Game of the Week: The Man Who Sold The World

Today I’m feeling a bit retro – how retro? Let’s just say, “David Bowie 80’s” retro. I woke up this morning and checked on one of my favorite little indie game developers that are based right up here in the Northwest. [ Woo for hometown gaming! ] If any of you were lucky enough to stumble upon I Saw Her Standing There…, well then you’ll know why I love Krang Games. They have a distinct retro-simplistic art style to many of their games. Narratives and stories seem to drive every fabric of their games, and I’ve had a blast playing all of them.

It’s that time again! – The Interstellar DATING GAME!

Krang Games is owned and operated by developer Nick Yonge, and I have to say his games have definitely helped inspire me to try my hand at flash game development. Now, why am I in a retro mood this morning? Well it’s because Yonge [ and the rest of Krang Games ] have come out with the newest game in their vintage flash line: The Man Who Sold The World. It’s a interactive narrative/platforming game that was inspired by David Bowie’s music. How cool is that? The game is rather short [ 4 levels ] but the platforming can be challenging, so don’t take this simplistic design lightly. The object seems to be to collect as many of the glowing orbs in the levels as you can find. How did this play out? Well let’s get to the accessibility shall we?

If the world was in the palm of your hand – what would you choose?

Pros:

  • Few controls – makes for simplistic gameplay and easy functionality.
  • All dialog is text-based, which is perfect for deaf gamers.
  • Soundtrack is ambient and unique, though can be a bit repetitive.
  • A & D keys and Arrow keys are both available for users, allowing for one-handed players to play [ left or right handed ]
  • Game has decent pacing, making this game a labor of love, rather than a laborious struggle for gamers. 
  • Game has no penalty system, so if you make mistakes it’s easy to continue and try again.
  • The narrative plot is strong, intriguing, and fun. It will keep you guessing as you go forth.

In The Jungle, the mighty Jungle, The Man He Sleeps Tonight!

Cons:

  • Game almost requires two hands, due to requirement of Spacebar for jump action. [ One-handed is possible, though harder. ]
  • The games color scheme is, for the most part, accessible. Some sections and colors, however, may be troublesome for colorblind.
  • Precision gaming is pretty key to succeed, due some difficult platform sections.
  • Game has a chapter function on Main Menu, but no way to jump to new chapters unless you earn them.
  • I wish there was Skip function. I failed certain sections quite a few times due to jump spacing.

Overall, the game was a joy to play. There may have been moments of frustration due to difficulty with the keyboard based controls, but I enjoyed my time with Krang Games new sci-fi retro narrative. It’s definitely one of those few delights I get from the vast array of internet gaming fodder. If you’d like to play it as well, you can jump into the sci-fi fun over on Kongregate.

The game hasn’t been played much, which is why I’m happy to be reviewing it. Give it some love, maybe some stardust, you know – whatever you feel like! I hope this game keeps you searching through the stars and soaring into the realm of 8-bit retro games!

In closing though, I’ll leave you with two things to Bowie this post up a bit:

and for a little light humor on the subject, one of my favorite beloved comedy bands:

The Flight of the Conchords

Game of the Week: Relive Your Life

Hey there folks, now while I’ve still got E3 moments to cover [ and Comic Con on the way ], I’m still devoted to smaller indie titles that grab my fun buttons. Today is no different, because I’ve found a game which I find quite intriguing. It’s an interactive narrative with Suessical meaning. It’s called Relive Your Life by Matt Ackerman, a game that keeps me coming back again and again. As you’ll see it’s affected my rhythm and verse, which unfortunately for readers, may come as a curse. Don’t believe me my friends? – Well you should try it out first!

What kind of person will you be?

Ackerman’s artistic endeavors and Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson’s narrative prose make for one of the most interesting games I’ve played in a while. Now the game has very simple mechanics, and all of them are keyboard based: “Press X a specific amount of times.”, “Type out this sentence to save your life.”, “Pet a pet in this sequence of arrow keys”, etc. and while it may seem easy I have to say, it’s one of the most frantic games I’ve played in a while. The game gives you a 5 – 6 second window to complete these small keyboard-based tasks. This isn’t a ton of time, and so gamers with motion impairments or slower reflexes will have a tough time completing sections and changing your fate.

I’ll snuggle you for a better life teddy! You’ll be my friend!

Never fear my dear, for there’s something to help!

Their looks are so incredulous, because you’re just that dang AWESOME!

If you ever feel lost or give cause to yelp, well then after a play there’s a “Previous Chapter” A button you’ll press, when the pressure comes after. Heh. Rhyming isn’t helping is it? Well all I’ll say is that if you screw up you have an opportunity to replay the events over again and try for a different ending. There are 29 different stories in all and I’m intrigued enough to play through them all! If you’re totally into narrative storytelling like I am you’ll want to sit down with this little flash title and relive your life over and over again! You can play it for free today on Kongregate or even Newgrounds – both have the game, and I promise you’ll get addicted to a game that even Dr. Suess would be proud of!

Pros:

  • Easy gameplay, with about 6 chapters per playthrough. 29 possible endings will keep you quite busy.
  • Colors are simple and clean. Easy for viewing and playing. 
  • Game runs on keyboard based functions, and while not accessible for all gamers, it makes for simple gameplay.
  • Stories are fun, interesting, and keep gamers wanting to reach the end of their fate on each playthrough.
  • The interactions and stories are truly funny. Egoraptor’s dialog definitely amps up the enjoyment of this game!
  • A previous chapter function allows gamers to replay sections they may have messed up on to hopefully get new endings.

Cons:

  • No subtitles for audio, which makes the game much harder for deaf gamers. However: Deaf gamers can read the script: HERE.
  • No audio cues. The game has audio that blind players can listen to, but no audio cues for when items are highlighted, etc.
  • Quick reflexes are needed for this game to be able to access ALL of the endings. A small window of time doesn’t give you much room.

Enjoy folks! Happy gaming to you all!

Gaming With A Cause: Humble Bundle V

Hey there world, now I know I’ve been touting E3 Impressions all over the place this week, BUT you guys know [ if you’re regular viewers ] my real mission for this blog isn’t just to talk about or develop games, but rather give back to my community via games. It’s been a while since I’ve found a reason to celebrate games as a charity – today I may have found the golden egg of ALL Humble Bundles! Yep – that’s right! This Humble Bundle supports the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child’s Play. These charities help fund education and support providing video games to hospitals to provide kids with entertainment and fun.

Indie Games UNITE!

Now why am I so stoked about THIS Humble Bundle V? WELL, as a designer, there comes a time where I have found games which I personally feel that no designer should go without playing. The games which should be your guide to artsy, pop-culture, wonder hits. The games that, whether it be mechanics, storyline, or artwork, blew fellow designers and myself away with how amazing these games were for some reason or another. So without further adieu let’s pull back the curtain on what I believe to be the BIGGEST, and BEST Humble Bundle package yet! Oh, and by the way, Tim Schafer is in the trailer!

1. Superbrothers: Sword and Sorcery EP

Now I saw this game when it first came out as a tablet PC and iPhone game – and I was stunned by how cool it looked. It’s retro artistic vibe, with it’s text based dialogue, and it’s almost Zelda like adventure blew me away, and made me want to get a iPhone so bad! I’m stoked that it’s finally coming to a platform where I can have access to it and play it first hand all the way through! The story, art, and gameplay mechanics are something to admire and watch!

Here’s looking at you Tri-Force!

2. LIMBO

This game haunts my nightmares with how hauntingly beautiful and morbid this game is. You play as a young boy who is traversing this monochromatic black and white dreamscape. The puzzles are morbid and often end in the death of your character, but he comes back to life for you to try and try again. The gameplay mechanics are super simple [ one button for jump, the movement keys, and then another button to grab items ]

While it may seem odd and sort of macabre to take part in this death-defying dream puzzler, Limbo is hands down one of my favorite indie games. Each puzzle is super challenging and it keeps you invested with the emotion you feel for your little digital friend as he makes this journey. Produced by a company called Play Dead Studios [ fitting name ] it’s definitely one of the must see games on this list.

One small step for man… one giant leap for a boy.

3. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 

I actually have never had first hand experience with this game, but that’s also because I tend to shy away from the horror genre of games. I’m trying my best to branch out though, and from what I’ve heard of this game – it’s a must see and experience. I’ll keep you all posted on the accessibility and the gameplay once I buy it and run a play through. Here is a trailer though, to give you an idea of the game:

4. Psychonauts

Well, if this wasn’t the icing on the delicious cake that is this Humble Bundle V. Everyone should know by now that I’m sort of in love with a company called Double Fine Productions. I’m kind of infatuated with them and have been a long time fan of their work. Tim Schafer is like an icon in this industry to me, and one of the main reasons he’s had such an impact on my gaming life is because of THIS game!

Psychonauts is a quirky, off-the-wall, fun and whimsical adventure game. You – well, I would explain it, but honestly, the trailer speaks for itself:

Thanks Mr. Schafer. Thank you and your team for building such a memorable game.

5. Bastion [ If you pay over the average donation, which is $ 8.26 ]

A high-octane platforming narrative that really grasps you from the seat of your pants and carries you all the way to the end… umm… well, I guess there’s a better way to explain it. Perhaps the narrator of the game can:

6. Lone Survivor [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

This is one of the newest editions to the indie house of lovely games. You play as well, a lone survivor, in a pixelated platforming world. Evade pixel zombies, collect loot and resources, and do your best to survive this horrible fate – or you know? Die trying.

One man. Many zombies. All Pixels.

7. Braid [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

Well, how to describe this one? Oh yeah! Take a sprinkle of Prince of Persia [ the time altering ] and then add in some crazy puzzle mechanics that take my breathe away, and THEN compile it on one of the most beautifully retro, hand painted styles of art and graphics I’ve seen on an indie game and you’d have Braid. Enough said – for now.

Let’s do the Time Warp again!

8. Super Meat Boy [ If you pay over the average donation. ]

What do you get when you give a meat wad a lover? – separate them by force, and then ask the meat wad to come rescue his meaty bride? Well you get Super Meat Boy, and it’s one of the most odd, interesting, and funny experiences I’ve had in a game before. The game is definitely challenging, but it’s well worth the challenge – because the designers put so much time, effort, and love into this game. There is no way you’ll walk away from this game without a big, meaty smile on your face!

I’ll save you my ham-flavored princess! I just have to grind my way up the food chain!

I would try to give folks a full run down of all of these games [ and I may later ], but I would be so excited that it would take me a page for each one. Think about this for one moment. You not only get the GAMES, but you also acquire their SOUNDTRACKS – and ALL of these amazingly historic games can be gathered up for less than $10 dollars!! Are you kidding me right now?! That’s like someone knocking on your door mid-June and saying “Merry Christmas stranger!” leaving you some of the most lavish gifts they can give and then just driving away!

If you know nothing of these games, know this: Each of these games, in my personal opinion, contain an aspect of game design that I think EVERY designer should experience. Whether you’re a painter, a fashion designer, a game designer, or even a teacher – YOU SHOULD try these games. They’re emotional, challenging, and engaging stories that have captivated millions in the industry for one reason or another! What once were indie games nobody knew of, and few dared to explore, are some of the most cherished gems in gaming now. So, please, do yourself a favor and support a wonderful charity and grab these fantastic games while you still can.

YOU HAVE 5 Days left! 5! Games are supported for PC, Mac, and Linux! Go now and get your HUMBLE BUNDLE V! Make the most of it! Let your indie gamer live!

Game of the Week: Reprisal

Hey there folks. Now, usually, I’m all about games that catch my eye artistically. I mean, seriously, I’m devoted to companies like Double Fine and thatgamecompany and the artistic games they output. I find that games and art have this, sort of, symbiotic relationship. This being said, I’ve found that recently I’ve been enjoying a number of games that characterize how games can truly emphasize their artistic merits. I’ve traveled in a demo of  thatgamecompany’s Journey, I’ve been marveling longingly at video for The Unfinished Swan, and I’ve even been playing a lovely retro-art game called Reprisal by Electrolyte Games founder and designer, Jon Caplin.

Retro Revolutions – ahh how I love them!

This game transports me back to the days of my Gameboy Color, with it’s tightly interwoven text-based storyline, it’s hauntingly beautiful chip-tune soundtrack, and it’s pixelated, vibrant art style. This game all but had me at, “Hello.”  So, without further ado, let’s dive in to Reprisal.

Conquer your foes! – with pixelated toes!

As if it were something out of Avatar, you play as the leader of a nation trying to acquire both land and elemental powers back from warring tribes. There are 4 nations and 30 levels within the game. While some of the beginning levels are quite easy, as you advance in skill gaining more and more new powers, the game gets more complicated and intriguing. The game has heavy elements of strategy and coordination and will definitely keep a player guessing as to how to defeat and conquer islands. It definitely reminds me of a throwback of the old game Populous. If you haven’t ever played that game, then this game will definitely give you a reason to go check out a vintage classic.

I set FIRE – TO THE PLAINS! Watch them BURN as I STEAL YOUR BASE!

Now, how about those accessible features? Well I’ll spare you a dissertation and open up!

Pros:

  • All game instructions are done via text-based format. Perfect for deaf players.
  • Controls extremely simple. WASD/Arrow Keys can be used to view map.
  • Single button input controls for game make it easy on motion impaired
  • Chiptune music is amazingly relaxing and a welcome from the retro classics.
  • Color scheme is vibrant and characters, although pixelated, are easy to identify.
  • Game maps aren’t severely large so it makes for easy navigation.
  • HUD display provides easy access for all spells, advice, etc.

Cons:

  • Chip-tune soundtrack can tend to get repetitive, but is easily muted.
  • Colorblind gamers may have an issue with some levels due to similar color tones.
    • i.e. Green tribe on ‘forest’ land, Blue tribe on ‘ice’ land, etc.
  • Game has to be saved in order to play, so it requires a use of a Kongregate account.
  • Game gives no hints/instructions on how to defeat enemies if you get stuck.
  • Game AI can quickly overwhelm you if you don’t strategize properly.

Overall the game not only gives a lovely artistic twinge to the start of my day, but it keeps my brain working like crazy to try and determine how to defeat these pixelated powerhouses. The game lacks a bit in defining it’s storyline, but it definitely imposes a great strategy game within a very simple beginning narrative. It always makes me smile when designers can put together something so simple and make something so special!

So quickly, grab your keyboard, grab your mouse, become a leader and command your tribe! Take over the many islands of Electrolyte Games whimsical strategy game and, as they say, take back your history!

Play Reprisal for FREE on Kongregate today and share the love of pixel battles! – OR if you choose to forgo the Kongregate account you can play it directly from Caplin’s direct site dedicated to the game:

Reprisal

Pixel style!

Thanks goes to Mr. Caplin for sharing this lovely morsel of pixel goodness with the world!

Inspirational Gamers of the Week: Signcraft and Coco & Co.

Hey there fellow gamers!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, and I’m sorry, but alas thus is the risk of being a college student and working. It can sap your ability to do what you love to do. Now, today I’ve found something very cool and it’s an up and starting movement. I’m so proud to know that this sort of organization exists. I want to say that, while I’ve covered The Able Gamers Foundation and love them – I personally love it when smaller, more specific disability groups form to aid those in need. In this case there’s a group called Signcraft.

They’re a non-profit website that focuses on providing deaf gamers a venue to enjoy, understand, and learn about Starcraft 2 strategies, gameplay, etc. I hope they actually go further than this – it would be really inspiring to see them branch out past just a single game. I would love to see deaf-accessible game reviews, game walkthroughs, etc. not only for PC games but also console gamers. It would be a very cool concept and I see it being a large benefit for a fantastic community that I feel definitely needs exposure.

Currently they only do Starcraft commentaries, but please go check them out and if you like them and like what they’re doing tell them what you’d like to see. I’m sure they’d be open to opinions and more exposure! You can find them here, but here’s their current introduction video to get you guys started. This also inspired me to go find games that are exploring the art of deaf gaming in the game culture.

I’ll be posting a game post about it, but keep a look out for a game called “Way”  by Coco and Co.I’ll be downloading the available Alpha version currently, but it looks like a really amazing game that forces players to work together to try and solve puzzles via communicating via only by gesture communication. Check it out if you’re interested:

It’s severely indie – but that’s why I love it. I’m a sucker for indie games that challenge the norms, conformities of the industry, etc. and ‘Way’ seems fantastic – I’ll let you guys know exactly how it plays out soon!

Till then here’s to you all! Take care and happy gaming to you all!

Game of the Week: Rock of Ages

Well, for those who don’t know much about me, you can probably tell by the games I represent on a weekly basis that I love the quirky, the weird, the odd-ball wall flower that’s gathering dust in the corner of your high school gym locker – so you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a massive Monty Python fan. Give me Terry Gilliam and John Cleese and I will probably love that movie/show. Now why do I say this, well, I stumbled upon a game today that harkens me back to my youth watching The Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life, and it’s name is:

Rock of Ages by Atlus Games

Now what exactly is Rock of Ages? Well, let’s see – take a game like Katamari – throw in some tower defense style gameplay, and then lay on top of it the quirky animation styles and rambunctious humor akin to something you’d see out of a Monty Python animation and you’d have Rock of Ages. It’s a time-traveling, boulder smashing, tower defense game with style – and lots of it!

The object is that every level – you have an opponent, and you are to roll your ball down to the opponents gate as fast as you can in attempt to break it. The opponents job is to try and stop you by placing up barracks, explosives, soldiers, catapults, and even cows within your path to slow your momentum. You alternate turns rolling toward each others gate, and the first person to break through the door and roll over their opponent wins. If that doesn’t sound interesting and fun, well then you sir [ or madame ] have very little humor in your life and I shall dub thee a ninny!

For those about to ROCK – We will CRUSH you!

Rock of Ages takes you on a pseudo-historical lesson while you smash into the masses, but what’s great about Rock of Ages is that it’s highly accessible to multiple players. There are a lot of aspects that they got right during the development that pose a strong case towards an accessible game.

Here’s how the accessibility breaks down:

Pros:

  • All cinematics are pantomime w/ minor voice mumbles, and if characters do speak it’s in text format – plus all rules and tutorials are given in text format. Perfect for deaf gamers.
  • Simple controls make the game easy to pick up and control.
  • Tutorials are simple and informative.
  • Visual symbolism is heavy in this game making it easier for deaf gamers.
  • Colorblind gamers shouldn’t have a problem with this game. All color tones seem to balance.
  • Options of movement inversion, and a Southpaw setting for left-handed.
  • Tower-defense setup isn’t timed and so you can take as much time as you need to prepare your battlefield. A definite plus for motion-impaired gamers.
  • HUD displays are easy to see and understand how to use.
  • If you fall off the track, an auto return action occurs placing your boulder in play.

Welcome TO THE JUNGLE! We got LOTS OF PAIN!

Cons:

  • Motion-impaired gamers may have some issues steering via console – sticks tend to be a bit less sensitive – often causing boulder to fall during harsh turns in track.
  • No option for stick sensitivity changes on console ports [ unsure of Steam version ]
  • Text can be a tad small and unreadable in some cases for vision impaired gamers.
  • Tower defense setup requires use of multiple buttons across controller, so it makes setup much harder for one-handed or motion impaired.
  • Boulder is able to begin travel before your setup phase ends – so if you take longer than comp. opponent it can cause issues for your overall game.

One Boulder to Rule Them All! History has met it’s match…

Overall though this is a quirky, out of the box, little gem of a game and I think anyone who loves history, Monty Python style animation, and just flat out loves to smash things – should definitely check out this wonderfully odd-ball smashing tower-defense game. You can pick it up on PSN, XBLA, and Steam if you’re a PSN Plus member you can get Rock of Ages for FREE, but otherwise, I believe it’s 800 Microsoft Points for XBLA, and on Steam for $ 10. I can’t imagine that the PSN purchase price would be any more than that either – so GO FORTH my MINIONS!

Wreck your ball into the chronicles of history to be forever enshrined with the happiness that is Rock of Ages!

 

Game of the Week: Awesomenauts

How to premise this next game in as few words as possible, while still delivering what it’s all about?

Well how about this – take the over-the-top quirkiness of classic late-80’s and 90’s cartoons, toss in some violence, some online gameplay and throw it all together into one of the most odd, unique, and action-packed tower defense games I’ve ever laid eyes on – and you’d roll yourself a spacecraft full of Awesomenauts designed by Ronimo Games. [ – even the name sounds like it was pulled from an ’80’s cartoon! ]

The game is played online with others [so it’s unfortunate for those lacking constant internet access] and you get [ currently 6 ] characters to choose from as your character. Essentially the premise is that with every level you have an array of turrets assigned to your team [ usually 3 + ] They are color coded Red or Blue accordingly. Your goal, if you choose to accept it: Destroy all of your opposing teams turrets and power base before they destroy yours – while simultaneously defending your own base from opposing online players, grabbing upgrades for yourself, etc. Sound ‘Awesome’ enough yet to give this game a look?

I pity the fool who messes with the Awesomenauts!

The game is a 2D side-scroller and it’s so action packed and fast-paced that I swear it becomes addictive after the first few matches. Mix all of this with interesting and quirky characters, a dynamite soundtrack, and memorable one-liner quips as you thwart off enemies and you’re in for a blast with Awesomenauts. Picture the A Team – but in space.

Well, now that I’ve gushed over the gameplay enough let’s talk about the accessibility of the game hmm?

Pros:

  • All cutscenes between matches have subtitled dialogue, perfect for deaf players.
  • Controls require a lot of buttons, but they are simple to navigate – so that’s a plus.
  • Fast-paced action and gameplay makes for an intriguing memorable experience.
  • Mini-map in corner to visually show off where turrets are being attacked.
  • Simple, well defined upgrade system for characters during gameplay.
  • Large print text during gameplay perfect for vision-impaired gamers.
  • Game is available in multiple languages:
    •  English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch 
  • 3 player local co-op vs. online opponents makes game much more fun.

We’re like the Three Musketeers, or the Three Amigos – of AWESOME!

Cons:

  • Game requires use of two-hands. One-handed gameplay possible, but much harder.
  • Game requires precision and quick reflexes. The fast-paced gameplay lends to speed.
  • Color scheme may be very harsh for colorblind gamers at some points in the game.
  • No customizable settings on control scheme. It’s a set scheme, no option for change.
  • Game requires an internet connection to play – you can play offline practice via bots – but the fun is truly in online opponents.
  • Flashy animations may be harsh on epileptic patients.

Live to WIN! Take it ALL! Keep on FIGHTING TILL YOU FALL!

Overall the game was an addictive experience from the first turret kill. I’ve only had the privilege of playing as Leon or Lonestar, but the other characters seem to be really unique and interesting as well, and it seems as though Ronimo Games is going to be making more available soon… more Awesome? Yes please!

So thank you Ronimo Games – you’ve provided me with yet another tower-defense game that will probably consume a vast majority of my time again! Awesome game deserves some awesome praise! Congrats guys on a great game and I hope to see more from this studio. Please consider a possible patch to add customizable control schemes to the board – overall that’s the one thing that I felt hindered this game the most for me.

So go forth my minions! – be Awesome, and you too can save the galaxy from your friends in Awesomenauts which is available for XBox 360 and PS3 via the XBLA or PSN for 800 Microsoft points – which I believe equates to like $8 via PSN.

Now GO! FIGHT! WIN!