Tagged: indie

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Prison Air

As I continue wading through the 775 entrants in this year’s Independent Games Festival, whittling my way to a highly polished list of the Top Twenty, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorites.

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Ya know what game never got the respect it deserved? PAIN on PlayStation 3. Its clever, crude and hilarious ragdoll gameplay was always overshadowed by the commercial tie-ins and frequent paid DLC expansions. I loved it though, and it’s been way too long since someone got close to the concept. Enter Prison Air, a delightfully irreverent game where you launch prisoners via catapult towards a prison while aiming to hit as much stuff as possible with their limp bodies.

It’s expanded considerably since the initial game jam version with a story mode (as inexplicable as that may seem), objectives, minigames and secrets. Like PAIN before it there’s just something satisfying about tossing people around like literal ragdolls and breaking stuff. Call me simple but it looks like great fun! Prison Air from Pointless Button Studios is in Early Access at the moment but I’m very much looking forward to its final release.

IGF 2016 Spotlight on: Overcooked

As I continue wading through the 775 entrants in this year’s Independent Games Festival, whittling my way to a highly polished list of the Top Twenty, I wanted to highlight some of my favorites

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Way up on the short list already is Overcooked by Ghost Town Games, the adorably vibrant co-op cooking action game seen here. I don’t know what it is about cooking games but I’ve been a sucker for them my whole life. From Tapper to BurgerTime and Ore no Ryouri to Cooking Mama, there’s at least one oddball cooking game from each generation that I latch onto and Overcooked looks to fit the bill this time around.

In Overcooked, 1-4 players team up to manage the food orders pouring into the kitchen. Grabbing, chopping, cooking and delivering dishes would be best accomplished by delegating tasks to individuals but half the fun looks to be scrambling around and accidentally (?!) stealing ingredients. Adding a whole other layer of chaos are the numerous stages. There’s the standard restaurant kitchen with its checkerboard tiles and bright lights but things escalate to a pirate ship with countertops that sway back and forth, a haunted house with poltergeists that rearrange work surfaces and even a pair of food trucks barreling down the road.

It has that charmingly colorful and UK indie vibe I liked so much in Flame Over but maybe with Overcooked I might actually get some friends interested. It’s on Steam Greenlight right now and it’ll be released for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in “early 2016”.

A Hands On Preview of PONCHO

What is PONCHO? Since I first saw it six months ago all I knew was that it looked gorgeous and was mysterious as can be. Having finally laid hands on a preview build of the game I’m happy to bring you some of an answer to that burning question. Like that indie darling, Fez, PONCHO is a mysterious, 2D, platforming adventure with brain-tweaking dimensional gameplay and lush pixelart visuals. But those high level characteristics are where the similarities end.

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At the outset you’re given the most succinct of explanations: mankind rose up, created self-sustaining robot life… and then went extinct. Centuries later you wake up into a new world as Poncho. Cities have fallen into crumbling ruins, nature has taken over and the remaining machines may have evolved on their own. Part of the game’s charm are the tiny, pixelated details like robotic caterpillars that wriggle like clockwork and mechanical frogs that bound out of the bushes. Did mankind create robot animals or have the machines grown to fill in the gaps? It’s just another of the questions that so easily cross your mind as you poke around while the perfectly fitting, lo-fi chiptune soundscape washes over you.

Besides being the only robot in sight wearing a poncho, you also have the unique ability to leap between Z planes — background, middleground, and foreground — at the press of the shoulder buttons. The story intro and tutorial for this mechanic make for a damn striking first impression but I don’t want to spoil any of that. The defining difference with the gameplay compared to similar titles like LittleBigPlanet or Mutant Mudds is that you can change planes anywhere there is line of sight between the overlapping layers. The effect is mesmerizing as planes ripple back and forth, changing transparency and scale as you rapidly move between them.

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Beyond mechanics, the real point of PONCHO is simply to explore, and I love that. You arrive in a forest and you can head any way you want, periodically running into scholarly bots who spew existential quips about the meaning of life and the absence of the Maker. As you explore you’ll find shimmering pickups scattered around and cleverly tucked behind the multiple planes. Eventually you’ll come across a warp gate that lets you access new zones but you’re always free to come back because, chances are, there’s still stuff to find. Those pickups can be swapped for keys (from one of the best shopkeepers ever) and used to unlock new paths. There’s also an NPC who shows you how to awaken his dormant followers and rewards your efforts with a new ability.

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Moving platforms are also present and you probably guessed they aren’t the traditional kind. These platforms jump in and out of the three planes and were incredibly challenging for me to navigate. The color coding as they move is helpful but in my time with the game I never managed to really nail it. It’s a bit of a bummer but for a game with no combat (love it!) I suppose some aspect of it has to be challenging. PONCHO is no slouch when it comes to precision platforming and while I am no master, the moments where I got into a groove sure made me feel like one.

This build has a few other surprises that I’m not going to detail but they do hint at a bigger game and more narrative. The complete history of this post-human world may never be laid bare but it looks like we’ll take part in some interesting stories on the search for the Maker.

I’m thrilled to have finally played PONCHO and even more excited to say the magic didn’t wear off. I’m just as clueless as before about what’s happening but still as excited as ever to explore and find out. Developer Delve Interactive and publisher Rising Star Games just recently announced the game will be out on Steam this September with Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Vita versions alongside or close behind. I have a hands on video of PONCHO up if you want to see the game in action (which you should) and will be back once it’s released with more Now Playing impressions as I work through it.

Release Date Announced for PONCHO, more coverage this week!

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This is just a super quick post to get the details out there. PONCHO, a mesmerizing indie puzzle/platformer I’ve been eyeing since I first discovered it back in January, finally has a release date! It’s coming in September to PC and developer Delve Interactive have confirmed the game is also in the works for PlayStation 4, Vita and Wii U, along with Mac and Linux support alongside the PC version.

Even better, I’ve been given a preview build of the game on PC and I’ll have a written piece as well as a video up later this week.

Say hola to ADIOS on PlayStation 4 this Autumn

Can’t wait for No Man’s Sky? How about 2D No Man’s Sky? I don’t even mind putting that reductive of a label on ADIOS because the developers themselves are pretty cheeky with how they define it. Their site calls Amazing Discoveries in Outer Space the world’s first “2D-space-simulator-platformer-rougelike-explore-em-up-hybrid-genre-did-we-mention-space-game (2DSSPREEUHGDWMSG)”. But it also, more succinctly, defines it as “a 2D space exploration game with a rich simulation grounded in astrophysics”. Ok, that’s a pitch I can get behind!

I first saw ADIOS in this year’s IGF entries back in January but it was a tiny demo of some physics and it didn’t grab me. Almost half a year later it now looks dead-on like something I could get into. The lighting and atmosphere look splendid and it’s got realistic newtonian physics that govern over celestial bodies, your spacecraft and the stuff you drag around with its tow cable. Best of all, no weapons or combat! Yes, that’s a big plus in my book these days. The peril comes in keeping your ship fueled as you hop from planet to planet, searching for a way to get back home.

And unlike most other indie games coming to consoles, ADIOS hasn’t been kicking around on PC for years. It may not be an exclusive forever but it will launch first on PlayStation 4 this autumn. Check out the first gameplay footage above if words and mental imagery aren’t exciting enough for you.