In part 1 I covered my big hitters, so let’s bring on the indies!
Squeezed in around the multi-machine runs of the big boys it might have been easy to miss the smaller set-ups where the indie developers were raising profiles, demonstrating and chatting about their projects. A laptop or two on a bench might not grab the attention the same way as five 24″ monitors under a 3m banner – but that’s not to say they should be missed. A lot of great stuff resides in very small packages, and the developers were passionate, chatty and informative.
Kicking off I swung round to the successor to The Armor Games Flash effort Shift, which was a simplistic monochrome platform puzzler where each level was set inside a self-contained box. An innovative mechanic was the Shift, wherein your little guy flipped within the block he was standing on as the screen rotated. What was obstacle becomes clear space and vice versa. It was an addictive little puzzler back on Armor Games and the demise of Flash made a more sophisticated stand-alone version all but inevitable. The Fishing Cactus team has clearly taken it on with relish and Shift Quantum is the culmination of their efforts.
The essential concept is the same; get to the exit door by jumping and flipping the screen, but there’s a far nicer front end and a sinister yet reassuring fictional corporate meta-story. The game is framed as a psychological project that increases the happiness of the player and in no way, shape or form does that worry me at all… no siree. The Axon Vertigo corporation angle adds a fun little fillip to a game already boasting new game-play mechanics, an AI controlled character, 100 solo play levels, and a full level editor for when you’re feeling sadistic and want to share the experience.
Shift Quantum hits cross platform release in the spring – I anticipate lots of swearing and “one more go” fuelled late nights.
Moving away from puzzles for a moment (I’ll be back), one game that just comes off as being oodles of fun is Basingstoke; a rogue-like survival horror that looks a lot like a bunch of Lego mini figs spent a heavy night drinking with the cast of the Gregory Horror show (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregory_Horror_Show_(video_game)). THIS IS NOT A BAD THING.
Puppygames will send you into a dark, grim, post-apocalyptic vision of the horror that is… Basingstoke after dark. Corpses lie around the place, bodies and bins are stuffed with food and gear that can be used for a decent little crafting system, and a variety of monsters roam the streets and parks, able to kill you with a single blow. You start equipped with a trusty torch which will reveal the location of the goodies you are really going to want to collect, but the downside is that when you use the torch, the monsters can see you too…
In the demo level I played I distracted beasties with hurled sausage rolls (sandwiches are preferable as you can reuse them), warded them off with pepper spray crafted from an aerosol and chilli sauce and generally fled screaming from the creatures of the night. There are weapons to be had too but I got cornered outside the police station by something with very big teeth long before I found them.
Basingstoke unlocks on Steam on the 30th March and can also be obtained through the Puppygames Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/puppygames).
Right, I said I’d be back to puzzles and Annwn: the Otherworld from Quantum Soup Studios is a folklore-inspired trip through a land where you can’t move because the dead don’t walk…
You are a spirit, housed in a stone totem on a tiered island in an archipelago, at the centre of which is The Watcher who will drain your spiritual energies and redistribute it to the island in the form of rocks and trees. Your only hope is to drain the energy from the objects around you and use them to build a new totem, with the ultimate goal of draining the Watcher. (Hang on, is this game a remake of The Sentinel that I played in 1986? Check it out for yourselves dear reader – Robin)
This may sound simple but the Watcher is constantly rotating and shifting his gaze, or using drained energy to created Hounds who function as his satellites to cover areas he can’t see. The rocks and trees provide cover but you need to destroy them to move on, you can’t simply shelter and the most testing element, you can only drain energy from a square where you can see the ground. Move too ambitiously or incautiously and you’ll have to leave your old totem, and the associated energy, behind you, to be drained by The Watcher.
The islands are all procedurally generated and there are ongoing campaign arcs representing the roots of the setting in Celtic folklore and the afterlife. I personally found the game play engaging, simple to pick up and very difficult to master. I look forward to having the opportunity for more practice when it goes on full release soon.
In part three I’ll wrap up and give you my personal MVP of the show…
Linda Evans – Twitch Partner and Blogger