Everyday Ghosts, Ambient Walkabout

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In the spirit of looking in on more interactive experiences, I was directed to this game by @DannyG1888.  Apparently over the past weekend, some Devs got together and decided to jam.  Everyday Ghosts is one of the 9 titles that came out of this one.  The event lasted the weekend between 35 indie developers working to create a little art for the interactive world.  You can download the full Ghost Wheel? Bundle here!  These games were also made in approximately 35 hours, so keep in mind they are not masterpieces of the art form, just worthy submissions with heart and sweat in them.

Everyday Ghosts was the brainchild of @DANNYG1888 and @IMPLODINGORACLE.  Your main character actually looks very similar to the avatar on Imploding Oracle’s twitter.  This was explained for me:

 

The character you play is someone I’ve been making little stories & adventures about for a long while.  I just think it’s neat to throw ’em into new scenarios.  There have been others and there will probably be more.

– Imploding Oracle, Everyday Ghosts

 

So the main character, a more trendy version of the lead singer from Gorrilaz (top right), is someone that we might expect to see again.  Who is the other character?  I thought it was a female, but according to the devs, the character is intentionally left androgynous

 

I really hadn’t assigned a gender properly to that character. I just made them pretty androgynous. Feel free to interpret that character however you feel.

– Imploding Oracle, Everyday Ghosts

 

The entire game is really more like a level from a larger title.  It is just a slow walk ( or a ninny-frolic if you mash the jump button ) through a haunted junkyard.  It makes a sort of sense that a junkyard would be haunted, since it is where items go to die.  Perhaps they could still cling to some element of those who owned it?  I believe an object can carry some element of an owner, and it doesn’t even need to be varnished with blood, like in the Red Violin.

When the game spools up you hear see only the title screen and then the roar of an engine.  Fading in slowly, the scene you are met with is that of your character at the entrance to a graveyard just after sunset, watching as his partner enters.  At first I thought this was a video, but I pushed a button and moved, so I went with it.

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a lovely ambiance

Personally, I think the androgynous partner looks like a female, so I will call them “she” for ease of typing.  So, following her into the graveyard you realized you can collect these floating spectral gears.  Upon obtaining them, you will start to see changes.  Around you a host of spirits begin to appear as you collect each one.  One of the baffling elements about this game is the dialogue.  Its tone rests somewhere between casual diffidence and outright aloofness.  Each spirit says something to somebody, but in the fashion common to spectres you will see them saying things to someone they think you are, rather than to you directly.  Each ghost, or group of ghosts, seems to focus on a snapshot in someone’s life.  Now, I highly fucking doubt all of these people died in a junkyard, unless it is the Bermuda junkyard, or something.  But face-melting physical anomalies aside, this interactive experience seems to hold a less sinister and more curious emotion.  Your character isn’t terrified, but rather perplexed by the ghostly visitors.  And just as they appear and deliver their quixotic dialogue, they recede suddenly into the ground.

so I sez to that guy, I sez, no you're a spectral image of your former self!

so I sez to the guy, I sez… No!  You’re a spectral image of your former self!

After wandering the junkyard a bit, you can leave.  Honestly, it is possible to leave at any time, but it is more interesting to walk around and chat with the locals a bit first.  Sometimes subtly lachrymose, other times bizarre and funny, these spirits definitely leave you scratching your head.  If you are wondering when the music discussion will come up, it won’t.  The only sound that accompanies you through your exploration of this junkyard is the howl of the wind, which deepens the deathly feel of the game.  This title is a free play and a good introduction to those who want to experience the more artistic side of games.  I wouldn’t really classify it as a game, since it really is just a short interactive experience that leaves you wondering who these two main characters are.  Personally, I hope to find the characters from  popping up again soon, like Waldo in a sea of faces.  There are a couple more game-like pieces that came out of this event as well.  Download Everyday Ghosts and 8 others from the Ghost Wheel? Game Jam!  Why wait?  It’s fucking free!

AntiHero, Sprinting Preview

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I have been playing a lot of platformers lately, so I got myself a Dualshock 4 controller in anticipation of one day being able to afford a PS4!  For now, I will settle for using one on my PC.  And today it really paid off.  Today I was able to burn through the Anti-Hero demo a couple times and get associated with this upcoming indie title.

Anti-Hero is a fast-paced puzzle platformer that takes you across the universe.  The main character is some sort of spaceman with interesting powers.  Now they aren’t terribly amazing, so don’t get all amped up for some crazy fucking ideas that will rend the universe itself, but the way the mechanics of the game are woven together provides a fun and challenging game that gets me excited to wear in my new gamepad.

First among the mechanics employed by Anti-Hero is the wall-run.  Apparently this space wanderer character is from a distant place where they still have ninjas, because he can run straight up a fucking wall.  As of right now there is even a tutorial that lets you practice wall running.  You run at a wall (moving forward while pressing L1 for me ) then press the jump button (X in my case) twice in order to start running up it.  Simple enough, but as high school does not offer extensive preparation for the real world, so, too, the tutorial is just child’s play compared to some of the wall-run challenges offered by the game even as early as the introductory level.  Now, don’t get it twisted: this mechanic has been woven into the game well.  It feels right, it isn’t terribly hard, but the game doesn’t hand you anything.  After speaking with Matt Lewis, an Artist and Animator on the project, I have a firmer idea on the thought going into the mechanic.

 

We do think about how the player is going to react to situations like wall-running.  People have said “it’s too punishing, I need check points.”  We respond, “The level takes 60 seconds to run through and you want a check point?”  That’s what I thought, wall running shouldn’t be an automatic thing; it should require timing and skill.  The idea was that we didn’t want sticky walls.  We want wall running to be a platform challenge, just like clearing a gap or timing platforms.

– Matt Lewis, Artist and Animator, Couch Fort Gamez

 

Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer at Couch Fort, also had his own thoughts regarding difficulty of the gameplay:

 

There are too many follow missions these days.  Personally, I want kids to hate me like I hate whoever programmed Mega Man 7

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So the developers don’t want anything to be too easy, so the game feels satisfying with objectives and challenges that are fun and attainable.  But how attainable is wall running?  Well, I am glad I played it with the gamepad.  Despite my preference for my PC gaming input apparatus, the gamepad made the entire mechanic smooth and intuitive to get your hands around.  It is kind of like every other PC platformer in that it should have a warning label: DO NOT TRY THIS AT ASDF!  What is unique about this mechanic is the way it is presented in the demo.  There is a section of it where you have to wall jump up a mine shaft.  Everything about the mine is well-crafted, too.  You are running up a couple walls and jumping back and forth between them in time to catch the other side and keep running.  It takes some practice, but if you get it right, you can end up running up higher than your goal and coming back down to reach the objective.

Seriously, don't try this on any non-controller device

Just.. a little… further!

Another mechanic in the game that adds to the momentum of gameplay is the slide.  Pressing a certain key on the gamepad ( O for me ) triggers a slide, and when executed in certain locations you can slide even further.  Various obstacles throughout the level make you slide on your side for a good distance.  This results in a platformer with a speed and synergy that gets you moving fast and keeps you on your toes.  You want to maintain the momentum you feel with the main character, and it is definitely going to be a good title for speed-runners.

Through the game, you will also be tasked with some fairly simple puzzles.  These include throwing an object through a hovering hoop to unlock a door.  Throwing is accomplished with the left stick, and the character thrusts out his hand like a damn jedi.  You then control the object as it flies through the air.  Since this is a preview, you might have guessed the game is in early development.  The objects, for now, are blue cubes.  As you might expect, the game rapidly builds on the throwing mechanic by immediately having you take an object, throw it through a hoop and over an obstacle, while you slide underneath and catch it to continue the trajectory through to another hoop, which then opens a door.  If it touches the ground, the door doesn’t open.  It sounds like a bitch, but the way the game plays, it is very doable and very satisfying when you complete it.  I have replayed the demo 5 times just to be like, “hell, yea, just another space traveler doing some wicked slam dunks, comin’ through here.”  Using this ability also helps you kill your foes as early in the game you notice the blue cubes just chilling there.  You can take these babies and lob them at your foes, but many times I used them too hard and they landed in a bottomless pit.  Weaponizable objects are best used as “magic bullets” than dumb-fire missiles, swinging them through the air and guiding them closely.  Now, in a game driven toward momentum, this takes you out of the speed a bit, so the best way to just get through it is to watch your foes’ movements and run past them.

I knew my years of slip 'n' slide practice would come in handy some day!

I knew my years of slip ‘n’ slide practice would come in handy some day!

 

Some other elements that I enjoyed were the scenery layering.  Although the level platforms cut a bit suddenly in some places, overall the way the foreground reaches back into the background is great.  That is then layered with various elements that move naturally.  It is not like playing in a diorama but it feels like you are just on a hill in a busy forest-bedecked town. One point of this game that still feels a bit rough is the music.  The music in the trailer on the site is pretty exciting, but that in the game is comparatively overworldy.  It can be best described as platformer jive and it gets you rolling with the game, but it just feels like it should be in a version of this game retailed by Old Navy.  A game this fast-paced featuring a space traveler might feature something a little more techno-sprinter and a little less polo shirt overworld.

Finally, the storyline, though largely conceptual, also has a number of fantastic elements to it.  In the title screen you see a balloon that is rocketing out of the atmosphere to scintillate gently in the starlight.  Paul DiDomenico, the Lead Developer at Couch Fort, revealed to me that this symbolizes a key theme in this game’s golden heart: a child’s wish, which thrusts him into the heart of the story.

 

The idea is that a true wish from the heart can hold great power, and that power always draws more power.  It comes from a place of light and innocence, but it is coveted by those who wouldn’t use it for the like.

– Paul DiDomenico, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

So right off the bat, I get the sense this game will have some serious feels.  But in a brilliant manner of true “yin and yang”, the main character, our space traveler, has a story that is dark and sad.

 

Eons ago his home world was at the brink of destruction.  He and a small council performed an ancient and forbidden ritual as a final effort to save their planet and species.  This effort, though bestowing upon them incredible abilities, ultimately failed and left them with the curse of immortality.  They have since wandered the cosmos decaying until they are mere husks of their former selves, unable to die.  Then, suddenly, one by one, they begin to disappear until only our main character remains, which is where his story and the child’s meet and our game begins.

-Paul DiDomenica, Lead Developer, Couch Fort Gamez

 

I am not sure about you guys, but this game looks and sounds like a lot of fun.  Though it is in its early stages, the amount of heart and work being poured into it makes me optimistic about the final product.  Through everything I have come to understand about Antihero, the only thing that get me feeling frustrated is that it will be some time before this title is finished.  Keep this title in the back of your minds, though.  This is a first look into what is going on with Couch Fort Gamez inaugural title.  Let’s wish them luck and get them the support they need and deserve!  Check out their site and keep an eye out for Antihero.

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Keep an eye out to find out more about Antihero and learn what the devs have in store for our main characters!

Plague Inc: Evolved, Eradicate Humanity!

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So I wiped out 99% of humanity today and still fucking lost!  Plague Inc: Evolved is a game for the strategic mastermind in all of us.  Take control of an infectious disease, evolve and kill everyone ever known by everyone you’ve ever known.

This title starts out simple enough, but gives you an idea of the scope you are dealing with in order to get there.  Initially you can only control a bacteria, but later organisms include prions, viruses, nano-viruses parasites fungi and some things I have never fucking heard of.  You then name your virus.  In prior Plague Inc titles (previously known as Pandemic) I always named my disease something insidious sounding like Writhing Death or The Manacles.  I lost every time.  So one day I made a disease named Booty Shoe out of denominational ennui.  Booty shoe eradicated the world population.  So this one got to be Nut Slipper.  I started Nut Slipper out in Indonesia, and altogether solid start location for any disease.  It has ports for oceanic export, planes for aerial export and it’s a warm, moist climate, which puts it two evolutions away from stepping out into the greater world.  Plague Inc seems to have 3 phases of play.  It’s not actually a part of the game, but the way the flow of the game seems to develop.  I call these phases initial spawn, transmission and eradication.  In initial spawn, you get DNA points for evolution from a few gameplay milestones in the beginning.  This is where your disease starts in its natal region and starts to breed.  When you spread out little by little to people in your starting country, Indonesia in this case, you’ll see little red and orange bubbles appear.  Pop these for the DNA points to evolve your disease.

Exponential infection rates and the game gets excited over a few thousand? Psh.

Thousands of nuts are apparently warm and cozy. Why is this bad?

In Plague Inc, you don’t order your little bacteria where you want them.  Consider the game a simulation of the spread of a potential disease.  Your disease will spread on its own in an organic fashion across the various methods.  You control the disease by mutating it, granting it new characteristics along the way.  These characteristics fall into three categories: transmission, abilities and symptoms.  Transmission is how the disease is carried from one host to another.  These can be things like livestock, insects, air, water etc.  Being in Indonesia, I evolved air and water right away.  Now, the game also made it so that transmission via water would be hard off the bat for my disease.  Something about sanitizing boats.  But evolving that water transmission negated the effect.  Nothing would stop Nut Slipper from sailing the seven seas!  This brings us to where you are spreading to every country in the transmission phase.  You get DNA points for spreading to new countries and infecting large portions of the population.  People don’t need to know you are around yet, but you get the DNA points for infections.

Now one of the things that you get concerned about really fast is how well your disease spreads to other countries.  Does it like the climate?  How rapidly does it spread? Do they use class 3 or 4 antibiotics?  All legitimate concerns.  It used to be that getting your disease into Madagascar was a sure-fire win, but now fully infecting Greenland, Canada and other cold-climate countries is the true challenge.  Your disease will spread the slowest in these locations and if you get lethal too soon, you’ll kill the hosts before they can spread it to other people.  That is a no-go.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Only fifty-one percent of the world population is dead!? Time to step up my game.

Once you have enough people eating, drinking and breathing in your disease it’s time to start the extinction of humanity!  This is my favorite part because once people start dying the music, which has sinister techno-ambiance, goes from ominous to downright fucking creepy.  It starts off with the EKG heart monitor noises woven into it just below audibility and the moves on to include some kind of sirens.  I think they might be the noise that ambulances make in countries not mine.  Ours are pretty obnoxious.  Either way, it moves on to people hacking and coughing and children singing ring around the rosey.  Awesome, ambient and creepy as fuck.

Now the extinction of humanity won’t be reached by making your disease resistant and transmissible alone, and this is where it gets tough.  In the eradication phase you get DNA points for wiping out populations and destabilizing governments.  Symptoms are the method for reaching these goals.  If you take symptoms too early in the transmission phase, your disease will be detected and cured fairly rapidly.  Take symptoms too late and you will not have enough points to develop the truly lethal symptoms.  Occasionally you will spawn random symptoms, but the game can be paused in order to devolve those and earn some DNA points.  With your bacteria, you want to aim for 70% – 79% of global infection to start taking symptoms, and when you take them take them fucking hard.  When I pump up the symptoms I will take them 3 – 4 at a time and let them go.  People start dropping dead faster than the game even knows how to react, and by the time the first death hits the news, hundreds of thousands are lying in their living rooms clinging fecklessly to their last breaths.  Even with Nut Slipper taking the world by storm, I was still greeted with this fucking screen at the end.

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

ninety-nine point nine percent of the world is dead and it is not considered a goddamn victory

I am only partially joking about that, too.  I wiped out 99.9% of humanity and it was still not considered a fucking victory!  To give you an idea, the people who survived lived in Greenland, Canada, Italy and Sweden.  Everyone else in the entire fucking world was dead.  My problem was that I took symptoms around 65% world infection and killed all my hosts too fast.  I have no fucking clue how Italy, of all goddamn places, fucking survived, either.  I guess they didn’t go to the Olympics in London that year…   Granted none of them survived unscathed, but they survived.  One of the more fun features of this game is how you can make spectacular effects occur, like projectile vomiting, by combining various symptoms.  Projectile vomiting occurs when you have coughing and vomiting at the same time.  Once you have started to wipe out the population of planet Earth, people will start to do research in an attempt to survive.  This is signified by a blue plane that flies around.  You can slow them down by clicking little blue bubbles, too, but the best part is when you stop research by killing everyone in a country.  Then the country just goes dark as everyone slowly collapses.  This game is a tough one, but rewarding for the strategic enthusiast.  It can be gotten for 14.99$ on Steam and.. wait this is early access?  Well for an early access game, this one sure is well done.  Worth the money, in my honest opinion.  It also feels like one of those games that some people think might save the world by thinking about how to solve realistic problems, except in this one you are the problem.

Of all the things this game does right, there is one thing that still haunts my dreams.  The children.  When you start to go nuclear, as stated, you hear a group of grade-school children singing Ring around the Rosey.  I swear to fucking god this is the creepiest thing I have ever fucking heard in ever.  It is like the children of the corn, or some shit.  The music is fucking awesome, mind you.  That just enhances how creepy the children are.  They are like the fucking harbingers of the goddamn apocalypse!  I will be waking up in a cold sweat singing ring around the rosey tonight, I just know it.

 

Estudio Antropo, True Next-Gen Gaming

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Remember is Shadowrun how your characters had 2 different versions of the matrix to deal with?  Yea, sure, one was the Virtual Reality (VR) realm where hackers reign as gods, clad in icons to resemble all the deities of old as their meat body lays somewhere on a bed or floor neglected by the free-roaming mind.  The other was called Augmented Reality (AR) and it is where you find the visual interfaces that allowed you to see what specials and sales stores have going that day by looking at the logo through the right pair of glasses.  Nintendo was the first to really take advantage of this when they came out with the 3DS and its aptly named VR cards, which revealed a variety of simple, fun AR games that had my wife and I battling over who was the better virtual fisherman.  These cards were cards you lay on a table and then look at with your 3DS in AR mode.  Characters would then pop out of the cards or games would form out of the table.  It was fucking awesome.  Then there was this company that fucking decided to make a pair of computerized glasses, which hold the potential to plaster gaming all over the world.  There is another company, however, whose scope is more ambitious than just playing with cards and more exciting than karate chopping at the air or shouting virtual “clay pigeons” to pieces with your fucking thu’um.

Estudio Antropo said “That’s fucking neat and all guys, but what about the goddamn devices the entire society has already invested in?”  Not a direct quote, but one I like to imagine coming out of someone’s mouth.  These guys have developed a game for the boARd format, a Kurzor S.R.O. concept, that allows you to use your mobile devices to play board games.  Now, the trailers for this only show people with their iPads all spooled up and ready to go, but, the game is also scheduled to release with an Android element, as well.  I don’t see it being long before Andriod and iOS players can huddle around the same boARd to play a rousing game of Monopoly, or something.  Estudio Antropo currently have a kickstarter campaign up that ends August 1st.  If anything in this article excites you nearly as much as it fucking excites me, go there and throw some money in!

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Check my cardboard swagger.

Check that cardboard swagger

First among the titles that will pioneer the fourth fucking dimension is Cartoneros.  This title is one that has a kind of general appeal that plays out really cool.  Not to mention, even those hippies with their goddamn iPads will love the concept.  Cartoneros takes place in a world where people throw away vast amounts of fucking cardboard.  EVERYTHING is cardboard, including your characters.  Your characters then go out on their mission to clean up the world! Aw, yay!  That is so special!  Yippee! Love is magical!  They then proceed to battle over resources like the humans that undoubtedly spawned them and battle to the death over cardboard.  So yes, good intentions do pave the road to good gameplay.

In this tactical strategy, you control a small team of Cartoneros, these little guys that collect the cardboard detritus of the world.  Each of your cartoneros has strength and weaknesses, too, so it is not all cut and dry combat.  In your mad dash for sustaining cardboard, you will battle with other players.  Now, this carboard you collect isn’t really something you’ll use in-game to pump your cartoneros up, but between plays is when it comes in handy.  As you await your next round of play against your mortal foes (apparently your mom and little sister) you use the cardboard to beef up your cartoneros.  You will even be able to shape the gaming environment by building maps, characters, weapons, monsters and robots!  Its developers liken it to a combination of DoTA and XCOM.  Granted, if you spend your cardboard too frivolously, you will not have enough resources to maintain a competitive  team.  This honestly looks like it could turn into a fucking sport.

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn't that nice!

Adorable cardboard characters butchering each other with their cardboard shotguns. Isn’t that nice!

Each game of Cartoneros will include 1 – 8 players, and the game style will change depending on the teams.  If everyone is on the same team, the game is more like an RPG with players working together to fight monsters and get cardboard.  If you split the players apart, it becomes a DoTA, XCOM fusion-style tactical strategy game.  Monsters in this game fall in three categories.  Little ones that flee, big ones that attack your characters and huge ones that make you crap your cardboard trousers.  Each monster will have special abilities that can be obtained by killing the monsters and eating its heart like a ancient n0rse warrior.  I might have made up that last part about eating its heart, but you really can get the powers of your foes for a limited period by destroying them.  Apparently there are some really neat features to the game structure, as well, allowing you to create your own game.  Maps can be created by arranging terrain on the board, missions can be created by designating objectives and stories created by linking maps.  The game is going to be tough, too; if you lose characters weapons, tools etc. in-game they are gone forever.  You’ll have to be careful how you spend your cardboard between games, but careful planning will pay off big-time in the long run.  You can read about Cartoneros in greater detail on its Kickstarter page.

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Does cartoneros sound too much like something that the family will enjoy and won’t be badass enough for your group of awesome buddies that only opt for the finest and most edgy of tabletop games?  The guys backing cartoneros are also developing Espionag3: Berlin Files.  If cartoneros’ strategic gameplay and winsome visuals don’t excite you, the dark world of spies and intrigue laid out in Espionag3: Berlin Files should.

It’s another strategic game where you control a network of spies and battle against your friends.  Berlin files looks really fun and with pitched gun battles and tailing missions, this game looks awesome.  I don’t fucking care what language the goddamn screenshots are in!  The players take up the role of secret government agents in Berlin, who have discovered that the mafia has moved in and are expanding rapidly.  It is up to players to utilize their stealthy spy tactics to overcome and eliminate their mafia enemies.  This gaming format has a lot of possibilities, from the simple and fun ideas to adult level games providing intrigue and excitement.  I could see a game like this taking place in 1930’s New York with players controlling a mafia family and vying for control of the illegal liquor trade.  Want a historical piece?  What if someone developed a game where half the players are the French Resistance fighters and the others are Nazis, and the players duke it out for control of Paris?  See, only limited by your imagination.

On any city street in Berlin...

On any city street in Berlin…

So why does this concept excite me and why should it excite you too?  Do you like tabletop games?  Anyone who has ever played Shadowrun, Dungeons and Dragons or Warhammer and any other such related games should be able to see the potential this poses for awesomeness.  This format could easily be built upon by major developers to create a DnD game that works with ipads, android phones etc. so that you can sit down with your gaming crew and play some serious tabletop games.  You could have endless customization options for your Warhammer armies, all explained at your fingertips by the software of the game.  Terrain customization for Warhammer, DnD and Shadowrun games would be that much more detailed and the worlds you play in would, literally, just be a game screen away.  You would be able to almost touch them.  Super-nerdy niche games not your style?  This format could be used to give standard boardgames the modern update off of console systems they so desperately crave.  Instead of buying the whole box and all the pieces getting scattered by a rampaging dog, you could just play care-free on a paper-board!  Granted, the animals might poke holes in the paper boARd, but it saves you a hell of a lot more time searching for tiny houses.  Those fuckers are a bitch to step on at night, too.  So support Cartoneros on kickstarter up through August 1st!  It could really be the update of next-gen gaming that would really make people feel like they are living in the future!

 

Double-Up Discussion: Color Stairs, Fluff Eaters

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The first game of today’s double article is Color Stairs!  An interesting concept for iOS systems, you can get this game for free on your iphone or ipad.  It can be found on the iTunes store at this location.  A fairly simple concept, this is a game easier explained than played.  You control a little square and you have to get it as far along the treacherous rainbow-colored terrain as possible.  You will fall in the spaces between one set of platforms and the next, though, so the game makes it easy to keep track of progress.

You’ll pick this up and underestimate it from the start.  Smooth jazz jams on as you tap the screen to move your square.  To start, you’ll tap to drop the square.  I had numerous pit-drops off the bat as the platforms are scrolling while the square is in the same spot on the screen.  Eventually, though, the law of averages has to fucking even out and you’ll get it on a platform.  When it does, tap the screen and don’t stop.  When you see a gap, swipe upward real quick and you’ll jump that shit.  It is a little jarring to get used to, and prolonged gameplay may result in motion-sickness, but once you get a good rol, you want to stay on that shit.  My best play got me to 143 points.  How do you gain points?  They accrued every time you tap the fucking screen.  Sound simple?  You fell into the same goddamn trap I did!  Try it.  Just try it.  It is fun, frustrating and, honestly, satisfying.  But you do not feel bad putting it down: everything required of a good app game and good puzzlers alike.  Do I need another screenshot?  No, the above logo pretty much says it all.

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Fluff Eaters is not out yet.  This half of today’s double-up is a preview as of the typing of this article, but it will be released on the 14th!  Check it out on its website!  This game honestly has all the makings of the next big app game that young girls and middle-aged men will latch onto.  A cute main character, lovably devious foes that are charming in their own way and a simple base concept.

Basically, you are playing jacks.  You know, the game played arbitrarily on every sidewalk by young girls in the mid-nineteen fifties.  You bounce a ball and pick up as many jacks as you can.  In this, though, you bounce a cat.  Bouncy the Cat, as a matterafact.  Now these little fuckers, called Fluffs, waited while Bouncy got out of bed and fucked up his personal lounge spot!  This is some unprecedented douchebaggery on their part, so Bouncy needs to get his revenge.  Each level you are tasked with bouncing Bouncy and tapping goals.  Tapping fluffs gets you through the level, but each level there are these little fish crackers to collect.  Getting the crackers gets you more points and killing fluffs gets you through the level with less points.  The goal is to tap all the objectives and then move on.  A simple concept that gets more and more difficult.

... but you end up on whacky levels wondering what you are even supposed to do after enough time.

… but you end up on crazy complex levels wondering what you are even supposed to do after enough time.

I am not going to lie.  For all this game’s adorable trappings, cute sound effects and silliness, it is a pain in the ass to complete.  I found myself on a level where the platforms are angled and you have to catch Bouncy after he gets the crackers but before he hits the WALL OF GODDAMN SPIKES!  This cat would hate me for real, and not just because I am a dog person.  I dropped his ass on more than a few spike traps and into pits, launched him off screen, missed the catching tap and let him double-bounce: you name it, I fucked it up.  And this game gets challenging.  I give serious accommodations to anyone that can get through more than a few acts in this game. Aside from being challenging, it has really good visuals, fun scenery and lovable characters, even if they do seem like a euphemism for cat dander and hairballs.  If you are a fan of fun, cute and humorous app games, this is a title to pick up, and for the asking price of 0.99$ it is a relative steal.

The Parsnip Theory, Lunchroom Throwdown

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If every highschool kid in the world could design video games, The Parsnip Theory would probably be the first game they make.  Though it has a few rough edges, its design and gameplay are certainly an experience worth a play, especially with friends.  It is a shareware game available at itch.io. One thing to keep in mind is that this game is in its alpha stages.  It is listed on itch so that people can test it, play it and enjoy it for what it is so far.

Turn-based strategy has many forms, some good, some bad.  Many involve alternate play-areas that allow you to play with armies as pieces on a Risk board, while still others give you a base to return to and beef up your troops.  Parsnip Theory is a simple game with one face: lunchroom mayhem.  Every time you play, you join a team of kids, who all look the same, and you start launching tomatoes at the other teams.  Controls in this title take a minute of fiddling to really figure them out properly, but they are intuitive and allow you to consider your moves like a chess player before you fully commit to them.  Each of your teammates starts a round with 7 moves.  Throwing a tomato costs 2 moves, each space costs 1 move to traverse and crouching is 1 move as well.  This means that, without moving, you can get 3 shots off per round.  If you have to move more than 1 space in a turn, you could end up losing 1 or 2 of those shots, so timing is a big part of this game.

My first couple runs of Parsnip Theory ended with my team as nothing more than gooey smears on the tile.  I would just charge out there, tomatoes blazing, and hope for the best.  Have you ever played XCOM?  Yea, you run out there guns blazing and your people will end up in the hot place really fast.  Parsnip Theory is no different.  Although the graphical style makes it tough to tell, there are tables in this lunchroom.  I would expect tables to stand out a little more, but these ones sort of look like drainage grates laid throughout the room that, for some odd reason, you are fully incapable of walking over.  These grates, however, are actually tables.  If you have your team members crouch behind them, you can use them as cover.

Move behind cover, Aaron!  You're under fire!

Move behind cover, Aaron! You’re under fire!

Now, above you see my characters crouched behind a wall, waiting for that little blue guy to come out behind his wall.  What I didn’t realize was that he could see the guy up top, and  splattered him accordingly.  We still mourn the loss of Aaron.  But moving with cover is a good way to operate in this game.  If you can set up your team to ambush a foe coming around a corner, he might get one shot off at one of you, and the next turn he’ll get three more, but that’s it.  He won’t be able to get off enough shots to take down any of you, and you’ll have him splattered in barely more than one turn.  The hellish onslaught of tomatoes takes down 10 hp per hit, so you’ll likely take him out and have plenty of moves left that second turn.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you are in highschool with a bunch of fucking baseball stars.  These kids will lob a barrage of perfectly-aimed tomatoes at you from the other side of the lunchroom like a howitzer loaded with tomatoes.  The AI seems to favor taking advantage of long-shots at weakened enemies because you likely won’t see it coming.  The AI of this game, really, is way better at this than it has a right to be.  As I said, several times I played through and took out one or two enemies, and got smeared.  The AI wasn’t all focused on me, either.  The other teams were going back and forth at each other like nobody’s business.  They just managed to mop the floor with me every time.

Graphics in this game are acceptable, except for a few little issues here and there.  Sure the table don’t look like tables, but I rather enjoyed the look of my little team mates.  Sure, hair color and clothing is all the same, but after playing a few times, skin-colors are randomly assigned.  Also, your people all lack arms and legs, so their hands and feet hover in space where the ends of their extremities should be, Rayman-style.  The difficulty in this game was a little rough, but you learn the best way to battle your foes after a while, and it’s not too tough to adjust.  There are a few things that this game could benefit from: variety of attacks, the potential for someone to miss, some stronger graphical definition, but for a piece of shareware, this game is enjoyable.  I would advise playing it with some friends to get the most out of its gameplay.  The AI players are just a bunch of dicks.

Another feature of this game that my brother will discuss at greater length is the level editor.  Should you get tired of the single level of play in the game, you can always go and make more of them.  A level editor is always a good idea, and in a game like this grants players the ability to make it their own way.  You hate the lunchroom?  Fine, have a fucking food-fight in the art department, you damn lunatic.

We stand victorious over the blood.. err.. tomato-spattered lunchroom.

We stand victorious over the blood.. err.. tomato-spattered lunchroom.

Of everything I about this game, there is one thing that I HAVE to mention.  I do not under any circumstances recommend this to anyone with photosensitive seizures: you might not make it past the title screen.  The background is this warping, color-changing spaghetti (or something) that looks like one of the lunch aides slipped fucking LSD into the juice boxes.  In their psychedelic-induced frenzy these kids have taken to defending themselves against the phantasms of their own imagination the only way they can deign: by lashing out with salvos of edibles projectiles.  This is my story, and I am sticking to it, since the game itself doesn’t really have one yet.

 

Third World Future, Be a Hero

TWF-logo

 

How many times have you seen someone you know spend hours, cumulatively speaking, playing one of those irritating in-app purchase games?  My wife plays a few of them and I always find new charges I wasn’t expecting.  It drives me up a wall that these purchases are so small and easy to make because you just make them on an impulse.  These games truly are the kings of capitalism in the game world.  But what if that kind of energy could be harnessed and channeled into something better, something worth getting behind.  What if you could use one of those games to help children in Africa get food, clothing, shelter and maybe even a uniform so they can get to school?  If this indiegogo campaign is successful, you can do just that, all while spending your time playing games.

Third world future has an ambitious goal: to make the first game that directly benefits charity organizations.  Just as other game designers are trying to use games as a tool to educate children, TWF’s dream is to use gaming to help people in third world countries.  Do you like Clash of Clans?  How about Farmville? Third World Future will feature a number of elements similar to these games whereby you manage your own African village.  This strategy game will leave players with the ability to make In-App purchases.  60% of the proceeds from their game will be contributed randomly to charitable organizations.  This is just casual gaming, too.  There is a speech on TED Talks where Jane McGonigal talks about how we can use games and encourage gamers to solve real-world problems.  That video brought a few tears to my eyes.  I feel like this is a chance to accomplish the next step for gaming.

Their method for deciding who to fund comes from the people that provided the money in the first place: the players.  Every quarter for 2 weeks, a vote will open up to the game’s discussion board.  Every quarter five non-profit organizations will be selected from the region receiving the benefit.  Players can then choose which of the five organizations they want the funds to go to.  Whichever of the benefits wins will receive the lion’s share of the funding and in-game advertisement with the rest of them receiving smaller amounts and some in-game advertisement.  So, if you have a few extra bucks in your pocket that you can throw at a good cause, visit the Indie Go Go campaign site for Third World Future as soon as it launches on July 14th and give what you can.  Every little bit helps, dammit, 1$ in America  and we’re trying to save the fucking world!

twf_concept

Please note that I will be updating this article and reposting it as more information becomes available.

Among the Sleep, Crawling in the Dark

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My wife calls this the “freaky baby game” and not because of the baby.  Everything about this game is unnerving and it all adds up to an enjoyable experience in fear-inducing games.  My wife hates it when I play this in the dark cause she keeps having to run in and check that my screams are caused by the game and not something terrible… like a stubbed toe.  Those are horrifying.

If you come into this game off the adrenaline high that profoundly horrifying games like Amnesia produce, you will not be enthused.  I have to admit, I couldn’t play Amnesia.  It was that fucking freaky for me.  I quit playing only about an hour into the game, and I hadn’t encountered any enemies yet.  Among the Sleep was a much more accessible game for those who don’t want to pour hours into complex puzzles, creeping through terrifying dark castles and losing your mind.  Horror-lite, is the best term for this game, and I found it rather enjoyable.

Among the first elements of the game that you notice is the fact that you are a goddamn 2-year-old.  Your mom has you in a high chair, she’s feeding you cake, you play with a ball and you have as much control of yourself as a drunk muppet.  Not to disparage the game, it controls beautifully.  Toddlers on the other hand are called toddlers because they don’t have the basics of biomechanical locomotion down, yet.  Look down at your body, and you notice a tiny, onesie-clad body that takes haphazard steps.  Environmental manipulation is difficult at times, too.  You are a baby, after all.  Your tiny little hands grasp uncertainly at objects.  It is almost adorable.  Except for the fact that you are scared out of your shit trying to rationalize the world around you.  In the very beginning of the game your crib gets thrown across the room, spilling you onto the floor.  You spend some time crawling around, which lets you hide from foes and get into tight places, but you can stand up on your little baby-legs.  When you do, you move slowly, but you can run briefly before stumbling over into the crawling position.  Frequently, the game makes use of this by making you want to run so badly, but you can’t, you know, being a fucking baby and all.  Not exactly a Kenyan track star.  Also, you can hear the tiny little baby breaths and your character hides in the dark, sucking in air like a noisy little vacuum.  Another feature that highlights the fact that you are a baby is the esc screen.  Hit escape and you bring up your tiny baby hands to cover your face.

Remain still and the teddy bear will go away.

Remain still and the teddy bear will go away.

Early on you realize there is trouble in paradise, and being sensitive to everything around you, it shows.  Babies don’t know much, so they have to experience the world around them in terms of emotions.  Thus, when something scary happens, your screen gets dark and twitchy, like it’s being chewed on by a langolier.  This occurs early on when mommy answers the door.  You hear a male voice and then mommy starts yelling.  That’s when the screen gets all ugly, but mommy soon comes back and it’s all ok again.  She brings a present to you, which you get at later no thanks to your mother, and inside it is the scariest toy ever.  Your travelling companion is a terrifying possessed teddy bear.  At one point he plays with your train set and hides your elephant from you.  But I know the fucking truth!  That little bastard is possessed by a dark entity bent on turning you into a ruthless serial killer!  Either way, teddy is apparently your only weapon.  When you get scared, you have to hug him and he glows in the dark, like a carebear stare that is less powerful and gives your position away to enemies.

<THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!>  Since this game only came out a few months ago, I have to do this.

While playing this game, you notice some really interesting tidbits.  There truly is something sinister lying just beneath the surface, and it isn’t just the spooky ambient soundtrack.  Anyone who watches Grimm knows that what people thought were stories are often used to represent something more sinister.  Although it might not be the fact that werewolves exist, fairytales like Grimm’s fairytales were actually mechanisms used to rise children in a time where they could have been ripped apart by wolves just outside of town.  No one would have noticed for a good few hours either.  So rather than saying “don’t go into the woods or you’ll get ripped apart by wild animals” they would probably say “don’t go in the woods or you’ll be eaten by a witch!”  This is much easy to offer to children than, you know, sheer abject terror.  This game uses the same vehicle to convey and otherwise occluded backstory.  Some guy brings a wrapped package to the door on your birthday and gets into a fight with mommy?  Yea, that was dad.  I guess they were having some kind of issues, so daddy doesn’t live at home anymore.  Later you go through this level with paintings on the walls, one of which features a woman and a well.  As you approach it changes from the woman coming out of the swamp toward the well, her standing at the well and then her drinking deeply from the well with water running down her dress.

Toward the end of the game, you see mommy drinking from bottles (which litter the floor in another level) and she turns into a monster.  This made my jaw drop.  So apparently mommy is also an alcoholic and having some serious issues.  Considering your character stumbles out of a closet at the end of the game, I have to assume this means that the whole game is basically the result of child neglect by a irresponsible bitch that wants to keep the child away from a potentially loving father.  This is a little on the rough side, since a lot of single mothers work hard to ensure that their children get the best they can provide.  But no one is perfect, and some people outright deserve to be dropped off a cliff.

O, shit, mommy is drinking from the jack daniels well again!

O, shit, mommy is drinking from the jack daniels well again!

This game takes a real big adult issue and shrinks it down to a baby size.  It is really deeply affecting, especially since at the end, your mother is the one who rips the arm off your teddy bear, and you character still starts rubbing her head as she sits crying on the kitchen floor.  I cried a little, since this one hits a bit too close to home, having had a number of friends growing up who experienced something like this.  All told, this game is a true horror story that focuses more on the story elements and leaves those “terror from the darkest wilds” elements to more drawn out titles.  After all, how much can you really tell about the story of a baby?

Among the Sleep is a great title, but the thing that really got my gaul up about this title is the number of startle scares it gets out of you.  I mean you creep around a corner, BAM! chair flies at you.  Turn around and something behind you is moving by itself, or something flies out of a random hatch you didn’t know about.  STOP FUCKING DOING THAT!  Man, you’re gonna scare the shit right out of me!   I guess that is their fucking plan, though.  Bastards.

Viscera Clean-Up, Engagingly OCD

vcdlogo

 

So this is what it’s come down to.  Viscera Clean-Up detail is a glorified janitor simulator in early access, but don’t close the screen yet.  You’re not exactly wiping some kid’s puke up off a tile floor or mopping up piss.  You are the guy that cleans up after the events of other video games and tragic events, but this seems to be made by a people who are disenfranchised with the world in general and are used to monotonous, soul-crush jobs.  Like the British.

Ultimately, this game is just like building a puzzle.  You are given a big mess to organize, and piece by piece you work the mess down to an easily manageable pile and then finish up.  Now, starting this game is a bit of a chore.  You begin and blood and guts litter the floor, are painted on the walls and the entire scene is a very “modern art in rouge.”  You have several very fucking important machines that help you get your job done.  First, there is the Slosh-o-Matic, dispenser of buckets full of water.  Then there is the furnace, it is the disposal method of choice for viscera both human and alien.  Then there is the What-a-Load container machine, which disposes containers marked with the “biological hazard” symbol.  And finally, the vending machine, which provides access to all manner of useful objects.

This game provides the all-too-realistic experience of being a janitor fitted with the cheapest mechanism for cleaning available in futuristic times.  By all accounts, you should have access to a fucking auto-cleaning zapper mechanism!  But the most high-tech device you have is the Muck-Guyver, which provides a radar “ping” that beeps faster and in a higher pitch the closer you are to a “mess.”  Way too many times have I finished cleaning up a section of a room littered with the remains of a scientist, used the Muck-Guyver and the region still came up hot.  I look on the ceiling and curse the gods, realizing that the some of a victim didn’t fucking reach the floor.  At which point you have to stack a bunch of boxes, or whatever environmental detritus you have available, and scrub the goddamned ceiling!

Your main “weapon” is a mop, so the Slosh-o-Matic isn’t just a funny little feature.  It is your main support element.  And don’t even think for five fucking seconds that this shit is all user-fucking-friendly!  Every time you hit the dispense button, there is a shot you will get a bloody body part instead of a bucket of clean.  This means it will drop out and splatter fresh blood all over the ground and the machine.  I like to imagine that this is because the machine is really a teleporter, and a careless technician just lost an arm or something.  A slosh-o-matic is necessary, though, as your mop gets dirty through usage.  You can only mop a heavily-soiled section of the floor for five mouse-clicks before you start just spreading the muck around, so you have to get a fresh mop bucket and rinse the mop.  One dunk only, though!  Your mop buckets will get soiled, too!  Dunk your mop in that and you will just be smearing a fine paste over surfaces leaving a trail like a snail on its period.  And watch your goddamned step!  Knock over a bucket containing ANY level of grime, and you will have just poured out a mess all over the floor again.  Prepare for agony.  My wife came in worried about me only to find I knocked over another fucking mop bucket!

vcdspill

Dirty mop? Spilled bucket? This might end with suicide.

 

If your buckets get dirty, too, how the fuck are you supposed to clean for a protracted period of time?  In this space-age setting your company has resorted to the most sensible and fiscally responsible means of disposing of things: setting them on fire.  Apparently the Joker was right, everything does burn!  Even steel buckets full of fucking water!  Now, this is a little silly, but once you have mopped up enough blood and such to get to the bullet cartridges and organs lying in the open, how can you get them to the furnace reliably?  Why, you simply put someone’s assorted remains into a yellow bio-hazard bin and burn them, of course!  Bins are pretty sizable, too, and seating most of two people comfortably.  But be fucking mindful of your goddamned surroundings!  Have a bloody stub sticking out of the bin?  You will smear blood on anything it might touch.  Considering the fact that doors in this don’t open wide, you will end up scrubbing walls and doors a lot, too.  And don’t be that manly man that has to cram eight people, a thousand bullet cartridges, five soiled knives and a take-out box into one fucking disposal bin.  That shit will cost you!  Things inside the bin will get heavy for you and you will drop that shit.  Even if the bin isn’t that fucking full and you are hitting shift to go slowly!  Run with organs and you might as well paint everything red.

One thing that this game encapsulates entirely too fucking well is frustratingly tedious tasks.  So you have disposal bins, eh?  Here is a floor littered with a bazillion mother-fucking bullet cartridges.  Pick them up one at a time.  Scientists in this ripped apart by a blood-thirty alien?  Intestines will be scattered around like someone spilled oodles of noodles and you have to pick it up one greasy meat-tube at a time.  Then there are the distances they go to make this a challenge.  Aside from organs pouring out of the bin or bucket dispensers, should you step in a pool of blood, you will track blood everywhere across mom’s new carpet.  There is nothing more frustrating than realizing you just tracked somone’s DNA across your freshly-mopped floors.  And then there is the detail!  Yea, sure, anybody can scrub a few tiles and punch out, but if you just run through and opt-out of spot-checking your work with the Muck-Guyver, you’ll miss something.  One element I discovered was that sometimes blood will run into the fucking grout in the tiles!  And you’ll have to scrub that separately from the rest of the pool!  I am just grateful they don’t force you to go in there with a brush and scrub it out by hand.  Holy fuck!

At the top of the bin, Chad was really getting a-head!

Spacious enough to fit the extremities of several researchers comfortably!

Cleaning up the organs or dead researchers is only the fun part of the job, though.  You’ll find yourself cleaning up crumpled papers, soda cans and other office debris.  There are also other menial tasks to achieve, such as refilling wall-mounted medkits.  I mean, what research facility is complete without the easily-accessible medkit designed for dressing alien claw-wounds?  To this end, the vending machine is a must.  Of course, not all facilities are outfitted in anticipation of epic fight-scenes.  Some places are just dimly-lit and have naturally dingy textures.  In such situations, the vending machine will provide lanterns!  Of course, knock these fuckers over too many times and they explode leaving scorch marks all over the floor.  Vending machines will also offer any number of useless shit, such as pizza slicers and “wet floor” signs.  Granted, I think you get docked points if you don’t put down the signs, so yea.

This game isn’t without its flaws.  Sometimes you’ll have an arm that will get jostled so bad in a disposal bin that it clips through the bin, painting anything it touches.  The bins are the source of a number of issues, as over-stocking the bins causes things to jump around in there like a bunch of nitrogen atoms under pressure.  I also found these strange “phantom pegs” that appear on the electrical cords for your appliances.  At first you might not see them, but if you splatter blood on them, they show up, sometimes only partially.

I guess this is more respectful than just dumping it all in the garbage somewhere.

I guess this is more respectful than just dumping it all in the garbage somewhere.

Aside from being the type of game a serial killer would jack off to, the most irritating thing about it is.. uh.. well I’ll tell you after I spend another 3 hours scrubbing out the toilets and transferring the wasted toilet paper left on the floor to a disposal bin.  Yea, it really is that much fun.  What kind of psychopath has fun in this, do you ask?  Anyone who gets satisfaction out of gradually turning a hopeless situation into an operational facility ready for the next batch of squishy and ethically-irresponsible researchers.

Migrating!

Hello everyone!  I am currently in the process of migrating the Crotchety Old Gamer to an independent host where I will actually be able to fucking DO something with it!  A little frustrating, i know, but it must be done!  Thanks for your patience in the process!  As a result I may not be posting 5th – 6th in order to get this process finished properly!  Thank you for your patience!  When I am finished, the domain http://crotchetyoldgamer.com will link you to the new site, and hopefully no one will notice that it has changed.. much..