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Zebulon last won the day on January 23 2015

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  1. A brave knight. A lost love. A new evil permeating the land. Sharpen your shovels and warm up your thumbs, because 8-bit is back to dispense justice in spades. Shovel Knight, the debut title from Yacht Club Games, arrives with a clash offering fluid gameplay, vibrant style, and a phenomenal soundtrack with only a few minor quirks along the way. Click here to view the article
  2. A brave knight. A lost love. A new evil permeating the land. Sharpen your shovels and warm up your thumbs, because 8-bit is back to dispense justice in spades. Shovel Knight, the debut title from Yacht Club Games, arrives with a clash offering fluid gameplay, vibrant style, and a phenomenal soundtrack with only a few minor quirks along the way. While using some modern design sensibilities, the game evokes fond memories of Zelda II, Mega Man, Castlevania, and a slew of others that are referenced by non-gameplay elements. The nostalgia buttons get mashed hard from the get-go, bringing back that Christmas sensation when you finally got the NES cart you doggedly asked for. An 8-bit logo with a chippy jingle, rousing theme music playing over a classic NES start menu, and a profile creation screen ala Legend of Zelda. When you start the game, you are treated to a lovingly pixelated cinematic giving the backstory for Shovel Knight’s adventure. His quest: to defeat the forces of The Order of No Quarter and battle their nefarious leader, The Enchantress, who is somehow responsible for the fate of our hero’s beloved Shield Knight. The game gets you off to an action-packed start with a satisfyingly fast-paced intro level. Gameplay itself is incredibly fluid and responsive, almost making you forget you have a controller in your hand while you navigate those pesky jumps. Slashing, jumping, and down-thrusting with your shovel blade feels so natural you’d swear you played the game before. In fact, you probably have, but it’s even better here. The features borrow heavily from what came before, but improve on them considerably while never stepping beyond the character’s practical limitations. These limitations make sure the game never becomes too easy. Special items such as the Chaos Sphere and Flame Wand give you some ranged melee capabilities to keep you from immediate danger, but you still have enemy projectiles to worry about. Other items, such as the Mobile Gear (allowing you to cross spikes) and the Propeller Dagger (limited flight), let you pass over dangerous terrain and pits but timing remains a factor. Then there’s the resource cost for all of these. You have a limited amount of magic power to unleash each item’s effect on your enemies, but this can be restored quickly enough by collecting magic vases. These items are found as you venture through each boss’ level, and you’ll need all the help you can get. Although King Knight’s stage is relatively easy, things get exponentially more challenging as you go along. Specter Knight’s stage makes you jump with only fleeting glimpses of enemy movement and terrain, while Plague Knight’s stage greets you with many opportunities for a fiery death on the platforms you need to use for crossing pits. And then there are the bosses themselves. Each one is completely unique, with attacks that are themed after their respective stages with a few extra special surprises to put a cleft in your shovel. The bosses, and indeed all the characters you meet (including wandering challengers that you meet along your path), are brought to life with the same heart and soul as the games that inspired this one. Villagers all have unique responses and personalities as they mill about the village. Lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek humor can be heard from several characters, as well as genuinely funny moments that are as innocent and humorous as we used to love from the classics. Even in character names, such as the Gastronomer, who can upgrade Shovel Knight’s health, and the Troupple King, literally a half trout and half apple king who seeks to aid the hero in his quests. But that is half the fun of Shovel Knight. Everything from the animation to the backgrounds to the way you move around the world is deliberately hand-crafted to old school perfection. They didn’t cut corners or cheat, and it couldn’t be any more authentic if it were on an NES cart from the old days. The only caveat is the Game+ feature, which allows you to start from the beginning of the game with all of your previously earned items and health meter. This doesn’t mean the game gets any easier. On the contrary, waypoints in each boss stage are reduced to half of what they are in normal mode, and enemies do double damage. Where you could find food under most silver platters, you now find bombs. While this keeps the game challenging, it’s still the same game all over again. There are also minor quirks that can stop the game. In one instance, Shovel Knight got stuck in his victory pose as phase two of Tinker Knight’s battle began. It only happened once, but it makes one cringe when you realize you have to start all over if it happens again. Thankfully, that heralds the end of the errors. Everything else is there for pure enjoyment, and it succeeds with honor. The musical score to the game is one of the best, if not the best ever made for a retro game. The music in the boss stages is always top notch and fast-paced, resounding with inspiration and adventure without them getting obnoxiously stuck in your head. Not that that would be a bad thing. Shovel Knight is a game that makes it easy to experience all that was best about the 8-bit era, improving on its markers without tarnishing its rich heritage. Everything in the package seamlessly complements the other elements of the game, and it stands on its own as a work worthy of any era. With a wonderful story, entertaining characters, phenomenal gameplay, and a satisfying ending, Shovel Knight is an instant classic that should be in any gamer’s library, and holds its own among the stalwart favorites like Mario and Mega Man. Whether Yacht Club Games likes it or not, they have a new franchise on their hands. Let the age of Shovelry begin.
  3. There is something to be said for a second chapter in a mystifying production. The plot begins to thicken, questions become downright head-scratching, and it can tend to throw you some serious mind-bending moments alongside brand new wondrous territory. KRZ: Act II shines on all counts. Click here to view the article
  4. New Zealand-based game designer Bill Borman is bringing us what looks to be the Minecraft of vehicle combat games. In Scraps, players build their own vehicle from scratch using functional components that affect every aspect of its operation. Players begin each game building up their car in a drag-and-drop editor. Using available parts, you can add anything from power generators to firepower to not only add functionality to the vehicle, but also create whole new structural contraptions ala Minecraft to test out in the game environment. In one scene from the trailer, a car in the fashion of a Dyson Sphere can be seen rolling onto the field, as well as a Mario-shaped vehicle with guns. Judging from the early footage, it would appear that there is an endless number of crazy gun-toting contraptions one can make. Players even have the ability to scavenge scrap metal from the battle field to make new parts. But be warned: physics will judge whether your design succeeds or fails, which may very well be what leads to endless appeal for such a game. Citing his love for vehicular combat games, Borman suggest that many games of today do not live up to their claims of “extensive customization”, which he says usually amounts to changing body color or adding a few upgrades. Instead, he has created a game which solves the problems he has seen in other similar titles lacking key features such as aerodynamics, weight, and kickback from firepower. “The alpha is still a little while away,” says Borman, but backers can still choose to lend their support for the next six days and obtain access to the alpha release when it’s built. Features still to come include multiplayer and racing modes, and a likely flood of user-generated mods once released, and for that we at IGS can't wait to test our ideas out. Check out Scraps at its official website or on Steam Greenlight for more information. Click here to view the article
  5. After an initial spate of bad news for Microsoft’s latest enterprise into the console market, Engadget has announced that the Xbox One will be getting Unity engine support in the months following release, making up for a seemingly cold shoulder to the indie development community shortly after its reveal.After an initial spate of bad news for Microsoft’s latest enterprise into the console market, Engadget has announced that the Xbox One will be getting Unity engine support in the months following release, making up for a seemingly cold shoulder to the indie development community shortly after its reveal. The Unity Engine support, which offers users the option to implement Kinect and SmartGlass functionality, will allow developers to more easily port games to the Xbox One. Unity support will be a major boost to Microsoft’s ID@Xbox program. While not affecting many major development houses like Activision or Irrational Games, indie developers will benefit greatly with two Xbox One development kits given on loan as well as full access to system documentation and support forums, something that was previously reserved for AAA development houses with the budget to purchase a steeply priced development license. Currently in version 4.2, Unity has been widely heralded as one of the most accessible 3D development platforms available. With free deployment to a fast growing number of devices and an easy workflow, it's closing the distribution gap for developers on all levels and has been used to develop games such as Kerbal Space Program, Race the Sun, Kentucky Route Zero, and Spate. Although there is no official word yet on a set date of availability, the engine will be fully implemented sometime in 2014 and will not require a licensing fee to develop or publish games, allowing the indie sector to make an even bigger impact on the gaming landscape than ever before. Click here to view the article
  6. Gone North Games have released a trailer for their upcoming first-person adventure title A Story About My Uncle. Created with the Unreal Engine, the non-violent platformer tells the story of a boy who embarks on a search for his missing uncle and discovers the existence an extra-dimensional world. Using physics-based powers to jump, repel, and reach new surfaces, the demo build has been garnering favorable reactions from a number of sources. The Swedish Game Awards nominee is being published by Coffee Stain Studios, the house responsible for the upcoming Goat Simulator, already proving instrumental in getting ASAMU an entry onto Steam Greenlight. “At first we were sceptic (sic) to publish games we haven’t made ourselves, but once we tried out ‘A Story About My Uncle,’ we were hooked! They really nailed the sense of speed, freedom and adventure in the game, and we can’t wait to bring this story-based, nonviolent indie game to Steam.” No projected release date has been announced. Click here to view the article
  7. Get ready for more crazy game discounts in the name of charity. The team who brought us the Humble Bundle has extended their enterprise into a full time online retail store. The freshly minted portal, now on the third day of its debut sale, is currently showcasing an array of both AAA games and indie titles at discount prices, the latter of which are its flagship line of products established by its work with the Humble Bundle and its associated sales. Among the slew of indie titles you can snag in its sale are The Legend of Grimrock for $3.74, Monaco for $4.99, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs at $13.99, and Dungeon Defenders for $12.49, which includes a huge helping of DLC, with many more titles to choose from as the sale continues through the week. According to the site, sales made from the Humble Store follow a similar model to their popular Humble Bundle deals but with fixed rates: 10% of each sale earmarked for charitable organizations; 75% to the creators; and the remaining 15% as its trademark Humble Tip. Charities supported by the Humble Store include the American Red Cross, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, charity: water, World Land Trust, and Child’s Play, which generously provides gaming systems for hospitalized children with extended periods of hospitalization and recovery times. Formed in 2010 by Jeff Rosen, the Humble Store began as the Humble Bundle which gained immense popularity due to its “pay what you want” schema, managing to also get a number of gamers interested in charity. It has hosted nine bundles to date with many more developer-specific bundles to boot, the latest of which is its Humble WB Games Bundle. Stay tuned to IGS and The Humble Store for more information on sales and their expanding catalog of titles. Click here to view the article
  8. by Zebulon Rogers We’ve all been there, right? It’s getting late. You’re driving down a lonely stretch of countryside, trying to find that one road that isn’t on the map. The deeper you get into the territory, the more uneasy it feels, seeing stray roads that lead who knows where, and you wonder if you should have just turned around and gone home on the main stretch. But what if you did go down one of those unusual roads? Such is the idea behind the first episode of Kentucky Route Zero, a “magical realist adventure” from the minds at Cardboard Computer where, on a quiet evening in the back country of Kentucky, a weathered but good-natured delivery driver named Conway rolls up in his antique of a pickup with his straw-hat-wearing dog at an odd oil and gas station in the middle of nowhere, asking an old blind man directions to a “5 Dogwood Drive.” He is informed that the address in question is on “the Zero,” a mysterious highway conspicuously absent from his map. After getting directions to someone who knows how to find it, Conway gets his first taste of how strange and extraordinary his journey is about to get, which quickly escalates into Twilight Zone territory. Realist is the key word here. At first glance this is a contradiction of terms from the description of the game provided by Cardboard Computer, which puts it as realism rather than surrealism. But the story you experience in this first episode of a multipart journey has a few surprises, and that is the heart of the genius at work in this game. At the beginning you are asked by the old blind man at the gas station if you heard about a wreck that occurred only hours before that spread glass all over the highway, and you are immediately tempted to connect this to Conway and his delivery truck, and that he might be dead. However, one of the best aspects of Kentucky Route Zero is its ability to throw you little curveballs against what feels like veiled fact. This brings us back to the realist nature of the game, one that isn’t hampered by complex puzzles and confusing pathways but is, like Dear Esther, a more pure story experience that does require a little bit of puzzle-solving but nothing requiring rocket science. It is through this puzzle-solving that we get to see parts of the game that we would otherwise miss. From the get-go, fans of old-school adventures and minimalist storylines (not to mention minimalist graphics) will immediately be drawn into the world of Kentucky Route Zero, brought to life by its classic style of 3D animation that hearkens back to the days of games like Another World and Flashback. Blocky, polygonal character models sport a somewhat caricaturized but effective appearance against a backdrop of much higher detail, where structures and scene details are well thought out and placed. The art direction goes a step further in its atmospheric expression by introducing certain blink-and-you-miss-them visual elements when you turn off Conway’s lantern. But the game isn’t just a series of interconnected scenes, as are common in traditional adventure games. The game also lets you drive Conway’s delivery truck to whatever route you need to get to via a black and white overworld, which is in the form of a road atlas with the truck represented by a single wheel that spins as you move. Certain landmarks that show up along this view aside from the main story path can be also visited, but remain text-based in their description and interaction. For instance, you come upon an old white church where loud singing is heard. Upon choosing the appropriate dialogue options, you find that the church singing was nothing more than a reel-to-reel tape player squelching old hymns to nothing but an empty space. Sites like this are found by what feels like accidentally on purpose, where you feel you were somehow guided there without really looking for them. While the world is largely contemporary and realistic, even the oil and gas station at the beginning of the game manages to make it fantastical and surrealist, reminding us that photorealism is just a sub-category of quality visuals. What secrets are within the old barn? Unfortunately, not everything is executed in a manner that keeps us steeped in intrigue. Interaction with characters comes in the way of several unique dialogue choices with each new situation that serve as an opportunity for the player to give Conway a bit of their own personality. With each odd situation (and 100% of them are odd), we are treated to some quirky responses and situations that don’t entirely make sense. While that helps the intrigue, the dialogue is very flat and boring, “on the nose” as screenwriters would say. While the developers wanted a minimalist approach, they could have done more with the dialogue to give it some pep. Characters do not speak with any kind of vernacular speech as would be especially noticeable in the American south. One could theoretically read this kind of thing into the characters, but the dialogue and even the art direction fails to meet the player half-way and thus we tend to find ourselves wishing it had that something extra. Despite this, the dialogue does do a good job of informing the player of their surroundings and its lore, even though it never even comes close to asking the question of why Conway would go through all this just for a routine delivery. This isn’t to say that the characters themselves aren’t interesting, as the developers did a good job of giving us characters we can endear ourselves to. Conway proves to be a likeable character from the start, having kindly taken in an old and weathered dog on its last legs as a traveling companion. The amiable old blind man comments on the beautiful sunset despite facing the wrong direction. Even the bland-talking TV repairwoman gets some feeling out of the player as she tells of her parents breaking themselves in the old mine. All of this is accompanied by an almost tangible and ambient silence that makes you feel like you’re in Kentucky with these characters. Conway’s journey is also tinged with occasional music motifs by game composer Ben Babbit. In addition, the game includes a host of bluegrass and classic gospel hymns performed by the Bedquilt Ramblers. Kentucky Route Zero is a game of ambience and adventure, where minimalism is used in almost all the right ways to make this experience as real and engrossing as possible. Although players who are looking for well-scripted and path-altering dialogue between characters will be disappointed, the rest of the game more than makes up for the lack of personality and emotional depth that may very well be present in subsequent entries of the series. When all is said and done, this is a fantastic ride into uncharted territory with a surprise ending that makes us rev up for more. Rating: 7.8/10 Click here to view the article
  9. Candy Crush Saga developer King.com has filed a Notice of Opposition against Stoic Studio, makers of the well-received turn-based rpg The Banner Saga, claiming that the name is “confusingly and deceptively similar” to their long list of saga-based titles, reports Kotaku. Filed in December, the company who brought us yet another color matching game feels that an ownership of the term saga is based on quantity alone. Says the filing, “…potential customers are likely to believe that Applicant’s goods [stoic Studio] originate from Opposer, resulting in a likelihood of confusion in the marketplace, and damage to Opposer.” While no reports of a secret candy room in The Banner Saga have surfaced, use of the term ‘saga’ is what’s at stake. But the idea that it will confuse potential customers, however, is a little north of paranoid. The fact that The Banner Saga has a price tag will likely clear up confusion on that point alone, as well as the fact that Vikings matching axe with head is heavily dissimilar to matching red candy with watermelon. While we don’t expect any lawsuits to arise from this filing as yet, a ruling in favor of King.com would surely incite anger among indie gamers who have heaped praise on the game for its visual atmosphere, robust gameplay, and the actual presence of a well-defined saga. Stay tuned to IGS for more info. Click here to view the article
  10. Back in April we spoke with game developer Eric Provan to talk about his upcoming title Spate. Currently reaching the end of its beta, IGS caught up with Mr. Provan for an update on his surrealist platformer, sharing with us what he's learned from his experience, the depths of Detective Bluth's insanity, and where his imagination will be taking us next.Back in April we spoke with game developer Eric Provan to talk about his upcoming title Spate. Currently reaching the end of its beta, IGS caught up with Mr. Provan for an update on his surrealist platformer, sharing with us what he's learned from his experience, the depths of Detective Bluth's insanity, and where his imagination will be taking us next. IGS: How does it feel to finally see Spate in beta after all your hard work? Eric Provan: It's terrifying. It's great, relieving, satisfying, and terrifying. All of the feedback has been wonderful so far. The game seems to be coming across the way I want it to. That's very important to me because I feel like the game is a bit different then what most gamers may be used to. It asks the player (if they want to), to take their time and observe, to get lost in story and thought. People seem to be enjoying this. The other part that has been awesome to hear is that the game controls handle well. Perhaps I'm a bit of a platformer snob, but I won’t play a platformer for more than a minute if the controls aren't responsive. It's so important to a platformer that the controls for the character not feel floaty. What I have learned in creating spate is that it’s not just on the programmers to provide these responsive controls; the animations have to be up to snuff as well. What was the question again? Right, it's great.....and terrifying. IGS: When we last talked, we touched on the themes of the game and how Detective Bluth's journey becomes more blurred between reality and hallucination. Without giving anything away, how far down the road to insanity will the player be taken by the end of the game? Were there any moments where you thought to yourself 'This may be going a bit too far?', or would you have wanted to take it farther than it is? EP: I feel like the characters progression into madness will be endlessly tweaked, but for the first time in over 3 years, I'm happy with where it's at. It was a very hard thing to nail down because a lot of different factors had to work. And then once they worked, they had to work together (music, visuals, story). I believe the progression is successful enough now that it works in putting the player in the characters shoes. The whole madness thing isn't meant to scare or shock - it's meant more to provoke thought with surreal scenery. I feel like the amount and the progression are great now. If anything is still to be added, it's that extra layer of very hard to find things. I want a game that people can play 100 times and find something new every time and the madness progression provides a great pallet for this. IGS: The world itself seems like its own evolving character, with surreal and often freakish results. Is Bluth the kind of character who sees these things as an extension of himself and cause for alarm? To borrow from the trailer, is Bluth the guy who'll walk through the proverbial rain or will he come to a point that running is the only option? EP: Exactly, the world is its own character. This was the idea from the very beginning. The world is very key to the story. Just about everything you come across in the world of Spate, real looking or surreal, is put there with sincere thought. If you find 7 tree's floating upside down, there is a reason there are seven trees floating upside down. It may not ever make sense to players, or players may have different opinions on what it means, but the point is that it’s not there just for the hell of it. Or is it? =) Regarding the quote from the first trailer. It’s funny that line, "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that run in the rain and those that walk", was added at a time when part of the story’s focus was the Detective's father. This has since changed, but the point is still true. Detective Bluth is the contradiction to that line. He's someone who used to walk in the rain, but now he runs. He's proof that the world is more complex than clever quotes. IGS: After your experience in developing this over the last few years, what is your takeaway concerning how you will go about your future projects? EP: There was a saying I heard when I first starting learning anatomy for art. "You have to learn anatomy to be able to break anatomy". So once I had a good grasp of human anatomy, I found that not only my realistic drawings of people looked better, but my weird, abstract, and surreal characters become much more appealing as well. Anyway, as I'm sure you figured out, Spate is the anatomy in this analogy. I've learned it well. Now it’s time to break it. IGS: Any hints you can drop regarding what's next for you? EP: Yup. I have a very clear idea of my next game. I am beyond excited to start on it, but with Spate still needing a nudge through beta, I can't jump into this new world just yet. The goal with my next game is to expand on what I have learned on Spate and be confident in exploring new areas. Naturally, this means I will be creating a First Person 2D Platformer. It's a mixture of the atmospheric world of Spate (in first person), Ink drawings, and watercolor. It sounds all over the place but I promise the story brings it all together. I look forward to talking more about it in the future! IGS: Thank you for your time, Eric! Spate can be pre-ordered at its official site here. The pre-order features two levels: $10.00 DRM-Free and $25.00 for DRM-Free with early access to beta. Stay tuned to IGS for future updates on Spate. Click here to view the article
  11. Three weeks ago we took a look at indie game Spate, a surrealist 2.5D platformer from designer and animator Eric Provan. This week I talk with the developer about his beginnings in the industry and pick his brain about what the game has in store for us, touching on the theme of the games and how they will affect the player.Three weeks ago we took a look at indie game Spate, a surrealist 2.5D platformer from designer and animator Eric Provan. This week I talk with the developer about his beginnings in the industry and pick his brain about what the game has in store for us, touching on the theme of the games and how they will affect the player. _______________________________________________________________________ The world of Spate and its gameplay mechanics look incredibly unique and compelling. How did your initial concept come about and how has it evolved over the course of development? Eric: Spate has evolved so much in the 3 years that I have been working on it, but I do remember setting some guidelines that have stuck. First, I wanted the game to be extremely rainy and damp. This grew out of my love of films like Stalker, Angels Egg, and Dark City. There’s a certain feeling that I have when watching and listening to rain, and I wanted that to come through in the game. Second, I wanted there to be no HUD and the controls to be very simple. I feel like games have gotten too convoluted. Things are kept relatively simple in Spate to keep the player in that world. It’s more important to me that the player is lost in thought rather than thinking. The actual drinking mechanic came very late in the games development. I always had the idea for this character to slowly go insane throughout the game. And I introduced drinking very early into the story. But, it wasn’t until game designers David Jaffe and Jenova Chen played Spate (on IGNs Game Boss show), that I added the actual drinking mechanic. They enjoyed the demo very much, but felt like there was nothing connecting the storyline to the gameplay. This is where the drinking mechanic was born. In the trailers it makes mention that the absinthe makes Detective Bluth hallucinate. Will players be able to explore a different side of the story under the influence? Are there other negative impacts that the insanity brings? Eric: Players can beat the game whether they choose to use the drinking mechanic or not. There are just parts that will be easier if the player uses the mechanic because it lets them run faster and jump higher. This forces players to think the way a drunk would think. “Yeah, it would be nice to get wasted, but then again, things around me could suffer because of it.” I am also toying with the idea of having a few different endings depending on how many times a player uses the drinking mechanic. I should also mention that there are more factors in the game that are making this character go mad then just the drinking. I was very inspired by Journey, and how in that game it felt like this world got harsher and more challenging, but you always kept moving on because there was that feeling like there was a light at the end of this long tunnel. I’ve modeled Spate this way, in that these mysterious islands start off simple enough, then you start to see weird stuff, and by the end you are climbing a mile high tower that is growing out of a female statues head. Because of this progression, I think the players feel the madness that the character is feeling. About how long a journey will it be? Have you made any painful cuts that might turn up in a future work? Eric: The game takes me just under 2 hours to get through it. I imagine a new player is looking at 2-4 hours. I think the length works perfect for the kind of game Spate is. The story is very much structured like a film and I think to get the full emotional impact of the game, its best to play through it in one sitting. I have had to cut a lot of things in the development of Spate. This is something that is hard to learn as an artist but sometimes you have to “kill your babies”. I have recently been recording entire playthroughs of the game and then editing it down after watching the playthroughs. A lot of the recent cuts have been to keep the game simple. The more complex things get, the more the player gets pulled from the world of Spate. One thing that I cut from the game that I may use in the future is physics based puzzles. I should be clear, I didn’t cut all of them, but in the beginning, I drew out tons and tons of puzzles and then had to scratch many of them. The cuts came because they broke up the flow of the game to much, and quite honestly, they were hard to program for a new programmer like myself. Perhaps I will go back to that sketch book and use them in the future! How did you get your start in the entertainment industry? Did games come first or animation? Eric: I started my career at Take-Two’s Kush Games working on their 2K MLB and NHL series. It was a good experience, but as an aritst, I quickly got bored working on realism. This led me to work on characters at The Jim Henson Creature Shop. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to get out of the game industry, it was more that I wanted to step away from realism and work on something with a bit more style. Henson provided that. What was it like working in the beloved Creature Shop? I grew up watching his work and loving movies like Labyrinth and the short lived Jim Henson Hour. Any favorite project you look back on fondly? Eric: I grew up the same way. If you haven’t seen Henson’s The Storyteller series, you have to check it out! When I was there, they were transitioning a lot of their TV stuff to CG, so I didn’t get to work on anything to memorable. With that said, just going to work at the Henson studio in Hollywood every day was a trip. I remember on my first day, I took a wrong turn and ended in a hallway that had an original Skeksis puppet from Dark Crystal. It was that kind of stuff that I remember most. I remember seeing the episode “Fearnot” as a kid and having the heebyjeeby’s scared out of me by the Half Man that dropped out of the chimney. “Master of Illusion” was another favorite. The whole series changed my writer’s imagination permanently. What are your favorite stories that you use to stoke your imagination when you need some creative juice? Eric: My favorite was “Sapsorrow”. Jim Henson does Cinderella? Count me in! As far as what gets my creative juices flowing, it really depends on the project I am working on. For Spate, I have a rolodex of about 20 films that I go to for creative inspiration. The Name of the Rose (1986) and Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974) being two great mysteries that I found in the process. I love stories about solo character’s given unbelievable tasks. Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea falls into that category and is definitely inspiration for Spates main character. It’s amazing how story resonates with us on such a deep level. How do you think players will feel about Detective Bluth? I don’t want to pry too far into the story until everyone gets to play it, but what kind of emotional resonance will we walk away with when we come to the end of his journey? Eric: I think players will relate to the Detective and his battles. We all have our own demons (as I chug a soda), overcoming these demons is no easy task (as I chug soda again), and there is a familiar feeling of emotional achievement and satisfaction from overcoming these demons. That’s the feeling I believe the Detective in Spate and his journey through the XZone will pass on to its players. Any last thoughts before we part ways? Do you have an anticipated release date, or do you share Blizzard’s stalwart response, “When it’s ready?” Eric: The release date for Spate has been a tricky thing for me. I’m lucky enough to have had a successful Kickstarter campaign with over 750 backers of Spate. Keeping them waiting has weighed heavy on me. The original release date for Spate was Dec. 2012. Personal matters, and design matters collided and pushed that date. Spate is [much] different than any project I have ever worked on. I see it as my one big chance to create something special. Something that people will really enjoy. For this reason, I have definitely adopted the Blizzard way of thinking. I believe that the game and the players deserve for this thing to be done right. And, if that means a bit more time, then I’m going to take that time and make the most of it. The best estimate I can give right now is summer 2013. Eric, it’s been great talking with you, and we hope to catch you again closer to release! Eric: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you! Thanks for giving me a platform to get some of my thoughts out here. All the best! Click here to view the article
  12. Indie game developer Broken Window Studios has officially begun its Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming open-world survival horror game, Grave, an effort that seeks to redefine and rejuvenate the (excuse the pun) dead genre once captained by the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises. In Grave, you must survive attacks from a myriad of ghoulish and demonic entities in a nightmarish, surrealist vision of our contemporary world, whose elements are procedurally generated to give every player a unique and chilling experience. Abandoned shacks, ghostly desert sands, and perilous nights play host to creatures who thrive on darkness, making light-emitting implements such as matches and flashbang grenades your only hope for survival. The game’s creative leads, Tristan and Aby Moore, whose previous works include The Afflicted and Reflections, began their project as an experiment called Cimmerian Shade which served as a kind of prototype for what eventually became Grave. Hot off the heels of a successful showing at IGN’s GDC bash ‘The Mix’, and with a strong debut of over 100 backers in just the first few days, it looks like Grave is already an early success and sure to be a big hit with both indie and mainstream fans alike. Grave has tentative release window of early 2015. Zebulon Rogers manager and editor at IndieGameSource. He has loved games since age three and writes from the perspective of both gamer and designer. Click here to view the article
  13. What do the hallucinatory images of Hunter S. Thompson, cybercrime, and jazz music have in common with Cold War espionage you say? Absolutely nothing, but Necrophone Games heaps love on the concept of such absurd combinations in their tantalizingly weird first-person adventure Jazzpunk, putting you in the role of everyman secret agent Polyblank, who is sent to foil a number of farcical threats amidst gag after gag of the Terry Gilliam variety. Would you believe he has a wine cellar under that desk? In fact, the whole thing could have hopped out of a Monty Python production, as the game begins with a snazzy intro that should really come with an epilepsy warning, but is nevertheless entertaining as it traces your circuitous globe-trotting path as a piece of luggage to a basement hallway at a major airport, a trip heavily reminiscent of the flashy opening credits of the psychedelic films of the 60’s. Once there you receive a mission from the mustachioed ‘Director’ to infiltrate the Russian Consulate, where it is confirmed that everyone looks like a bathroom sign and you can photocopy your rear end. Right away you are greeted with a rainbow of old school 3D models, smooth but flatly textured under the pixelated glory of a somewhat realistic sky. If this doesn’t suck you back into the golden age of PC games (i.e., the 90’s,) nothing will. In fact, the dated nature of the graphics, while clearly intentional, is a welcome sight and turn out to be rather beautiful in their own trippy way, making your raucous journey through the world that much funnier. The 'Exhumer 3000' will dredge up some crazy junk. Don't forget the turtle. And it’s exploring your way through the nooks and crannies of the world that pure left-field absurdity truly begins, as you are handed a bottle of pills that whisk you off to the former USSR and into the first of many world-spanning levels containing obscene amounts of nostalgia-laden Easter eggs, which are the real stars of the show. Wandering the world brings you into contact with all manner of things you never expected to see as you complete your objectives, marked with a white dash circle that indicates interaction. These can take the forms of witty pop-culture references to comically gutted classic games. Grabbing a bowl of fruit at a wet bar (literally in a pool) reveals a surprising character appearance. Finding a wedding cake on a beach reveals a mod for a rather popular shooter from yesteryear, complete with a fake chat script which expertly simulates gamer speak. Trust us, you’ll wonder if you have the energy to truly explore the world long enough to find the end of these things before going to the next mission. And none of it is wasted. Even though the Easter eggs are what keep your head in the game, the missions themselves have plenty of humorous moments. Whether it’s throwing a jar full of spiders at a cook just to get access to the kitchen or beating off feds with an artificial kidney, you won’t be disappointed by the second-banana nature of the missions, which serve more as a MacGuffin for pulling you through the parade of unexpected humor and hidden mini-games than telling a great story. Oh, and remember the ultimate NES cheat code? Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left Right, BA, Start, and see what happens. I don't know. But we suppose you’re wondering why the heck this game is called Jazzpunk. If you’ve ever listened to a true classic jazz piece of the Miles Davis variety, then this game is a personification of the explosive light-speed trumpets and off-the-cuff riffing of Dizzy Gillespie himself, every color and zany moment as if it were as spontaneous as the frenetic improvisations of the masters themselves. Oh, and the game also has a jazz soundtrack that perfectly accompanies both the atmosphere of the game and individual moments without smothering the canvas. For some, Jazzpunk is going to be an acquired taste, but even if you aren’t over the moon for the whole experience there will be something that you find hilarious in every level. From Hula girls talking in Scottish accents, to robots made of recycled (and dirty) tuna cans, to the hilarious renditions of classic games and unexpected pop-culture moments, you won’t find another game that makes you scratch your head, laugh out loud, and bring back great memories of games long past, all at the same time. With simple controls and simple gameplay, nothing gets in the way of your enjoyment. Now go forth and save the world. And never overclock your underwear. Score: 8.5/10 Click here to view the article
  14. It’s a rare game that draws you into a world of realized grief-driven addiction, showing the externalized world of madness the character’s heart has become against the haunting specter of a child’s tragic death. 'Spate,' the debut 2.5d platformer from Eric Provan and Ayyo Games, does so with a vision that tells its story on an almost extra-planar level. Though the game never set out to revolutionize gameplay mechanics, and boasts some intermittent graphical glitches along the way, Spate does show what can truly be done with a minimalist narrative style previously reserved for film. It is this narrative style that defines what the game was meant to be. The simple and responsive run-jump-power-up control scheme, interspersed with the occasional physics-based puzzle, serve only as a mechanism of progress. You explore the rainy and polluted world of the X-Zone as Detective Bluth, a man who has been driven to the brink of suicide by his dependence on the green fairy known as absinthe. Drinking absinthe gives Bluth greater speed and jumping power, but you pay for it with warped visuals that disorient your sense of the game’s physics. Even without the absinthe, the world you travel is filled with wonderfully bizarre and polluted landscapes rife with strange creatures and odd geographical formations. Gnarled trees and weathered boulders twist and turn in midair. Monument-sized anthropoid busts rise from the horizon with surreal contradiction in the misty green-tinged atmosphere. Using fore, mid, and background planes to create a hypnotizing blend, every last scene is worth gazing into. The character design, such as the gold-skinned Dubhlainn D’arcy and the supporting character Robot, are an altogether amazing stylistic hybridization. Jim Henson’s darker and sophisticated puppeteering sensibilities, like that seen in Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, are wonderfully mingled with a healthy dose of Tim Burton’s mildly macabre eccentricities. All the weirdness you see, brilliantly animated and directed by Provan, is tethered to the deterioration of Bluth’s mind and provides some clue to the mystery he is trying to solve. But is it all really a hallucination? Bluth, however, has other reasons for making his journey than just a routine missing person case. Ten years prior to the game a disappearance of thousands occurred that included Bluth’s little girl, and he is haunted by her specter as he recounts his guilt along the way. This is played out like an extended third act, where all the history that came before is given to us in voice over accompanied by haunting images of a world that reflect the inner turmoil of the protagonist. But not every encounter is a product of the absinthe. Gigantic saw blade contraptions that look like they belong in a slaughterhouse, falling cannon balls that explode on impact, and other nefarious means of death from above. When not facing falling objects, four-way flame throwers spiral with long slow arms that can make you bob and weave the controller as you make your next leap. In between story and platforming are the physics games. You’ll use cannons to knock over obstacles with velocity mechanics. Later you’ll pilot a flying boat through a frenetic cavern full of all the aforementioned objects and some new ones thrown in. The puzzles work in their trippy way with smooth and responsive control. They also serve to pace the game well, and add to the visual theme of disorienting oddity. The surrealist theme doesn’t end with the visuals or the gameplay, as no story about torrential downpour is complete without a bleak and eerie soundtrack accenting pitch-perfect rain shower audio so good you can almost feel the droplets smack your skin. Even the pitch of Detective Bluth’s voice feels like it is an organic extension of the mood, as if it is part of one giant organism fed by the tangible gloom. Spate does miss some notes later in the game, mainly in scenes with subtext meant to drive home the point of Bluth’s falling into inescapable madness. At one point Bluth is swept ever downward by a steep current intended to demonstrate his descent into insanity, but never really sees the character of Bluth change much, only a rather calm and comfortably numb acknowledgement that he can’t change. Dialogue can also seem a little flat at times in text conversations, lacking the strength of the voice actors to give it the proper delivery. The final scene in the game also feels a bit contrived, as the resolution to the conflict is abrupt and unsatisfying. Between these two moments, and afterward, depending on the ending you choose, Bluth’s ascent is successfully visualized by a challenging puzzle that sees him swimming upward in a green mist amidst blades and flame throwers to face down the truth of his daughter’s disappearance. On the technical side, occasional graphical glitches cause mild interruption in the experience. The green pads on jumping platforms sometimes dislocate from their bases. Animation occasionally hitches which slows the player down. The latter problem was cured by a swig of absinthe, which almost makes it seem okay. Almost. The game ends with two choices centered on the game’s opening image of Bluth falling, and each presents you with a unique ending. Without spoiling either choice, one of them leads to an ending that would have been better served if it had been given the same poignant and emotional art direction as its opposite, but the message of this particular conclusion is more than clear, which is perhaps both its greatest strength and biggest weakness. There is so much more to say about a game that says so many things with its atmosphere alone. Every screen contains depth that begs exploration, with characters you want to know more about. Aside from the occasional glitch and less than stellar text dialogue, you get an amazing set of vocal pieces that bring you into a surrealist vision of the hard-boiled detective story. With visionary art direction, movement that carries satisfying weight to its physics, and an absorbing world that gets you lost in a new world for a couple hours one night, Spate is a game not to be missed. Click here to view the article
  15. Yacht Club Games’ long-awaited love letter to the 8-bit era has been shipped and is currently awaiting certifications for platform holders, ending a year of development and anticipation for a large and loyal fanbase. “After near endless days of bleary-eyed internal testing and bug fixing, we opened this week by creating a gold master candidate of Shovel Knight!”, according to the team’s latest blog entry. External teams are currently verifying the integrity of the build and, barring any newfound bugs, the game will go live on all digital vending sites. Shovel Knight began his journey early in 2013, which saw Yacht Club’s Kickstarter campaign a roaring success, soaring past its initial goal of $75,000 to over $311,000. Upon release, backers of the various tiers can look forward to receiving their vaunted rewards following the digital release. Pre-order Shovel Knight at his offical site today, and stay tuned to IGS for more news as it becomes available! Click here to view the article