Tagged: Steam

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.

preview-poncho1

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.

preview-poncho3

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.

preview-poncho2

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.

Pillow Fort Sim ‘Fort Meow’ out now on Steam

062515-fortmeow

I just happened to be looking at Steam’s new release page today and noticed that one of my Top Twenty IGF games of the year is out and on sale. Fort Meow is a delightfully cute and clever game of “physics based pillow fort building” or as I put it “Angry Birds in reverse”.

Each round sees you placing pillows, tables, brooms and other household items to fend off overzealous lap cats so Nia can investigate her grandfather’s journal. It’s a little madcap overall but in the preview build I played the story was getting surprisingly touching in that ‘Up’ kind of way.

Fort Meow is out now on Steam for $7.99 and is on sale for 20% off until July 1st.

SpinTires sales at nearly 500,000 copies

How is this so captivating?

How is this so captivating?

Forget all the hype going on around E3, it’s time to talk about something important: getting giant trucks stuck in the mud and then getting them unstuck again. That’s right, SpinTires news! It’s been one year since the truck-in-mud simulator launched on June 13th, 2014 and the folks behind it wanted to share some stats. As a fan of the game (who still can’t explain why he loves it so much) I’m happy to pass along the figures.

As of today nearly half a million copies of the game have been sold; 455,000 in total with 310,000 copies sold on Steam and another 145,000 at retail. Though the game is set in the rugged forests of a fictional 1980’s Russia, only 13% of those who bought the game are in Russia. There’s a few more stats to mull over in the accompanying infographic and if any of this has persuaded you in the slightest, SpinTires is currently 33% off as part of Steam’s Summer Sale. Go grab it, you’ll probably maybe love it!

Top-down, Side-scrolling Aces of the Lufwaffe hurts my brain

052215-luftwaffe

Verticality makes perfect sense for arcade games; the less width each machine takes up, the more you can cram side by side. It makes even more sense for arcade shooters, providing more space to see the bullet hell ahead of you. Home versions of these games, however, have struggled with reshaping that vertical presentation to fit square CRTs and now widescreen formats. The best solutions have been to shrink down the game to fit the height of the TV screen or to physically turn the TV on its side.

Aces of the Luftwaffe takes that less-than-ideal physical solution and applies it to the game itself, rotating the vertical shooter action on its side. I’m no shooter historian but this is the first top-down shmup I can think of that scrolls left to right and it’s a little unsettling to see in action. It wasn’t designed this way from the beginning — Aces has been around on mobile devices since 2008 — but it’s a clever twist that lets the action fill the screen instead of being shrunk down. It also looks like a hearty challenge and is currently $4.99 on PlayStation 4 and Steam. Or check it out for free on iOS, Android, Windows, Windows Phone or the Amazon app store.

For the love of SNES, go grab the Humble Weekly bundle!

081114-humblejapan

Hey you guys! Go and buy the Humble Weekly Bundle: Japan Edition right now and play Gigantic Army if nothing else! Created in the spirit of “Cybernator / Assault Suits Valken, Metal Warriors, and Front Mission: Gun Hazard” it has all the stuff that made me desperately want a SNES in the 90’s. Giant mech suits, guns with elaborate model numbers/codenames, huge sprites, giant explosions and a war with an overpowering alien race.

On Easy it’s about 35 minutes long but  it’s a fun nostalgic ride all the way and it leads to three extra difficulty modes that are sure to remind you of what those 90’s era SNES games were really like: brutal. The bundle also includes Unholy Heights, a fun little game that combines weird monsters, hotel management and some light strategic combat with a Katamari/Animal Crossing vibe. It’s one of the best bundles I’ve bought in a while and there’s even more stuff if you pay a little more. Check it out, T-minus 2 days and counting as of this post!