Game-related ramblings.

Month: January 2012

Not Indie Time: From Dust

The next game on my list, From Dust, is not an indie game. It is published by Ubisoft, one of the largest game publishers. But it is made by Eric Chahi, the same man who made the striking Another World, and marks his first game since 1998. And its premise sounds like something that only an indie studio would attempt: a game centered around deformable terrain, with realistic water and lava physics, that sees the player morphing the landscape in order to guide tiny tribal villagers to safety. Re-routing rivers, stemming lava flows by building mounds of earth, and more, all made possible by the terrain-deforming tech.

Unfortunately, Ubisoft’s involvement caused a lot of outcry when From Dust was released for PC, several weeks after its Xbox debut. After Ubisfot stated that the game would not feature their infamous form of DRM (that’s “digital rights management”, a new term that really just means copy protection) that requires players to be online at all times and will kick them out of the game if their connection is interrupted, From Dust launched on Steam and did indeed feature said DRM. Disgruntled customers complained loudly, and Steam even issued refunds, which is almost unheard of. Eventually the DRM was removed with a patch, and I was able to purchase the game and try it out.

Indie Time: VVVVVV

The next indie game on my list is VVVVVV, even though I’ve played it already. But it has since been updated to v2.0, including a bunch of bonus levels made by various other indie game developers, so I decided it was time to play through it again. Besides, it’s excellent, and only takes a few hours to play through, so why not?

If you have not yet played VVVVVV, you’re probably looking at that screenshot and thinking it looks like a game from 1980, rather than 2010. The retro look is intentional, and in motion it looks a lot better than you might expect. The animations are smooth and lend a modern sheen to the visuals that suggests games of old rather than outright emulating them. The visuals also set a certain tone that fits the gameplay perfectly.

And the gameplay itself is the best part of VVVVVV. There are only three buttons — move left, move right, and flip gravity — but designer Terry Cavanagh uses these simple mechanics to absolutely brilliant effect over the course of the game.

Indie Time: Rock of Ages

The next indie game on my list is Rock of Ages, by ACE Team. They’re the Chilean studio who made the bizarre first-person brawler Zeno Clash, which I can wholeheartedly recommend. Rock of Ages is a bit different though. It’s a game about rolling giant boulders down tracks in order to smash the gates of your opponent’s castle. Between rolling, you and your opponent hastily construct defenses, manned by little 2-D cut-out soldiers clearly inspired by Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python animations. Oh, and you do all this while traveling through five distinct periods of art history.

Video games are amazing.

Roguelike-like: Spelunky

If you are unfamiliar with roguelikes, consider reading my roguelike introduction.

Spelunky is one of the best examples of games that successfully translate roguelike design elements into a different genre. In Spelunky’s case, this genre is the 2-D platformer. I was going to wait to post this until the new, updated version of Spelunky is released on X-Box Live Arcade, but that seems to be taking forever and I got impatient. The original, free version of Spelunky is possibly the best freeware game I’ve ever played, and you should be playing it too.

Indie Time: Trine

With the recent release of Trine 2, I figured it was time to play the original, which I’d been meaning to get to for some time. It’s made by the Finnish studio Frozenbyte, known for their excellent top-down shooter Shadowgrounds, and has been getting great press.

It’s easy to see why. The game looks gorgeous and has a great central concept: three characters, the Thief, the Wizard, and the Knight, have their souls intertwined by the artifact known as the Trine. They are merged into one being, with the player able to morph into each character at will. The game itself is a 2-D platformer set in a 3-D world, with various physics-based obstacles and puzzles that must be overcome by using each character’s unique abilities. The thief has a bow and a grappling hook, the wizard can conjure up objects to use as stepping stones as well as levitate certain obstacles out of the way, and the knight can smash skeletons and certain objects with his weapon or block projectiles with his shield.

Master of the Wind Is Finished

While looking for a game to play over vacation, when I’m away from my main PC, I decided to check in on Master of the Wind, and found that it’s now finished. The seventh and final arc is complete and the entire game is now available as a single download, for free.

Master of the Wind is my favorite game made with RPGMaker, a tool designed for creating old-school Japanese-style role-playing games. For those unfamiliar with the style, these games usually feature pre-set characters, a top-down viewpoint with separate turn-based battles, and an emphasis on story. I find that the most important thing for me when playing such games is the writing, and the writing in Master of the Wind is what really sets it above other games in the genre. The game’s themes include prejudice and racism, societal structure, and the true nature of justice and forgiveness, all handled artfully through the game’s narrative.

Try it out by downloading here, or read on for some more thoughts on the game.

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