled, eyes glazed over, trying to remember where I was going and where I had been. I'm glad he did, because chatting with him and playing To Leave perked me right up.
Practice makes perfect in racing games. "Sight reading" a new course (so to speak) might turn out okay, but any perfectionist will spend hours learning the every nuance of every track in order to shave precious seconds off their times. But what if that weren't an option? What if the racetrack wasn't a static entity?
That's what Krautscape has going on. One of the many defining characteristics of this indie racer is that the leader procedurally generates the track. As you pass through the gates that mark the building points, different lanes dictate different directions to send the action.
That's a unique concept for a game, but not enough for developer Mario von Rickenbach. That's why the vehicles can also fly. That's right, if you don't like the way that the track is going, find a place to soar off the edge and take the lead away. Pick your spots wisely though, because a miscalculation could end up in a supposedly savvy move putting you even further behind.
The sensory deprivation the Oculus Rift provides is great for immersion. And immersion is great for moody, atmospheric, scary games like Grave. Though there is a non Rift version coming, so if you haven't sold your eye souls to virtual reality, don't stop reading yet.
I'm very glad I've put my face in several strange contraptions, including Rifts, this week and I still have my eyes. Someone is going to get their eyes stolen soon.
No, Steven, it's not an octopus kitten; it's just an octopus. But, it's a super adorable octopus that may have some kitten-like properties, and more importantly, it's the protagonist of Airscape: The Fall of Gravity.
Airscape is an action platformer that, as the name implies, has a lot to do with gravity. It's the central theme of the game, as each level rotates and pulls the octopus in such a way as to add a bit of uncertainty to the standard platforming mechanics. It takes some getting used to in order to figure out exactly what Airscape will and won't let you do, but once acclimated, it feels mostly natural.
What doesn't necessarily feel natural is the way that the camera swings around with the pull of gravity. It's somewhat disorienting at times to keep track of what direction you were heading. This is especially true in the levels that seem more non-linear, as Airscape looks as if it'll feature a combination of straight-forward and open-ended levels.
BitSummit is under way in Kyoto, Japan, and some of the country’s finest independent developers are present to show off their games. One particularly strong showing comes from Funktronic Labs, a studio that’s native to the convention’s city. Funktronic’s game, Nova-111, blends turn-based and real-time action to make for a surprisingly thought-provoking affair.
Nova-111 is partially named after the game’s main objective. Lost in space are 111 scientists, and it’s up to a space crew to rescue them. What follows is a trek through level after level filled with alien enemies and secret items.
The most endearing aspect of Nova-111 is the way that it presents its hazards. Some of the earlier encounters may feature enemies that are simply turn-based attackers. These are easy enough to dispose of – back up when they’re ready to strike, and just run into them on your turn. Simple stuff.
However, the game quickly adds more elements to make everything feel so wonderfully cerebral. For example, spikes on the ceiling will drop in real-time after the ship flies under them, or some enemies will explode a few seconds after they’re first attacked. A smart player can engage an enemy and lure it to these spike traps, or perfectly time their movements to use an explosion to kill all nearby aliens.
The year was 2012. Radioactive bees ruled the skies, filling their endocrine sacs with the remaining wisps of human hope, and garlic wolves devoured the remains. Meanwhile, Double Fine put out a wildly successful Kickstarter for Double Fine Adventure as Telltale began pumping out its The Walking Dead, which would go on to take year end awards en masse, presumably killing all the bees.
Adventure games lived.
In this resurgence, Tex Murphy franchise creators Chris Jones and Aaron Connors took to Kickstarter with Project Fedora, an FMV-laced adventure game in the continued future noir San Francisco setting the series started in.
Crusader Kings II is going strong since its release two years ago. Last year saw the release of a Linux version, The Old Gods expansion (which lets you start playing 200 years earlier in history), and The Sons of Abraham expansion.
Now, Paradox is readying another massive expansion, The Rajas of India. As the name implies, you will now be able to rewrite history as an Indian ruler; the entire Indian subcontinent is opened up. This doubles the landmass of the base game.
That's a lot of map -- map that you'll get as a free update to the game, but if you want to control an eastern territory and show those colonialists what's what, you'll need the expansion. And why wouldn't you want it?