Indie Studios

Pixel Rift VR

Capture

Note: Distortion and blur in the screenshots is a side effect of the Oculus Rift display mode, it doesent look like that in actual play!

Finding myself to be a “VR enthusiast” having obtained an Oculus Rift via Mysterious Circumstances™ I’m doing that thing of downloading absolutely everything (within the realms of non-WTFGTFOeww) I can find for it to experience.  That inexorably led me to finding Pixel Rift – an absolute delight of an indie project by the immensely talented Ana Ribeiro and her team.  The game is still very much in early development, but the premise is not only clever and original, but also hugely appeals to the RetroGaming fan that I am too.  It also contributes to Donna’s and my own love of indie Kickstarter projects 🙂

The game is played from a first-person view, from the perspective of Nicola, a gamer who’s a huge fan of the fictional game “Pixel Rift”.  What follows is a progression for both Nicola and the “game within a game” as she gets older, and the game “upgrades” through generational hardware changes… e.g. Atari console, to Gameboy, to SNES, and beyond.  The clever framing mechanism for this is the virtual representation of the environment, and Nicola’s “growing up”

MY SHOES ARE AWESOME.

MY SHOES ARE AWESOME.

In the alpha demo, the menu screen sees you as a baby toddler, sat on the floor, with an old telly looming in front of you in an appropriately “giant” living-room.  There’s an advert in creaky old 70’s style on the tv for Pixel Rift – watch it long enough and you get a pseudo-augmented-reality explosion of colour from it, delighting both you, and your virtual infant representation.  In front of you are the various consoles, delineated by year, with their representation of the virtual Pixel Rift game.  In the demo, you can only play the 1989 “Gamegirl” version, the others are “locked out”.

Selecting the Gameboy…  er, Gamegirl, you find yourself in a primary-school classroom, sat at a desk covered in paraphernalia relating to Nicola’s Pixel Rift obsession.  Your classmates surround you, fooling around, whispering at you and each other.  At the front, next to the blackboard, your very hoary strict school teacher/school mistress (a la “Misty” comic, those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) talks at the class in a very thick Northern accent, dryly talking about the subject (Biology, I think!) and –depending on you, and the class’s behaviour – either turning her back to write on the blackboard, or shouting/being exasperated at you and the other children.  With her back turned, you can look down to sneak your Gameboy out from under the desk, using the gamepad to control the virtual game, within the game.

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Pixel Rift for the “Gameboy” – is a mono platform game, the objective being to get to the end and fight the end-of-level boss.  Play is interrupted by having to drop the Gameboy back under the desk when the teacher turns around, or risk her wrath.  However – there is MUCH more to explore beyond playing the game-within-a-game.  You’re also armed with a paper spitball launcher, which you can use to torment classmates, the teacher, or somewhat more modestly fire into the bin in the corner – the results of which are somewhat fantastical, but hilarious.

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Get to the end-of-level-boss on the Gameboy, however, and you are treated to an explosion of virtual augmented reality, as the boss and your player avatar leap out of the confines of the game, out in front of you, as the reality of the classroom fade into the background.  Its gorgeous as the characters appear as their 2D chunky pixelized selves, but huge, capering and clambering about in front of you and over your books and desk, whilst the 3D world of the classroom still resides hazily in the background.  Defeating the boss requires a blend of the 2D play mechanics, and the “real” world.

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The potential for this game is HUGE, and I *love* its quirky fun little nature.  The promise of going through different ages and years, Nicola growing up, the games becoming more advanced just really appeals to me.  I really like the pseudo-personal nature of the premise, but also how it appeals to my nostalgia.  However… I don’t know how much the game will appeal when played in a purely 2D non-VR realm , and VR is the only way to play it at the moment.  Suffice to say it is very much a niche product at present.  I think there might be an audience for Ana’s game were she to make it 2D compatible too, but the game most definitely achieves the wow-factor when played with an Oculus Rift.

Oi! Swot! Whats the answer to number 7?

Oi! Swot! Whats the answer to number 7?

It’s got some glitches, some oddities, and some of the animation is buggy, or at least unfinished – but for a prototype game for a prototype device, it’s immensely entertaining, and has a lot of potential.  It might be a bit of a British gamer thing in particular, but I’d love to see posters and assorted other paraphernalia of the eras shown in the various scenes, e.g. movie posters, “Look-in!” pinups, etc.  From the screen shots on their page, it seems that there might be some other expanded stuff beyond the classroom/living room environments, so maybe we’ll see that kind of stuff later.

With a relatively small audience available for VR projects at the moment, I hope it is successful in its bid for Steam Green Lighting, or if they decide to kickstart it, though again I think they could help themselves a bit by making a non-VR play option too, it would certainly appeal to the RetroGamers out there.

It’s got my vote, thats for sure 🙂

 

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Elite: Dangerous (p)Review

Astronaut Pianist, Obvs.

Astronaut Pianist, Obvs.

Scottish Highlands. Christmas.  1984.

Bemused parents indulge a child in her somewhat atypical (or so was believed for the time) interest in both Outer-Space and “Computer Games” – a fairly natural progression from the previous year’s SuperGirl costume request.  For a computer game of the time it seemed to be absurdly expensive  – £12.99.  Previous parental protestations of “but you’ve enough games!”  – surely an impossibility when the family computer is a BBC Micro (Dad had aspirations of poshness) – are put aside, and there was always the hope that at least one of the children might become a “Computer Expert” in the future, and allow aforementioned parents to retire early.

Hopes, alas, STILL not fulfilled!

 

Even the box was impressive.

The game was “Elite” – now of course so well known (or not?) as the defining sandbox game (in SPACE!)

I must admit to not being very good at the game – I don’t think I ever really made it much past “Mostly Harmless” – the game’s stat tracker for your spaceship killing prowess, “Elite” being the pinnacle.  But being 10 years old, I had a blast trying to dock my spaceship, and jumping onto my escape-pod (bed) when I thought I was about to fail.  Nevertheless, I knew a good game when I saw one, and enjoyed much play with it before a rogue coffee killed the computer.  It would be replaced by a C64, and arcade games.

However, a soft spot was kept for Elite, and I would look in on the various ports as I got older and watched 16-bit come and go, space games go Epic (Wing Commander) and then die a near total death but for wee stalwart indie coders.   Then David Braben came along with a Kickstarter, and promise of a 21st Century relaunch of Elite with ALL THE GRAPHICS, and lo, my long dormant space-heart gave a flutter.

 

Here then, is my preview of Elite: Dangerous (Beta V1):

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As I write this, the next release of the beta is due for release, and promises much more content and an increase from 50 or so systems to explore/trade in/fight in/get lost in to a somewhat more sizeable 500 odd.  We’re now approaching a decent sized gameworld to explore, but still only the merest fraction of what will be available at final release (due this year) – a procedurally generated 400 billion.

However, I’ve got ahead of myself – let me explain what Elite: Dangerous is, should you not be familiar with this great-grandparent of the open world sandbox game genre.

Elite is a first-person sci-fi space-based pseudo-GTA.  That little soundbite is misleading, but mostly accurate aside from the car-jacking, violence, and “of the moment” bangin’ soundtrack.  By first-person, I mean that the game world is viewed from your – as yet non-customizable aside from gender –  in-game avatar’s viewpoint, exclusively from the cockpit seat of your spaceship.  Planned post-release DLC will have you wandering about your ship and space-stations, but for now you are a somewhat alarmingly headless body sat in a seat, and invisible to other players.

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At the start of the game, You – The Plucky Player – are a spacefaring person, gifted with a basic starship of modest capabilities.  By modest I mean that it has 4 tonnes cargo capacity, 2 gun mounts, and a couple of spare utility mounts.  These are used for some purchasable (using earned in-game credits) additional upgrades.  For example – a “Heat Sink” a deployable dump of your ship’s waste heat produce, used both as a decoy, and a way to vastly reduce your visible radar signature – which when used in conjunction with “silent running” mode, essentially making you temporarily invisible, complete with neat slow frosting of your canopy glass.

Later upgrades include missiles, beam weapons, and Battlestar Galactica-style projectile cannons, but also non-combat upgrades like a docking-computer.

Docking computer you say?  Yes, one of Elite’s notorious legacies is the fact that when docking your ship with the giant space-stations which in order to generate gravity… rotate.  You have to navigate your suddenly giant-feeling spacecraft through the most apparently narrowest of letterboxes to enter the safety of the station’s landing pads.  It’s deceptive in that the entrances are actually pretty large, but you get the distinct feeling of little headroom until you get a feel for your ship’s physical dimensions – no exterior views yet.

We're going to need a bigger door.

We’re going to need a bigger door.

Back in the original 8 and 16-bit incarnations of the game this was especially difficult as there were few analogue control surfaces to use.  For my part I used to point at the entrance, put the engines on minimum, and hope for the best – inevitably jumping in to my aforementioned escape pod (bed) when things went disastrously wrong.  (You could actually buy an escape pod, but I never made that much money!)  Today, things are different, we all have mice, gamepads, and even Flight-sticks that allow much more precise control of rotation and whatnot.

Old School.

Crashin’ it. Old School.

Speaking of rotation – the flight model is a curious one, in that it’s a blend of super-fun-sci-fi Star Wars type jet-fighter style, with bonus Physics™ – but with the option to switch off (and on, at a whim) “Flight Assist” – which basically makes the control system entirely “Newtonian Physics” – requiring you to apply reverse thrust to bring your craft to a halt, and apply inverse directional thrusters to counteract the proportional amount of…  look, just watch 2001: A space odyssey, or GRAVITY, then you’ll know what I’m talking about 😉  I find it horribly complicated to fly the ship with Flight-Assist off, others love it (mostly those who grew up with Elite’s 16-bit sequels: Frontier and First Encounters) – but it does have its uses.  Fancy pulling off Babylon 5 and BSG style flip-around whilst still moving in the same direction, allowing you to fire at a chasing attacker whilst still moving away from them?  Flight assist off… just remember to correct your spin with your thrusters!

I say! Did you just cut me up?

I say! Did you just cut me up?

So, what’s the plot?  There isn’t one, at least not yet anyway.  You’re basically plonked into your ship with no direction.  At the beginning, the point is pretty much to Make Money.  Money = ship upgrades.  More Money= better ships.  That’s largely it for the moment, in the beta anyway.  In the beta money is earned from various activities, more of which will be available as the game develops.  For now, here’s a few examples:

Trading products between planetary systems – a full commerce system is in place in the game, fluid and dynamic.  One system might have high demand for farming equipment, and pay a high price to buy from anyone able to transport them in.  The player might find a system whereby Farming equipment is cheap-as-chips, buy as many as they can afford and their ship’s cargo-bay hold, travel to the high-demand system, and make considerable profit.  Whilst there, they might find something sold there that is in low-demand, ergo cheap, which they can sell back at another system for a higher-price.  Trading like this can be slow-work, but it’s a good safe way to make money.  There’s also the possibility of buying something legal in one system, but illegal in another, sold to the black market at considerable profit.  That runs the risk however of the Space-Cops scanning your ship for contraband, and a: fining you or b: not asking questions and just blowing you away.

Bounty Hunter is another money-making method, though is obviously quite a bit more dangerous than being a Space-Trucker.  Check the local station bulletin boards for jobs, then head off to look for The Mark(s) – earning cash for their destruction.  There’s also considerably less legal assassination jobs to be had, though these can render you a wanted renegade in certain regions of space.  You can also fly out to some notable pilot hangouts – e.g. “Resource Gathering Sites” – where player’s go to mine for minerals etc – spot someone with a “Wanted” tag?  Take them out, earn some bucks.

Mining – take an appropriately configured vessel to mine materials from asteroids in the aforementioned Resource areas.  Watch out for thieves and bandits tho.

Courier missions – similar to trading, but often you’ll be given cargo directly to deliver to some other location.  The fee paid will be affected by how far it has to go, and whether or not you might have to avoid any “Imperial entanglements” to deal with… or Federation, for that matter.  The Imps and the Feds are the two primary factions in our Sci-Fi world here.

'Sup guys? Whatchadooin?

‘Sup guys? Whatchadooin?

So – already there’s a fair bit to do, much more is planned closer to and post-release, including World Events.  There’s already been a couple of these with a civil war breaking out between two systems, precipitated by nefarious underhand guerilla warfare missions offered to the player, and pleas for certain items of produce to be smuggled in and out.

Now here’s the interesting bit with this new generation of Elite as a game.  It’s multiplayer.  Also, it’s optionally singleplayer… but with the repercussions of the events in the multiplayer.  How so?

Well, you can choose to play the game in full multiplayer – Open Play – out there with all the other players.  That means all the usual caveats..  Trolls, Griefers, heroic saviours, co-op wingpersons, trading buddies, Clumsy docking, rage-quits et all.

Or…. You can play solo in an NPC-AI populated universe, but with the same world-state (politically and economically) as the multiplayer, but without the human player element.  This is actually a great idea,  and especially useful at the start of play when you’re getting to grips with the game mechanics and trying to earn a bit of money to get going.  Penalties are the same as multiplayer, however – you earn enough cash to buy that big new fancy Lakon-9 hauler freighter, but accidentally push the booster button and crash headlong in to the side of a station…  you lose the ship, and any cargo aboard and have to restart over with any remaining cash with the default freebie ship… unless you had enough spare cash left over to cover the insurance cost of the replacement ship!

You can also currently bounce between solo and open-play multiplayer modes, which could be perceived to be a bit of a cheat.  Build up to awesomeness in solo, pwn in multiplayer.  Except you wouldn’t be alone in doing that.  Stuff gets too heavy in multi? Back off in to solo.

For now, however, multiplayer in terms of co-operative player interaction is still very much in its infancy.  The developers recently added inter-player text and voice comms, but it still needs a bit of work, as well as willing players.  Getting together with one or more friends though seems like a really exciting way to plunder the depths and wealth of the game, especially as the content increases in the run-up to release with options like actual recognized deep-space exploration being a career!  Of course there will be “EVE-online” faction wars and such like, which could have huge potential for multiplayer… but you might be an everyman/everywoman who just wants to get on and stay out of the war.

Planned DLC for the game post-release includes adding features like player avatar movement within your own ship and stations,  planetary surfaces (including obviously landing on said surfaces with your ship), multiplayer crewing of your vessel, and more.  That complete set of features would be beyond even the imagination of my 7 year old would-be astronaut self  – and I used my imagination A LOT to greatly expand what was on screen with those black and white vectors, I really can’t wait.

Ultra-detailed interiors already.

Ultra-detailed interiors already.

However, it’s not all joy and happiness.  You’ll either love or loathe the control systems.  It will very much depend on what you decide to use.  Elite is definitely targeted in the main towards using a flight stick/throttle controller.  After that there’s options for gamepads, and good old mouse+keyboard.   I’ve tried mouse control.  It didn’t end well.  Or start well, for that matter.  Yet others thrive using it.

The Head-up-Display (HUD) in-game can cause consternation.  Its meant to be a holographic display whereby you turn to look at the relevant area for it to appear, using your controller to select options therein.  I found this quite cumbersome until you’ve customized your controller of choice to quick-switch between the three primary menus.

And…..  multiplayer.   Like anywhere else, players can and will piss you off.  Not all the mechanics for literal policing of player behaviour is in place.  E.g. you’ll enter a system with police patrols, but they won’t always help you in time if you’re attacked by another player or NPC.  But hey, maybe that’s realistic!

Also… It’s a beta at the moment, so it *will* crash, sooner or later, and stuff will be buggy, or act strange.  I’ve been in my ship, happily parked on a landing pad only to have the station literally disappear out from under me, like Babylon 4 😉  But there’s also stuff that happens where you think… hmmm.. that’s cool.. I might be able to use that… like bringing yourself out of “Supercruise” too close to your destination only to find yourself INSIDE the station.. with only a few seconds before the intruder alarm goes off, and the cops blast you into oblivion.

Wonder if that's LV-426?

Wonder if that’s LV-426?

Speaking of “Supercruise” – some of the game mechanics might cause consternation too.  Hyperspace is the method used to travel vast distances between systems, fuel allowing.  Once arrived, you are stopped in the system by the largest planetary body, still very far away from your actual desired destination – usually a space station.  So, to speed up the travel to your “Final Destination” your ship has a mode called “Supercruise” a sort of very high speed but not quite hyperspace mode, where you designate your target destination from your HUD, and engage the drive.  What you then have is a manually controlled acceleration and steering to your  target requiring you to slow down as you close distance, disengaging the drive at a point of your choosing.  Where this can frustrate is that it’s very easy to get impatient and over accelerate, causing you to be unable to slow down in time,  therefore overshooting the target, meaning you have to pull a big turn to bring you back around, hopefully slowing down this time.  A lot people are NOT happy about supercruise, they want some form of autopilot.  I think this comes from the pseudo-MMO nature of the game.  In many other MMO’s there’s auto-run options that mean you can effectively distract yourself with something else whilst still keeping one eye on the game.  Not so in Elite.  Look away at your peril.  I suspect, however, that the Devs may make a purchasable auto-cruise system, as it could actually add to the immersion.  Think Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon crew dossing about in the lounge, but getting a warning to tell them that they’re approaching destination/under attack/out of hydrospanners.

So much is forgivable however, whilst the game is in Beta.  It’s certainly nearly cooked, but it is most definitely still in the oven.  Visually it’s a treat, and pretty scalable in terms of performance.  Aurally it’s an absolute stunner.  The sound design is utterly amazing, hugely putting you “in the picture” – the music is a bit generic Space-Opera at the moment, but hopefully will improve… or you can do what I do… put on an ambient/spacemusic radio stream!

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You have to pay a bit of a premium to get on board this currently PC-only spaceparty at the moment.  £50 at present, final release will be £35 for the game and then more for the proposed DLC.   I hope that we can have a few more women to play the game, as Space feels very much a bro-verse so far, and I hope to have a full gender spectrum conglomerate to fly with post-release.  As release gets nearer though, I can already feel The Shape of Things To Come in the imagined vibration of the ship’s hull, and my inner 10-year old astronaut self is getting very excited indeed about her childhood dreams becoming virtually realized! 🙂  Speaking of which…

 

 

Addendum:  VR – THE GAME CHANGER

Space.  It's big.

Space. It’s big.

Elite: Dangerous as it stands is a hugely promising sci-fi space game, built on a prominent legacy, and coming at a time where the combined genres of Spaceship and Flight-Sim games are enjoying a bit of a renaissance.  Elite is certainly a hugely enjoyable game already, promising much more at release.  However, everything changes when the game is experienced via a Virtual Reality Head-Mounted Display.  I’m lucky enough to have obtained an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, and I knew that Elite had been given optional configuration for play on these devices.  It’s a bit clunky, a bit buggy, and plays sheer hell with even high-spec gaming PCs…. But…  never before have I *ever* experienced anything like it.  It is a completely different experience playing the game in VR.  Background starfields and planets are no longer just background.  They are there.  Right there, outside your suddenly very real feeling ship’s canopy.  The canopy complete with the handles you feel you must be able to reach out and touch.  The glass of the canopy feels like it’s mere inches away from your head, and whilst the planet beyond the canopy is probably millions of miles away.. it is most definitely OUTSIDE your canopy, millions of miles away and huge.  Huge beyond your normal comprehension of the definition of the term.

"They should've sent a poet..."

“They should’ve sent a poet…”

This is because everything is rendered to scale in the VR incarnation of Elite.  I look down and see arms, and hands gripping controls just like mine.  I’m completely bamboozled when I raise a hand to scratch my nose… but my virtual hands remain in place.  I’ve emerged from a space-station in my ship innumerable times playing on the monitor to the same scene.. only to come to a dead halt in the same location when playing in VR, agog at the awe-inspiring majesty of the apparent infinity of space, and the sight of a sun emerging behind a Saturn-like planetary body surrounded by a ring of debris.  In combat, rather than wrestling with mouselook controls to try and get a bead on a ship I’m pursuing, I merely follow its progress with my head and eyes, craning over my shoulder as I bring the ship into a steep turn to follow it, my head turning as I bring the enemy back towards the front of my ship as I open fire to finish it, then ducking instinctively as a piece of the ship debris bounces off the top of my canopy.

And those HUD nuisances I mentioned earlier?  Rendered moot when you simply look to your left or right to activate them!

This time around, I think VR is going to be huge, and I think it will be accessible, especially if Sony can bring their “Project Morpheus” VR headset to fruition for PS4 players, where hopefully players will be able to join in the Elite: Dangerous world (as project leader David Braben has hinted as an option) –but also most especially as the Oculus Rift matures for PC owners.  Like Morpheus said about “The Matrix”… “no one can be told what (VR) is, you have to see it.”

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Where’s my coffee mug?

 


So… I have an Oculus Rift.

dk2-product

That is to say, an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2.  Which is a Virtual Reality HMD (Head Mounted Display) – as opposed to some kind of smelly ailment cultivating product, which is what it sounds a bit like from the name.

Sony have also announced a similar solution for the PS4 available in the near future (albeit with some SERIOUSLY problematic demos)

The OcRift has been on the go for just over year, from a successful kickstarter campaign, through to a first prototype, a massive investment by some big name firms (including most (in)famously Facebook) and now a 2nd prototype (DK2) which is pretty close, I imagine, to the final product, despite protestations of still insufficient screen resolution (1920×1080, but with the horizontal split in two, 960 pixels per eye) – but given the sheer amount of horsepower to meet the idealized 75hz 1080p display, I doubt we’ll see a practical 1440p or 4K offering anytime soon.

I will be reporting on using the DK2 over the coming weeks, including re-jigging my near complete preview of Elite: Dangerous, for which EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED :O

Additionally, with any luck, I might be able comment on my own tentative haphazard steps into developing VR projects for the device.

Stay tuned…

More this:

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Less this:

woman-wearing-visor-in-virtual-reality

 

I’ll leave you with the ever energetic JackSepticEye to give you an idea what we’re talking about here…

 

 


All I Need Is A Little Transistor

Every now and then a indie game dev will come a long and put out a game that immediately draws my eyes to it. SuperGiant Games has done just that with their recent release. Transistor is such a beauty to behold that when I watched the trailer for it I just didn’t care how it played; I needed to see more of it. This is a game that has some wonderful graphics. It’s like you’re interacting with a painting.

Have a look at this little video I did to show this very thing off. It started raining and things got a little fuzzy like rain drops on a windscreen.

 

So the story has a very Noir crime detective feel to it. Like 1930s type old school detective noir books. Bad guys and bad things went down in the place you’re singing at. Your character Red doesn’t speak. Her voice was stolen by the bad guys when they invaded the place, but your sword does talk. The sword is holding the “soul” of a man who appears to be your greatest admirer. The narration has this third person feel since Red doesn’t speak. If you play this on the PS4, go into the settings and turn on the controller speaker. All of the narration then comes out at your hands like you’re holding the sword. It does so much to the immersion.

 

 

The gameplay isn’t anything new, hit bad things with your big sword called Transistor. Now you can just hit things with the abilities your garner and combine or you can go into a screen freeze and chain moves. When you come out of the freeze the moves action as you planned them. This is especially useful when fighting bigger bad guys.  As you go through the game and the city, called Cloudbank, you gather other “souls” which give you abilities. These abilities can then be used as is, combined with other abilities to make something new, or they can be boosted with skills you earn. This makes for a lot of options when you’re playing and something isn’t working.

 

 

I have really enjoyed this game. It has some wonderful ideas about combat options, but above all that it is so amazing to look at. The artists at SuperGiant Games should be commended for the wonderful visuals they have provided. It’s indie developers like them that take something so simple and they give you something so interesting in return. I would put this game up on the same shelf as Flower and Journey. It is a game I recommend everyone play.

~Donna


Guacamelee

via GameInformer

I’ve come to appreciate co-op games as a form of marriage counseling.

It’s TRUE. Maybe he gets to be P1 Every. Single. Time., and yes, maybe he’s 100 million percent better at memorizing eulogy-length button-press combos, but at least I can gleefully hear him get his pixelated face smashed open and bask in his pleading for me to drop in and save his sorry butt.

Guacamelee encourages co-op through its life dynamics: when two are playing, then one player drops out, the dropped-out player becomes an immortal bubble. To drop back in, the player’s bubble must be hit by the other player — and when that happens, the newly-restored player gets allllll of his health back.

So, you can see what we did, right? Of course you can. We played the entire game through (getting every collectible, PS3 network trophy, and secret) by dropping in and out as necessary to NEVER DIE.

Another reason why I love this game: the artwork and the music are both beautiful. I’m a sucker for Dia de los Muertos themed stuff: my mother and my uncles spent a lot of time in Mexico when they were kids and my family has always kept some skull art around.

via Digital Spy

Look at that: isn’t that gorgeous? Influence from the “Samurai Jack” school of animation, influence from modern Mexico’s reinterpretation of Aztec and Mayan art, influence from the mashup of Catholicism and native pagan religion that is so uniquely Central America.

Boy Thing was a great asset to have when playing this game. He’s a Spaniard, you see — so Guacamelee was that much more hilarious, because he would burst out laughing at the Spanish-speakers-only jokes (and there are a few). He told me flat-out that the designer must be a native speaker, and he’s right: although Drinkbox Studios is a Canadian independent, the lead designer is from Mexico.

The lead designer is also a b-tard. Heads-up.

My favourite part of the gameplay was how balanced the fighting vs puzzling was. You fight and puzzle steadily throughout the game — and the puzzles were all fun and hilarious. Highlights: you get to be a chicken, and you get to swap dimensions from the world of the living into the world of the dead — and both of these things affect gameplay.

I had a lot of fun, especially when Boy Thing died a lot and I had to sigh and pick up the controller to kick my way through five or six enponcho’ed skeletons. Whoop.

9/10

– Alice.


Papo &Yo: Much more than meets the eye

When I was looking at the new additions to the PSN this week I saw Papo & Yo. I must admit I was a little confused and intrigued. Watched the E3 vid for it and decided that it may be a bit surreal, but just the type of game I enjoy. The PSN description marked it as a puzzle platformer and I’d be inclined to agree, although more puzzle than platformer.

So, you are a boy, Quico, in this very unusual looking landscape of favelas and no one else around when you suddenly see another child. Of course you give chase and the game begins. Only the world around you is a bit dream-like and you can influence it in unusual ways by interacting with the chalk drawings on the walls. This is where the thinking begins too. The standard platform game has you going along a set route and just following it through, not here. In here your way will never be completely straight forward and you’ll pretty much always have to do something to create your path. Sometimes it’s easy, other times it takes a bit of thinking, but it’s always interesting. In the beginning it’s rather standard; pick up box and put on trigger. Very quickly though that changes and you’ll soon be moving houses and watching barrels fly through the air. Did I mention that this is a rather surreal game? Cause well, it really is.

Through the course of the game you’ll become acquainted with the other child and the big pink rhino, Monster. Quico’s relationship with Monster is an important one and something definitely worth mentioning, but I don’t want to spoil any of the metaphors for you. Suffice to say that the whole game, especially Quico & Monster, is a very well presented metaphor for the designer’s, Vander Caballero, very difficult childhood. By time you get to the end, I’m sure you’ll understand; I really found it was presented well.

I know I keep saying metaphor, but trust me when I say it has no effect on the gameplay. If anything it has a positive effect on the atmosphere causing a dreamlike, odd, weird world where you can do the unusual.

The controls aren’t complex, which is a positive thing I think. The last thing you want in a weird game is convoluted controls. At its heart it is a puzzle game though, so you really don’t need complex controls. My only problem I had with the controls was towards the end in a section that particularly platform-y. The double jump timing was being a bit pernickety, but once I grokked it I felt a bit stupid for getting frustrated.

Overall, I’d say get this game. It’s not expensive and I got between 3 and 4 hours of play and it certainly has some replay value. If for no other reason, but to see that great environment again. The art is very interesting and unique.  You really feel like you’re in the favelas.


What fools these mortals be (Loc – PC/Mac)

Loc is a 3d puzzle game from Birnam wood games released earlier this month, this is the studios first game.

The games plot is really simple to understand; Humanity has caused so much damage to the earth that the last queen of the faeries has taken you prisoner and plans to keep you trapped in her realm as punishment for man kinds crime (Lucky you) ; In order to escape you must solve ‘Loc’ puzzles in order to make your way through the queens desolate realm and find your way out.

The game play is a bit more complex; using your mouse you need to drag a series of tiles across a face of a cube to create a path between the start and end tiles. As you progress the game’s difficulty will increase, adding tiles that you must use in order to continue; it gets even harder when you have to start building the path across more than one of the cubes faces, whilst making sure that your using the right tiles to create a working path. There is also a list of achievements that you can earn if you complete the level under certain conditions which is a nice little addition.

Overall Loc is a wonderful game,The art style is beautiful , the atmospheric music helps the player become more immersed in this intriguing setting that birnam wood games created. But why not try it out yourself, the game is available from their studios website Here for just over £3 ($5) and if your completely broke they even have a free demo.

~HeadphoneGirlZ