Sunday, 31 January 2016

Review - It's Spring Again

It's Spring Again, developed by indie dev Asya Yurina and published by Sometimes You is a game aimed at very young children.  Anyone with young children who like trying to play games with you will know that it's very difficult to find games that they can play on their level, usually requiring at least some or a lot of help to be able to play.  It's Spring Again is designed to be played with minimal or no help from an adult.  It's completely child-safe and has a bit of educational value too.

It's Spring Again features a simple, attractive art style with plenty of colour and movement.

The game starts off in spring - via the narrator (who  has a pleasant voice that doesn't get annoying, though the option to turn off the narration also exists) it is explained what happens in each season.  Simple hints are provided as to what your child needs to click on next - it's all done in a very natural way, such that initially very young children might not realise what is required of them.  My 5 year-old needed a little prompting the first time round but promptly went through the whole thing again with no additional help, and then after a couple of days played it again with no help.  My estimate of the best target audience for the game is 6-8 year-olds.

It's all very simple and takes a short time to cycle through all the seasons, 10 minutes maybe.  When you get to spring again... it all continues until you quit the game.  My daughter liked it quite a bit, and my younger daughter (not yet 2) was enchanted watching it for a while.  It teaches young ones about the season and our planet in an effortless way that will instill an appreciation for nature in them.

My eldest daughter, sensitive thing that she is, gets rather worried by the big storm clouds!

For a game that's short and sweet, the aesthetics have to be spot on, and they are - the art design and direction is beautifully done, the narration good and the musical integration is superb.  There's evidently a huge amount of thought and effort gone into this, and if you have young children in the target range, it will be well worth the nominal fee.   IT's a "game" designed for a very specific group, and it does its job extremely well.



In case you hadn't already guessed, this is Winter.

Pitstop Challenge now out

This is an interesting take on the motor racing team management sim - you have to manage the pit crew instead.  Developed by Laudo Games and distributed by Kiss Ltd, released on Friday 29 January 2016.


A must for every fan of this very well known motor sport… you know the one!

The goal in Pitstop Challenge is to become the best pitstop crew on the motorsport circuit. Select and managing a team of mechanics and send them to 19 of the world's fastest races, each one having 10 fantastic cars needing a pit crew.

With 24 car mechanics at your disposal, your job is to make them the best! Train and manage them and try and make them the fastest pit stop team in the world.
So don't wait, start your high-speed adventure now!





About Kiss Ltd
Established in 2012, Kiss Ltd offers indie developers from the UK and around the world a 'Label' to publish their games on digital download stores such as Steam. Kiss provides all the contract and legal support; manages all tax issues; manages the catalogue; collects royalties and provides a full suite of marketing assistance. Most importantly, our development partners retain their IP rights.


About The Developer
Laudo Games Ltd is a young company created by a group of video games enthusiasts and motorsport fans, each with several years of games development experience. The company is UK based, but the staff come from across the EU.
Website
Twitter
Instagram



Saturday, 30 January 2016

Review - Sydney's World

The first thing that it’s important to know about Sydney’s World is that while it looks like a traditional JRPG, that’s not really what it is – it’s a DGBL (Digital Game-Based Learning) tool, and as such it’s aimed at readers aged 8 and above.  It’s designed to encourage reading, and (particularly with younger children) for a parent / guardian / teacher to play along with the child, encouraging reading, creative thinking and imagination along with the game play.  For older children whose reading is a little more advanced, there are plenty of life lessons to be learned as you rescue Sydney’s dad.
 
It's not easy, being heroes...

Ah, yes, rescuing dad – plot-wise I’m not going to tell you much, as the game is heavily narrative-led and I don’t want to give any real spoilers.  Basically it’s a traditional children’s fantasy storyline, with a young girl called Sydney transported to another world along with her toy elf Snowball, who is brought to life in this world.  Their quest is to save Sydney’s dad, who has been kidnapped in this world.

Game play will be familiar to anyone who’s played a JRPG / RPG Maker game, but even if you’re not familiar with the genre, it won’t take you long to pick up.  Because it’s DGBL not pure JRPG, fans of the latter will be disappointed with some aspects of it – for instance there are very few items to use, no additional weapons or armours to equip beyond what each character is already equipped with (at least if there are, I don’t recall ever finding them),  the maps are rather uninteresting in terms of what you can do, quests and dialogues tend to be rather straightforward, and maps have visible exit points that you can’t exit.  That said the game does possess a fair few things that you won’t come across without some pretty serious exploration, but basically if you want a traditional JRPG, Sydney’s World isn’t it.  The game play is usually quite linear, but things definitely get more interesting later on in the game.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at Sydney’s World in terms of what it actually is, not what it isn’t.  I don’t have a test subject as such since the target audience is a little older than my oldest daughter – however I can tell you that she was pretty engaged by what was going on when she watched me playing it.  The game’s creator strongly believes in the potential of computer games being used for learning, and from my own experience and game devving, this is a view I wholeheartedly agree with.  

Always good advice!  We indie devs should probably take that to heart...

The narrative is vital to this game and happily the writing is very good.  It’s a solid kid’s fantasy yarn with plenty of interesting characters and a few twists and turns, while the characters in your party are well characterised.  Sydney’s constant cravings for snacks always made me chuckle (and rather reminded me of my own progeny!).  There is only partial voicing – Sydney and villains in the game are voiced - which seemed a little odd at first, until I thought about how it was developed to encourage reading.   The voice acting is good quality, rather over the top in places but that’s fine for pantomime villains, and it may only be me that found Sydney’s cute little girl voice a little overdone.  

Throughout the game there are many opportunities for extra reading – typically in bookcases found liberally scattered throughout the game world – which often contain allegorical tales or truisms.    The result of this is that the game works educationally on many levels, from reading comprehension to vocabulary building to life lessons, but this never feels forced, preachy or promoting a particular ideology – everything is nicely balanced and makes you find answers in your own head, not in the game.  Even for younger players there’s plenty of food for thought, especially with Sydney’s struggles to comprehend, for example, war and hatred between races.

Cat Owners and Dog Owners are not different races.  I think.

I have to admit to finding the difficulty of the battles a little unbalanced at times, with occasional massive jumps in difficulty level, but this may have been due to 1/ trying to rush through a little in order to get the review done and 2/ thinking early on that I could go back and grind through a couple of levels when actually I couldn’t (to be fair to the game, there are several points where it asks you if you’re finished exploring properly as you may not be able to return once you enter certain areas).  However once I progressed past a certain point, it seemed more balanced again – still a challenge in places, but not frustrating to progress.

The game play is mainly based around puzzle-solving, although exploration is still important and obviously in the sections with enemy critters (these do not re-spawn and can often be avoided) there are battles to contend with.  Occasionally you have to make choices about things which can occasionally result in an instant game over - I would suggest saving regularly just in case one of these comes up!

Purely as a JRPG, the game is certainly playable, but falls short in certain areas.  As a learning tool, it does its job extremely well, and I applaud its family-friendly approach.  The game is aimed for ages 8 upwards, my own guess at the maximum age would probably be 14 or so, although to be honest it could quite easily teach older teenagers a thing or two.  Enjoyable and educational, a winning combination!


Yikes!  It's a Bone Dragon!

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Slaughter: Act One Released on Steam and Humble Store


London, England – January 28, 2016, Today sees the release of Brainchild's Victorian adventure game The Slaughter: Act One for PC on Steam, Humble Store and through direct download at http://www.brainchildstudios.co.uk/

A serial killer is terrorizing the streets of Victorian London, and private investigator Sydney Emerson has hit a new low between finding lost dogs and receiving alleyway beatings. A turn of events sees Sydney forgoing his selfish nature and thrusting himself into perilous and increasingly surreal situations, treading a fine line between dreams and reality.


The Slaughter recreates Victorian London in all its decadence and depravity through an array of atmospheric locations and a cast of eccentrically British characters. The mystery intensifies in Sydney’s dreams, where logic is turned on its head and subconscious clues are woven into abstract Lynchian dreamscapes. At its heart, this unconventional adventure is the story of a man; disillusioned with life and the choices he’s made, trying to get through one day at a time.

Features of The Slaughter: Act One Include:
•       A noir adventure laced with adult themes and dark humour.
•       A faithful recreation of Victorian London, from decadence to depravity.
•       Classic point and click gameplay in the vein of the LucasArts games of yore.
•       Surreal dream-worlds holding subconscious clues.
•       Follow the trail of a killer, or drink until you vomit at the pub.
•       Original soundtrack blends film noir and traditional Victorian instruments.
•       Episodic release in three acts.


About Brainchild
From the smallest detail in a grotty pub basement, to the sound of horse hooves, Alexander Francois creates all aspects of his games alone under the name of Brainchild. When not working on The Slaughter, Alex makes smaller games like gravity-based adventure Orbit HD, and Ink Blotter, the first app to randomly generate Rorschach tests. Alex is interested in perverting the expectations of what a video game should be, aiming to give his games narrative worthy of a novel, but without compromising on enjoyable gameplay.

The Slaughter: Act One on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/356390



Mini-Games Madness Volume #1 - Hello World!


A new indie release by Skunk Software for WiiU, this is a collection of 4 mini-games for one low price, available from the Nintendo eShop.


The four games are:

  • Mini-Farmer "a fun time management game where you get to run your own organic farm"
  • Eels and Ladders "a 1 to 2 player board game"
  • Copter "a highly addictive arcade game"
  • Cave Run - The Lost Gems Edition "one of the best casual games you will play this year"

Screenshots:





International Teen Sensation Signs with Team17’s Games Label

UK – 28th January 2016 – Award winning games label Team17 has today announced its partnership with 16-year-old Melbourne based student and independent developer Anthony Tan of Studio Happy Bee to publish the highly anticipated Way to the Woods.

Way to the Woods took the gaming industry by storm when it hit the front page of reddit last month, attracting attention from Sean Murray, founder of the studio behind No Man’s Sky, Hello Games, who tweeted the stunning screenshots of the game. Team17 were equally blown away by both the game and the talent of Anthony Tan, the young man behind it. 


Way to the Woods is an absolutely beautiful, unique looking game and upon speaking with Anthony, we could not have been more impressed. He’s an incredibly mature person for his age with a very bright future ahead of him and it’s mind blowing what he’s achieved thus far. Team17 is helping nurture a number of studios around the world and I personally can’t wait to help Anthony achieve his goals. We’re extremely excited to be here to share this journey with him,” said Debbie Bestwick, CEO of Team17.

“To join a label that is responsible for helping teams such as Playtonic, Lilith, Mouldy Toof and many more is like a dream come true! I'm so excited to be working with an experienced label like Team17 and I'm confident that it’s the right positive step for Way to the Woods”added Anthony Tan, founder of Studio Happy Bee.

Way to the Woods is a captivating third-person adventure game where you play as a deer and her fawn, exploring a strange world filled with surreal imagery. Way to the Woods draws on inspirations from Studio Ghibli, is lovingly hand-crafted by Anthony Tan and features a beautiful soundtrack by London based musician and composer Jeremy Warmsley.



About Team17 Digital Ltd:
Founded in 1990, Team17 Digital Limited is a leading international games label that hosts the Worms franchise, Yooka-Laylee, Allison Road, The Escapists, Beyond Eyes, Sheltered and many more from amazing developers around the world. Visit www.team17.com for more info.

About Studio Happy Bee:
Founded in 2016, Studio Happy Bee is an independent developer headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. Studio Happy Bee is currently working on their first game Way to the Woods.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

BRRRAINZ!

Starting with the idea "why not have a game where you play the zombie horde instead of the rugged survivors" and going from there, Yeti Culture's debut game "BRRRAINZ" puts you in control firstly of a single, weak and pathetic zombie, from whose humble beginnings will eventually rise a zombie army to take over the world!

The game is due for release in June 2016 on PC, Mac and Linux.  Visit the Yeti Culture Website for more info.



Features
  • A Zombie Game From The Zombie’s Perspective: Finally a game that focuses on the real hero of the genre, The Zombie!
  • The Joys Of Destruction : See how much chaos you can cause and get rewarded for it!
  • The Needs Of The Many… : Gameplay that focuses on Your horde of zombies rather than the individual. Tear through levels as a group or give zombies commands to take down your enemies.
  • You Guys Are Just Freaks! : Collect zombies with special attacks that give your horde new ways to fight.
  • Unique Control System : A simple mix of action and strategy.
  • Even The Undead Can Evolve : Collect DNA points along your journey and upgrade your army of undead.
  • This Game Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us : 10 unique bosses inspired by famous zombie hunters and pop culture icons.
  • Oh The Good Old Days : Featuring a fun art style and setting loosely inspired by the 60s and 70s.
  • How Many Zombies Does It Take to Screw In a Lightbulb? : A lighthearted story filled with humor and pop culture references.


Monday, 25 January 2016

Jack King-Spooner's new grungy, clay animation game "Dujanah"

Jack King-Spooner (see his interview for this site)  isn't afraid of tackling difficult or contentious subjects in his games, reveling in thoughtful exploration of matters most other game devs would probably shy away from.  His latest project, Dujanah, is certainly no exception.

Dujanah is a game/ interactive narrative about exploring difficult ideas and is set in a fictional Islamic majority country, very much inspired by the architecture and geometric patterns of Moroccan villages. It is a follow up to the game Beeswing, which was successfully Kickstarted, and Jack is similarly looking to crowd-fund his latest game.  

In terms of what the game looks set to offer, apart from an interesting plot, unique visual style and acoustic soundtrack, I find it best to let Jack talk about the game himself.  This is what he says:

I know it is a tricky topic and it's important to be mindful concerning the spirit in which something is done. My whole appeal with Dujanah is to fair play and looking at it as a human narrative, her reactions as a human, not as a Muslim. I'm not interested in maintaining the ideological and symbolic "otherness" that many media depictions exacerbate. As with all my games, I have spent time researching and talking with people relevant to the subject and I plan to continue to do so should the funding be successful. 

Check out the Kickstarter Campaign.


Arelite Core preview alpha is now available


Quebec City, Canada, Jan 20 2016 – Dragon Slumber releases public playable alpha build for Arelite Core, a windows JRPG coming to Steam later this year.  Play the alpha today at : http://www.arelitecore.com

The disciples of the evil Talameq are seeking to restore their master to power. The fate of the world rests upon the shoulders of a few brave souls. Led by Karden, a master blacksmith from the mountains of Arreal, this team of heroes from around the world have come together to take a stand against this menace, and prevent the destruction of our world.


"I want to make sure Arelite Core is at its best once it releases later this year, which is why I'm gathering as much player feedback as they can provide," lead designer Kevin Giguere explained.


The downloadable preview lets players wander around the early portions of Arelite Core, discover the fully interactive world and master its combo driven battle system.


ARELITE CORE is planned for a fall 2016 release, but discover the excitement today by visiting http://www.arelitecore.com


KEY FEATURES

  • A story-driven game, no grinding required
  • Fully interactable environments with plenty of secrets to discover
  • Crisp high resolution graphics
  • Unique battle customization options for each character
  • Dynamic battles with combos, stunning and blitz special attacks
  • Mine ore to forge unique master weapons and armor
  • Over 25 unique SNES inspired music tracks

###



ABOUT DRAGON SLUMBER
Founded in early 2013 to work on Arelite Core, Dragon Slumber is composed of a single member, Kevin Giguère, who fills in most of the roles necessary for proper game creation, from writing and design, to programming, to production and marketing. Further work such as visuals and music composition is done contractually.


Check out more details, screenshots and trailer in our previous post about Arelite Core.

Order of the Thorne: The King's Challenge by Infamous Quests

Be a Bard! The challenge awaits!! Join Finn the bard as he undertakes "The King's Challenge" and see if he has what it takes to not only survive, but to write the greatest song in all of the land of Uir!

Infamous Quests will be unleashing the power of the retroing, pointing and clicking, adventuring bard on an unsuspecting world (well okay, not entirely unsuspecting!) tomorrow.  The game will be available from the usual suspects including GOG and Steam.






First-person shooter fans wanted for £150 per hour sniper job

This is kind of mad and not exactly indie game related, but... I'm going to post it anyway.


One lucky member of the public will secure a £150 per hour job as a ‘hidden paintball sniper’ – a key and painful obstacle in the world’s first ‘mud run’ to be ran exclusively at night. The successful applicant will also be given pre-event sniper training by ex-SAS marksmen, in readiness for its first race on the 16th April 2016.

In a particularly unique job ad, Night Games Races hopes to recruit a paintball sniper to join its sniper team, for the first race on the 16th April 2016 at Deene Park, Northamptonshire.

The job listing, which might be of particular interest to first-person shooter video game fans, is being advertised and promoted online via social media. Hopeful candidates can apply for the role here, explaining in 100 words or less why they deserve the role: http://nightgamesraces.com/careers/.  
                                                                                                                                
The role – a key and painful obstacle in the race – will include firing glow in the dark paintballs at runners as they pass through the sniper section of the course. The successful candidate will be in a team of five snipers and hidden within the shrubs of the forest in camouflage.

The chosen applicant will be provided with a state of the art paintball gun with glow in the dark paintballs and a pair of military night vision goggles to aid them in their task.

Night Games Races is particularly keen to recruit gaming enthusiasts for the race. The successful candidate will receive expert training in how to shoot at moving targets and the art of concealment from ex-SAS marksmen.

The sniper will be paid £150 an hour, with travel expenses covered as well. The successful applicant will be assessed by a trainer on the day of the event verifying the sniper’s hit rate, and will also be further incentivised should they manage to successfully shoot more than 80% of the racers, unlocking a £1,000 ‘Supersniper’ achievement bonus.

Hidden paintball snipers are just one of the many obstacles runners will encounter on the 10 mile course, with jet fuelled wind turbines, barbed wire and ice skips also between them and the finish line. Tickets have been on sale since September 2015 and more than 1,000 runners are expected to attend.

The applicants will be shortlisted by February 6th – women and men over the age of 18 years old are being encouraged to apply. The trial day is set to take place in early April. The successful candidate will be announced the week commencing 11th April 2016.

Robert Mason, founder of Night Games Races said,

“As the first obstacle race series to be ran exclusively in the dark, the successful candidate will get to be a part of something new and exciting as well as getting paid a great wage to shoot at consenting moving targets!

“This job offer is a unique and once in a lifetime opportunity. Games like Star Wars: Battlefront, Battlefield and Call of Duty have trained millions of sharp shooters for us – we’re just asking those same people – and others, of course – to experience shooting at moving targets for real for what is obviously a none-too-shabby wage!”

Friday, 22 January 2016

Review - Chef Solitaire: USA


Chef Solitaire: USA has recently been released on Steam, so I thought I should get round to finishing up my review.  It is, as you might have guessed, based around the card came solitaire, in different guises, with additional bells and whistles. 

The storyline takes you around the USA opening restaurants, with different challenges and new game features at each stage.  There is a shop where you can buy upgrades (if you have accumulated enough cash by doing well on previous stages), with various extras that will  make the game a little easier – like showing a portion of the hidden cards when the level starts, zapping an errant card or two that you can’t get rid of normally, etc – all with a cooking theme of course.


Like most casual games it’s easy to dip into for a quick game and rejoin later, though despite the simple premise, the storyline is pretty good and keeps you wanting to find out what happens next.  Aesthetically it’s very nicely presented with crisp, detailed graphics, great music fitting for the period, and some good quality voice acting.  There are plenty of levels and challenges to keep you playing, in addition to a number of mini-games that can be played separately.

All in all Chef Solitaire: USA  is an extremely polished casual card game with plenty to offer if you’re a fan of this type of game – and it’s a mere £3.99 on Steam.


(If you like this game, you’ll probably also like Regency Solitaire by Grey Alien Games.)



Graphic Novel, ComiXPlay, Coming to PC Feb 24

RAMAT-GAN, ISRAEL - Jan. 19, 2016 - ComixPlay #1: The Endless Incident, a playable 124 page digital graphic novel, will release for Windows and Mac via Steam on Feb. 24, 2016. Combining the story telling of comic books with the gameplay of videogames, The Endless Incident sends players on a sci-fi adventure where they can control superheroes in battle. 

Whenever the heroes engage in a fight, readers will be prompted to either skip the videogame section and continue with the traditional graphic novel format or have the heroes leap out of the panel and into the battleground. Each of the five heroes, members of The Solar Defenders, has six to seven superpowers to utilize in turn-based combat during their quest to protect the universe. 


The Solar Defenders have come together from all over the world with one mission: to protect Earth. A talented inventor from Puerto Vallarta, Eduardo "Gizmo" Flores can fix any machine and utilize his creations such as the freeze ray to enhance his fighting ability. Tom "Ace" Corben possesses colossal super-strength and can manipulate energy with his tremendous physical power while Grace "Nightingale" Jackson has an extraordinary healing ability. 


Set one hundred years in the future, a menace from beyond the stars threatens the entire solar system and only a genetically enhanced team of heroes, The Solar Defenders, can save it. As they chase their powerful foe across the galaxy, it becomes clear that they can no longer trust the people around them are still human - not even themselves. 


A talented group of artists and designers, including former DC and Marvel illustrator Al Sirois, have come together to create ComixPlay #1: The Endless Incident. Other characters the team has worked on includes Superman, Batman, X-Men, Flash and Wonder Woman. 


"Videogames and film increasingly draw inspiration from the plots and story-telling in graphic novels, but the comics industry has not borrowed the best parts of other mediums," said Assaf Cohen, CEO, ComixPlay. "ComixPlay is the next step in this pop culture evolution, taking the action-packed gameplay of a videogame and combining it with the storytelling and format of a graphic novel." 


For more information about ComixPlay: The Endless Incident, or ComixPlay the company, go to:http://www.comixplay.com/


About ComixPlay

ComixPlay was founded in 2013 to return graphic novels to the forefront of pop culture in new and innovative ways by combining the best aspects of other mediums with the traditional comic format.


Between Me and The Night Leaves Early Access

Kiss Ltd, Lace Games Ltd and Portuguese based indie dev studio RainDance LX are pleased to announce that the critically acclaimed Between Me and The Night enjoys its full release on Friday 22nd January 2016, having entered Steam's Early Access programme in September 2015.
 
Between Me and The Night is a surrealist action adventure game that walks the thin path between sanity and madness. Take on the role of a young boy and explore and interact with the mysterious house in which he lives. Whilst in Early Access, the game received widespread acclaim:


"Between Me And The Night have a significant and important role in shaping our gaming culture. They can provide thoughtful and artistically driven experiences that tackles ideas like depression, dependence, and madness. It’s the kind of game where it may look like you only fight a few enemies, but the real enemy is yourself, and it can be one hell of a boss fight". 

"The game’s art style is quite gorgeous, as is the lighting throughout". 

“An aesthetically beautiful, weird game and I just want to tell everybody about it”

Between Me and The Night is a shining example of what indie dev studios can bring to the market", commented Adam Lacey, Managing Director at Lace Games Ltd. "The is no way a mainstream studio would ever deal with the subject matter this game does. Studios such as RainDance LX ensure PC gamers have a dynamic, vibrant and diverse selection of games to enjoy".
  • Classic adventure/puzzle/action gameplay
  • Day/Night cycle changes how the game world behaves
  • Two unique worlds each with different gameplay
  • Emotional, atmospheric and thought-provoking storyline
  • Soundtrack by David Garcia (Deadlight, Rime)
  • Steam Achievements
  • Full Controller Support
  • EFIGS Russian & Portuguese language support
More information about Between Me and The Night can be found here:
Website
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
Buy Between Me and The Night
 
Title: Between Me and The Night
Players: Single Player
Platform: PC
Publisher: Kiss Ltd / Lace Ltd
Developer: RainDance LX
Launching: Friday 22nd January 2016
SRP: $14.99 / £9.99 / 12,99€
About Kiss Ltd
Launched in 2012, Kiss Ltd is a full service digital distribution management company, enabling the independent development community to secure listings across multiple digital retail sites.  As a result of their rapid growth over the last 12 months, Kiss have recently add trade and consumer facing marketing & PR support to their offering, further enhancing the sales potential of their portfolio of titles. 
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Facebook

About Lace Games
Owned by Lace Digital Media Sales, Lace Games is an independent video game publisher based in Brighton, UK. Specialising in bringing both established game brands and new IP to the retail sector, Lace Games adds value to physical product through the production of high quality packaging and increased boxed content. Lace Games also publishes digital content through all major established digital portals such as Steam, App Store and Google Play..