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”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi. I’m Alice, and I’m a zombiephobe.
Psh, you’re saying. Don’t be silly. You’re not really afraid of zombies, are you?
You know what? I am. So shut up. Er, sorry. I meant…Nice to meet you all. I’m going to be blogging here! Yay!
Most of my posts will be game reviews, rather than speculation about the gaming world in general; I like doing reviews because I can bitch and snark to my heart’s content and it only seems to make people like me more. I know you’ll want a bit of my gaming background: I love adventure games. I love all of the Final Fantasies, even VIII, and especially XII. I love anything clever and lovely. My favourite game is Half-Life 2, though I’ve never played it myself — I watched someone else play it. I played Portal 2 twice. My household spends more money on games than on food. My day job is writing fiction; you can check out my other blog if you’re curious about that.
I’m also really and truly a zombiephobe. The genuine article. I read newspapers with an eye for new strains of flu or rabies. I struggle with the decision of whether or not to buy a shotgun and keep it in the closet. I have window locks, steel-reinforced doors, a house alarm. I hear sirens and I think, “My god, it’s the beginning of the end.”
Sharpieprints blueprints for my zombie-proof fortress, perfected over many endless nights in bed, staring up at the ceiling, covers clutched under the chin:
It started in my late teens. I was still living in London with my mum, though not for much longer, and dating a boy who was simply mad about cinema. He took me to see 28 Days Later during opening week for the cinematic qualities he’d been promised.
I was shaking like a leaf when we left the theatre. In the distance, some voice (no doubt belonging to a fellow film patron) did a surprisingly accurate rendition of a zombie scream. Both of us jumped about half a metre in the air. That night I insisted we camp on the floor because something could reach up through the bed. I didn’t fall asleep until I could press my back up against his side and feel that he was a living, breathing person.
Nearly ten years later, the love of my life, a computer man through and through, spends many hours per week playing Left 4 Dead with his friends from home. He’s an expatriate of Europe like me: the sound of gunshots and cursing in three languages has become a fixture of the house — like the ice machine, or the fish tank.
I got this blogging gig thanks to a Twitter (!) exchange with the lovely Kostika. LofL was playing L4D when I told him about starting as a game blogger. I’d been thinking of just nicking a review I’d done of FFX to stand in until I came up with something really good — and then I thought, “Hang on, I reckon people would enjoy hearing about how I screamed a lot over some fake zombies.”
So it was that yesterday I found myself wishing I’d never been born as LofL patiently waited for me to cringe my way through the opening video. I’d occasionally looked over his shoulder as he played, occasionally listened to his explanations of strategy, but this was so different.
LofL was Francis, of course. He’s always Francis. It’s kind of sexy on him. He’s one of those alpha male types — bit of a misanthrope, wrathful with the heat of a thousand suns, superlatively intelligent, snorts derisively a lot. Codes in C++. I would have gone for Bill, but in the spirit of the event (“femme”) I decided on Zoey. Also a submachine gun, because I felt more secure behind a spray of hot lead.
L4D opens on a rooftop, hordes of the undead milling about on the street below, sounds of snarling, rabid zombies drifting up from the stairs — from behind a closed door, which you’re meant to open.
“Are you going first, or am I?” said LofL.
He couldn’t see it (we were sitting next to each other, staring at our respective screens) but I gave Francis a withering look.
“You.” I said. “Dur.”
He ran down the stairs. The NPCs followed him. I know enough about the smart AI in the game to know I was toast if I stayed on the rooftop by myself, so I plunged in after them. I kept my back to the wall. I’ll have to be honest, the first few minutes were a blur. I shot the NPCs in the back several times trying to hit zombies they’d already killed. We were playing on easy, so in retrospect I was mostly shooting at scenery — but it was hell. I wasted loads of bullets. LofL told me I wasn’t actually that bad.
The first special infected I saw was a boomer. I tried to shoot it, but the submachine gun seemed to send bullets everywhere but the boomer, which vomited on me.
I picked up a shotgun at the next safehouse.
Every new room was in I muttered, “Not a tank, not a tank, please not a tank.” I shot hunters and boomers and smokers. I got strangled by a smoker once. Didn’t care, not really — LofL saved me pretty quickly. All I cared about was making it through the level without finding a tank. So it makes sense that the first really clear memory I have is walking to the end of a subway train, and LofL stopping me and saying, “There’s a tank in there.”
“Really?” I said. I hyperventilated. I checked my health, my pain pills, my ammo. Okay, so I had less than a hundred bullets, but no big deal, right? That would be okay.
“Yeah,” said LofL. “Hear him? He’s grunting.”
I did hear something — a kind of deep snuffling, snorting noise. Like a rhinoceros. I backed Zoey away from the door.
“Oh, shit,” I said.
“Follow me,” said LofL. He led me out of the car and jumped over a piece of ground.
“Stand here,” he said. “You’ve got a molotov, haven’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Okay, so equip the molotov. Press 3. Okay, now hold down your first mouse button and aim at the door, but don’t let it go.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I’m going to go open the door. When the tank comes, set it on fire,” he said. “Then run.”
“Oh my god,” I said.
“Don’t set me on fire,” he said.
“Uh huh.” The distance between me and the subway car seemed really short.
I felt a certain dull inevitability as he went into the car. This is it, I thought. I’m going to die.
The tank was the size of Africa. I saw a glimpse of knotted muscle and I threw that damn molotov right in his face. I ran nearly the entire length of the level before I realised that I’d run too far — right the way back to the ammunition pile — and now some hunter was going to show up and rip my face off for abandoning everyone.
I loaded up on shells and put my back to the wall.
“Come get me!” I said. “I’m going to get killed!”
“You ran too far,” said LofL — man for Come back your own damn self.
When I got back to them LofL was already jumping away into the darkness and the NPCs — who were obviously smart enough to know who’d keep them alive better — followed him like a pair of puppies.
“I keep telling A. [a guy in his clan] that if you set a tank on fire it will kill him,” LofL was saying. “You don’t have to shoot him once.”
The next tank I saw was in the finale. LofL told me to run, but not where, so I jumped off a roof — right onto the tank’s head. He threw me across the floor; I shot him several times in the face until the fire (LofL is nothing if not systematic) killed him.
We finished No Mercy on easy without me dying once. I was horribly proud of myself.
As the credits rolled, LofL turned to me with a smile on his face and said, “You consistently killed a third of the zombies I did.”
“Great,” I said grumpily. I’d been hoping to discover that I was a sort of zombie prodigy — a girl that, despite her fear, was piling up bodies and taking names. “Maybe if there’d been more zombies to shoot, I would have shot more.”
“Yeah, easy is really, uh, easy,” he said. “I think you’d be okay playing on expert with the team. You can’t possibly be as terrible as B [another clan-mate who tends to run in front of LofL’s sniper barrel at inopportune moments].”
My face probably blanched.
“I think I’d like to play more on easy,” I said.
I’ve been really busy lately. First off, I still haven’t even finished Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I really want to finish so I can move onto Batman, but I keep getting stuck. That game really messes with my head sometimes. I’m still about 50% through and I wanted to steamroll through the game while my boyfriend was out of town. Of course, when I have more free time due to less love life, I get a part-time job, and get busier with photo projects. Eventually, I’ll finish it. It’s just slightly over-whelming to go from job-less bum to 1 job + assistant to 2 photographers + writing for this blog and newly writing on Destructoid blogs, etc. Oh, and I’m exercising now too. Oh, boy.
I’ve been playing a bit more Left4Dead2 lately as well. I recently got back into it because more of my friends are playing, so it’s fun to play against people you know. I stopped before due to the huge amount of younger kids that play that game and aren’t very good at it (haha).
I’ve been wanting to play Zakk & Wiki again lately. Have any of you ever played that game? It’s a puzzle game, except really really hard. It’s a game that most people probably can’t beat it without help. And by help, I mean I played through most of it whenever friends came over and could help point things out in the puzzles. They are THAT elaborate. I never did finish that game, though. A friend of mine lent me Super Mario Galaxies II, so I figure when I hook up the Wii again, I may as well play some of that, too!
Once again, stuck. Too many games, too little time! And not enough motivation to spend my actual free time playing through new content opposed to going on Steam for a few rounds of zombie killing. Maybe when my boyfriend gets home (it’s been a week) I’ll be a little less of a boring drone.