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Archive for January, 2012

Defender’s Quest [REVIEW]

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Defender’s Quest: released January 20th, 2012
Developer: Level Up Labs
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

It never ceases to amaze me how indie developers continue to push tower defense games in new and interesting directions so frequently. Many old school genres such as platformers and shmups, have enjoyed a pretty notable resurgence in recent years, almost entirely thanks to the indie scene. Tower defense games on the other hand, are a genre that have just about always thrived exclusively at the hands of indie developers. Most recently it’s become quite popular to take the core mechanics of a tower defense game, and blend them with a totally different style of game. Sanctum and Monday Night Combat did it with shooter mechanics, Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die! did it with action RPG mechanics, and Defender’s Quest goes an entirely different route, choosing to blend tower defense, with traditional, story driven JRPG mechanics.

At this point I’m beginning to wonder if tower defense isn’t just some kind of all encompassing super-genre that manages to blend well with any type of game. Each time one of these hybrids is released, I smack myself on the forehead and wonder how nobody had ever thought to do it before. Having now sunk the past couple days in to the extremely addictive Defender’s Quest, I once again find myself wondering, how the hell has nobody ever thought to do this before?! Read more…

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Dustforce [REVIEW]

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment


Dustforce: released January 17th, 2012
Developer: Hitbox Team
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

[NOTE: Mac and Linux versions are currently unreleased, but are on the way!]

Skill based platformers are a truly unique beast. To some extent you could say that all platformers are skill based (and of course you’d be right), but what I’m referring to here is a completely different breed of platformer. Something familiar, yet so very unique from your Super Marios and your Donkey Kong Countrys. Each level of these games presents you with a unique challenge, a series of obstacles that you must overcome by exercising quick reflexes, minute precision, and an extraordinary amount of practice, practice, practice! These games are hard, and they make no apologies for it, because it’s that very difficulty that gives them their style, their power, their edge. That old feeling of getting a high score and beating out your friends’ best efforts is reimagined in the form of getting a new best time and completing each level faster than your peers.

It takes a lot of hard work, but there’s nothing quite as majestic as a perfectly executed speed run in a game like Super Meat Boy. Seeing someone jump and slide along these perfectly calculated paths is a truly impressive feat. Rarely do we get to see such noteworthy displays of skill in single player gaming, but thanks to titles like Super Meat Boy and N+, it’s becoming more and more common. Case in point, Dustforce, the newest skill based platformer to enter the fray, brought to us by developer Hitbox. So has Dustforce earned the right to be mentioned with the likes of those previously mentioned classics? You bet your ass it has! Read more…

Wrapple [REVIEW]

January 15, 2012 Leave a comment


Wrapple: released January 4th, 2010
Developer: Awoken Entertainment
Platforms: Windows

You are a genetically modified potato, created in a lab to be resistant to grasshoppers. Unfortunately for your lab coat wearing overlords, you have evolved and are now sentient! In your attempts to escape the lab you make use of various portals that are scattered about, but they weren’t designed for the transportation of potatoes, and as such each time you pass through one it destroys the room you left behind. At this rate, if the scientists can’t stop you, tomorrow’s headlines will read, “Sentient potato goes on portal hopping rampage and destroys laboratory!” And that’s the story folks!

I’ll say this much for the indie gaming scene, they are absolutely fearless when it comes to pushing the boundaries for whacky-as-shit premises in their games. Not that a terrificly plausible or complex story is even remotely necessary in a puzzle platformer such as Wrapple, but you’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty bizarre backstory, even so far as indie games are concerned. It’s all in good, light-hearted fun though, and I enjoyed the amusing story related journal entries that broke up the gameplay during Wrapple’s brief campaign. Read more…

Owlboy [PREVIEW]

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment


Owlboy: release date TBA 2012
Developer: D-Pad Studio
Platforms: Windows, Xbox Live (Indie or Arcade not yet determined)

 [NOTE: THIS PREVIEW IS FOR THE DEMO OF VERSION 1.01]

Owlboy is going to be one of the best indie games of 2012. Sometimes you play a game and it’s great, you have a lot of fun with it. Sometimes you play a game and it’s amazing, and you know you’ll always remember it pleasantly. Then other times you play a game, and you just can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sheer outstanding quality of it. From top to bottom, Owlboy is truly a first-class experience. The visuals are beyond outstanding, the sound design is absolutely killer, and the gameplay is a perfect mixture of action, adventure, platforming, and puzzle solving. There are some truly stellar titles on the way this year, and if you didn’t already have Owlboy on your list of names to watch out for, do so now.

Right off the bat I have to give kudos to D-Pad Studios for the visuals. The artwork in this game is truly striking and despite the overall quality of the game, I feel like this is what will get buzzed about the most. That’s not to imply that the visuals are the only buzzworthy aspect of the game, just that damn do they look nice! The attention to detail, the vibrant colors, the stylish designs, it’s just phenomenal. Nothing I say is really going to do the visuals justice, so just let the media speak for itself. There’s a trailer at the end of this preview and I’ll also put a link to D-Pad’s site so you can download the demo and see for yourself. It’s probably better that way as these things are always best experienced first hand. Read more…

Asteroids Do Concern Me [REVIEW]

January 12, 2012 Leave a comment


Asteroids Do Concern Me: released December 7th, 2010
Developer: Evil Robot Logic
Platforms: Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace

Simplicity in gaming is an interesting topic. This last generation of consoles in particular has seen the term transformed a bit, now being associated with the “casualization” of the industry. When a developer wants to take a long established franchise that is cherished by many a veteran game enthusiast and alter it to appeal to a more casual audience, what do they do? They simplify things. Unfortunately this has led to the word “simple” now being synonymous with “casual” or, in many cases, “bad.” Asteroids Do Concern Me is without a doubt, the very definition of simple, but even more than that, it’s a fantastic example of how simplicity doesn’t always translate to poor game design, despite the unfortunate stigma that comes along with it.

The core gameplay in Asteroids Do Concern Me isn’t terribly unique, in that it is very clearly derivative of many flash games that you can find online for free. The goal in Asteroids Do Concern Me is to navigate your ship through a field of asteroids, trying to travel the furthest distance possible. If you’ve ever played Robot Unicorn Attack, then you’re already familiar with the idea. So then what makes this game worth your time? Hilarious writing, outstanding presentation, and just enough nuance in the gameplay to keep things interesting. Read more…

Path of Exile [PREVIEW]

January 10, 2012 2 comments

Path of Exile: release date TBA
Developer: Grinding Gear Games
Platforms: Windows

[NOTE: THIS PREVIEW IS FOR THE CLOSED BETA VERSION OF THE GAME!]

Path of Exile is still being worked on, and the fine folks at Grinding Gear Games are constantly updating and making changes to the very fabric of it’s existence. The version played for this preview was 0.9.5, and there are still many plans in the works that have yet to make their way in to the game. That said, the core of the game is there and I feel confident that my impressions of it thus far will undoubtedly carry over to the final product once it finally makes it’s debut.

When I recall my history as a gamer and think back to the titles I played growing up, the important ones, the ones that really shaped who I am as a gaming enthusiast, there are a handful of names that will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course there are the more obvious gaming staples such as Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, which you’re likely to find on almost any veteran gamer’s all-time favorites list, but another franchise that truly left it’s mark on me was that of Diablo. The thrill of unlocking new skills and hunting down rare loot was something I had never really experienced before, and to this day it’s that very same formula that keeps me coming back to the series.

After doing a few years time in the land of Diablo 2, I began to crave something different. I wanted that same loot based, dungeon crawling experience, but with new settings and characters. Some might argue that the Forgotten Realms titles (Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Neverwinter Nights) appropriately fill that void, but let’s be real here, those games are nothing like Diablo. I still loved them to death, but I missed the addictive qualities of randomized dungeons and looting. It’s taken some time, but we’ve recently started seeing some real forward momentum with the Diablo-style of game design, and today I’d like to talk about a particularly promising title called Path of Exile. Read more…

Frozen Synapse [REVIEW]

January 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Frozen Synapse: released May 26th, 2011
Developer: Mode 7 Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

My relationship with real-time strategy games has always been tenuous at best. It’s not necessarily that I don’t like them, quite the contrary actually. I’ve had a blast playing through the campaigns of the Warcraft, Starcraft, and the Dawn of War series’, but as I’m sure many people know, it’s the multiplayer that is the life blood of these games. Especially now with how phenomenally Starcraft 2 has been doing in the ever-evolving field of eSports, multiplayer in RTS games is more important than ever. Some people though, such as myself, just can’t ever find it in themselves to dedicate the time necessary to become truly good at these games. I still enjoy spectating, but as far as competing goes it’s really best that I sit the games out.

The appeal of a strategy title for me is in the planning. Out-thinking your opponent, flanking them and positioning your units better than they did. Games like Starcraft of course employ these basic strategical components, but they also require you to learn a variety of hotkeys, build orders for your ideal units, and how to properly maintain your armies economy. I understand the appeal in this high level of strategy, but what about those of us who simply wish to plan and direct our units? We don’t want to mine resources, we don’t want to keep track of ten-thousand different hotkeys, we just want to take control of our units and outmaneuver the enemy. On a completely even battlefield, we want to say that we had the exact same resources available and we still bested you! Using nothing but tactics, planning, and good intuition. Read more…