Forward to the Sky – The indie Zelda-like that requires your support

The passionate people behind Indie development studio Magichnology, who are industry veterans based out of Taiwan, are well on their way developing an extremely slick looking Zelda-like titled Forward to the Sky or FttS.  The game won’t just be a simple Zelda clone, but will involve numerous elements of sword swiping action, adventure, puzzle solving, and platforming.  The team behind the game are looking for a little bit of funding through the Forward to the Sky indiegogo campaign.  Unlike some of the overinflated (and in many cases unreasonable) funding goals found in recent Kickstarter campaigns, the devs of FttS are only looking for a modest $3000 in order acquire additional art assets in order to finish their project.  With just over two weeks left in the funding campaign they are almost 1/3rd of the way to their funding goal.  I’m personally hoping that this campaign succeeds because the PC, Mac, and Linux platforms have been missing good Zelda-like games as of late.

The gameplay reminds me quite of a bit of some of my favorite N64 and Playstation 2 games such as Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, Super Mario 64, and Dark Cloud 1 & 2.  The game also has some Anime inspiration surrounding it, which reminds me quite a bit of the games released during Playstation 2 era (which was also the most popular console era to date).  Forward to the Sky also boasts some impressive animation.  Obviously the game is incomplete, but judging by the trailer and screenshots below, it’s shaping up to be quite the colorful adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re impressed by what you see then be sure to head over to the Forward to the Sky indiegogo funding campaign page where you can help bring this sharp looking action / adventure to life.  For the modest contribution of $7 US, you’ll receive a full DRM-free digital copy of the game once it’s released.  You may even increase your contribution in order to obtain bonus perks such as the game soundtrack and collectors booklet (in pdf format) which includes original artwork and some background on the game development.

Indie Game Announcement – “Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs!” coming late 2014

Here’s a little title that was recently brought to my attention and which had piqued my interest.  Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! is a 3D action / adventure / beat’em up of sorts that will involve some light puzzle elements which will be thrown in for good measure.  The announcement trailer doesn’t reveal too much in the way of gameplay with the exception of a brief snippet near the end of the trailer, but what’s there does look good so far, particularly for a small indie development team consisting of only 3 people.  Helium Games plans to make the game available across multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac, and Linux with a projected release date sometime in late 2014.

“Once upon a time, on a planet far far away, lived some cute and peaceful creatures called Gloupsies. Happy and innocent, living a dream life. The only small problem they had was about their demon infestation. Every 28 days (on Fridays), their village would be attacked by powerful demons who destroys everything. One morning, an old stranger arrived out of nowhere, carrying a strange package. This stranger, called Folm, explained that he also suffered from the demons attacks: First of all he said, we have to relocate your village Yeah… Gloupsies were actually rebuilding their village at the same place over and over again. So much wisdom quickly convinced the Gloupsies who welcomed Folm as their savior. However, this is just a temporary solution, he continued, I’ve brought someone who can in time help us defeat those evil demons forever. We have to fight evil with evil! Here is Bazalth, one of their own.”

Some of the features you’ll find in Bazalth:

  • Action packed
  • Challenging puzzles
  • No 8bit pixels! Tremendous 3D models
  • Weapons!
  • Power ups!

Obviously this is just a glimpse of what’s to come.  I’m hoping that Bazalth turns out to be the great 3D action / beat’em up that it could possibly become.  For now we’ll just have to wait and see.  Head on over to the Bazalth: Don’t Trust The Signs! website for more info and participate in the forum discussions regarding it’s gameplay and imminent release.

New Release: The Last Federation

If you’re a fan of turn-based or grand strategy games then you’re in luck.  Arcen Games has just released their latest sci-fi strategy game titled The Last Federation.  Those of you familiar with Arcen Games know that you should expect nothing less than a fantastic hybrid of gameplay mechanics and genres.  Personally, I’m a big fan of Arcen Games as a developer and I love the fact that each of their games have been unique and challenging, but ultimately fun.  The fine folk at Arcen Games have achieved something that very few other indie developers have and that is release multiple games that span numerous genres.  Games like their popular 4X sci-fi Strategy game AI War: Fleet Command, to their brain-teasing block puzzler Tidalis, or side-scrolling action / rpg and procedurally generated platformers A Valley Without Wind 1 & 2, right up to one of my favorite and most addictive Roguelikes of all-time, Bionic Dues.  Arcen Games has something for everyone within their diverse library of both fun and challenging games.

I’ve put about 4 hours into The Last Federation and it’s easily one of my favorite Arcen Games titles AND ranks among one of the best grand strategies I’ve played to date!  I love the amount of complexity and depth within each choice you make.  The turn-based combat doesn’t take a back seat either.  It starts off relatively easy but the difficulty ramps up steadily adding a lot of complexity and depth to the intuitive and relatively friendly game mechanics, making The Last Federation an engaging experience for veteran strategists and casual newcomers alike!  I can’t recommend this game enough.  I do highly recommend you buy the game if you’re at all a fan of strategy games, particularly if you like the sound of a grand strategy set in a sci-fi universe, that involves compelling tactical turn-based and strategic gameplay.

For a limited time you can pick up The Last Federation for 25% off it’s standard price until April 25th.  It’s currently selling for $14.99 US through numbers sites such as Steam, GOG, The Humble Store, GamersGate, and the Arcen Games website!  After this limited time offer The Last Federation will be going back up to $19.99, which is still well worth it considering the sheer amount of gameplay and replay value it has to offer.  I suggest you hurry if you’d like to take care of the excellent discount though!

Monty Python’s: Chivalry and the Holy Grail

Please be advised: The following has been rated PG-13

Winter was much too long and way too cruel this year.  After working countless hours on updating and overhauling the site, I not only lost all of my work including my backups, but my good ‘ol PC (nearly 8 years old to be precise) decided to up and die on me.  Yes, it was a laugh out loud experience…  for anyone who wasn’t actually involved.

So, after much debate, pondering, and penny pinching, I was finally able to purchase a more up-to-date and “modern” computer.  It shouldn’t be obsolete for at least another week or so.  Anyway, I’m trying to get back to updating the site, slowly but surely.  I figured what better way to start than by uploading my very first “Let’s try to play” video!  Oh joy, the wonders of amateur videography.  Note: If you’re offended by swearing and bad language, please log off the internet.

The game:  Chivalry: Medieval Warfare.
The setting:  Monty Python and the Holy GrailMode:  Online Multiplayer of silly proportions.

Obviously my format, editing, and overall presentation is rough around the edges, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This is just practice for the thousands upon thousands of videos to come (“oh gawwwd, please don’t” I hear you say).  I just hope to get better and have fun while I’m doing this.  And, now that I’m completely broke and have spent the kids entire college fun in order to buy a newer PC, I suppose I’ll have to keep making videos until I’m able to make a bit of money at it, or I die from carpal tunnel syndrome.  Whichever comes first.

I’m having a lot of fun playing Chivalry, and I suggest you check it out if you enjoy online multiplayer games in the slightest.  Check it out at the Torn Banner Studios website or pick it up on Steam and don’t forget to check out the Chivalry Expansion pack while you’re at it.

Enjoy!

Grand Theft Auto V & How Mainstream Gaming Media Is Full Of Shit

Rockstar had set the bar pretty high with it’s other open-world sandbox game, Red Dead Redemption, and unfortunately they’ve failed to surpass or even reach that bar in their latest GTA effort.  It should be mentioned than I’m a long time fan of the series, having played the original Grand Theft Auto (the top-down 2D prequels) and I was blown away by Grand Theft Auto 3 when it first came out on the Playstation 2.  It was a step above and beyond what we were used to in an open world setting, with almost life-like characters inhabiting a sprawling and bustling city.  It’s almost a shame that GTA V has received so much hype from the game industry, because it might actually be a good game, but it definitely falls short of the greatness that everyone claims it achieves.

Grand Theft Auto V received rave reviews and perfect ratings from numerous video game media outlets.  Meanwhile, back in reality, GTA V proves to be yet another GTA game.  It attempts to carry a narrative involving 3 different main characters.  It occasionally succeeds, but it does nothing new, innovative, or wholly refreshing, and it’s certainly not worthy of all the gushing and ass-kissing done by the mainstream media.

Many of the journalists who reviewed the game and gave it a 10 were also uncomfortable with a couple of the scenes within the game (one scene in particular – which I actually felt came off as more childish and immature than legitimately controversial).  Yet, these reviewers who clearly didn’t like the scene, gave the game a perfect rating.  The scene I’m talking about is the torture scene which, in contrast and comparison to all of the killing and wanton destruction you’ll be doing throughout GTA anyway, came off as both forgettable and unworthy of all the attention.

You kill and maim indiscriminately throughout the course of GTA’s entire story, so I really don’t see what the big fuss is all about anyway.  It’s odd that journalists would say that the torture scene is without context, considering the torture scene involves characters dealing with a terrorist and known spy.  It’s the plot points and twists within the story that are left without context, not the individual scenes themselves.

Grand Theft Auto V can be a good game at times, but it’s really nothing more than a few minor graphical and mechanical improvements over GTA 4 and it’s subsequent expansion packs.  Even though the driving and vehicle handling in GTA 5 is better than GTA 4, it still feels like a step down from GTA 3 and Vice City.  I’ve still got all of those games so it’s easy for me to make comparisons.  As for switching characters on the fly, that’s really nothing new either.  Anyone who has played Battlefield 2: Modern Combat knows that this is an old trick and game mechanic.  It’s useful within GTA 5′s story at times, but more often than not the feature feels like an afterthought.  Quite frankly, if you’re only playing so that you can choose between 3 different characters this time around, then do yourself a favor and pick up Sly Cooper, because you’ll care about the characters more in that game.

Let me start by saying that all of the characters in GTA 5 are despicable.  None of them are relatable or even likeable for that matter.  There are moments where the characters have a bit of interesting or humorous banter between them, but those moments are few and far between unfortunately.  What does stand out fairly early is how forced the dialogue is.  The writers behind GTA 5 obviously felt they were making a blockbuster movie of a videogame, but none of the dialogue comes across as natural or fluid without seeming entirely forced, with one small exception: Trevor’s character.  Even Trevor can have forced dialogue at times, but his is the only character that truly comes across as a GTA game “character” and not just an actor.

The main characters in GTA 5 are:

Michael, the main, main character, comes off as the archetypical and stereotypical white guy criminal going through a mid-life crises and is suffered by his early 2000′s “nuclear white family” (or so Rockstar would have you believe).  It’s clear to me that Michael is supposed to be a somewhat likeable character, but Rockstar failed to develop any real relatable qualities within Michael’s character.  Niko from GTA 4 was a much more relatable character who was constantly stuck on the wrong side of the law even though he didn’t really want to be there.  Unfortunately, Rockstar never lets the player develop or shape their characters the way that they would like and so we’re left with a game series that has failed to evolve as far as the story is concerned.

Franklin, the archetypical and stereotypical black guy, who is of course from “tha hood”, is a gangbanger, a part-time under-the-counter repo man, is also officially unemployed but owns an expensive Sports Car, and is also surrounded by friends who are hell bent on getting him killed.  Rockstar has tried making Franklin a street savvy and likeable crook, but yet again, fail to deliver the goods when Franklin proves to be nothing more than a dumbass who is as gullible as a child and who does exactly what he’s told, when he’s told, even though he’s supposed to be smarter than the people who are telling him what to do.  He’s so dumb that before most jobs he explicitly states that he’s probably going to regret this.

And then last, but certainly not least, is Trevor.  A psychotic psychopath and maniac who hails from Canada, but (thankfully) doesn’t say “Eh” after every other word.  Trevor is the only redeemable character in GTA V, even though he is also the least likeable and most despicable.  Even though Trevor is loud, obnoxious, and constantly crass, he is also the only character that feels like he belongs as a main character in the screwed up world and universe of GTA 5.  He actually has qualities as a character, and his motives make sense, even if they only make sense to himself and his personality.  Trevor also steals the show on many occasions because of the warped sense of humor used in conjunction between the overall plot, his friends and lackeys, and his own mannerisms.  That’s not to say that Trevor can’t be annoying or downright outrageous even when it’s not intended, but Trevor is the only honest character that actually feels like an evolution within the series.  It’s no surprise that his missions are also some of the better ones.  To me, Trevor is GTA 5′s one saving grace when it comes to character design and story, and that’s kinda sad in a weird way.

What’s most annoying about the GTA series (and many Rockstar games some would argue) are the little things that never get fixed.  Getting your character in and out of buildings and tight quarters is still annoying as hell.  The new “cover” system works well, but the gunplay is far too easy, automatic, and robotic by default.  You actually have to change the game settings so that automatic lock-on is turned off if you want any sort of challenge.

Driving land based vehicles is a step up from GTA 4, but the game feels a little bit too loose now, allowing most of the faster cars to spin out way too easily.  Being able to ride jetski’s and sea-doo’s is fun but really nothing special in terms of bringing something new to video games.  The addition of submersibles is definitely a novel idea, though using these underwater vehicles is very slow going and doesn’t really create exciting gameplay in any way.  The helicopters and planes are back as well, they control only slightly better than the air vehicles in GTA 4 though and you’ll find a plethora of other games that grant the player with the ability to fly high while having a lot more fun.  Games such as Just Cause 2, Saints Row 3, and games such as Battlefield 3, and even Battlefield 1943, deliver a more entertaining experience when flying when compared to GTA 5.

All of the little meta-games or mini-games feel exactly like meta-games and mini-games.  There’s nothing wrong with them and the option to play tennis, golf, darts, etc, is novel as well, but ultimately unnecessary.  Most of these mini-games will be played once or twice and then forgotten about.  This is mainly due to average mechanics, average control and average gameplay.  There’s nothing that really stands out about these tiny distractions.  I’m glad they’re there, but I’ll hardly use them.

GTA 5 is a big world, but it’s not as big as Rockstar or the mainstream media would have you believe.  I’ve covered the entire map now and although it does seem bigger than previous GTA games, it doesn’t appear to be much bigger.  Instead, the map, and the land in and around Los Santos feels more diverse with scenery.  There are nice changes between the urban sprawl of the city and the more wild and remote rural areas of the game.  It’s a nice change of scenery for a GTA game, but it’s hardly the scale and scope that many would have you believe.

Lastly, there’s GTA Online.  This is not a separate game, it’s just a separate mode.  It’s simply the online mode of GTA 5.  And, even though you can create your own character, it’s a lot like the online mode in Red Dead Redemption.  Obviously being able to utilize a larger variety of vehicles and weaponry is great, but once again, it’s only an expansion to the GTA 5 experience.  The best part is the media couldn’t review GTA Online because it wasn’t available, and guess what, it still isn’t.  Very few people have been able to get online and if they have it was for a very short period of time.  Considering Rockstar had 2 additional weeks to get things into place for the online mode, it’s kind of ridiculous that people still can’t play online considering many gamers who purchased the game on day one have completed the main story and are looking forward to the online mode.

So, how does the media and supposed game journalists review and rate a game with a perfect score that obviously isn’t very revolutionary, innovative, or even very creative?  How do these people rate a game so highly when the game in it’s entirety isn’t even stable yet?  I don’t know if they were bribed or if they were coerced, but what I do know is that GTA 5 is a game that can be a lot of fun to play, but is definitely unworthy of perfect scores and excellent ratings.  It’s an entertaining but flawed experience.  Many of these reviewers and the mainstream media made these same mistakes when GTA 4 came out back in 2008.  It’s just unfortunate to see that none of them have learned anything since then.

GTA 5 was meant for adults.  Unfortunately, the GTA series hasn’t grown up yet.  This isn’t a game for kids mind you, and I highly recommend that parents avoid buying this for their children or young teens.  The mature “nature” of the game means that players should be 17 or older, and I’d agree with the mature ratings this time.  I have no problem with the violence, the swearing, or even the suggestive and sexual themes, but I really don’t believe that younger audiences need GTA 5 right now, not when there are plenty of great games to be played as is.  Older gamers should have a great time with the game, exploring the game world, and just hopping around the map in the new and various vehicles.  Just don’t expect a much different experience than the GTA 4 mission progression or Red Dead’s online mode.  If you liked previous installments of GTA then you’ll find things to like about GTA 5.  However, I’m certainly not going to praise the game as though it was the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Spud’s Quest – Review


developed by Chris Davis

I remember the days when games were less about distractions, smoke and mirrors, and slick next gen graphics, and were much more about engaging players through thoughtful gameplay and modest but charming low-res graphics… even if the game happened to be a somewhat challenging adventure / platformer experience.  I think the developer of Spud’s Adventure, Chris Davis, also remembers that era when games were fun simply because of the imagination that was involved in creating a game that many-a-gamer would now call a classic style of game, or simply retro.  The term retro comes up often nowadays, but I think it best describes that feeling that most of us gamers get when a sense of nostalgia engulfs us while playing through a game that shares that similar entertaining and fun feeling that we had while playing the games that were so enjoyable back when we were young.

Spud’s Quest does bring a lot of fond memories back and will be especially memorable to gamers who are old enough to remember such classics as The Fantastic Dizzy series of games, and even games like Metroid for the old NES.  In fact, Spud’s Quest shares a number of similarities with the Dizzy games but does more than enough to feel like it’s own unique world while paying tribute to such classics.  The gameplay and level design would feel right at home on an old computer or the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and SMS (Sega Master System).  It all feels as if it was crafted by a gamer for gamers, and that’s something that I truly appreciate in a game, no matter what type of game it is or the genre that it belongs to.

Story:
Spud’s Quest Starts off like many “save the helpless princess” stories do.  Thankfully, the story also has a sense of humour about it.  One day, Spud is woken up from a strange dream involving a desperate plea for help.  His wake-up call, a frog that has crashed through the roof of his house.  The frog turns out to be none other than Prince Charming, and he requests that Spud help change him back into his original charming, witty, and overly obnoxious old self.  Apparently, the prince was turned into a frog by an evil old wizard, and it’s up to Spud and his new found friend to set out and discover what his strange dream was all about, while also searching for the evil wizard and a means to break the curse that was placed on the young prince.  Perhaps these strange events are connected in some way.Gameplay:
The Dizzy series of games go back much further than some people might know.  I remember playing it originally on the old ZX Spectrum.  It was a charming and challenging game even back then, but more so for it’s awful controls which were due to the old Spectrum keypad more than anything else.  The NES version was far more enjoyable because of its great gamepad, more precise controls, and refined gameplay.  But, it was still a very challenging game that happened to be so charming that many gamers couldn’t help but keep playing, even if they found it too difficult and weren’t very good at it.

Spud’s Quest shares that charming, challenging, and responsive gameplay found in the old NES version of Dizzy.  It’s easy to lump Spud’s Quest into the Metroidvania category of games as well because you’ll be doing quite a bit of backtracking.  Gamers who haven’t played the classic Dizzy series of games should also be made aware that Spud’s Quest is equal parts Adventure and Platformer.  You’ll need to solve a number clever puzzles and problems on top of doing a bit of platforming if you plan on going far in this quest.What’s unique about Spud’s Quest is that you control two characters throughout the adventure: Spud, and the frog, Prince Charming.  Both handle pretty much the same but each have a couple of unique abilities.  Spud is the main problem solver and has a limited inventory that he can hold and use items with while also interacting with the crazy cast of characters found throughout the world.  The frog prince on the other hand, is the much smaller of the two and he has the ability to reach places and objects that Spud can’t quite get to.  The dynamic duo does share a few similarities with another classic game called The Lost Vikings in the way that you solve problems utilizing the two characters.  The tricky part of it all is that with Spud’s limited inventory space he can only carry 4 items which means that players will have to be careful when managing items or face the consequences of extra backtracking.

The controls in Spud’s Quest are very responsive whether you’re using a keyboard or a gamepad, but if you have the option then I definitely suggest you use a gamepad because it does feel as though this is the way the game was meant to be played.  You’ll be picking up items, chatting with characters, and switching between the two heroes easily due to the simple but intuitive control scheme.Graphics and Sound:
If you remember Fantastic Dizzy or any of the games in the series then you’ll immediately spot the influences in Spud’s Quest.  It’s bright, colorful, cartoony, and pixelated adventure, with charming sprite based characters and graphics that feel as though they were ripped right out of the late 80′s and early 90′s.  If you like retro games and retro graphics then you’ll love and appreciate the art style of Spud’s Quest.  What’s interesting is how well some of the graphical effects are implemented into this classically styled adventure.  Things like the background changing from night to day, changes in weather, and even the underwater effects, all stand out and give the game a very polished shine that couldn’t have been accomplished during the golden era of gaming.

The audio is great as well.  Upon starting the game up for the first time you’ll immediately notice that the music shares an 8-bit feel as well.  The tunes are quite catchy and they definitely capture the spirit of classic adventure and retro games.Conclusion:
If you were a fan of the Dizzy series games, you enjoy adventure and puzzle games, or you simply like metroidvania style gameplay, then you should definitely pick up Spud’s Quest immediately.  Completionists will be happy to know that there are plenty of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered and competitive gamers will appreciate the worldwide online leaderboard, which is great for comparing scores while also adding extra replay value to the game.

If you get lost or frustrated easily then Spud’s Quest might not be for you as it is a more demanding experience, but it should be noted that it is also one of the more thoughtful retro inspired games available as well.  However, if you’re still on the fence about buying the game then I highly recommend you try out the playable demo which is available at the Spud’s Quest website.  It’s a charming game that is a lot of fun, and although it can be quite challenging at times, it does offer great gameplay, great control, and has a great sense of humour that should keep you coming back for more and until you reach the very end.

If you like what you see then be sure to also vote for Spud’s Quest on Steam Greenlight.

[   8   /   10   ]