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Krautscape is a racing game where you make your own path to victory photo
Krautscape is a racing game where you make your own path to victory
by Brett Makedonski

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.

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Grave is an ever-changing surrealist nightmare with Oculus Rift photo
Grave is an ever-changing surrealist nightmare with Oculus Rift
by Steven Hansen

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 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.

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Airscape: The Fall of Gravity is an insanely cute platformer photo
Airscape: The Fall of Gravity is an insanely cute platformer
by Brett Makedonski

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.

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Nova-111 has captured my heart in real-time photo
Nova-111 has captured my heart in real-time
by Brett Makedonski

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.

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Telsa Effect is old school point & click Tex Murphy photo
Telsa Effect is old school point & click Tex Murphy
by Steven Hansen

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.

Tex is back in (live) action.

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Crusader Kings II expansion Rajas of India opens the map photo
Crusader Kings II expansion Rajas of India opens the map
by Steven Hansen

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?

It has war elephants.  

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Going through World War II with Hearts of Iron IV photo
Going through World War II with Hearts of Iron IV
by Steven Hansen

Following up on the continuing recent success of Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, Paradox is revisiting another beloved grand strategy series, Hearts of Iron, with the recently announced Hearts of Iron IV.

The Hearts of Iron series focuses on the World War II period of world history and has a much more concentrated focus on combat than other Paradox strategy games. If you were interested in Crusader Kings II or Europa, but felt overwhelmed or bored by some of the headier mechanics, this may be the grand strategy game for you.

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Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within photo
Defending earth against new threats in XCOM: Enemy Within
by Steven Hansen

If you haven’t played the eXcellent XCOM: Enemy Unknown, you should. However, now there is a caveat to that. You should play it, but you should probably wait until November 12 to do so because that’s when the Enemy Within eXpansion comes out

Those who own Enemy Unknown on PC or Mac will need to plunk $30 down on the expansion and start a new XCOM campaign to eXperience the content. Console owners can nab a bundle of Enemy Unknown, all its DLC, and Enemy Within for $40, which is a particularly lovely deal if you haven’t picked the game up yet.

While things like new enemy types and cybernetic/biological modifications for your soldiers are cool, I recently got to go hands-on with some meatier content that has me satisfied XCOM fans should enjoy this shadowy expansion.

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Preview: Castle Story has me stacking bricks for hours photo
Preview: Castle Story has me stacking bricks for hours
by Joshua Derocher

When I first saw the adorable Castle Story at PAX East earlier this year, it immediately grabbed my attention. Its simplistic brick stacking and mining are very enjoyable and addicting, and the animations are a joy to watch.

The game is out now on Steam Early Access, and I have had a chance to dive into it some more to check out the survival and sandbox modes. There is multiplayer available in this build, but I haven't had a chance to play around with it yet since it requires you to manually connect to another user's IP at this point. It's still a little rough around the edges, but the core gameplay is good enough to have me hooked.

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BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access photo
BetaDwarf's Forced: From classroom to Steam Early Access
by Fraser Brown

Garages are passé now, it seems. Where once indie game developers would steal precious space from cars, lawnmowers, and bikes, they can now be found living up in a tree or, in the case of Danish developer BetaDwarf, squatting in a classroom. 

"Fuck it, we're going to skip [our] apartments and literally live at university," Steffen Kabbelgaard and his team decided during development of their colorful co-op arena game, Forced. Risk, sacrifice, and no small amount of good fortune characterize the story of Forced's birth, a story that's nearing its end as the team gears up for an October 24 launch.  

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Gravity Ghost dances between planets, makes Newton proud photo
Gravity Ghost dances between planets, makes Newton proud
by Darren Nakamura

We have had our eyes on Erin Robinson's Gravity Ghost for only a short while now, but every time we get to talk about it, we can't help but spew nice things about the title. As a PAX 10 alumna with 2010's Puzzle Bots, it's not surprising that Robinson's latest has captured our attention so well.

Gravity Ghost was on display at the recent Arizona Indie Game Showcase at the Phoenix Art Museum, and I spent a bit of time hopping between planets, collecting space flowers, and manipulating physics in an effort to achieve perfect orbit.

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Picking up houses and riding butterflies in SCALE photo
Picking up houses and riding butterflies in SCALE
by Darren Nakamura

Aside from the conversation that Jonathan had with developer Steve Swink, we haven't done much to cover SCALE. Fortunately, the Phoenix area indie game developer group Game CoLab put together an event at the Phoenix Art Museum this past weekend, and the ingenious first-person puzzle platformer was one of the highlights.

That description of Scale may invoke thoughts of Portal or Quantum Conundrum, and those comparisons wouldn't be completely off base, but after some time with the game, I couldn't shake the feeling that it is more like Super Mario 64 than anything else. At least, it's like Super Mario 64, except you have a gun that can grow and shrink objects in the environment at will.

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Trippy cyberpunk comedy spy thriller Jazzpunk is my jam photo
Trippy cyberpunk comedy spy thriller Jazzpunk is my jam
by Steven Hansen

I'd be convinced Jazzpunk was made by some actually-talented, alternate universe me, for me, if I didn't meet and chat with one half of its creative team, Necrophone Games' Luis Hernandez, for myself.

It's a first-person joke box riffing on some of my favorite themes. An-Airplane styled goof that delivers its jokes with both panache and clinical deadpan. It's smart, clever, and zany, but not above putting a whoopee cushion on your chair. Literally. 

Even in the games I've seen that have managed humor well, few as there are, I'm not sure I've ever played anything quite like this. It's hard to codify my feelings on the game because I have so many different feelings on so many disparate elements of it, albeit all of them resolutely positive. The colorful, cartoonish cyberpunk affair is the weirdest amalgam of some of my favorite things: noir, jazz, Blade Runner. The over-arching spy theme feels appropriately like secret agent parody Get Smart, given the comedic parallels between Jazzpunk and the indelible Mel Brooks. 

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Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2 photo
Hero worship gone wrong in Hotline Miami 2
by Hamza CTZ Aziz

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number picks up after the events of the original game and focuses on two different groups of people you'll be playing as. While both groups are very different from one another, they both happen to be dealing with the same subject matter: Hero worship. The "hero" in this case being Jacket from the Hotline Miami, who has made waves after going on his killing spree against the Russian mob.

A new story, but that original brutal satisfying gameplay is very much intact. You'll be smashing, slashing, shooting, and slamming people's bodies into bloody pulps all to the cool tunes of the '80s-inspired music once again, and that's a good thing.

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Preview: Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded photo
Preview: Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded
by Fraser Brown

Leisure Suit Larry: Reloaded - Land of the Lounge Lizards -- my, that's a big title -- threw some nostalgia my way immediately. Just as in the original '87 version of the game and its '91 VGA remake, Reloaded begins with a series of questions designed to prove the player's age. It's a throwback from an era when most assumed that all games were for kids, and even a nine-year-old could walk out of a shop with a softporn adventure. Al Lowe designed the questions believing that no child would know the answers. 

He was right, because back in the '90s I needed a cheat sheet. The now out of date questions have been updated with more appropriately modern ones, emphasizing the fact that we've entered remake territory. Likewise, the original MIDI soundtrack kicks in before being transformed into a modern interpretation of the theme.

Reloaded is still very much an LSL game, complete with the lewd humor and the awful, but somehow still lovable protagonist, Larry Laffer -- but it's chock-full of changes and additions.  

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Viking shenanigans in Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods photo
Viking shenanigans in Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
by Fraser Brown

Over the last year and -- almost -- a half, Crusader Kings II has grown considerably. What started of as a vast grand strategy game where players could take the reins of a Christian noble dynasty now contains playable Islamic dynasties and merchant republics, a fictional Aztec invasion, and the ability to carve out empires, and that's all great. But what I really wanted, right from the beginning, was to troll medieval Europe with a fleet of Viking longships.

With The Old Gods expansion, I've finally been able to do exactly this. Not merely a Viking expansion, however, The Old Gods introduces playable pagan dynasties all over the map and a slew of tweaks, improvements and new additions. It's been difficult to tear myself away, and it might very well be Crusader Kings II's best expansion yet -- it's certainly the largest. 

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