Issue 18: September/October 2011
Inside this Issue:
Ms. Splosion Man
Atom Zombie Smasher
XBL Indie Uprising
Copyright ÂŠ 2011 The Indie Game Magazine, All Rights Reserved. All game logos, screenshots, artwork, trademarks, etc are property of their respective owner.
Realm of the Mad God
Indie Game Magazine Issue 18 - September-October 2011
Staff Editors Mike Gnade Chris Priestman Art & Magazine Design Mike Gnade Michael Heald Zak Gebelein
Writers/Contributors Chris Priestman Ryan Sandrey Mike Gnade Zak Gebelein David Douglas Mark O'Beirne
Special Thanks FullyIllustrated.com
Copyright ÂŠ 2011 The Indie Game Magazine, All Rights Reserved. All game logos, screenshots, artwork, trademarks, etc are property of their respective owner.
+ Table of Contents Front End
Staff/Credits pg 2 Table of Contents pg 3 Project Zomboid Interview pg 4 Indie Games Summer Uprising pg 5
Jamestown Review Final Form Games Interview
E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy Ms. Splosion Man Atom Zombie Smasher
Cover Story: We play Jamestown and talk to Final Form Games in Philly
pg 11 pg 12
pg 16 pg 20 pg 21
About our Reviews We rate all of our games based on their graphics, gameplay, sound, and lasting appeal. Each category is given a score on a scale of 1-10 (10 being perfect and 1 being horrendous). The average of these scores is tallied to give each game a percentage score and grade (A thru F). Games are more than the sum of their parts, so we do adjust our average scores based on our final assessment of the game, its appeal, creativity, uniqueness, and overall value. A: 90-100% B: 80-89% C: 70-79%
D: 60-69% F: 0-59%
Things To Do In Development With The Dead Interview with Indie Stone about Project Zomboid Desperation, sorrow, depression, panic, drug-addiction, loneliness, death. It's not a common feature list for a game, and it's a far cry away from what most gamers look for to fill in their spare hours. Project Zomboid, however, aims to be the definitive zombie survival epic by focusing on the one point most people seem to forget: Humanity. The zombie apocalypse is one of the most well documented fictional events in literature and mass media, everything from The Dawn of the Dead to The Walking Dead. It is so popular with readers and watchers alike, in fact, that it spawned a Zombie Survival Guide – and while the human race seems to be secretly wishing for the end game, it prompts the query far and wide: “What would you do if there was a Zombie Apocalypse?” The Indie Stone aren't aiming to simply make you ask this question, they want you to tell them your story by providing the game world in which to live it. This may be a game about zombies, but at its heart it is an extremely human experience. Reassuringly, they're sticking close to their sources and honouring the “proper zombie” code, as Will Porter, lead writer on Project Zomboid explains: Will: “The game is inspired by the zombies of George Romero and, latterly, the survival rules hammered home by Max Brooks in the Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. We’re being purists about it: no running zombies and no ‘special infected’ – just threats through crowds of undead shamblers and what all of us would have to go through if Western society were to collapse tomorrow. 4
There’s a Walking Dead vibe too – but I’ve actually purposefully stopped reading the comic and watching the show! I was just enjoying them too much, and was worried that I’d suddenly end up writing a Walking Dead game rather than our own creation. You see, I think that where we’re coming from (especially with the more linear PZ story modes like our current Kate and Baldspot storyline) is very similar. We don’t want to focus on the zombies, but the people put into extraordinary situations by them – and the tough decisions survivors must make to ensure their survival. The Walking Dead totally nails the fact that a zombie apocalypse does not suddenly overwrite existing racial tensions, messy love triangles, bitterness, jealousy and all that entirely human palaver. That really is the sort of terrain I’d like to steer PZ towards” The writing in Project Zomboid is particularly excellent so far, even with so little in place. The Kate and “Baldspot” storyline is gripped by hopelessness through Kate's inability to move due to injury and Baldspot's stressed optimism, PZ offers a tutorial that doesn't shy away from leaving the gas on while you sleep. Literally. A feeling compounded by the dour colour palette and hauntingly beautiful music. You can't see the sky, but you know there is a vast swirl of gray overheard. This atmosphere of impending and overwhelming doom is cemented before the game even begins, however. The overtly cruel opening words “This is how you died” - a sentence so definitive it has already spawned countless blogs and forum threads of the same title - do well to make you realise that you are
not getting out of this alive. Will: “One game mode planned is a lot like what people will have played with Kate and Baldspot: more narrativedriven escapades that knuckle down and add more personality and directed (if not linear) gameplay. The plan is also for modders to create their own PZ Stories – and anything user-created that players install will appear close by to the ‘official’ stories that I’ve written. I’m really hoping for some community-driven stuff in the same manner as, say, the days of Neverwinter Nights modules. The other is a survival sandbox mode to lead your own avatar through – which will still contain various different quest lines and NPCs to team up with who’ll (hopefully) have enough dialogue to bounce off each other so that it never gets too repetitive. This will certainly be a lot of work for muggins here…” Andy Hodgetts, or Binky, part of the art and design team, explains further: “If you’re going to make a zombie apocalypse story and have you play as a regular guy and not an action hero, it’s going to need to be bleak. I think the best decision we made was starting with the premise, “this is how you died”, since it basically gives you carte blanche to have really unfair things happen. In any other game, having a raider shoot you in the head almost without warning would be breaking all manner of design rules. In the context of, “a story of your death”, it makes sense. That said, we’re being careful to make sure there’s always a signal - the raider, for example, tells you quite plainly to put your hammer away you threaten him, he kills you.
Interview Also, when we were designing the events in the tutorial our intention was primarily focused on giving the player a good demonstration of the sorts of things which would happen in the full game. To this end, we ended up with quite a few ways you could be killed and, as a consequence, possibly the most horrendously unfair tutorial ever. I don’t think many people expect to play a game where the tutorial is trying to kill you quite as much as ours is” Considering the amount of interest the game has already drummed up, it's often easy to forget that Project Zomboid is still a Pre-Alpha Tech Demo. The game in its current format is very bare bones, with only a shred of the features planned for the full game. But what little they've currently shown has proved to be extremely popular – popular enough for the developers to start off a Minecraft-style “Buy now, free updates for life” business model. Binky: “In all honesty, we’re not sure whether a game with this scope and eventual size would be possible under any other development model. To get the game to a point which you’d call it 'complete' would take years and, given the rather niche design, it would be one heck of a risk. If we could rewind time and do things differently, I guess a main one would be we’d maybe read PayPal and Google Checkout’s terms and conditions more carefully.” The Indie Stone's problems with Paypal and Pirates alike has been a well documented one, not least on their own blogs. Paypal had to be scrapped due to the way in which the game was sold, which left them with Google Checkout, but the convoluted method to actually pay for the game (Pay for one of their other games, and you got PZ free) didn't put people off. Initially problem-free, the game was played directly through your browser using a password sent to you once the game had been purchased. This was eventually hacked. While the developers took a very forgiving stance, the browser-based game had to be removed as each hacked account began to cost them through sheer bandwidth battery. A stand-alone demo was swiftly released, an antidote to the Paypal problems
and the hacking in one gulp: This was followed by a minority of complaints when updates weren't flowing as swiftly as some would have liked, leading Lemmy to offer refunds to those disgruntled few. I asked Binky more about the community: “The overwhelming majority of people have been incredibly supportive but you’re always going to get a little bit of flak. On the whole, the community forums are lovely - there’s a real buzz going on in there where people are discussing features they’d like to see, ways to survive - all manner of fascinating and useful stuff. One of the reasons we offered the refund to anyone dissatisfied by having to wait longer than intended for this update was simply that it was beginning to ruin the community. A number of essentially identical threads and posts were appearing complaining, which would descend into arguments when some of our... less tactful supporters would defend us - it was starting to ruin the vibe. So we said, “don’t like it? Have your money back and then stop complaining”. Things have been pretty much back to normal ever since, so I guess that was a pretty good move under the circumstances” And what of the business model itself, does having your game funded by the public mean you then feel a public duty to deliver? Will: “In terms of the community’s wants and desires – we of course are always listening, but will never be able to make everyone happy. This is one reason that we’ve opened up modding so early in the game’s development time – even if it’s not in the ‘official’ Indie Stone package then gamers of a like-mind will be able to tweak the game towards their own zombie leaning. We are, however, always aware of what our audience is clamouring for, while some notably good ideas are brewing away on the forums – some of which we’d already had ourselves, some of which we hadn’t. As something of an idea-furnace our forums are a mighty bonus for the team” Binky: “There’s pressure regardless of the way you fund your game - if this were a commercial game, we’d have producers, publishers, all manner of people checking up on what we’re doing and holding payment pending
the completion of milestones and whatnot - in many ways, working as we are is a bit like having a couple of thousand producers on the project. At the same time, it takes all the stress of “are people going to like the game” away since as well as acting a bit like producers, they’re also the testers and the market. There’s no need to secondguess or have focus groups. Every time we do an update or announce a feature we get immediate feedback on it by the very people who are playing it.
The overwhelming majority of people completely understand the funding model and the nature of indie development. I think Minecraft has done a huge service to indie development not because without it you couldn’t use this funding model, but because it’s had such a massive reach that you can say to pretty much anyone, “Minecraft-style development”, and they immediately know what you mean.” A demo for Project Zomboid is freely available from their website and I urge anyone yet to experience this absorbing end of the world experience for themselves. It's the game that zombie enthusiasts have longed for since zombies donned running boots and infected dogs got a thirst for human brains. PZ strips away the countless zombie additions and returns to the human will to survive against all odds. This is a survival experience set in a world we've read about a thousand times before, but very rarely played. Binky: “Pretty much everybody who loves (proper) zombie movies and books has had the idea of a true survival RPG set in the zombie apocalypse. The surprising thing was that nobody had really made it before - I think this is why it's had the infection rate [across the web] that it has.” - David Douglas
Sun, Sea and Indie Games - Summer Uprising's Ten Finalists Summer is a wonderful time of year. But despite the lures of the shining sun and the blue skies, we would much rather be inside playing some indie games. It's what comes natural to us. So aiding us in our plight to avoid tanning our selves, two stand out members of the indie community have set up the Indie Games: Summer Uprising. The event was positioned as a means to promote Xbox Live Indie Games in the best possible light by showcasing the diversity, talent and potential of the platform as a whole. Dave Voyles and Kris Steele championed over 70 indies as nominees for the Summer Uprising event. The voting then commenced between August 1st and 15th to reduce the line up to just 25 semi-finalists. The community of players, journalists and developers each voted for a single game based on marketability, originality, gameplay, diversity, graphics, and music. As the tension increased between the competition, the event gained more and more exposure and soon there were plenty of beady eyes watching out for the finalists. The winning ten games have now been exposed and are available to download on your Xbox 360 right now. We offer our thoughts on these impressive titles, but would like to remind everyone that all 70 games that made it as nominees are certainly worth checking out. With any luck, Summer Uprising will become an annual event alongside Winter Uprising, this first venture has proven a success in exposing a number of fantastic indies, and bringing the community together once again. Who needs sunshine anyway?
Raventhorne - Milkstone Studios
Developed by Spanish-based Milkstone Studios, Raventhorne is a mythology-influenced 2D side-scrolling hack-and-slash-athon. You play as the eponymous Raventhorne, a fallen Norse hero who awakes from dying (you heard me) in Helheim, the land of the dead. You then set off on an epic quest to reach Asgard before Ragnarok is unleashed, and uncover the secrets of your mysterious and forgotten death. 6
Just being able to reach Asgard and stop Ragnarok within a matter of minutes would be boring, so Milkstone have instead placed Helheim and the 5 other worlds of Yggdrasil in your path, filled to the brim with annoying enemies, friends who aren't as they appear and gems to collect to level-up this mysterious hero. Boasting a range of spells and combat stances, the combat system in this Golden Axe-inspired side-scroller tests your reflexes and tactical awareness, just like the good old days. This makes the combat very challenging, but the learning curve is gentle enough to suck you in before you start dying more than Charlie Sheen on stage. Boasting all of these features would be enough to tickle any old-school Sega Genesis fan's fancy to the point of joyous explosion, but Raventhorne gives you even more bang for your buck (or your three bucks, if you want to be pedantic) with some great art design. The backgrounds are well-designed and the enemy designs add to the game's charm by appearing to originate from an 11 year old's imagining of the Norse underworld. Throw in a couple of bizarre animations and the odd spelling mistake, and this quirky homage to the greats of the side-scrolling genre is completely worth the 240 MSP price tag.
Battle High - Mattrified Games
Cute Things Dying Violently ApathyWorks
2D fighting games have undergone a revival in recent years, with the popularity of BlazBlue and Street Fighter IV proving that fighting games are as popular as they were back in their heyday; when SNK were the literal King of Fighters in the arcades and on the home consoles of the 1990s. It is this breed of fighters that Mattrified Games lovingly recreates in an American High School setting in Battle High: San Bruno.
For those of you whose spouse, loved one or conscience is outraged at the name of this next game, don't worry! It proclaims it's a game where 'nothing bad happens', and I believe it! Cute Things Dying Violently is the work of one-man American studio ApathyWorks. A platformer, Cute Things Dying Violently lambasts you as much it entertains you, with humorous and deprecating comments to the player as well as self-deprecating comments about itself. Freaky stuff.
Allowing you to pick a fighter from eight super-powered elementallyfiendish students, Battle High: San Bruno offers all of the button-mashing, combo-stringing fighting that you could possibly need, with a variety of special moves and command lists to master along the way. With a variety of modes, ranging from the traditional Arcade Mode to some 'extracurricular' modes like the Car Smash bonus stage from Street Fighter II, there is plenty to keep both the casual and hardcore fighting fan amused.
The premise of the game is simple - flick as many of the aforementioned Cute Things as possible into the elevator, which is their only escape out of the nightmarish situation they find themselves in. As they say though, ignorance is bliss, and those Cute Things are completely unaware of the dangers around them. They soon become aware when you misjudge a flick and they land on the bane of any jewellery-carrying blue hedgehog - metal spikes. The Cute Things then cease to be cute, and are instead just Dead Things. Yuck. Taking plenty of cues from the hugely successful Super Meat Boy, Cute Things Dying Violently treats players who make errors with gratuitous gore before insulting them when they 'admit failure' and restart the level.
Battle High: San Bruno is jam packed with an array of modes and features, but it also sports a very aestheticallypleasing design. The animated sprites and matching levels look like they have come straight out of a King of Fighters title, with the widescreen mode adding to the beauty. All in all, Battle High is a brilliant little fighting game, ideal for the hardcore fighting fan who just wants a new set of commands to learn, or for the casual gamer needing a new game for a party. At a mere 80 MSP, the game surely deserves a fighting chance to win over your affections, and is a perfect homage to the fighting games of old.
Boasting over 60 single-player levels, local multiplayer, 6 challenge levels and a level-editor, there is plenty to do in Cute Things Dying Violently if you're so inclined. Always looking for more Gamerscore? Well, you won't find achievements here. However, you will find Achieve Mints that unlock special levels to test your abilities at refraining from murdering things in hilarious ways. For a game where 'nothing bad happens', there sure are a lot of opportunities for it to happen. And, at the cost of just 80 MSP, it won't take much persuading for you to start 'accidentally' slaughtering not only hundreds of Cute Things, but also plenty of your time as well.
Train Frontier Express Model train sets were all the rage back in the day. Children everywhere would yearn for a Hornby train-set to have been placed under their tree by their deceitful father masquerading as Santa. However, those children are now the only people interested in model train sets, storing their various gauge railways in attics and sheds all over the United Kingdom, with children more obsessed with these magical things called video games. Team Train Frontier, two San Diego-based developers, aim to bring these two things together in Train Frontier Express. Trains are interesting. You've travelled on one, almost certainly. Now, how fun would it be to see trains crash in hilarious ways, perhaps with over-thetop explosions? In Train Frontier Express you can do just that, without the realism or price-tag of the more 'authentic' train simulators on the PC. Instead, you have a stylized pop-art design, which looks very nice indeed, especially when things explode. Have a genuine interest in trains? You'll almost certainly enjoy this then, with the ability to build vast terrains and train tracks, and share them online with 4 player multiplayer. That's right, 4 player multiplayer train-filled action. Who DOESN'T want that? A Sandbox game, Train Frontier Express promises to offer a lot of replayability for those interested, and plenty of ways to ruthlessly destroy trains for those who aren't. Either way, 240 MSP isn't much to pay for either the best train set in the world, or the best way to destroy trains without getting a criminal record. 7
T.E.C. 3001 - Phoenix Games Electricity cannot really be understated as an important part of modern human living. Which is why a thousand years down the line, the human race is sending robots to collect tesla energy batteries for them. But not just collect them, these robots are travelling at supersonic speeds across virtual space. After all, what's the point in new technology if it is slow? We are a race of beings who resonate with the chant so neatly whimpered by Homer Simpson, "But I want it now". It's a good job that the eponymous robot of T.E.C. 3001 (or Tesla Energy Collector 3001) can sprint at speeds capable of matching jet planes. The game plays out like any of the third person Sonic titles, except it doesn't try too hard and instead narrows its focus on being a solid, fast-paced platformer with none of the extra fluff that spoils this experience. The pace of each level is spot on and feels challenging with a multitude of narrow, weaving walkways to jump between, and various walls to dodge, charge through and slide under. Although completing each level only requires the player to collect
the adequate amount of batteries, an addiction to running through the level in the fastest time possible will soon kick in. Reaching the blur of maximum speed and finding shortcuts will become a priority, and the minute-long levels will soon give way to hours of tweaking and perfecting runs. The only real issue with the game is the odd clipping problem; at times the floor will give way when instead the robot should have landed squarely on top, leading to an unfair death. It's a slight annoyance which could do with being fixed. T.E.C. manages to please aesthetically with a fantastic soundtrack that compliments the speed of the gameplay, and some simple but memorable visuals. Although the Troninspired style of the game is consistent, each level feels unique due to a great use of colour and shape. Anything more complex than the final result would have only distracted the player, so the virtual landscapes and accompanying electronic fields are perfect for this fast-paced, addictive platformer.
Take Arms - Discord Games
Very rarely are indie games able to actually provide a decent online multiplayer experience. That is why most indie teams tend to steer away from entering into those kinds of complexities. Despite everything going against them, Discord Games have spent almost two years chiselling Take Arms into a game worthy of utilizing Xbox Live's multiplayer features. Supporting up to 8 players (online and system link) split into two opposing superpowers, Take Arms pits players against each other in an artistic, sidescrolling shooter. Players can choose from 3 different classes; the sniper rifle-wielding Striker, the slow moving, bullet spraying Destroyer, or the all-around average Grunt. The benefit of making this a classbased shooter is that extra layer of tactics, other than just blasting each other's heads off. Deciding who makes a push and who supports them will require communication, so even though the battleground is a flat plane, the best players will be able to apply team tactics learned from other shooters. There are 3 game modes in total, nothing surprising - deathmatch, 8 team deathmatch and capture the flag. Three is also the number of different maps to choose from - it may not be a
lot but the gameplay is the biggest variable rather than level layout or visuals. That being said, manga artist Jianran Pan has realised an impressive backdrop with his distinctive wartorn environments in Take Arms. The main concentration of the developers is to create a fun, team-based shooter that will hook players to rising through the ranks and earning badges for good performances. These rewards will also be specific to the different classes and so mastering each one provides a further challenge. Fortunately, a single player practice mode is provided and is playable on all maps and game modes. The bots that act as the enemy in practice mode can be varied to preference with a choice of difficulty. Ultimately, the multiplayer across Xbox Live is the game's main feature. As Take Arms grabs a leaf out of a number of highly popular multiplayer shooters, it seems like a perfect sidescrolling offshoot that is more than capable of grabbing any fans of the genre for some quickfire fun, and at a much lower cost.
Feature Doom & Destiny - HeartBit
Coming in from a bygone era, Doom & Destiny is a classic isometric, turn-based JRPG. The seemingly generic title of the game goes part of the way towards summing up its comic mockery of the many D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) inspired JRPGs. Players take control of four geeky D&D players as they step out of their own reality and enter into a formulaic RPG story and universe. The small group are highly excited about this prospect, giving themselves the usual hero classes and abilities; warrior, ninja and magus. The stand out character and the source of a lot of the game's eccentric humour is Mike, who is encouraged to be a paladin but sides with being a pirate who worships a spaghetti monster as a god. Although some of the dialogue verges on being too stupid at times, the majority of the game's humour and self-mockery is engaging and genuinely funny. The guy who states that his sole purpose is to be annoying and get in the way of heroes as they wander around Castle Town is just one of many subtle touches. The characters and style alone are enough to warrant a playthrough. Alongside the knowingly typical JRPG story, Doom & Destiny gives the player plenty of reason to thoroughly explore all the different areas, mainly to excavate chests and find valuable items. Of course levelling up characters and improving stats is a necessity, and having a party of four from the start allows you to tweak each character to a specific specialisation. There is also a capacity to choose varying tactics, prioritise each character's battle stance, and buy a whole load of enchantments and spells to aid in battle. It is surprisingly deep if the player is inclined to delve into this side of the game. And on a personal note, I was thankful for the ability to fast-forward through random encounters as they always gripe me as annoying after a while. All in all, Doom & Destiny is a fairly typical JRPG, but its self aware, cliche characters and geeky humour makes delving into this nostalgic exercise a hilarious venture. This is a must-play indie title for anyone who has a history with and enjoys cute, isometric JRPGs. You are guaranteed a laugh.
Time to don your most streamline gear and fly my pretties! FLY! Speed Runner has managed to accomplish a very rare thing - to get me so excited that I squealed in pure ecstasy. At a time when the platformer is being beaten to a pulp by nearly every aspiring indie developer, Speed Runner charges to the fore and flaunts, above all, an overwhelming competitive multiplayer experience.
Speed Runner - DoubleDutch Games
If you haven't played the free version on the PC, then Speed Runner is a manic race against time to reach the end of the level to defuse a bomb. The first level has you saving a group of scientists who then go on to pay you back by giving you new technology throughout the course of the game. The grappling hook becomes a big help to swing across the cityscape, as well as the jetpack which allows for a double jump. This platformer has one thing in mind, and that is speed. Hitting speed boosts and dodging washing machines will be necessary to maintain enough speed to avoid the spiky pits waiting for any player that hesitates and consequently loses speed. Each level has multiple paths but some cannot be accessed until the right tech is gifted by the scientists, so replaying levels for a better time is a mainstay. Better times along with a few scattered pick ups unlock bonus levels and extra content. There are also boss levels that replace the countdown timer with a monstrous death machine gnawing at our hero's backside. The transfer to the Xbox 360 has allowed for Double Dutch games to tweak prior issues like the contradictory wall jumping ability, with it now feeling faster. Mostly the content is much the same as the free version, albeit more levels and extras have been added and it is realised in HD. What you will be happy to hand your money over for, is the brand new multiplayer mode. This may be the most fun you have with your friends this year, although it is limited to local play unfortunately. With the crazy speed, the gadgets and four friends combined together; Speed Runner is suddenly cranked to 11. Sharing the same screen, the four frantically run alongside each other while trying not to lag behind and consequently be pushed out of the screen and the race. Players can use their grappling hooks to pull the cocky leaders back in line, and a number of traps and track-changing switches can be used to one's advantage. Easily comparable to the likes of Mario Kart and Raskulls in its execution, Speed Runner's multiplayer is exceptional fun, and the single player is just as commendable.
Chester - Brilliant Blue-G Cakes and gaming seem to have more and more of an affiliation as time goes on. They are the ultimate reward in games such as Portal and Splosion Man, and the same can be said about Chester. In this 2D action platformer, cupcakes have been stolen and the universe shattered. In pursuit of these valuable baked goods, Chester joins up with his parallel personalities that emerged from the corruption of the universe and the fusion of the co-existent realities. Yes, the absurdity is strong with this one. But its slightly bizarre premise and charm is what gives Chester its edge. In all there are 10 completely unique playable personalities to unlock in Chester, all of which lend themselves to a slightly different gameplay experience. Chester himself slings snowballs at the many oncoming enemies, whereas others side with fireballs, pellets and even laser beams.
Each character can perform the basic moves essential to get through the levels, these are mainly double jumping and wall jumping. There is also an option to fly a small spaceship in some levels, thus turning the game into a pure shooter of the Gradius variety. It's pretty standard fare nowadays, but Chester's gameplay does offer a whole bunch of fun for those who like to leap around the screen, avoiding spikes and shooting plenty of bizarre-looking creatures. When a game goes as far as to add so many playable characters, it seems obligatory that players must try out each one. Those who have braved a playthrough of Super Meat Boy will know the feeling. So replaying levels with the whole cast is a no-brainer. Especially as they are all quite crazy, with Chegami taking the pole position as the most mental. There are also multiple difficulty levels ranging from easy to hard, and an even harder mode described via the following smiley D: Most striking about Chester is its artstyle, in fact, its six different artstyles. As you progress the levels, collecting stamps and beating down the bad guys, you will unlock 6 unique level styles. Once acquired these styles can be switched between during gameplay. The default style of Chester is a beautiful hand drawn cartoon look that quite simply pops out of the screen. It's bold and brash outlines, subtle shading and vibrant colours infuse the game with a papery feel - as if the game was playing out in a sketchbook. There is also an 8-bit style (every retro gamers wet dream), an LCD handheld and more obscurely, blueprints. Obviously there are more but that would spoil the surprise! Chester is a very strong debut from Brilliant Blue-G, with its gorgeous and varied visuals, character swapping gameplay and one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a while, provided by the fantastic Reina Lamour. The Xbox version of Chester will be receiving plenty of free updates in the future as more content is added during the development of the PC version. So if you enjoy Chester, then you will appreciate more levels, bosses and customisation options on their way soon.
You know, one thing can be said about Indiana Jones; the man is getting very old. Considering this, it may not be too much of a surprise that a replacement has been brought in to explore those old, dusty tombs and claim the valuable artefacts from their darkest depths. Lord knows that lovable Indy would not be up to it. So cue Redd, an explorer-forhire and Indiana Jones look-alike. When the world finds itself under threat from an unknown physical phenomenon, it is Redd who rises to the challenge, with his ever trusty archaeologist friend, Allie, guiding him along the way. Tracing the source of this global threat to the mysteriously named Lost Temple, Redd enters in pursuit of the Royal Amulet of Konira. Controlling Redd from a top down perspective through the tombs will flick the nostalgia switch in the head of some players. This traditional, top down adventure title will require players to navigate Redd past traps, around enemies and through plenty of time-based puzzles. But whereas Redd captures the essence of those old adventure titles through its classic mix of gameplay, it counteracts this with its gloriously modern HD visuals. Although most tombs are illuminated only by the torch that Redd wields above his head, there is an interesting colour scheme at play. The foreboding darkness contrasts with the purples and greens of the dangerous gasses within the tomb. Ice and fire have a similar stand-out beauty about them, as if the developers wanted the player to act as a moth to the flame. This is a warning, stay away from the pretty fire; it 10 burns.
Redd : Lost Temple - Blazing Forge Games Redd is a highly enjoyable action adventure from the past, but feels modern enough to lure you away from simply playing those older titles it gains its inspiration from. There are plenty of scorpions, flaming pits and chests to find; so anyone with an addiction to the perilous side of grave robbing should not miss this most delectable slice of nostagic cake. - Chris Priestman & Ryan Sandrey
Jamestown - www.finalformgames.com - PC Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony, from the Philadelphia colonizing Final Form Games crew takes a few liberties with historical record – though I’d certainly take that History course –but doesn’t veer off the mark on the quality game they deliver. The story is familiar, it’s the 17th century, a lost colony, the British and Spaniards vying for domination of a newly encountered land. Even Sir Walter Raleigh appears and then there are the laser gunships. Of course, all this happens as it should on a steampunk Mars. The gameplay is classic top down shoot‘em up. Now I’ll admit that I was never a fan of the take home shoot’ems, I always felt they were something to be experienced in the arcade environment. Maybe it was something about trying to get the most out of your quarters or the satisfaction of bumping someone off the leader board, but the arcade had its charm which always seemed lost in translation to the home console. Having that said, the guys over at Final Form Games have made me a fan of the home delivered shoot’em up. Jamestown certainly pays homage to the classic shooter with the player dispatching incoming enemies and collecting golden sprockets and bolts to increase points and fill the special Vaunt bar. As the player progresses, they have the option of choosing from 4 different ships, each with a unique weapon which can maximize the dispatch of enemies. Each ship will not necessarily be effective for each level, but in multiplayer mode it works out to have co-players choosing different ships – it adds a bit of strategy to the shoot’em, which can be a rarity in a usually structured game flow. The Vaunt mode is a gem of a thing. Once engaged, it gives the player a few moments of protective shield, while doubling combo and weapon’s points. It makes for a nice little bit of gameplay in especially chaotic
parts with enemies all over the place and bullets coming at you from every direction.
is enjoyable to the player and speaks to the inner gamer.
For many who haven’t visited the genre in a while, it can be harrowing to have your character cut down so easily only to be re-spawned time and again until the bonus lives run dry. In this respect, Jamestown differs slightly from your typical shoot’em up. In multiplayer mode, the players can continue to re-spawn as long as someone is still alive and able to collect revives. This doesn’t mean the game is a pushover - quite the contrary, actually. Jamestown has five difficulty levels which change the gameplay of the enemies and the player’s options for success slightly – Good luck with Judgment! The developers have also made it so the player can’t reach some of the higher levels without successfully completing the earlier levels at certain difficulties. Which means the player will have to work to beat the game.
The multiplayer aspect of the game (especially with a large group) has a very lasting appeal. As a team sport, there’s a totally different feel to the game. Suddenly, you’re transported back to the arcade (remember those?) complete with side comments and the high energy. The dynamic changes when the rest of the players have died and are waiting to re-spawn, you are the last great hope at beating the stage and the rest are cheering you on because their “lives” are in your Martian blasting hands.
One of the most appealing aspects of the game is the visuals. The game is comprised of 2D sprites in some gorgeous “handcrafted” pixel art, over some epic scrolling backgrounds. Enough cannot be said about the visuals; they are at once reminiscent of the classic 16 bit arcade and yet convey the feel of an indie game. The cut away sequence art is pretty amazing and beautifully worked into the storyline; it complements the fast pace of the game with its style. The music adds another layer to the overall experience, for it is both sweeping and epic in feel and for a minute you’d think you were playing a Burroughs’ novel. This marriage of the music and graphics brings about a precision that comes with great attention to detail; it is able to create a feel of continuity between the pixeled sprites and backgrounds which produce a feast for the senses. It may seem picky, but quality work should be pointed out and it clearly shows that the Final Form team was focused on producing a great product that
The world of video gaming has changed; the internet has both isolated individual gamers and allowed gamers from around the world to collaborate as a team on big studio game behemoths. The focus on the multiplayer aspect and the indie feel of a game like this allows nostalgia for the days of playing in someone’s basement to creep in. In other words, I simply love the feel of this game.
- Zak Gebelein
REVIEW Gameplay: Graphics: Sound/Music: Lasting Appeal:
9 9 9 10
+ Cover Story
Interview with Final Form Games about their game Jamestown Final Form Games was nice enough to invite IGM to come up to Philadelphia to tour their studio and play their game, Jamestown. We were definitely overwhelmed and lost as we entered the huge office complex. We started off in the wrong tower and the security guard was utterly confused when we said we were here to see Final Form Games. Luckily, Mike Ambrogi was there to escort us. Final Form has a very interesting office; they have a conference room in a law office. The room is filled with law books, a box of console games and controllers, computers, and a Dreamcast with Soul Calibur ready to play at all times. We started off by playing some 4-Player Jamestown; the game really shines with 4-players. I’ll admit we got excited and were personally told to quiet down by a law office employee. It was a lot of fun and between the play session and a beer at Monk’s Café, we actually sat down and interviewed the people behind Final Form Games.
IGM: When did you all start developing games? What got you into programming, deisigning and drawing? Tim: Mike and I are actually brothers and when we were in…I guess I was in 7th grade and Mike was in 9th grade. We started making designs for games that we wanted to do. We would read EGM and say, "that game looks so cool." I have an idea for one. We would draw it out and get really elaborate. Write whole scripts… Mike: We would fill whole sketchbooks with character designs… 12
Tim: …concepts and whole RPG story lines. It was really fun and we did that until he went off to college. We did that our whole lives and beyond that really. So when we went to college we started studying those things. I studied programming and Mike went to an art school. That’s how we got to the point where we could enter the industry. Mike got a job at a studio out in California; I joined him…and then (points to Hal). Hal: Like these guys I’ve been interested in games and making games my whole life. When I was in third grade, me and my best friend would hang out and make up new Mega-Man characters, makeup weird little strategy games on pieces of paper and we
did that through High School and into college where I met Tim. Tim: Yeah, we went to college together just outside of Philadelphia at Haverford college. Hal: After that I took the pretty traditional road into the video game industry and got a religion degree and I was a hospital chaplain for a year. Then I realized that I didn’t want to do that so I went to get a Masters degree in learning design and technology and ending up working for LeapFrog. The kids educational toy company which was geographically very close to where Tim and Mike were working at the time. We started talking about making games.
Cover Story Tim: Then we started making them on weekends for fun. We would get together for a Saturday and I worked on engine programming for my profession for a while as well as just for fun most nights. So I would get home at 6 and then program till midnight and just did that for a number of years. It was pretty unhealthy, but very useful. By the end of it, I had a pretty cool engine I could dabble around with and knew how everything worked so when we would get together on Saturdays we could start making stuff with it. We had a bunch of cool ideas and we made a little asteroids type game that was a little bit strange, but really fun. So we learned how to work together and then we decided to make Final Form Games.
IGM: What brought you back to Philadelphia? It sounds like you all were out in California at that time. Tim: As our website states, it was the sandwiches. They really do good sandwiches here, but it was family that was the biggest thing.
Brothers Mike and Tim Ambrogi comprise 66% of Final Form Games
Hal: Pretty much. We all figured out what’s really important when starting a business and it’s having a support network. We all had family here. Tim and I were both seriously dating women who were from this area or had serious ties to this area. Tim: And we’re both married to those respective people now. During the course of making this game, we both got married so that was a big thing. Being close to my family, my wife’s family and building those relationships… that was a big draw and Mike was very similar. Mike: I think it’s important not to downplay the sandwiches though. Tim: Yeah, we don’t want to sell them short. IGM: What is your favorite retro game or childhood game that inspired you? Tim: Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, that’s the game for me. Followed closely by Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Those two represent so much of what I wish I could do. Mike: Maybe F-Zero for Super Nintendo era, but if I actually roll the clock all the way back to when I actually got interested in this whole sort of thing it was when Lode Runner came out on the Apple II. It had a level editor. It actually shipped with a text-based level editor, so I was designing levels for video games when I was 6 years old or something. I’ve been asked this before and I realized that it’s literally as long as I’ve been playing video games. Hal: What a good question that I don’t necessarily have a good answer to… As a kid, I would always go over to other kids houses because I didn’t have a Nintendo for a really long time. I actually got really into the second Zelda game; the one that everyone hates. It does not age well. I’ve gone back and played it… Tim: It wasn’t good at the time actually.
Hal: In terms of old games, I got really into the edutainment type of stuff as you can see from my background. I got really into the Maxis stuff and the Myst and the stuff that you could play on a Mac at the time. More modern would of course be NeoContra from the PS2 era. It’s a ridiculous game, completely over the top but surprising fun. You should look it up if you haven’t played it. IGM: Now would you say those are your favorite games of all time or are those games just your inspiration? Tim: Yes, I totally would. There’s a big list of favorites, but you better believe that they’re in that. IGM: Those would be in my list… and Super Metroid. Tim: Super Metroid is good. It never quite hit me as hard; I don’t know why not. I mean I love the game. It’s an incredible world and the music is incredible. My favorite would probably be Soul Calibur for the Dreamcast and it’s many offspring. Just in terms of hours logged and enjoyment had. We would go to the arcades and play competitively; it was just a great thing. IGM: How about the Indie Gaming Scene right now, what games are you playing and what games do you admire or are your favorites right now? Mike: We couldn’t play a lot of games while we were making Jamestown. Tim: I could. I took a lot of time to play the shorter format games. I started getting really into those. One that I love was Eversion. It’s really simple and I know on some levels it’s not as complex or large scale of a game but I had a great time playing it. It sucked me in completely and was fantastic. Of course over the years that we’ve been making this game, a ton of excellent games have come out; even just the flash portal games. There’s one called Road of the Dead. It’s a flash zombie driving game with full voice-over narration through the entire thing in the background. I’ve really been enjoying the smaller titles. 13
Hal: I’ve also been hitting the Terraria a little bit recently. Tim: I’m intentionally not playing that game because I know it will devour me completely. Hal: Dwarf Fortress, Super Meat Boy. IGM: Super Meat Boy has a difficulty level comparable to Jamestown. Tim: Yeah, we looked at their game a lot and thought, "yeah there might be a market after all." IGM: When did you guys start work on Jamestown? 2 years to the day? Tim: June 2nd, no, no July 2nd, I think it was. Mike: I actually looked at this recently. It’s July 17th, 2009 when we started the game and we shipped on June 8th of this year. Call it 20 months to actually make the thing. IGM: Where did you get the idea and inspiration for Jamestown? Is it from that engine that you had? Tim: No, it was so organic. We started off with a Flash prototype while the engine was being built. We were exploring in Flash how shooters are made and while we had played a bunch, when you actually create one you learn a bunch of things very very quickly about what is hard and what is easy and what can be flexed design wise and what is very rigid. So we did a lot of that and there came a point 5 or 6 months later, where we decided to actually make it now. We had a bunch of ideas we were throwing around and had a big brainstorming session. We took all the things that we liked about the ideas we had had so far: it���s like Steampunk London, it’s Fairyland, it’s like Honey I Shrunk the Kids or whatever. We had all these ideas of where a shooter could be and we just had a big brainstorming session. Someone would have an idea and add onto it and then we’d throw it away and do something else. Then we’d grab a part of it again that we threw away and merge it into a new idea. After an hour or something, it finally came together… Mike: British Colonial Mars. Tim: British Colonial Mars. Mars is the new world. It’s going to have the steampunk London feel, but it will 14 be unconstrained from all of the also
expectations that come with that and we can do a frontier story which we really wanted to do something along those lines. Mike: It certainly wasn’t something we had been dreaming of making for the last 20 years. Hal: No, it was more like, we need a great idea; let’s have one. And then we did. Tim: We’re three people that are working together really for the first time. We come in with a lot of things that we all want to do and that we care about and it’s one of those things about being Indie is doing what you want to do. But with 3 people, what you want to do takes a lot of conversation. We really felt great about it from then on. We didn’t look back and think this is a bad idea or we shouldn’t have done this premise. No, we chose the right one and we were always motivated, always had new ideas and always excited about it for 2 years. IGM: All three of you agreed on the shooter mechanics out of the gate? Was it just the backdrop that needed to be discussed? Tim: Well the specifics of the mechanics we iterated on forever, but that we wanted to do a shooter was from the beginning. We wanted to something attainable and not incredibly difficult design wise. It turns out it’s still incredibly difficult design wise. Mike: We were wrong about that. Tim: We weren’t wrong. We were wrong about how much easier it would be. It’s definitely easier than other games that I have worked on design wise but it’s not easy. It’s just easier and it’s still really quite hard to make something great to pull people in. IGM: Well now that it’s done. What’s your favorite feature or moment that you got in there? Tim: Four player cooperative where one guy is alive and everyone else is dead and it’s not the guy who’s the best player but it’s somebody you know who can do it. Then you have to wait for them to survive something they thought they could never survive. When they pull it off and they get the revive and everyone comes back is the most amazing experience for everyone involved. For me, that’s absolutely it.
Mike: For me, it’s most of the boss fights; the way they make their big appearance and then you do the fight and then they have their big death. That stuff came out really well and I’m really proud of it. Bosses are very hard to make that complex without locking into something that isn’t all that fun too early. Here’s this big awesome plan and then you get something impressive looking but not very much fun. I’m really proud of how they look pretty rad and they are actually design-wise pretty solid. Oh also the middle of the second level when it reveals the Lost Colony. That never happens in game’s like this where the game grinds to a halt to just let the artist say, “Check it out!” (Tim and Hal Laugh and Tim points at Mike) Tim: That’s from the artist’s perspective. Mike: Most people who play this game are like “Bullets! Bullets! Bullets!” and they’re not really looking at the art so it was nice little treat for me. Hal: I would go with what these guys said, but also I’m pretty proud of how the whole vaunt and score system turned out. The score/shield system started off as kind of a Hail Mary. We tried it out to see how it worked and then it really came together. Tim: We shot a good shot really close to the target and then iterated those last three feet. Mike: ..and walked it in… Hal: It’s pretty hard to make a score system that is still fun for 4 players and makes it so it’s not advantageous for one player to get all the stuff and take everyone else’s fun. We worked very hard to do that and I think we really succeeded on that. IGM: If you guys had more time or money, what would be the one thing that you would change? Tim: Online Multiplayer Mike: Online Multiplayer Hal: Online Multiplayer (laughs) Tim: I mean Online Multiplayer! My God that’s what we’d do! Mike: Next Question Tim: Go on. IGM: (stuttering) Ok, well let’s, let’s… Mike: We can provide a little more… IGM: I think it’s pretty obvious actually.
Interview Tim: We wish we could have done it. It’s an expensive, difficult, hard feature, but man if we had unlimited resources, you bet your ass it would be in our game. IGM: Why did you choose to release the game for PC, specifically Steam? Tim: With GamersGate and Direct2Drive. PC was a pragmatic decision. The initial setup cost is low; you just need a PC. There are no certification requirements or contract negotiations with distributors. You don’t need to deploy to another platform to test it. Everything happens on the machine you’re developing on. It’s high performance and not very resource limited. There’s a lot of RAM, there’s a lot of computation performance, there’s great graphics cards. You can really do whatever you want, so from our perspective it was the obvious place to start. We’d like to deploy to other platforms, but in terms of where to start this is the one we’re actually going to pull off. So we didn’t have to worry about the things that come with all the other platforms while we’re trying to make a game. At this point, I feel like
we could start looking at other platforms for future things with Jamestown or a new game. That would become much more feasible now that we have something out there and have gone through the steps.
IGM: What would be the one piece of advice that you would give aspiring indie developers? Hal: Make a game. Mike: So there’s a snarky answer and a useful answer. The snarky answer is you should make some games. IGM: Thank you, Hal. Mike: The more useful answer is… well for us, we became indie developers after full blown AAA game careers. We were working at studios with employee counts measuring in the tens and we had cutting edge Unreal technology and so on and so forth. Working in those environments, surrounded by other people who had been doing it longer than us and learning what actually goes into making a full blown product on a budget with real requirements was an unbelievably valuable experience. It’s very difficult to imagine us skipping that step right out of school. I don’t know how Jamestown could have happened without building on that foundation. So my advice to indie developers would be develop a core skillset that a real studio would find useful and get as good at it as you can and apply to as many places as you can and get one of those jobs and work really hard for a while because every day is an opportunity to learn so much about how the job is done. Tim: I’d make a simpler, less get into the industry first, qualification to that which is that I think the biggest thing is having a mentor. Have somebody that knows more than you do by A LOT about making games. Find them, attach to them, and ask them lots and lots and lots of questions. You will become better very quickly and you don’t
need to work for a big studio to make that happen. You can find somebody in your school or college who has actually made a game and collaborate with them. Ask them how they did it. Get into the details of how to execute it. That’s probably the surest way to actually get something done. As we talked about before, support networks are really important. Find one! Get on TIGsource, go into the forums, that’s a great place to find a mentor too. Hal: I was being serious about make a game. I feel that there are a lot of people out there sort of sitting waiting to start making games and get into the industry because they have all these great ideas. In order to become good at making games, you need to make games. There’s no shortcut. You can have a mentor that will make it quicker. You can be in the industry and that can help you learn how to do it, but ultimately you need to be making games while that’s happening. The more games that you have worked on and made the more you are going to able to talk about how you have made games and the better chances you are going to have. Mike: And you’re just going to be better at it. Also of the people who do start games…FINISH games. Finishing is a whole other skillset that’s really hard to acquire and hugely valuable. Especially when you’re first starting out, the rate at which your skills are improving is so high that it’s very tempting to abandon a project after 4 months and start over and apply all the stuff that you’ve learned and really do it right this time. Don’t do that. Sometimes that’s the right move, but most of the time you just want to close it out and then loop back and save it for the next one. Interview by Mike Gnade 15 Photographs by Zak Gebelein
E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy - streumon-studio.com - PC A Cult Game Rises There is something about being a cybernetic psychic monk assassin that is inherently exciting. In the world of E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy, you play as just that. The game itself is heavily inspired by Deus Ex with its main focus being to allow players a choice as to how they approach each mission. E.Y.E. is also set within a dark cyberpunk world and plays like an FPS/ RPG hybrid. The game is fairly deep and gets the blood flowing into those old hardcore gaming veins that were starting to run dry. The game makes a strong impression from the offset and its ambition to compete with the big players in the gaming world is certainly admirable. Unfortunately, its premise proves to be just a little too ambitious for the ten young developers at Streum On Studio. What they have managed to achieve is certainly commendable though, and will no doubt be a popular cult game for years to come. How Deep Does The Rabbit Hole Go? A common question that is asked within cyberpunk culture is how deep does the rabbit hole go? Well, E.Y.E. Divine Cybermancy expects its players to be prepared to go very far down. The universe is well fleshed out with a detailed history consisting of warring political factions, mutants, inter-planetary battles and cybernetic experiments. The story takes place in the 24th century and the player enters as part of an armed force known as 16
E.Y.E. who operate under the Secreta Secretorum – a rebel organisation struggling to overthrow the all-powerful Federation. The human race is also engaging in an unending war with the Metastreumonic Force, which consists of various mutants and aliens of an unknown origin. On top of this, E.Y.E. is going through an internal struggle after the separatist Commander Rimanah created his own faction and divided the forces into two. At first it is all very overwhelming and proves to be a chore to explain even at the most basic level, and unfortunately the game’s French developers happened across a few translation errors. The game’s dialogue is also shaky as it switches between lofty philosophical statements from the likes of Churchill and Confucious, and then in the same breath will quote Schwarzenegger from Predator. It’s a rather odd mix that lacks consistency but has a humorous appeal to it that will attract some fans. For those that really want to sink into the universe though, there are plenty of new words to learn and a whole archives section to read through within the game. Understanding it all does require patience and a lot of determination though. As can be gathered from its elaborate backdrop, E.Y.E. is incredibly complex and its quests require the player to make the choice of what side they want to work with. One downside is that the karma system that defines your character is barely noticeable and is
easily overlooked. Your karma doesn’t actually seem to affect anything, but luckily when you choose what side to follow you will be given different story threads and missions. Consequently, the choices the player makes will probably be determined by which character they prefer rather than tapping into the level of critical and political thinking that the game tries to encourage. This is not helped by the confusing and badly told story. Most players will be happy with simply ignoring the content of the dialogue boxes and simply trying to work out what to do on their own. This will often be the case anyway as the game does not make objectives all too clear at times. This is only exacerbated by the huge yet empty levels that could be easily navigated with a basic minimap, but this is not provided in any form. Human Cyborg Relations Being built on the Source engine, it is fair to say that E.Y.E. does look a little dated in the graphics department. More than making up for this is the game’s neo-noir cyberpunk style. Also thrown in are some ancient Japanese structures and character designs. The game contains a variety of different areas to explore, each with their own feel. An Alien inspired corridor-based level and a shanghai temple are both highlights, as well as the Bladerunneresque neon city, New Eden.
Reviews Unfortunately due to the vast spacious areas some detail is lacking and the player is left with plenty of empty rooms to explore, or the old-school fog hinders any sense of draw distance. The unique architecture really is a delight to witness and no more is this true than in the huge E.Y.E. Temple headquarters. This HQ basically acts as a hub for the player to make essential purchases, embark on side missions and talk to other characters to advance the story. Like many elements across the game, the effort put into the level design from the developers is initially impressive and refreshing, but this soon gives way due to a lack of accessibility. Many players will appreciate this barrier and they will indeed form what will inevitably be a cult following of the game. Most will find the game is not user friendly however. Amongst the worst is the inventory system which allows freedom of choice but requires constant dragging and dropping of ammo, and the Temple HQ is impressive to look at but is too huge and its functions too sparse apart to label as functional. To make matters worse, the game offers a decent number of tutorial videos which only point out the obvious and barely touch the intricacies of the game that the player will often be using. Due to this, moments like the first time the player
loses their mental stability will leave them confused and wondering how to render themselves out of the confusing state of mind. One area that the game does seem to get spot on is the stat-based character building. For those looking for a deep RPG experience, E.Y.E. does deliver on this front. The game starts off by having the player choose a gene set that will favour their preferred playstyle. Going up a level by killing enemies and completing objectives will gift the player with three more stat points to spend. The game goes further than this basic stat system and will require players to really enhance their character by spending the in-game currency known as Brouzoufs. This currency can be spent in the Temple HQ on basic things like a medikit and extra weapons, to P.S.I powers and cybernetic implants. The P.S.I powers are basically a form of spiritual magic that is actually rather cool, for lack of a better word. Transforming ammo into health, disintegrating enemies and teleportation are some of the highlights. Cyber implants are used to upgrade the frail human parts of the playerâ€™s character. Pretty much every bone and organ can be transformed to be stronger or more efficient in combat. The P.S.I powers and cyber implants can also be helpful in conversations as well, with certain jedi-like mind tricks being used to convince people to reveal important information.
Hacking Is Penance Without a doubt, the character development process and available choice is the strongest part of the game, unfortunately this is let down by the enemy A.I. as it forces the player to adopt only one playstyle. Upon entering a mission, a player will be given a few choices of how to complete the objective. These range from hacking into a console, to assassinating the head of a corporation or maybe negotiating a truce with a certain group, against your commanderâ€™s wishes. The game appears to cater for those who want to sneak about, hack their way into buildings and generally remain on the down low, but in actuality the game is heavy on the guns blazing approach. If you do want to be stealthy you will find it nigh on impossible as enemies will often spot you unfairly from half way across a level and trigger a cascade of bullets to come your way. Once it starts it rarely stops as the enemies respawn in waves constantly. It can be quite fun and very challenging later on, but this constant barrage of enemies means that basically every level boils down to shooting your way through. The frequency of the waves can be adjusted, but this does not issue a change in tactics. The only real way of changing up the levels is by choosing a different type of gun; whether it be a sniper, a sword that can handily deflect bullets, or a minigun for instance â€“ this is more likely the biggest factor that will change how you play the level. The problem is that the game tries to spread itself too much and although there are these different ways to play each mission, they feel slightly undeveloped in favour of an FPS-style of gameplay. 17
One of the best parts of the game, if you manage to get a break from the barrage of enemies, is the hacking system. Nearly everything in the game can be hacked: turrets, defence systems, robots, human infantry and ships. The accompanying hacking minigame is actually quite challenging and enjoyable, with failure on the player’s part meaning they are hacked themselves and suffer a huge smiley face flashing across their screen. It’s moments like this that the player will realise that the game is unforgiving and is not afraid to penalise them for any mistakes. This will force the player to constantly search for new ways around certain obstacles, even restoring health and reloading a gun come with their own risk. This is no doubt a hark back to the days where games required a lot of thought from many different angles, although E.Y.E. does not quite manage to pull it off. It is certainly not going to outdo the likes of its main influence, Deus Ex, apart from it does one thing that has never been achieved before. Tell A Friend Although E.Y.E. is a fairly adequate single player experience, it’s main attraction is the co-op functionality. Imagine a Deus Ex type of game where 2-4 players are using different tactics to infiltrate a base. One may adopt a cyber cloak and proceed to hack their way in to assassinate the guy at the top, whereas another charges in with miniguns as a distraction with another player acting as a medic, and behind all of the action a sniper silently picks off those left behind. All is possible within E.Y.E. and it feels great. Unfortunately, with E.Y.E. at its current state it is a pain to set up a server and if you do manage that then usually having 4 or more players (servers with up to 32 players have been spotted) will cause a considerable amount of lag to introduce itself to the party. However, the co-op experience seems to be what 18 the developers were aiming for all
along. Some of the more questionable design choices of the game that stuck out in the single player become understandable and actually functional while playing co-op. One such example would be the rather odd dream state area that is used after death and upon entering the game once again. In single player it just seems unnecessary, but in co-op it acts as a handy hub for players to gather in before entering the game together. Everything that is accessible in the single-player is also available in the co-op mode. Players can go through the story missions, as well as partake in the varied side missions. You can even bring your character from single player and bring them into co-op, meaning that all the players can be various levels and specialise in different aspects, with stronger players helping out lower level players when necessary. Considering all these various available ways of playing the game in single and multiplayer, the game has a high replayability. Character building is generally quite slow and reaching the highest levels that lie somewhere in the hundreds will take many, many dedicated hours. It is the potential playtime hours that really makes the game shine, even the slightly annoying respawning waves of enemies is each level is made ten times as fun with a partner or two to help fend them off and distract players from other menial tasks for hours. Working For A Better Future It is fair to say that E.Y.E. has a myriad of good ideas that need just a little more work so that it all comes together as a well-rounded package. The main problem with the game is that the developers have all of these neat ideas that have made it into the game but have a problem with giving the player access to use or even understand them. The truth of the matter though, is that the game is still fun to play and contains some great moments. Perhaps
it is the willingness and effort to make what feels like an old-school, hardcore PC game that will sell the game to people. At a time when the industry apparently “moves on” by making ‘cinematic games’ full of cutscenes and photorealistic graphics, E.Y.E. is a refreshing return to the kind of games that made the industry what it is today. It is sad that the game has so many flaws as it would otherwise be an outstanding title. Fortunately the developers are determined to make their project the game it needs to be, and are currently preparing patches based on plenty of user feedback. There is already a dedicated community behind the game and it is exciting to see what they themselves will do with the game as well. For now, it is easily one of the most fun co-op experiences to be had this year and the single player is still worth checking out despite a couple of glitches and bugs. With any luck, a few necessary patches could see E.Y.E becoming a must-buy title for just about everyone. - Chris Priestman
REVIEW Gameplay: Graphics: Sound/Music: Lasting Appeal:
7 6 8 9
Ms. Splosion Man - www.twistedpixelgames.com - XBLA Twisted Pixel is back with an explosive sequel to the smash hit, Splosion Man. Ms Splosion Man takes place shortly after the capture of Splosion Man. A mishap occurs as the scientists celebrate, leading to the creation of our cute, but fiery lady. The aim of the game is essentially the same: get through the level as quickly as possible and find a pair of shoes if they are in the level. Twisted Pixel’s sense of humour flows through the game. This is clear in the brilliant tutorial, which is more than a copy sequence; “Splodin’ and you” features Sarah and the less favoured Debbie as they attempt to understand the game mechanics. It would have been easy to slap a pink skin on Splosion Man and ship it as a new game with some new levels. Ms Splosion Man is distinctly female, but the game features so much more. Her movement animation is unique, the game is pinker, she is obsessed with shoes and will throw out the occasional “oh my God”, and she will often serenade players with lines from female anthems. Ms Splosion Man certainly does whip her hair back and forth. The levels themselves have also undergone change. Certain traps and mechanics return, but they are joined by the likes of trampolines, high wires, secret exits and more. Sometimes background panels change the dynamics of the game. While the cold mist takes away the ability to splode and fire recharges it, there are new pink panels that allow Ms. Splosion Man to splode forever. These segments usually see players carefully navigating electrified lines, while avoiding explosive barrels that may propel Ms Splosion Man to her doom. Ms Splosion Man also ventures out into the real world. Some outdoor sections involve 20 sploding between flying cars, which is
one of the less fun elements of the title. Many levels will certainly push abilities, reactions and tenacity to the limit. Once again, Twisted Pixel has ensured that controls are responsive. The game can be challenging, and at times frustrating enough without this handicap. When a section is completed fluidly it looks majestic and there is a great feeling of accomplishment. Other sections can pose far more difficulty, often resulting in a trial and error approach. Boss sections and the challenge mode are notable for this at times. Just like Splosion Man, it is possible to skip difficult sections. This comes with the penalty of suffering the effects of “the curse”. Should you “cheat the game”, you will be made aware as the end-level song calls you a dumptruck, results brand you a cheater and a time of 999:59:99 is applied. You have been warned! If the fifty levels in single player aren’t challenging or fulfilling enough, there are fifty more levels in multiplayer mode. These can be player with up to four people online or locally. Multiplayer requires plenty of patience and coordination, so make sure you choose your teammates wisely. If you do not trust your friends or the randomers online, it is possible to unlock the “Two Girls One Controller” mode. This puts the player in control of two characters at the one time from one controller. It is as difficult as it sounds. Finally, for those that love punishment, a hardcore mode is available. Once again, this is unlocked upon completion of the single player game and removes all checkpoints along with making all mistakes result in death. Completionists will be delighted to take frequent trips to The Mall. Here, players can put their hard earned coins to
good use. Concept art, movies, songs, photos and exclusives are all available. These purchases also come with some background information about the purchased item. If the idea of “Two Girls One Controller” does entice you, it is available from The Mall at a price point of 200 coins. Within the main game, there is enough of a challenge to justify extended play. On top of that, there are leaderboards, the ability to download ghost runs to race against and the extensive multiplayer campaign. All of these add up to a guarantee of longevity. Ms Splosion Man is an excellent title that builds upon the solid foundations of its predecessor. It is a challenging title, so beware. Returning fans know what to expect, and every one of those expectations will be met. Ms Splosion Man will have you tearing your hair out and gripping your controller tightly, but it will keep you coming back for more. Best of all, everybody still loves doughnuts. - Mark O'Beirne
REVIEW Gameplay: Graphics: Sound/Music: Lasting Appeal:
9 9 9 9
Atom Zombie Smasher - www.blendogames.com - PC - Mac - Linux Atom Zombie Smasher by Blendo Games is the most fun I have had on my PC in quite some time. The game is insanely addictive and very challenging. Who knew that bombarding pink dots with artillery shells could be so much fun? Unlike most zombie games, Atom Zombie Smasher takes you far away from the action. Everything is shown from a top-down perspective over different sectors of the city where you will issue commands, order evacuation helicopters and reign down orbital barrages to thwart the zombie menace. The game is very dynamic, but each mission starts with you selecting a territory. You are then presented with a planning phase where you can place your evac helicopter and other mercenaries on the city map. Once you’re ready, the zombie hordes start flooding into the city. During this action phase, you can move your mercenaries around, fire artillery and trigger TNT explosions. The baseline goal is to save the prescribed number of civilians, but if you want to stand a chance you’ll need to eradicate the zombies before nightfall and capture the territory. All of this carnage boils down to a simple scoring system; the first side to reach the set number of victory points wins the game. Everything about the game’s campaign can be modified to suit your needs, but if you hop in without changing anything you are in for one difficult game. Zombies infect territories faster than you can evacuate them and if you don’t capture some territories early on, the Zed will start racking up points.
This is made even more difficult by the randomness of your mercenary loadouts. The good news is that whether winning or losing, Atom Zombie Smashers is still a ton of fun. I lost two or three campaigns before I started making modifications and eventually won, but I was completely engrossed in the game the entire time. Atom Zombie Smasher takes place in the city of Nuevos Aires in the 1960s and has an awesome comic book presentation and storyline. The story is quick and punchy just like the game itself. As you play, you’ll unlock comic vignettes that offer a glimpse at the off kilter and surreal 1960s world that Blendo Games has created. It’s all good fun and is punctuated by some amazing surfer style guitar music throughout. It keeps your adrenaline pumping and strangely fits the game perfectly. The overall presentation of AZS is excellent, but some people may be put off by the yellow and pink dots that represent civilians and zombies. While this is a graphic shortcut (and shortcoming), the explosions and overall graphical panache of the game all combine into an excellent package. This is not the best looking game out there, but it has style and it’s incredibly fun so you’ll forgive it these small shortcomings. Atom Zombie Smasher is designed to be a quick campaign that only lasts a few hours. You’ll play this campaign over and over again for several reasons. First off, the game is wickedly hard. If you’re playing for
the first time, I highly advise that you select the casual option and enable the ability to customize your mercenary loadouts. Another fantastic feature that vastly helped my strategizing is the ability to slow and speed up the game time on the fly. I’m starting to tap into another reason why you’ll play the campaign over and over again. The game is completely customizable. You can alter nearly everything about it from the length of the campaign to the color of the zombies. Combine these limitless options with a crazy fun game and you have a recipe for a serious addiction. During the course of writing this review, I have booted up the game on 5 separate occasions. It’s a fantastic short form game that will provide you endless hours of fun and replayability. - Mike Gnade
REVIEW Gameplay: Graphics: Sound/Music: Lasting Appeal:
10 8 9 10
Wild Shadow Studios Talk about Realm of the Mad God - Flash When did you start developing games? What got you into programming and designing? Rob Shillingsburg: It's a pretty common story among indies: I started programming as a kid so I could make games. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted to do. Real life got in the way of that for a long time, but things are very awesome right now. What is your favorite retro game? What game do you remember from your childhood that inspired you to make games? Rob: There is no way I could point to one single game. I spent the early 80s riding my bike to arcades and scrounging up quarters any way I could. Some of my favorites from that era were Asteroids, Tempest, Galaga, Missile Command, Scramble, Joust, Ms. Pac Man, Moon Patrol, Mr. Do, Zaxxon, Xevious, Discs of Tron, Spy Hunter, Gauntlet, Smash TV... the list just goes on and on. I couldn't afford to keep playing in arcades, so I used BASIC to make my own games. Whatâ€™s your favorite game of all time? Why is it your favorite? Rob: In terms of total hours put in, it would be either Starcraft or CounterStrike and for either one, the "why" is team-based multiplayer. Most of my favorites have it, from early 90s text MUDs and the first Internet-capable PC games like Warcraft II through newer games like Company of Heroes, Day of Defeat, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and Left 4 Dead. For me there is no greater rush in gaming than overcoming a big challenge with a team of friends. What is your favorite indie game right 22 now? Why?
Rob: It's hard to single out a favorite, so I'm going to list a bunch. I love Fantastic Contraption's system for sharing solutions and puzzles -- it's so utterly painless to pass around a link to your awesome machine. Gratuitous Space Battles is a space battle game where you can't control your ships! Absolutely insane. World of Goo is just unbelievably cute and tactile. Crayon Physics Deluxe has a peaceful vibe that really comes alive on the iPad. I love the way Super Meat Boy distills the essence of platforming: run, jump, die, repeat, keep at it, don't give up, almost there, got it! Next level! And I recently got lost in Terraria for a few days -- its procedural generation, exploration and persistent building are all terrific. What does it mean to be an indie developer? Rob: Indies are awesome because they push the envelope much more than bigbudget companies do. Indie developers know they can't out-do Call of Duty, so they don't try. Instead, they strike out into uncharted territory, trying crazy stuff without worrying about how to position their product in retail channels or monetize DLC or exploit some license. The result is much more innovative games. How many people comprise Wild Shadow Studios? How did the studio get formed? Rob: We are two people, myself and Alex Carobus. We first met in the early 2000s while we were working at Google on back-end server infrastructure. After leaving Google we both started thinking about doing games full-time. In 2007 we were re-introduced and things clicked really quickly for us. We spent a couple of years trying a bunch of ideas and
gaining experience with Flash. We built a co-op spaceship RTS, an XCOM-like 3D squad-based tactical game, a single-player puzzle game, a top-down 3D platformer, a co-op vehicular MMO, as well as a few technology demos. We weren't sure what direction things would eventually take, but we were having fun and learning a lot. When did you start work on Realm of the Mad God? Where did you get the idea/inspiration for the game? Rob: By late 2009 Alex and I were working on two separate projects that were kind of limping along after many months of work. Alex was ready for a break and came to me with a plan for a one-month joint project. TIGSource was running a two-part competition called Assemblee. In the first month, artists and musicians were to create game assets; in the second month, programmers and game designers were to take the assets and make a game from them. An artist who called himself Oryx had produced an amazing set of sprites for the first half, and Alex was completely inspired. He wanted to build a co-op MMO shooter with permadeath based on the Oryx sprites. I said that this was nuts, but let's do it. We spent a month hacking like crazy and opened our game up for public testing on January 6, 2010. It's been up continuously ever since, and neither of us ever touched our old projects again. Tell us about Realm of the Mad God. What is your favorite moment or feature? Rob: The initial design for Realm of the Mad God was a massively multiplayer mix of Nethack, Gauntlet, Diablo and Zelda, with a healthy disregard for
Interview anything that could be considered conventional wisdom for MMOs. Alex was dying to try permadeath, which we countered by using a low level cap and a generous XP-sharing system. Once you know how to do it, you can hit level 20 in an hour or less. My favorite thing about the game is the "train." A train is a massive dogpile of players rampaging around the countryside blasting everything in sight. The train charges along a road or through the mountains, while some leader types desperately try to control the hivemind's direction and speed. Monsters are dying, loot is flying, levelups are flowing. It's a really fun thing that I've not experienced anywhere else. Why did you choose to release the game for Flash? Rob: We want people to try our game with an absolute minimum of effort. Forcing people to download and install a program or even a browser plugin is way too much to ask. We don't make you register or sign in before playing; we don't even ask you to name your character or pick a class. You surf to the website, click "play" and presto, you are in the game. Even the tutorial is carefully designed to be self-guiding and nonblocking; the instructions are written on the ground and you read them as you walk past. Since our goal is to get people into the game as quickly and painlessly as possible, Flash is the obvious choice -- everyone already has it. There are drawbacks to Flash. It doesn't have 3D, so we've had to build all of our 3D stuff ourselves Flash's performance will never compare to what you can get natively. And one of the most maddening things about Flash is its garbage collector, which can unpredictably seize up the game for seconds at a time. But on the whole, we are pleased with Flash. It's actually really good at moving and spinning lots of little pictures on the screen. We did the backend servers in C++; we decided to go for high speed and predictable performance over ease of programming. We have been extremely happy with this decision, as servers cost us money and our design requires a lot of horsepower. We run the servers on Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, and our system automatically allocates and releases machines as needed. All of the player data lives in Google
AppEngine. If you had more time/money what would you change about Realm of the Mad God? Rob: I think the game's biggest need right now is more content. More dungeons, more monsters, more equipment, more classes, more more more. We've been working with Spry Fox, a two-man Seattle game design studio, to get more content into the game, and we're hoping to get even more people on board soon. On the engineering side, Alex and I would love to work on major social features such as clans and player housing. One thing we need to spend some time on is the looting system. It has always been a free-for-all -- whoever gets to the loot bag first can get the goodies. But this simple system has caused some social friction and as our community has grown we've decided to make some changes. We've started experimenting with monsters that drop "soulbound bags" that only one specific person is allowed to open. We are hoping that this new system will make Realm of the Mad God an even friendlier place. What has been your biggest failure? Rob: One of our goals for Realm of the Mad God was to make a "live world" where monsters lived in tribes and reproduced and spread across the landscape in realistic ways. We figured players would get sucked into the living, breathing ecosystem of monsters inhabiting their chosen terrains and even fighting among themselves for the best living space. This was an utter failure. Experienced players would charge through the landscape destroying the tribes, causing wild swings of population, even extinctions. Then newbies would wander through the vast deserted landscapes wondering where the fun was. We spent untold hours trying to make the repopulation algorithms robust against the marauding players. Worst of all, nobody even noticed the live world, because it all happened off-screen. We are now in the process of ripping out this failed system entirely. What has been your biggest success?
have to be enormous, expensive, grindy clones of WoW. The conventional wisdom says that small teams can't make MMOs, that permadeath is impossible, and that you can't launch an MMO without 3D, NPCs, a party system, clans, quest hubs, an auction house, and crafting. We'd been told that MMO combat had to be a fire-andcooldown toolbar-based buttonfest, and that arcade action wasn't possible in an online game. People told us that these days nobody could launch a successful MMO for less than $50 million. We're extremely gratified to have proven all of these things to be dead wrong. We're also proud of the performance of our optional microtransactions system. People claim to hate microtransactions, but I suspect that it's because most of the time microtransaction games are designed to be crippled and frustrating until you start paying. We've tried hard to make our game as fun as possible for people who don't pay -- they can play the whole game for free, as long as they want. Our biggest sellers are extra storage space, extra character slots, and clothing dyes, none of which are needed to have great fun in our game. Our biggest fans have spent big money, and for that we are truly grateful, but we feel that everyone who plays Realm of the Mad God, paying or not, deserves to have a good experience. What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring developers?
Rob: Do something unique and new, but do it in the open so that you can constantly re-evaluate it based on feedback from real users. On a small budget, your best chance to gain traction is to be completely different. So evaluate the landscape to find the ideas nobody else will touch, and try to make them happen. But it's a balancing act, because it's easy to throw away a year or two on something that will never work. So get feedback -- lots of it, starting as early as you can. Don't worry about giving away your new super special idea. It's crazy enough that only you will bother to implement it. Put your stuff in front of as many people as you can, and build your community of testers. Listen to their feedback, but know when to ignore it. Stay true to your vision. - Mike Gnade
Rob: The thing I'm most proud of is that we've demonstrated that MMOs don't 23
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