Legend of Grimrock, Tearing Out RPGs by the Root

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Before all the cutesy, fluffy shit that inhabits most RPGs these days, before Final Fantasy and JRPGs had infested every corner of the genre, there were dungeon RPGs.  And they weren’t the Diablo-style one-button RPGs that breed tactical laziness; that’s right tactical fucking laziness.  Diable RPGs are allow for a wider range of motion and strategy, so you can hem enemies in with firewalls and nuke them with fire or something.  Tactics requires the careful execution of a concerted attack effort.  A small group of doomed warriors in a massive dungeon have a solid understanding of tactics.  They know if they break ranks and get isolated, they are doomed.

The first and last of these types of games I ever played was Eye of the Beholder, a game we played on SNES.  In the game, you play a group adventurers exploring the sewers of a place called “Waterdeep” to cleanse some ancient evil.  We did not understand the alignment system although we often chose whatever we wanted and joked about it like kids.  When we were in the game, we never got the gist of how to play.  We would throw our gear at enemies since it was the only way we knew to deal damage.  Eventually it got to where we were disrobing and throwing our clothes, desperately trying to kill the foes.  That never ended well… But we were idiotic 8 and 9 year-olds.

Grimrock makes a lot more sense to me.  Controls are easy and you barely need a tutorial.  Just click around, left click picks up an item and releasing it mid-screen will throw that item. Right-click to attack or to throw a weapon.  Everything is a pretty straight-forward RPG style and this makes combat more exciting, too.

Wait! I left the garage door open!

Wait! I left the garage door open!

When you start the game, your characters are assumed to have performed some transgression against King and country.  The vague nature of the opening titles leave you to think you could have raped the Princess all the way down to eating the last piece of strawberry cheesecake.  Doesn’t matter.  You’re fucked and they push you down a hole.  Best part is, at the top of the mountain Grimrock your crimes are all forgiven and you are free.  But the only way down is to descend into the bowels of Grimrock.  Oh, by the way, no one has ever fucking survived.  That’s ok, I don’t usually come for the accommodations anyway.

Down in the dungeons, you have to navigate labyrinthine corridors filled with unspeakable monsters, like giant snails, gargoyles, mushroom herders, little magic-casting mushroom guys, undead soldiers etc.  Each creature adds its own challenges to combat, and one should consider combat a feat akin to dancing.  If you just take two warriors and attempt to plow through, axes and swords swinging, you will end up a dusty pile of bones.  Many enemies are able to out-number you, out-damage you or can take a hell of a lot more punishment than you can.  Did I mention you are all prisoners?  Yea, this means they pushed your ass down in the pits with aught but your chapped asses to defend yourselves.  As you progress you’ll find the sparse weaponry left behind by other bands of hapless adventurers, so you’re not exactly a keen-eyed fighting force armed for rigorous combat.  The most common early ranged weapon is a rock while the most common melee weapon early on is a fucking torch.

When enemies come at you, the best thing to do is to lure them off one at a time where possible.  As they round corners you can stab them before back-pedaling toward an open area.  As you back pedal, you can throw rocks at them and ready up a spell.  Spells are a devastating way to deal damage, but you can’t unlock spells with the spellbook until you find the appropriate scroll, which can be frustrating.  Once you get them, though, they are profoundly useful.  Be careful, too.  If someone in your party dies, you’re all fucked.  Sure, you can keep going, but you’ll be needing the full group throughout the game.

Spartans!! Fuck this place.. tonight I'm eating at Denny's...

Spartans!! Fuck this place.. tonight I’m eating at Denny’s…

Character customization is excellent, and you can choose between human, minotaur, lizardfolk and insectoid.  I usually pick two humans, a minotaur and a lizardfolk.  I like having two rogues, as this allows me to have a ranged rogue and a dps rogue.  You know, for extra damage for the rogue since rogues prefer it from behind.  Then there is my mage, human female full of glorious spellcasting magery, and likely the smartest of the entire group.  Finally, I like to take a tank, too.  That is my minotaur.  He has a trait called headhunter where he gets extra damage for collecting skulls.  Finally a use for those useless collectible items!  I also use the minotaur for a pack animal, since they also get major strength bonuses.

The ambiance is terrific, and you get the sense of an ever-present evil throughout the game.  All the time some dark whispers can be heard in your ear, muttering in a chthonic  language some horrid curse, luring you deeper into the dungeon.  The music in the title screen also brought a tear to my eye the first time I heard it and filled me with the glee of a glorious adventure.  Throughout the game there is little more than ominous noises.  Sometimes you can heard the groan or squeal of some distant creature lurking about, waiting for its next meal to come trundling down the corridors.  There is also the fantastic element of eating whatever food you find lying all over the ground, like some kind of mad baker was damned to imprisonment here and he found some magical means to leave bread everywhere.

Hm.. I guess the Keebler elves didn't make it too far either...

Hm.. I guess the Keebler elves didn’t make it too far either…

One of the things this game does really really well are secrets.  Notice how the walls are all constructed of a similarly-colored, moss-grown mortarless masonry?  Well, every once in a while you will see a chink in the stone or a brick out of place.  Click that shit!  Somewhere nearby a door will open and permit you access to a secret room and you’ll get some badass loot, much needed food or a magic scroll!  It takes me back to the old days of Wolfenstein 3D and Thief: The Dark Project where you had to just run along the walls at a certain angle to open secret doors or cut down every wall-hanging you could to unlock secret doors.  I find the best way to search for secrets is to stand in the corner of a room and look from afar.  Secret switches are pretty obvious if you know what you are looking  for, but they can often be just as easily over-looked, so stay sharp!

Probably the only thing that bothered me about this game was the straight-forward manner of the enemies.  This game could be very well served by some wall-lurking enemies that you don’t see until you are right up on them.  Granted, the current combat system would make that a tad difficult, but putting in enemies that climbed out of grates as you walked by or changed from statues into flesh and blood foes when you walk past them would make this spooky game into a fantasy-horror adventure.  Don’t mind my little intrigues, though.  This game is worth every cent you can throw at its creators.  It is a load of fun in a genre that I have not seen since I was disrobing for battle.  On Steam this game is an overly-reasonable 14.99$, but wait there’s more!  This game has a community of dungeon-dwellers who create new content and new levels and games with the map editor of Grimrock!  It’s fucking fantastic.  And THEN you have Legends of Grimrock 2 to look forward to!  Just in time for Halloween!  You can pre-order it now!  Screw trick-or-treaters!  Crawl the dungeons and unlock the treasures within!

The Best Rash I’ve Ever Had

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When I was a kid, my friend would come over with a copy of Road Rash for Sega Genesis.  We’d race for hours while beating each other over the head with any number of clubbed and bladed implements.  Ah, the joys of youth!  It has been many years since and I hadn’t even heard the name of this spoken, and I had begun to wonder if it was ever real at all.  I played Twisted Metal on the Playstation and any number of other games that tried to emulate it, but none that tried to recreate the balls-to-the-wall motorcycle racing gauntlet that was Road Rash.  Then yesterday, it happened.  I heard of a projecton Kickstarter that was to emulate this game, and it had already reached its funding goal.  Its name was Road Redemption.

In this title, you will be playing a Katana-clad member of a mid-western America motorcycle gang.  You have to move your way up in the ranks and take control of drug trading routes.  It’s a visceral title that will actually hit harder than its spiritual predecessor.  Thing is, it won’t be made by the same people that made Road Rash.  In fact, a lot of these developers grew up playing games on the same systems I did, so they remember the good old days of games that make you earn their respect rather than the spoon-fed titles of today.

Who says real badasses never look back at an explosion?

Who says real badasses never look back at an explosion?

This looks like a title that will take esports to an awesome new level and bring people away from their Xboxes and Call of Duty.  You’ll earn money by racing, sure, but if I can wield a shotgun on a motorcycle, why would I just want to race all the time?  Luckily there will also be assassinations, robberies and other challenges.  Getting the goods will allow you to level your character, buy better hardware and upgrade your bike so you can really take on the tough guys.

The storyline is a sort of made-in-America Mad Max routine.  You are part of stated motorcycle gang in post-apocalyptic mid-west America, and the country is run by a ruthless dictator.  You gang-leader decides that it would be a great idea to ride into the capital with the intent of killing the dictator.  I guess it doesn’t go too well, since the game description implies heavily that shit hits the fan for you and everyone you know.  You then have to track this guy down and, pending his judgment at the gang’s hands, decide what to do about the whole dictator situation.

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Flying blurry men never did know how to ride bikes well…

One of the more vague features of this game comes with the life-system.  There will be no extra lives, but the experience, gear and upgrades you earn should stick with you.  What does this mean? Fuck if I know, but I guess you have a lot of family members who are willing to step up and take over your cause.  You’re probably from one of those massive Irish-Catholic families you see all over television.  What’s more is that multi-player mode will be all about you building your gang and then taking to the internet where you will join up with or against your friends.  Hey, competition is just as much fun as working together, sometimes.  Personally, I cannot wait to throw someone under a bus.. fucking literally!

The best part about all of this?  Road Redemption comes out tomorrow on Steam as Early Access.  So get those bike helmets ready.  We’re info for one hell of a ride.  Get ready for the best rash you’ve ever seen!

Eufloria, Tripadelic RTS Invasion

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Eufloria is a game that defines some of my earliest days with indie games, and it’s far from showing its age.  There are those who would have you believe that indie is a style that can be encapsulated in a game with a whacky storyline or super-artsy hand-painted backgrounds, but I call bullshit on that.  You don’t have to put girls in cakes to make an indie game: what you need is balls.  Eufloria shows a lot of that brazen attitude in the way it took a bizarre concept, ran with it, made it work and did the whole fucking job well.  That is how you indie.

Eufloria is a game where you take control of an army of flying seedlings, and then impregnate various ‘asteroids’ with them.  The key to this army is their flexibility.  depending on the characteristics of the asteroid that spawns them, they will have a mix of 3 traits: energy, speed and strength.  Depending on their combination of these traits, they will look different.  If they have a higher strength, they will have a longer tail, of they have higher speed they will have wider tails and if they are energetic they will have longer beaks.  Each of these traits translates into something completely different in game.

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Like little, zappy death bugs…

Each of those little flying things is a seedling, and they serve any number of functions from soldiers to colonization.  When you send a collection of these little guys at an enemy, they will start zapping them with a little laser.  No fucking clue how that works, I will get back to you on that.  When you hit that button down there, they kamikaze into the asteroid and a tree starts to grow.  Logical in a sort of odd way.  As far as I have progressed, there are two trees: a dyson tree, which generates more seedlings, and defensive trees, which lob explosive pods.  Planting a dyson tree will generate seedlings with traits mimicking those of the asteroid.  Some important things to keep in mind on this point: speed seedlings are fast as fuck and are great for rapid reinforcements, strength seedlings are great for taking out enemies and defensive trees, energetic seedlings are great for taking over enemy asteroids.

Eventually, you will start dealing with enemies, and a fucking lot of them.  They swoop in low and start zapping fucking everything, and you have to counter.  Now, the way you direct your seedlings is by clicking and dragging.  This will launch all the seedlings circling an asteroid at the target in an awesome attack formation that makes me want to turn on Flight of the Valkyries every time I do it.  If you want to send only your fastest seedlings (in case you have to contact the Dread Pirate Roberts), you double-click and select the fastest seedlings.  This will turn your cursor blue, for speed, and then you drag from origin to target.  This can be done with any of the types.

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Ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada ba ba, ba bada baaaa!!!!!

Reading the placement of the asteroids is important, too, because where you can go depends on which asteroids you control.  Each asteroid has a range that you can fly from it to reach other asteroids.  Once you get there, you’ll have to lay waste to the enemies like a swarm of genocidal gnats.  The best part comes when you take the asteroid.  To achieve this, the seedlings zap a tree until it explodes.  They then fly down into the remaining roots to attack the core, where they fucking explode.  If you have a fear of bugs flying into your ears and laying eggs in your head, this is not an okay game for you.  I fucking love it, though.

The older your trees, the more seedlings or explosive pods they will generate, so size matters.  Watching an old asteroid take hits is a bit gut-wrenching, but the respawn rate for seedlings is pretty good; I still recommend filling up the max tree level as best you can, though.  Once you strike an enemy, they will ALWAYS try the fucking dick move and strike at the asteroid you vacated to attack theirs.  That’s ok though, you can always pull a few from another location to clean those guys up.

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So… whatever is on that rock is about to fucking die.

As you can see, the art takes a minimalist style, utilizing color to make the world feel warm and alive.  Every time you start a level you will have a different color and each level has its own challenges to overcome.  The way the colors seem to vibrate with life takes on a role of its own in the game though, and it really starts to feel more like a full region than just empty space.  As you conquer and cultivate each asteroid, you can zoom further and further out to see all of what you’ve created, and the later levels get pretty expansive.  The music combines with this warm sensation to create an ambient space of wonder and interest.  This is like playing an RTS painting and each factor is shaped specially for the task.  Despite feeling like you are a swarm of dust mites conquering the equivalent space of someone’s nostril, the game itself really has a life and style of its own.  I would like to see some major fucking publisher with the balls to release this one.  It’s available on Steam right now for 14.99$ and I recommend it highly.  It is a magnificent game that really draws you in and challenges you, but in a soothing and enjoyable way that isn’t like every fucking RTS Blizzard made since Warcraft 3.  It’s wonderful.  Fucking play it.

Introducing Dakota and Project Shadow

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Most people haven’t heard of Living Dream Entertainment, and for good reason.  This is another group of gaming idealists that have a vision defining, for them, the perfect game.  So far everything I have heard and seen out of these guys is impressive, despite things being in an early phase.  To be honest, they remind me of Elysian Shadows Team in the sheer audacity of their project and what they want to accomplish.  People should know who they are and what they are planning because it will be something really special when it is finished.

Living Dream Entertainment is a small independent game development team working on a game called, A Shadow’s Tale, through a process they call Project Shadow.  I wasn’t too sure why there was such a distinction between the two, but I have come to understand that Project Shadow will also invite players and fans to contribute to the finished game itself.  No seriously.  You can make a quest, a character, customize their style, how they fight, who they are: nearly fucking everything.  Check it out here!

Dakota Barrett, founder of Living Dream Entertainment, was happy to answer some of my questions about themselves and the game they are creating.  So who are these people and how did they come together?

“Originally my team started out as many indies do: a group of friends with a common interest.  That team died over about the course of two months and got down to just me.  Around this time I was getting some money in doing odd jobs and I started to contract freelancers.

“First there’s Riley, our character artist.  Her job is to draw the busts of characters that you see in dialogue, and often everyone else’s work is based around her creation of a character.

“Then we have Tony, who seems to be the favorite of the public, which is rightly deserved because the guy has a lot of talent. His concept art has a unique style.

“Devon worked with us on and off for several months before becoming an official member of the team.  He does our code work and makes a lot of my crazy ideas come to life.  He’s the reason we’re able to push an outdated program like RPGMaker into the modern age.

“Elbert does our sprite art and animation and he’s really good at it.  We spent four months going through dozens of applicants for the position and it wasn’t until I met Elbert that I knew I had the right guy.

“Saad is our composer and most recent addition to the team.  Unlike everyone else, I wasn’t actually looking for a composer at the time.  Saad was just interested with the project and sent in a sample of his work.  I loved it so much that I included it in our announcement video of Project Shadow and asked him to join our team.

“I run social media, talk to journalists, run the business and all the legal work that comes with that, and I make everyone’s work show up and coordinate in-game, creating the world for the player to enjoy.  But at the heart of it all, I’m a designer and writer.  All the stories, dialogue, and gameplay mechanics start off as ideas in my head.  I have about three gigabytes worth of just notes alone.”

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Yep, the skill is visible.

So this is already a strong team of talented individuals with a common purpose.  From the teaser trailer for the game itself, I know I got a strong impression.  So, if Dakota is the main drive and energy behind this game, what brought him into gaming and games development?

“Throughout my childhood I played a lot of games through frequent visits to BlockBuster when it was around and you could get a game for a week, which was perfect for me because I usually binged a game until I beat it.  I’ve played all sorts of genres from big AAA titles to the little indie teams, but I think where I truly fell in love with games was with role playing games like Final Fantasy IX and X, Knights of the Old Republic II and the original Fable.

“As I entered adulthood I started to bind my passion for games with my passion to write.  I tried out a few development programs, such as Unity, Blender or Game Maker, but the one I settled with was the one that best served my roots as a gamer, RPG Maker VX Ace.  It’s a pretty simple program that could allow even a child to make a game but over the time I had it I started to find how to push it further and further and when I started to really see the potential with the program I started working on the very early concepts of A Shadow’s Tale.”

Projects of passion are often rare gems, because they are so hard to attain.  When such a project can be made possible, they often turn into impressive entries in a genre and even in a field of art.  The biggest obstacle is often money, and that can kill a project before it ever even happens. How has A Shadow’s Tale gotten its funding so far?

“It started out as a birthday/graduation gift.  I was the first in my family to graduate high school, which isn’t much of an accomplishment, but it was something.  So I took what was likely meant to be the means of buying a car and put it towards making a game.  When that ran out, I started funding the project with what I could from my paycheck, which to this day is  just a part-time, minimum-wage job, so progress has been slow.  Our goal is to crowdfund with the community we’ve built up, but we’re not quite ready for that just yet.”

Each game has its own draw, something makes it stand out.  What are the features of A Shadow’s Tale that will really set it apart from other games of its type?

“Simply put it’s how the game is designed overall.  It’s not meant to be a retro throwback to the games I and others grew up on, it’s meant to be Living Dream’s first step in showing what the industry is capable of producing.  Though it’s an open world RPG, it takes inspiration from all sorts of games, old and new.

“To be more specific I would say the focus on your actions is at the heart of the gameplay.  In many games that I enjoy, like the Mass Effect series, you get to make choices that change the universe you play in and could very well cause your experience to be completely different from all your friends who played the game.  But if you look back, almost all these choices centered around dialogue.  The hundreds of people and monsters you killed didn’t change anything and where you went didn’t really matter as long as you completed the main goals of the game.  With our game we’re putting a focus on what you do, as with reality it’s not so much what you say that affects others and who you become, but what you do.”

So what is the complete vision for the game itself?

“As I hinted at earlier, our goal is to deliver not just a game but an experience; one you’ll look back on for years to come as I have with the hundreds of hours lost in the universes of RPGs.  A world in which you grow attachments to the characters as if they were truly your friends or your enemies.  One where your actions changed the world.  I believe that what people want is their actions to matter.  For something we did to have an affect on the world, be it big or small, to know we made a difference in other’s lives.

“That’s my goal for the game at least, for Project Shadow itself you could say it’s the same thing but in the real world.  I want our community to truly feel like they had a part in making the game without handing over the files and expecting them to make sense of it.  That’s why we’re allowing the community to co-design elements of the game alongside us.”

Whoa. Badass.

Whoa. Badass.

That is a lot to shoot for, so the game itself has to measure up to this, helping the player insert themselves into and influence the world in a noticeable way.  What are some of the mechanics of the game and how will they facilitate this?

“I would say our combat system is probably the most interesting mechanic of the game outside of the responsive world system.  RPGs have been going back and forth between the blood pumping excitement of live action and the tactical thinking of turn based combat.  They both have their benefits and downfalls and I believe we found a unique way to combine the two.

“In the game the controls are rather simple: WASD to move and spacebar to interact and use skills.  Now that second part is the key to shaping combat.  When you press space, a wheel of icons displays over the head of the player.  This wheel technically consist of dozens upon dozens of interactions and skills, but since that would be a pain to cycle through, we’ve made it contextualized; depending on what you’re facing, it will only show what makes sense with that person or object.

“As with the rest of the game, this was designed to give the player a choice in how they go about getting past enemies.  In a sense it’s more like a puzzle than straight up combat.  You could go around in stealth taking enemies down one or two at a time.  You could break, throw, or burn objects to cause distractions.  Use skills or dialogue to manipulate people, or straight up fight your enemies in turn based combat.  Even the turn-based combat itself is designed to give you challenges through three gauges, health, energy, and fear.”

What games have you played an liked?  From there, what games can you say have influenced A Shadow’s Tale?

“I mentioned the RPG genre before and some games that are a part of it, but I pull my inspiration from all types of games.  I enjoy simple and quick RTS games like the Command and Conquer games or Halo Wars, which I still play on occasion.   Shooters like Destiny and some MOBAs have also left their mark.

“Two games which probably have the biggest impact that aren’t straight up RPGs are Dishonored and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  They both have RPG elements but they’re almost entirely based around quick combat in first person.  Both of which I focused on stealth and I had great joy is crawling in air vents only to come out and beat someone to death with a refrigerator (Yeah I’m probably a bit too violent).  This approach of deal with enemies how you want was really enjoyable and that can be seen in our own combat, though it isn’t a straight up choice between stealth and action.”

I love these emblems.

I love these emblems.

What can you tell us about the Kickstarter?

“We will be doing crowdfunding, but it won’t be through Kickstarter.  That is why we’re creating Project Shadow which works like the crowdfunding with Star Citizen, this sort of build over time instead of all at once approach.  Except our design is not so much to keep raising more and more money and add more to the game so much as we want the community to be a part of the design with us and get to see right away what their money goes to.  When you contribute hundreds of dollars it’s not really fair you have to wait months to even start to receive what you paid for and it’s usually physical merchandise and not the actual game itself.

“Instead with Project Shadow you choose what you want to co-design such as a character.  Once you’ve selected what type of character they are, where in the world they live, and what the character consist of we’ll get to work with you within a few days and start fleshing out the details so that the artist can truly bring your character to life and you get to watch the whole thing happen.  If you want you can share it with the world too, just avoid any spoilers.”

Awesome!  Well that is good to hear.  I will be interested to see how this community develops!  What can you tell us about the contest?  Where do people participate?

“We’re giving the community a chance to co-design a character prior to the fundraising of #ProjectShadow.  Now usually you would cover the cost of your character, but this time around I’ll be covering the cost for the winner.

“So how do you participate?  All you have to do is write us your idea for a character and we’ll select our favorite and start working with you on bringing it to life.  All the details and guidelines can be found here, which I recommend you read thoroughly if you want to win.  One last note: unlike with Project Shadow, you won’t be choosing the character type.  Instead, we selected one for you that is one of the more interesting and costly to make.  Out of the character types (basic, advanced, keeper, friend, faction member, faction captain, and major) this one is a faction captain, which is a mini boss as your enemy or a faction-related quest giver as an ally.

“One of the key features of Project Shadow (actually the entirety of Project Shadow) is that it allows anyone to be a part of the creation of a game.  It’s really great in that you get the benefits of coming up with ideas and seeing your creations come to life without having to deal with the stress of actually being on the team and hoping the game does well because your livelihood depends on it.  You get to create whoever or whatever you want that fits within the fantasy world we have created, and in doing so you get to share it with the world and at some point experience it in game as well.

“We may not be doing the crowdfunding now but you can still join in by getting in touch with us.  Tweet us @LivingDreamEnt, or use #ProjectShadow on Twitter.  Or you can email us at, livingdream3r@gmail.com

“It’s really important that you do because even though it’s not giving us the funding we really need to make the game it shows us the community is ready for this and they want to be a part of it.  The sooner we see that people are ready for us and we too are ready for them the sooner we can get this started and start to build a world together.”

The vaulting halls of the Hunters' Guild!

The vaulting halls of the Hunters’ Guild!

Awesome!  Personally, I am really looking forward to this community event.  Living Dream Entertainment is taking on a whole new approach by getting players and fans involved in the creation of the game itself.  As the game is developed, players will get to have input on what gets added and it will be, in more ways than normal, our game.  A game that we don’t all just love and play, but a game that we’ve all given input and some of even helped to design!  Dakota also wanted to leave a special message to followers and fans:

“Thank you for reading this article and please follow us and share us with friends!  This Project is entirely based around a community we’re beginning to build, and we encourage every one of you to participate and get involved!  If you like our art share our DeviantArt account.  If you like what we’re doing on YouTube, share it.  Don’t be afraid to contact us at anytime because we’re here for you and we’ll get back with you as soon as possible!  Please consider following @crotchetygamer and his blog.  He’s a great guy and amazing with words!”

This interview is based on an email correspondence between myself and Living Dream Entertainment.  The conversation has been lightly edited for flow, coherence and grammar.

Double-Up Discussion: Taekwondo Global Tournament, Bucketman

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It is starting to happen.  Games are coming out on mobile platforms that aspire to be more than just quick little solo challenges.  Mobile gaming is starting to earn its stripes as a “real gaming” platform.  Don’t believe me?  Check this game out.  It’s based on the ancient Korean martial art, and it utilizes the fighter concept to pit players against one another.  It is still deep in development, if you go to the game’s website, you can sign up to receive updates about its release!

So right now you get to choose between four character, two male and two female.  There are also two different arenas to battle in, but the “space” in the arenas are pretty small.  Really the goal is to get up on your enemy and deliver blows to their helmet or to their waistband.  This scores you a hit and lowers their health.  There is also a stamina bar that lowers depending on how many moves you do, and attacking and blocking will lower it briefly before it refills.

You stepped in a poop...

I can see you stepped in a poop…

Controls are simple, back and forth arrows allow you to scootch in close to your enemy.  Above those there is the block button, which makes your character drop their shoulder.  There are two attack buttons, a low and high attack.  Low attacks are aimed at the waistband while the high attack is aimed at the head.  Experimenting with the attacks in combination with the move buttons causes your character to perform a variety of different style attacks.  It is a lot of fun.  It is pretty fast-paced and a lot of fun, even though there were only two different arenas that I could choose from: Dojang and Iran.

The background and art of the game is rather stunning for a mobile game.  Taekwondo Global Tournament really took me by surprise!  Right now there is no sound, but with the attention being paid to the rest of the game, I don’t doubt that it will be spectacular when it’s released!  You can watch the teaser on you tube!

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Bucketman is a bizarre game that takes the location information about your neighborhood and turns it into a game.  Just the introductory levels, which all take place in Palo Alto, California, are frustrating and difficult, but the game has its charms.

The story is that there are Artificially Intelligent Vehicles, or AIVs , roaming the streets and you have to take on the form of a sentient bucket to stop them.  Probably related to the Kool Aide Man.  In this battle for chromatic dominance, you control your bucketman with a concentric joystick pad.  You can also jump over the AIVs and there is another button, but I was having some trouble getting to the use of that thing.  It is a fun game, though a bit trying on the patience.

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The game gets more and more complex as you play, and the goal is to battle it out with the AIVs.  You collect different color paints to raise your stats, such as walking speed and air-time for your jumps.  An easier way to put is you can get more ups so jumps last longer.  There is also water that you have to collect throughout a level, which comprises the main goal and gets you more time.  So run around collecting more paints and waters.  You can also buy more paints and such with in-app purchases, but they are pretty well hidden in the menu, almost as if the developer is ashamed to ask.  But no worries, it isn’t in your face or forced, so it makes me feel really good about these guys.  You can get this app free on Google Play!

Bucketman is a great location-based game that deserves some credit, even if the concept is bizarre and the story is goofy.  I mean who would believe that Google cars could take over the world..? wait a minute…

Skyling: Garden Defense; Rhymes, Rhymes EVERYWHERE!

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Sometimes a game is way too much fun and you must talk about it to everyone, the puzzles were tough and the enemies strong I was grabbing fruit all the day long, kitties I’d lift and sluggy balls chuck I would stop rhyming but my brain’s deeply fucked, I’m sure that a comma each statement can’t end, forever this review in rhyming I’ll spend, so I’m just going to type and cut out the crap, so no one feels the sudden and undeniable urge to stab me in the fucking throat.  Just.. one sec… rhyming sickness is tough to break, but I have to focus cause this review’s at stake…  GODDAMNIT!!!

That is the format of the tutorial for this game.  At first it’s adorable but after a while it becomes creeping and insidious, invading every word that you speak.  Your character’s Bloom and her toes are magic, and everywhere you walk a patch of green grass grows.  The goal?  COMPLETE WORLD DOMINATION!!!!!  Sort of.  Actually you have to spread verdant giddiness throughout this skyborne garden that was taken over by the blight monsters, which rendered the Skylings’ garden a barren wasteland.  There are several types of them and I didn’t see them all, but if I kept playing I would have been rhyming for the rest of eternity!  Or at least until someone rightfully stabbed me in the spleen without a medically logical reason to do so.

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Don’t let her fool you… Beneath that whimsical smile lies the unburdened soul of a psychotic killer. Or just a vegan.  Interchangeable, really.

So, as stated, Bloom walks around each little square and spreads the green grass everywhere, which, in turn, brings the garden back to life.  There are little, dead gardens surrounded by dirt paths and as you surround them each with grass and flowers, they grow right back.  Each garden then shoots out a crop of fruit.  Considering how fast they come out, these people should put up warning sirens during harvest season, or else someone is flying off the skygarden.  Then again, it would help to cull their numbers.  Fruit doesn’t last forever, though, and the next challenge after regrowing the gardens is collecting the fruit before it rots away, without getting caught.  And the blight bastards make it tough as shit,  cornering you until you shrink into an insignificant little nothing.  One of the best games I’ve seen out of itch.io, this game’s exceedingly whimsical is likely to entertain women, children and lyrical leprechauns the world over.  Not to mention the puzzles really are tough as shit.  You’ll often start off in the only safe little corner of the board and you have to navigate the monster hoard.  I didn’t make it too far in the game, but I still had fun all the same.

Sky kitty don't care.  Sky kitty don't give a shit.

Sky kitty don’t care. Sky kitty don’t give a shit.

The first monster you run into is the stone ogre.  These guys have purple horns and only walk on stone and if you don’t pay attention they’ll get you alone and kill you in a corner; this happened to me way too many freaking times!  But since they have a set path they’re pretty easy to outsmart, but they are fast; so try not to find yourself in too many games of ‘step off’ chicken with these guys.  This is where you see the enemy plodding along his stone walkway and you just want to get that last couple squares covered.  Then you turn around just as you finish and run back toward the enemy to get back to the safety of the one smooth square that is close and you’re not immediately blocked from.  A more adorable game has not made me scream with as much frustration.

Sluggies are the orange ooze monsters.  These guys eat everything they can find but you can pick them up if you come from behind.  (wink wink nudge nudge)  But seriously, get behind them and you can pick them up and chuck their gooey, orange asses off the skygarden like a bizarrely adorable episode of american gladiators.  What?!  They made nerf wars look like the most epic thing ever!  When I say they eat everything they can find, I mean they erase your little green patches, and if they break the grass surrounding a garden, it wilts and dies again.  This can be remedied by just walking over the square again, but it doesn’t yield more fruit.  It’s just fucking annoying.  Luckily, these orange guys serve as your most offensive weapon.  If you manage to grab one of the sluggies, you can launch them at other monsters, rather than into the wild blue yonder, and it kill them both, scoring you some points.  This is especially useful if you missed some fruit and need to recoup the losses.

Bats are a fucking nuisance, but they can usually be avoided.  If they catch you, then you can’t move.  This lasts just long enough for you to get caught by a monster and lose, so be mindful.  My best tip is to get to a smooth square if you see them coming at you.  This way you won’t get bowled over by the fucking stone ogres.  Additionally, don’t go anywhere without a kitty to take the blows to its fat, useless body.  It’s asleep, it won’t mind.

The final foe is what I call the gaping maw for two reasons.  I didn’t get far enough due to rage quitting to see these guys.  The game isn’t impossible, just a really really tough piece of enjoyable gaming.  Seriously, it’s deceptively hard.  They lure you in with carefree music and little 16-bit graphics, but then you have to get the last fruit on the giant fucking q-bert level!  Perhaps I was just caught up in the horrifying memories of rage-quit I had on that game, though.  The other reason is that the monster is literally just a yellow mouth.  I am terrified of what it does to you and refuse to speculate openly.  Probably just hunts you down and chews on your bones.  Yummy magical bones.

This fucking level was harder than shit, if I played any longer the dev's throat I might slit.

This level was tougher than a limestone shit, if I played any longer the dev’s throat I might slit.

You aren’t without allies though.  There are the kitties.  Best part is, they are about as fucking useful as you might expect they would be in a war against bio-diversity strangling monsters.  They lay there and purr innonously as they sleep, the little fuckers.  The title screen is just a menu with a purring kitty reclining in the ‘g’ and if you listen for hours you’ll realize that’s the same sound your soul makes as it’s torn from your shrieking mortal coil.  I would just kick them off the skygarden, honestly, but they have uses.  Bloom grabs these guys nonchalantly and plops them down on switches proving that cats basically have one purpose: dead weight.  Throwing them on switches usually has the effect of triggering a pillar to pop out of the ground, which causes monsters to be corralled away from you.  To be fair, however, these cats can also be used as obstacles, and I have used them to turn a charging stone ogre.  See, at least the ogres care about kitties.  Then again, with only one eye, they have no depth perception, so a cat might just look like a purring, vibrating ball of fluff.  That would make me reconsider my path of trudging in a heartbeat.

All-in-all this is a really fun game.  Great pixel art and upbeat music help to give this a really cute atmosphere that is perfect for children and childish adults alike.  The controls can be a non-responsive on the keyboard, but not enough that you can’t get used to it.  Also, there is no ‘save’ outside of the standard level-by-level advancement.  If you’re caught by monsters, you have to restart from a clear board.  It drove me fucking nuts, but it also makes you really think about what you do.  Be warned, though:  this game is full of rhymes and is hard as fuck, so when asked about it your face will fall into a pale countenance, steeped with horror.  In a thin, wry voice you’ll caution “they were everywhere!  In the bushes, in the trees!  If it wasn’t for the kitties, I would’ve never made it out alive!” A paltry 0.98$ on itch.io, I wonder how itch stays in business giving such crap rates to well-made games.  For more info on the game and its developer, check out Mighty Studio’s site!

Double-Up Discussion: Catch Aliens, Free-Diving Hunter

In the spirit of moving forward, it’s time to get back to the games.  Today I will be discussing two iOS games because my wife would like her iPad back.  Granted, there is a reason I haven’t been able to keep off the thing, and these two games are it.  There is a lot I have to say about these titles, though so strap in.  This might get a little on the long side.

 

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First up is Catch the Aliens.  Just from the logo here, you get a distinct sense of awesome.  I don’t want to burst that bubble, but you do play glorified dog-catcher.  That is alright, though, since the game itself is actually a lot of fun.  There are two modes of play: Casual Level-Based and Competitive Endless.  Now, these terms are advanced language, and in gamer-speak they translate to “singleplayer” and “multiplayer”.  In what I am coining as the “singleplayer” mode, you play by yourself and clear a space station room by room.  In the second mode, or “multiplayer”, you compete with friends on Facebook for scores.

Now, as you play, you are confronted with room after room of fairly cute aliens that scamper around and cause a nuisance.  These guys vary in color and “ways they piss you the fuck off”.  That second quality is key.  Now, your method of controlling the alien-catcher is to sort of lean the idevice, like you are gingerly erasing an etch-a-sketch.  If you don’t know what that is, your parents should be smacked.  Either way, I was using an iPad despite the fact that this game was meant for an iPhone.  That would make the game more responsive where I felt like I was wrestling a bull to the ground by its horns.  It added to the game itself, but for quality performance I recommend something with a smaller face-area.

And stay in that bubble!

And stay in that bubble!

Despite all this, the game was still a lot of fun.  Levels are small arenas with up to 4 aliens running amok, and you have to catch them by tapping them with your forcefield alien catcher.  You tap them and BAM! instant bubble.  Of course, if you are too slow to catch the others, they will free the ones you’ve already caught.  This causes issues as you have three green dots at the top of the screen.  Each time an alien is freed, the dots turn red.  If they all turn red, you lose and have to restart that room.  It gets frustrating, but there is a certain strategy to the game: yellow aliens just run around, kind of slowly.  They can be caught last.  The guys you want to go after first are the spitting purple aliens, which can pop bubbles from across the room, or the speedy green aliens.  To catch the speedy guys, you’ll need a speed boost, or you’ll have to get on the inside of their turn out of a corner.  The rest of them can be mopped up thereafter.  There are also red aliens with horns that you have to tap twice before catching, but they aren’t too fast, just a little annoying and take a bit of time.

Now, accomplishing three challenges in each room grants you stars.  These stars are required to progress to the next floor, each floor having more rooms than the last.  The challenges are Life, Order and Sparkles.  Yea, that sounds like the motto of My National Socialist Little Pony Party, but that’s because it’s not really called sparkles.  That is just what I call it.  See, when an alien is freed, you lose life.  Hence, no life lost gets you a star.  There is also a certain order you are “supposed” to catch the aliens.  If you get it right, you get another star.  Every time an alien is caught, it emits a cloud of little sparkles, which you then collect and store.  Get enough of these and you will get the.. um.. sparkle star.

This game also has some optional in-app purchases, and I can see how extensive play would necessitate a high-level of skill or concession to buying your way up the spacestation.  It isn’t in-your-face, but after each level, there are ads which take up the whole screen.  maybe on the iPhone it would be less irritating to eliminate them, but on the iPad the word ‘iPad’ and the wifi meter get in the way of closing the ad.  Grrr…  Not blaming the developer on that one, I am the guy using the giant older brother of the device this game is meant for.  The best part about this game, however, is that it is free on the app store.  You can get to the game through Panipurisoft’s site.  They also have a facebook page.

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I think I downloaded a broken version of this game, because there were no in-app purchases that I could find.  It terrified me.  I sobbed-heavily with my new found freedom to PLAY A FUCKING GAME!!!  It was majestic, it was awesome.  Thank you.  Thank you.

The game itself is pretty cool, too.  When I was in the military, I knew a Hawaiian gentleman who told us about his exploits with free-diving.  It sounded like he was evolving into a fish, honestly, and he has a general disdain for octopopuli.  I don’t know how to pluralize that, so fuck you, english.  Either way, it sounded like something intense and soothing at the same time.  Now, that gentleman only dove with a snorkel and a knife.  This game doesn’t have as much faith in your lung capacity.  You have a snorkel and a speargun.  Now, the much-needed tutorial feels a little basic, but it gives you what you need.  The controls are wonky as hell, but they make sense, and once you get used to them, they react well and make sense.  At first I was cursing mightily, but this game requires practice, honestly.  Putting a little time in sharpened my aim with the speargun and honed my agility with the diamond.. space… non-joystick.. of mystical..  That thing!  The fucking thing in the lower right hand corner!  That is what you use to control your diver! JEEZ!

DUN DUN.  DUN DUN. dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun.... oh you get it..

DUN DUN. DUN DUN. dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun dun-dun…. oh you get it..

Now, the rest of the game orbits you in the form of the admittedly cluttered UI.  Starting top-left you have your level and lung capacity, bottom-left is the dive button over top the speargun trigger, center-right is a compass, further right is the.. ahem.. control reticule, tucked beneath the swim button.  Top-right you see the UI toggle and then your score.  Now, in a game where you swim with a spear gun, there should be no surprise you catch fish.  Of course, this ends up being like a low-tech alien abduction to them as they are speared and wriggle around until you reel them in.  The game process goes like this.

Just snorkeling here.  Nothing to see.

Just snorkeling here. Nothing to see.

You start in a third-person view.  Pressing swim will make you move forward while you control with the reticule, roving for prey.  Once you find a fish you want to go after, hit the dive button and slide down a little on the reticule.  Maneuver yourself until you are heading toward a fish.  As soon as you dive, a timer will come up on the screen, starting at the max for lung capacity.  As you hunt your prey, the timer ticks down.  If you let it tick out, you might black out before you can resurface, which freezes the game for a full minute, but it is tough to have it happen if you pay attention.

Once you start closing in on your prey, you will eventually see an exclamation point appear over their head.  Hit the trigger!  If you hit, you enter a battle-mode of sorts.  During this mode, you have to hold the reel button, which replaces the trigger after firing a spear, while the fish is stationary.  It will still be wriggling to get free, but it won’t be swimming around.  If you reel in while it is stationary, its life (a red bar) goes down.  If you reel in while the fish is swimming, your line’s strength (a blue bar) goes down.  If your line loses strength, you lose the fish.  Catch the fish and it adds to your score, and every 5 fish you’ll gain a level.  Each level will grant you one more second of lung capacity and you will also gain better gear!

Now gear has some stats of its own.  These are swim speed, gun strength, gun reach and … shaft speed.  They are all.. pretty self-explanatory.  Except that last one.  I am sure it makes sense and I am sure it’s relevant.  I have no idea what it does besides make me giggle incessantly.  It doesn’t help that I leveled up a bit and got Depth Max brand gear which has a high shaft speed and makes my gun stronger and shoot further.  I am so sorry it’s come to this.  Ok, let me get control of myself.

The art of this game is fantastic.  Each fishing area has its own challenges from increased depth to sharks.  I tried hunting the sharks, but their only real function is pissing you off, since they can eat the fish off your lines.  Fuckers.  Lucky this isn’t FarCry3.  I would C4 your ass in a heartbeat…  But each area is unique and has a sort of excitement, like you’ve found another great hunting spot.  The music is a sort of asian-keyboard reggae.  It is relaxing and enjoyable, but it’s odd.  Just listen to it, ok?  This game is worth its 1.99$ price, and if you like those outdoorsman games by Cabelas etc., you should try this out for a fresh new take.  I have never played a firt-person fishing game, but it is really fun.  I just hope this doesn’t get bought out by EASports or something.  They would fuck it all the hell up.  Of course, this might be cool on a Wii U or something.  The developer has a Facebook page here and a website, with free demo, here.

 

Fuck Chess! We’re Playing Beguile!

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I am not the right kind of smart to play chess.  A lot of people suck at it, and just being smart doesn’t help.  It takes a certain patience and a skill for long-term planning, both require focus, discipline and training.  It also requires a strong resistance to falling asleep while sitting down, ability to avoid daydreaming and a skill for not flipping the board when you lose after 4 hours of grueling play.  O yea, and if you play it in the park, you have to do all this on a fucking timer.  Fuck that!  I am just not studied enough in the art of chess to really know how to play!  I know the basics though.  Plenty of sorry fuckers know the basics!  We were fucking taught them by some masochistic prick (or prickess) that taught us to play only so they could experiment with strategies before mercilessly murdering us.  It’s not funny.  It’s not fucking fair.  And it is about fucking time we got even.

Thanks to this fucking guy, we’ll be able to do just that.  Study that face.  He’s is the guy normal people like me will be hi-fiving while our chess-skilled friends will hire a band of rabid ninja monkeys to hunt him down.  Really, I am pretty sure that the kickstarter for the game will be used to fend off rabid bands of ninja monkeys.  All he did was add cards to chess.  Yup.  That is fucking it!  So what do they do?  Oh, my that is the fun part.  In short, they will make it so that you will be on fair ground against your chess-club friends.  It makes chess shorter, more fun and hilarious.  Our game took only an hour and a half, accounting for the stops to marvel at the wonderful art on the cards.  The creator was able to send me some demo PDF’s that I printed for play!

Had my pawns running offense for my knight until he was taken with this card, getting an enemy knight one extra space for the kill!

Had my pawns running offense for my knight until he was taken with this card, getting an enemy knight one extra space for the kill!

My brother Joel has an awesome twili… I MEAN.. vampires vs werewoles chess set.  Black is werewolves, white is vampires.  It went with the medieval theme of the game, and even played on some of its more magical or demonic cards.  You play chess as normal, except at the start each player gets 5 cards.  You can play one card per turn and there are two different card types: T cards that take up a whole turn and C cards that play concurrently with a piece move.  Now, I started off the shenanigans with a “Rally the Troops” card that allowed me to move three pawns at once!  It was one hell of an opening move that made my brother laugh and get his game on!

As we played we realized that this made chess casual and even entertaining.  We scarcely took the game more seriously than we would have if we were playing parcheesi.  And as each card went down, it made one of us laugh and groan simultaneously.  After a few turns, I started really getting devious with Joel.  I charged my rook through a pawn with “Phantasmic Step” and took my brother’s rook, leaving him a little confused.  This happened a lot though, one or the other of us would make a crafty play or take a good piece and we’d look at the card: half to verify that was actually in the deck, half to see the artwork and read the card itself.  The cards can often be funny and they make a serious effort to look really really nice, which worked.  Look through the cards on the Beguile site.  Rather lovely.

Our majestic wall of Old Spice

Our majestic wall of Old Spice

Then there is this fucking card.  Did you read that card?  Yea, I was mopping the floor with him.  I got all of his pawns, a rook, a knight and even his queen while simultaneously making a few devious plays of my own.  I used “Necromancy” after sacrificing my queen for a good capture, then I used a bishop to take a few pieces and played “Sacrificial Lamb” to sacrifice a pawn and keep my bishop.  I was closing in for the kill… then he played that shit up there!  I heaved a massive sigh and traded spots with him.  Now faced with grim prospects, I began picking my attacks more carefully.

Joel started getting really devious, throwing out a few plays that got a couple of my pieces.  At one point he played “Holy Warrior” and moved his knight like a bishop to take my knight.  Except I had “Man in the Mirror” and took his knight instead!  There were a number of really clever plays he got off, but by the luck of  the cards I was able to get his army down to nothing but a king.  I got his king into checkmate and!   …. He played “Back Against the Wall” teleporting the king across the board.  He was also able to use catacombs to get across the board and take a couple of my last remaining pieces with just his fucking king!  That was ok, though.  After a while I was letting him take all my pieces.  just waiting.   Waiting until stalemate.  Once it happened I stood victorious!  I threw down “Sir Charles Roundhouse”, which allows you to win in a stalemate!  I got that card on the second turn and was able to really give it to him!

Sir Charles Roundhouse now has a barony in the wolf-lands of Nothern Siberia.

Sir Charles Roundhouse now has a barony in the wolf-lands of Nothern Siberia.

The moral of this story is that you don’t need to know how to play chess to have fun with chess anymore.  Beguile adds some great flavor and a faster pace to a game that is traditionally pretty tough and makes it casual and entertaining in ways that it was never meant to be.  The great news is that the Kickstarter is already past 50%!  Woochah!  Let’s get some money in there so we can start working on those stretch goals!  (note to Americans: It’s a Canadian Kickstarter, so exchange rates account for the shipping cost!)  This would be a fantastic addition to any nerd’s game cabinet!  I wonder if something like this could be done for checkers?

Stumble Upon a Preview: A Clumsy Adventure

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The dutch have a pretty good thing going in the gaming industry, and a lot of what they’ve been putting out has given me a reason to nod with confident approval.  Excamedia is another dutch developer, and their game – A Clumsy Adventure – does anything but fall flat on its face.  Still in Pre-Alpha, its platforming charm and unique design leave me wondering what lies beyond the curtain at the end of the preview build on Indie Database.

In A Clumsy Adventure, you play as Zack, a clumsy soldier taking part in VR training.  He manages to destroy a supercomputer and gets discharged.  Not a huge fucking surprise, considering supercomputers usually run into the millions.  So this guy is off to a shitty start.  Zack is kidnapped by a secret group of aliens and he is used to brainwash the entire human population.  From the description on the company site, it seems he is possibly the dumbest person on Earth.  Nice fucking job, Zack!  At least you don’t spell your name with an ‘h’.  Our whole world defenseless, Zack can’t remember what happened, likely repressing the memories of how he rendered the collective grey matter of the human race as cognitively effective as rice pudding.  And the best part?  This fucking guy has to save the world!  The ENTIRE world! IN FOUR FUCKING DAYS!!!! This is the most terrifying apocalypse story I have ever heard.  He ends up in a dark place, with only one friend: a light that follows and guides him.  To succeed, this fucking guy has to beat the generals of the alien army and steal their dimensional keys, then stop the evil alien emperor AND his alien fleet from destroying everything anyway!

That look on his face is scarcely the confidence-inspiring countenance of heroism

That look on his face is scarcely the confidence-inspiring countenance of heroism

Zack has a lot to put back together, but on the bright side it can’t get much worse.  Despite his inhabiting the least-envied place among heroes, the game itself looks and feels pretty nice.  In the pre-alpha, you drop out of the sky and land in a jungle fraught with chaos.  In the background, massive beasts stalk through the dank undergrowth, redeyes dart between trees and the howls of unknown origin resonate for miles.  It is a scenery well set.  It isn’t long before the tutorial is delivered via internal monologue.  I always find it weird when we are led to believe that a character jumps by thinking about a green A-button, but it always makes me giggle.

After pushing around a boulder, jumping up some ledges and running around, you start to get a feel for the controls.  Everything is fairly simple and, mostly, smooth.  Granted, you have those odd little hiccups, but the game reeled me in and didn’t stop until the curtain (quite literally) fell.  One of the most noticeable elements of this game is its use of the lighting in Unity.  Now, I am not a fucking developer, I’m just not that dedicated.  I took the easy way out and became a writer.  But this game honestly uses Unity like the swatch-board of lighting and color that it deserves to be noticed for.  I saw screenies made with Unity that I thought were taken from an unannounced Elder Scrolls title (lord knows the series will need to be resurrected after ESO).  Richard Garriott favorited that tweet.  Made my knees weak.  But Unity honestly has so much more to offer than just an overwhelming deluge of apps and mobile games.  Unity is an engine with so much untapped potential, and A Clumsy Adventure is reaching deep into that pool and procuring something magnificent.

Aside from being a clumsy jerk, Zack is also a genocidal maniac when it comes to red-eyed alien things.

Aside from being a clumsy jerk, Zack is also a genocidal maniac when it comes to red-eyed alien things.

The game goes from nearly 2D, accomplished by silhouetting everything, then it switches to a world of vibrant colors and magnificent flora.  Ironically, this switch comes from outside, where it is dark, to inside caves, where the character becomes the focus and light and colors abound.  Granted, the artistic silhouetting has the effect of bringing out the colors of enemies and pickups.  Pickups come in two forms, only one of which I’ve been able to get: the backpacks and the batteries.  The backpacks are lives, I think.  I am not certain be cause I always freak out when I get surprised by the occasional enemy.  Given their size, I imagine that they come with a full trauma center complete with defibrillators and flirty, blonde nurses.  There are also the batteries, which luminesce an ethereal green.  While it is possible these have a yet unstated link to the aliens, I like to imagine they will power the radioactive Nerf guns Zack must inevitably employ to vanquish the evil alien emperor.  A lot of the simple jumping puzzles that the devs employed in this pre-alpha preview also utilized strong deviousness.  I am excited to see where else they will go with this title in the future.

Lovely pink everything!  My wife would never leave this cave.

Lovely pink everything! My wife would never leave this cave.

This game has a feel that reminds me of Earthbound for reasons I cannot explain.  Though I doubt this game will have the same vaguely off-color pop-culture references, there is still much we can expect A Clumsy Adventure to provide.  All of it good, but mostly me getting pissed off at this.  I guess I should look on the bright side, Zack spends his whole adventure making up for the fact that he blundered his way into subjugating the human race, and there isn’t an evil dictator that could accomplish this with all his efforts.  Toss a few coins at it once the kickstarter takes off and watch this one.  I have a feeling it should blow your minds.

Ludum Dare, Indie Dev Explosion!

LD_logo

Although I had a hard time finding anything about it on the Ludum Dare site itself, I have come to understand that the primary Ludum Dare competition occurs more than once a year: the current version being LD48.  Founded in 2002, Ludum is a competition that focuses on rapid game development, and it translates from latin as “The Game Giving”.  Other translators state “Providing patronage to a public duel” is a potential translation, but I don’t see anything but Game Devs here, so we’re going with that first one.

On the Ludum Dare website, it is said that “for many people, it can be difficult to find or make the time to create a game or prototype for yourself.  We’re here to be your excuse.”  And that is awesome, considering it also says they are “keeping things extra indie.”  Honestly, they had me at hello, but extra indie?  Exemplary.  So LD serves as the proverbial grease in the joints of a game developer’s mind, giving them a reason to just create what they can and throw it into the mix, just to see what they can come up with.  This is noteworthy, and it serves to challenge people to make something quickly; this most recent run of the competition taking place August 22nd – 25th.  With only 3 fucking days to create a coherent and playable game, that is one hell of a challenge.  And no one but gamedevs would be crazy enough to select Challenge: Accepted.

Ludum Dare 21

Ludum Dare 21

So what happens when they get more than they expected?  Pictured above you will see the games of LD21, during which Ludum Dare received 599 titles, pictured above.  Now, think about that for a minute.  Each of these games provide experiences that run from a couple minutes all the way up to some clever little 10 minute engagements, depending on how good you are at the game.  Each title is played by the judges and the best ones are selected as the winners.  So who are these judges?  In an interview with the man behind the competition, Mike Kasprzak, he told me just how LD works.

We assign everyone a random subset of all games to judge. If you play a few dozen, a few dozen will play your game. The system is built to reward people that play games with attention by others that play games. As far as scores are concerned, once we have a couple dozen, it’s enough to estimate what the games average score will be. So we deal with the large quantity of games by not playing them all, but by playing some.

So the people judging the games are also people who submitted games, then the community votes up its favorites.  This is a democratic process that would make the ancient Greeks and the Founding Fathers (US) wipe a tear of pride from their eyes. Of course, with every competition, there is a victor.  Competitions reward winners in a variety of ways.  So how does Ludum Dare reward its winners?

Wait... what?!

Wait… what?!

So wait wait wait..  You’re fucking telling me that the winners don’t get more than a hi-five and handshake?!  Yep, that is what the man said.  To give you an idea, some of these Indie Developers willingly commit hours to their games, eschewing sleep as long as possible just to get in the next couple lines of code.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying this is unfair. Devs submitting to LD know what they are up against and the rewards, and they do it regardless. And Ludum Dare grants these people a way for their work to be seen and their voices to be heard, which makes it all the more awe-inspiring that, come LD season, Twitter is flooded with bittersweet tweets from dedicated game devs.  What Ludum Dare encourages is nothing short of remarkable.

If I wanted to submit to Ludum Dare, when would I do it?  And how many submissions does Ludum typically get?  Initially, Mr. Kasprzak told me they were getting just more than 100 submissions per event.  Now? Well…

I heard a sound like a thousand shits being shat, and then... silence.

I heard a sound like a thousand shits being shat, and then… silence.

LD_reasons

Of course, there are probably other contributing reasons.

Of course, I suggest that there are more reasons than just the number of events.  Even if the same people were submitting for every event, if there were only 200 people in the first event, that would be 400 altogether.  This year so far there have been about 2500 submissions per event.  There is no expletive I can issues that adequately summarizes this.  I would suggest that the increase of submissions is attributable to the fact that Indie Developers aren’t just on the rise, they are exploding exponentially.  And I don’t mean spontaneously combusting, either, I mean their numbers are increasing at a rate comparable to an epidemic.  Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, and Mr. Kasprzak suggested his thoughts.

LD_easy

Like what? Like Unity 3D or Unity Marketplace or.. Yea, the list goes on like this for some time…

So this is clear evidence that gaming is starting to migrate away from the major industry and into smaller dev shops where real magic can happen.  Away from AAA gaming and publishers, you have independent companies, which can be only a few people or fifty talented artists, which are developing games on their terms incorporating elements that they want.  With no one else looking over their shoulder, they have the freedom and the drive to make the best games they can.  That might slow down individual games; but considering the situation altogether, with so many indiedevs there are games constantly coming out.  And they aren’t just crappy little games, either.  Many of them are just as exciting as major industry games, if not more so.

So what are some games from Ludum Dare?  I have played a few of them myself, and I have to say, they vary from one developer to the next so widely that I cannot comprehend having to choose the best one.  But here are a few of them.

Fuel Runner

by Robot Friend Games

Casual bike ride with radioactive materials on my back

Casual bike ride with radioactive materials on my back

Fuel Runner is a game with a loud color palette and no sound.  You start off planetside as a spacesuit clad bike-rider that jumps from one platform to the next.  Don’t fall too far, or you’ll explode.  Luckily you start from your highest-cleared platform. It is pretty easy, too, at least until you get into space.  Then shit goes nuts.

Falling up.. AAAAAHHHH!!

Falling up.. AAAAAHHHH!!

Once you get outside the atmosphere, the platforms you are on become barriers of instant death that you soar past, floating away into the abyss.  I haven’t made it to the end yet, but I cannot imagine this having a happy ending.  Lots of fun, though!  Lovely art, too!

 

The Static Speaks

by idovingx

This game is more of an interpretive piece.  My young brother likes this band called 65 Days of Static.  I asked him where the weird-ass name comes from, and he responded thusly:

“In the 1960’s the Soviets did this study where they tested the effects of white noise on participants.  Unanimously, people started losing their grip on reality and began hearing and seeing things in the static that wasn’t there.  The conclusion is that, given totally chaos the human brain tries so hard to recognize a pattern, that it starts to create one where there is nothing.”

                                                                                                                                                – Brother Jeremiah on 65 Days of Static

Now, The Static Speaks takes on a creepy aspect that makes me wonder where this is going.  This game takes the form of a first-person adventure game.  It is short and creepy with vaguely depressing titles in a twitchy font.  You wake up from a weird dream, watch static on the TV, a door appears, you die (?) in a bathtub and the house flies apart.  Then it cuts directly to you hovering in space surrounded by tv’s broadcasting static with a weird blob above you.  Select a tv and it’s over.  I ended this, said “WTF?” tried it again, and realized I had done it right.

Watch the tv closely when you play...

Watch the tv closely when you play…

Hip Hop Planet

by SnoutUp

Snout up has shown a love for the use of vector graphics, and has made some downloadable apps, as well.  His Ludum Dare entry is a fun little arcade game featuring a spunky little character that jumps between planets collecting diamonds.  Hit the up button once to jump, twice to jet-pack.  Let and right moves you around a planet and spacebar lets you change the rotation of the planets.  Avoiding obstacles, you have to collect all the diamonds you can!  When you jump to another planet, the background changes to resemble your current planet!  Get your best time, or just beat this challenging little play!  It is a fun and addictive little game that reminds me of some fun times with gaming, down to the sounds it chose.  Add in a jazzy, 16-bit hip hop theme and I would pay some money for this!

On this planet, every week is shark week!

On this planet, every week is shark week!

There are so many talented devs submitting games to this competition, it would be a crime for you not to go there yourself and see what they have to offer!  The timer says there are 19 days left to try them out, so get on over there!  Of course, Ludum Dare doesn’t exactly make a lot of money, and is sustained by the contributions of its supporters!  Please get on over there and make a contribution if you can!  Ludum Dare helps developers to explore creative concepts that they might otherwise never get the chance to explore, so whatever you can contribute would be greatly appreciated by the entire Indie Gaming community. If you can make a contribution, tell them the Crotchety Old Gamer sent you!