Saturday, December 24, 2016

IGE's Ten Favorite Games of 2016

2016 is almost over, and that means it's time to look back at the games that stood out, that stuck with me for various reasons. I actually played quite a few more AAA games this year, due to finally getting a PS4, so this list does feature several non-indie picks, but that's only because they were just that good. 

So here's my ten favorite games of year, in no particular order, along with a few honorable mentions. 


Hitman is something rare and special: an honest-to-god comeback, a return-to-form that sets the bar for all future returns-to-form. From a game that made one question if IO had forgotten what made the series special, that altered many of the series' unique features in baffling ways, to a sleek game that pushes the Hitman series to new heights.

But even putting all that aside, Hitman is a triumph of game design, with sprawling clockwork sandboxes just waiting for you to poke and prod and manipulate, each one heavy with atmosphere and clever story vignettes, with so many ways to approach each mission that a single one can last you a dozen hours, and a huge amount of additional content that challenges your assassination prowess in new ways. This is the sequel I've been waiting a decade for.

At a glance, one might question what exactly makes Inside so special. Its visuals seem muted and dull, strip away everything and it's a game of mostly traversing right and solving environmental puzzles, it's a game where the only controls are move, jump, and grab. But Inside can't be fully appreciated at a glance; it must be played to understand its excellence.

Inside is a bleak crescendo of a cinematic platformer, every aspect building upon the other until its incredible finale. The animations, how the boy stumbles and struggles, how he looks with nervous glances or hunches over in tense fear. The aesthetic, rife with countless details and a cohesive palette that accentuates the game's depressing dystopian tone. The sound design, from the subtle heartbeat of a soundtrack to the boy's hurried breathing when stealth shifts to desperate pursuit. Everything coalesces to create an oppressive miasma of unease and tension, where you never feel safe, where every mistake is met with quick ruthless death, and its lean puzzle design is always driving you forward to more haunting imagery and more surreal discoveries.

The Last Guardian
I liked Ico, and I loved Shadow of the Colossus, so I had high expectations when I started The Last Guardian. And somehow, Ueda's vision was able to surpass them. This is an incredible journey of friendship told not through cutscenes or prose, but the medium's most unique element: interactivity. No doubt many great stories in gaming have been conveyed through audio logs and expert writing and compelling voice actors, but The Last Guardian tells the story of boy and beast through gameplay, through Trico's groundbreaking animations, through your petting and cleaning of feathers and removal of spears, through the desperate saves from certain death and the graceful leaps through this world's mysterious architecture.

From that foundation emerges a cinematic platformer that pushes boundaries on myriad fronts: playable set-pieces that rival Naughty Dog's work, tense platforming over vertigo-inducing heights, smart puzzles driven by cooperation, and an gripping ending that won't soon be forgotten

Titanfall 2
My eyes were opened to the joys of online multiplayer this year, first with Overwatch and Rocket League. then Battlefield 1 and Rainbow Six Siege. But I've played one shooter more than all of them, and that game was Titanfall 2. It's a demanding game, where quick reflexes and deft wall-running are your ultimate advantage, so it took a while for me to gain the skills to not get slaughtered. But with practice comes precision, and with precision comes some of the most intense and entertaining action I've enjoyed in a long time. There's nothing quite like wall-running past a missile salvo between warring titans, or sliding around a corner to cut down an incoming enemy, or grapple-hooking an ejecting pilot to deliver a killing mid-air blow. It's fast, furious, skillful, where a typical match can produce awesome emergent set-piece moments.

But those awesome set pieces aren't reserved to multiplayer, because Titanfall 2 also comes with one of coolest FPS campaigns in a while, a lean series of missions that shifts from one cool concept and encounter to the next, all wrapped in the stylish skillful parkour and combat that defines the series.

The narrative adventure has seen a renaissance since Telltale revitalized it with The Walking Dead way back in 2012. From Dontnod's Life Is Strange to the historical 1979 Revolution, their influence has been undeniable. But while they may be the originator, Oxenfree is the innovator. Harkening back to the Spielbergian adventures of the 80s, this tale of friends on an island where dark forces lurk pushes the genre forward in wonderful ways. Its walk-and-talk mechanic allows for the kind of pacing that Telltale games and their ilk could never do, letting you make tough dialogue choices without breaking away from regular gameplay. And that dialogue is so natural, flows so smoothly, with interjections and interruptions and whatnot, a far cry from the turn-based style of conversation seen in everything from Mass Effect to Fables. Finally Night School found a clever way to do a New Game Plus within the confines of a narrative adventure, giving you another reason to revisit these likeable characters and atmospheric locales.

It's the most innovative shooter I've played in years. No really, clever joke aside, it is. SuperHOT takes the one hit kills and limited ammo and encroaching enemies on all sides of Hotline Miami, and makes it a pseudo-turn-based action puzzler through its core time-moves-when-you-move mechanic. That simple idea changes everything. It's a game of minimalism and restraint, more time spent side-stepping bullets and planning your next move than attacking. Those methodical minutes-long sequences of time-slowed action only last mere seconds in real time. Every moment is one of careful movement, since every step by you means danger is one step closer. 

The combat in SuperHOT is the stuff of Hollywood magic, scenes that are usually only reserved for scripted moments and set pieces. You snatch a gun out of the air and spin around to kill the enemies approaching from behind. Point blank shots are negated by a katana slicing the bullet in half. You weave between bullets with effortless ease. It's a low-poly dance through a rain of crystalline shards and it never gets old

Stephen’s Sausage Roll
2016 was the year of the puzzler. The Witness, Obduction, SHENZHEN I/O, Recursed, Sethian, Thoth, and more, this year was one with quality puzzle games of all kinds. But none impressed or stumped me as much as Stephen's Sausage Roll. It may not seem like much, a Sokoban-style puzzler with a low-fi aesthetic, but that's where the genius of the games lies. Stephen's Sausage Roll is an ever growing puzzle box of new mechanics, mechanics that were always there, hidden in plain sight through level design alone.

Your basic toolset of rotation and fork is so versatile, allowing for puzzles so satisfyingly diverse and tricky, it is astounding to think back to how the early puzzles were only about rotating and pushing sausages with your fork. This is an ingenious work of level design and clever puzzles that should not be missed.

House of the Dying Sun
At one point, House of the Dying Sun was a bigger game, an ambitious sprawling Mount-and-Blade-style campaign with procedural factions and an open map. But instead the finished game is a lean collection of hand-crafted missions, polished and distilled to focus on one thing: combat. Combat is House of the Dying Sun's core element, each mission dropping you into a volatile situation and asking you to seamlessly manage both intense dogfighting from your interceptor cockpit and fleet tactics from the macro RTS view. No map to travel, no trading or hangars to buy a better fleet, no smaller jobs to build up your reputation, just relentless combat where positioning and expert flight is key to survival.

But it would remiss to not single out House of the Dying Sun's stellar sound design. The audio makes the game. The muted rumble and thuds of your weapons. The rasp of your oxygen mask. The tinny chatter of your wingmen, The mechanical whir when you reload or switch weapons. The sound design draws you into the combat, gives every action an immersive and atmospheric reaction

Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun
You know a game is going to be good when a demo shifts your expectations from "Huh, seems interesting" to "I need to keep playing, please release already". In an ideal world, Shadow Tactics will be for real-time Commandos-style tactics what Divinity was for CRPGs. Polished to a mirror sheen, this is a game of weaving through vision cones, of carefully planning out precisely timed distractions and executions, of managing all your of team's special skills and abilities to overcome seemingly impossible odds. A single mission can last 2-3 hours, as you plan and study and observe and act and react and quick-save like a madman. This is one of the best stealth games of 2016, and the best Commandos-like in a long time.

Michael Brough's games have often hinged on the dichotomy of simple on the outside and surprisingly deep within, a lo-fi aesthetic contrasted by challenging strategy. His latest game Imbroglio is no different; it plays like a distant cousin of his previous roguelike 868-Hack, with a focus on positioning and smart use of your abilities, but expanded exponentially and offering surprising complexity.

Imbroglio is many things. It's a roguelike, as you tactically use different skills and turn-based movement to outlast increasingly challenging groups of enemies. It's a card game, with each class having unique skills and limitations that define the kind of deck you can build. And it's a board game, as you use those cards to build the floor of the board itself, carefully considering synergy between abilities and your health and mana and where enemies will enter the arena. Imbroglio is the kind of simple-to-play yet surprisingly complex game that you'll often find on mobile, and one of the best roguelikes the platform has to offer.

Honorable Mentions:

I've never played anything like Sethian. Essentially Arrival: The Game, it's a narrative adventure/linguistic puzzler that challenges you to learn how to read and communicate in an alien language. Wholly unique and very clever

I'd place the physics-driven platforming and slick smooth controls of the original N up there with games like Super Meat Boy as one of the forefathers of the indie precision platformer, and N++ is the culmination of 12 years of refinement on that original game, with thousands of smartly-designed stages that wringe diverse platforming challenges from a simple moveset.

Devil Daggers
If DOOM was the modern update of the old-school shooter, Devil Daggers is the other side of the coin, distilling the genre to its leanest form. You, your weapon, an arena, a cacophonous onslaught of eldritch horrors, now survive. An oppressive symphony of distorted shrieks, skittering legs, guttural roars, echoing moans brings to life a bestiary of bone and flesh and too many appendages. Devil Daggers' sound design is some of the best you'll hear this year

The most intense, most satisfying, and most draining test of reflexes since Super Hexagon, Thumper is equal parts simplicity and excess, easy-to-understand but challenging-to-master gameplay within a sensory overload of movement, color, and sound. If Super Hexagon was hypnotic in its shifting twisting geometric minimalism, then Thumper is 2001's mesmerizing mindfuck given metal life.

The Witness
Jonathan Blow's seven-years-in-the-making magnus opus is a puzzle game masterpiece, a vibrant Myst-like that wordlessly teaches you to understand its expansive repertoire of mechanics

You are not a one-man army. You are a god of death, a bringer of ruin and slaughter to the forces of hell. They fear you and rightfully so, as you unleash unstoppable fury upon them through relentlessly fast first-person shooter action

Thursday, October 13, 2016

PC Review #153: Thumper

Title: Thumper
Developer: Drool
Platforms: PC, PS4
Price: $19.99
Would it be hyperbole to say that Thumper is the most intense, most satisfying, and most draining test of reflexes since Super Hexagon? Much like Terry Cavanagh's infamously challenging arcade game, Thumper is equal parts simplicity and excess, easy-to-understand but challenging-to-master gameplay within a sensory overload of movement, color, and sound. If Super Hexagon was hypnotic in its shifting twisting geometric minimalism, then Thumper is 2001's mesmerizing mind@!%$ given metal life.
From the first section of its nine levels to its last hellish stage, Thumper hurls you into a kaleidoscopic tempest, your chrome beetle racing along twisting tracks and claustrophobic tunnels as eldritch beings of light and metal twist and unfurl within the void. It's a visual gut punch of an experience, that I can only imagine is enhanced to eye-bleeding levels in VR. But even with headphones and a regular screen, Thumper's intensity is peerless.

Imagine those classic inputs of a Guitar Hero or Rock Band - tap and hold to the beat at the right time - and you can grasp Thumper. Strip away the speed and visual chaos, and Thumper is as easy to understand as those games. Thump down on markers, turn and grind against the turns, hover over spikes and through rings. Even as more elements and nuances are introduced, the game remains a mechanically lean test of focus and reflex.
Success in Thumper is draining, exhausting, exhilarating. Like some cyberpunk birdcall, you answer the music's beat with every shockwave of your thumps and spraying sparks of grinds, until you're conditioned to react to each signal and tone with practiced skill. Success requires you to act on the fine line between focus and near-clairvoyant intuition, that zone and flow that the best in the genre let you enter.

Success in Thumper is tactile and physical in ways that few games can tout. You feel every thump, every slam into a turn, every missed beat. Your fingers hurt, you feel your heart thumping in your chest, your vision is locked on the road ahead, you twist and duck in sync with the serpentine track. Thumper is a chemical reaction in game form; every action has a reaction, that flares and explodes and flashes and shatters in response.
I've never been able to get into the music/rhythm genre. Even my favorite - Crypt of the Necrodancer - is enjoyed more for its clever roguelike design than its music game elements. But that's only a testament to Thumper's masterful design and audiovisual hellscape. It's one of those special games that can cross genre lines and even appeal to those who wouldn't normally be interested. Moving to the rhythm has never been this relentless and satisfying.

Thumper is available to purchase on Steam,, and Playstation.

Monday, October 10, 2016

PC Review #152: Thoth

Title: Thoth
Developer: Carlsen Games
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $9.99
Your typical dual stick shooter is all about chaos. Victory comes from overwhelming non-stop firepower and evading waves and hordes like a madman. Erase your enemies from the screen as fast and fiercely as possible. From Geometry Wars and Assault Android Cactus to Binding of Isaac, relentless offense is the best defense. Not firing only gives your enemies time to surround and corner.

Thoth is nothing like that. Sure, you have an effective means of attack - a dual-stream of bullets - and can weave and dodge with ease, and there are fierce enemies that crowd the screen, but relentless firepower will only hasten your destruction.
Much like Carlsen's previous effort 140, Thoth is an exercise in minimalism. It's dual stick shooter distilled, from your single attack to the stark aesthetic and single-screen rectangular arenas. Your vessel is a mere circle, your enemies an array of other shapes. There are no upgrades or power-ups or loadouts or other complexities of the sort.

From this foundation, instead Thoth laser-focuses on the gameplay and exploring its mechanics. It's a game without a tutorial, where you learn through play rather than text. Your movement and shooting are the tools that teach you how enemies behave, and thus every new enemy and mechanic evokes a moment of tension, another unknown variable to master and overcome.
But once you do understand the varied actions of your geometric foes, you realize that Thoth is not exactly a shooter. It's a puzzler, and shooting and movement are how you solve these spatial conundrums. When to shoot, where you shoot from, which enemy you shoot at, in what order, all must be considered. Your circular ships moves faster when not firing, and each enemy requires sustained fire to drain them from existence, so positioning and timing are perhaps the most important aspects to assess while playing Thoth.

Positioning becomes much more critical when you realize that the arena itself is linked with the enemies you face. From changing the available space to swapping the barriers that divide the stage, killing an enemy can hinder rather than help if done at the wrong time and place. Mindlessly firing without considering your location will more than likely see your ship trapped and cornered. Across the game's 64 levels, you're constantly introduced to twists and elements, forcing you to adapt regularly and wringing surprising variety from a seemingly simple format. may be a misnomer to say you kill enemies in this game. Enough bullets, and your colorful foes become structures of negative space, empty portholes into endless abyss beyond the arena, that pursue you even more aggressively. It's yet another puzzle piece to consider while dodging and weaving. Thoth's otherworldly droning soundtrack complements the imagery of that cold void wonderfully,

Much like the abyss hidden behind its minimal aesthetic, Thoth's distilled approach to the dual-stick genre hides a unique action puzzler behind the veneer of hectic shooter. You can purchase Thoth on Steam and Humble.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Screenshot Saturday - 10/8/16

Title: Dystoria
Developer: Tri-Coastal Games
DYSTORIA, a 6-axis space shooter with an 80’s arcade vibe. DYSTORIA is a diabolical zero-g space labyrinth in which you are trapped as an experiment. DYSTORIA combines a unique style of 6-axis gameplay with action packed space battles, stunning visuals and mind-bending level design all backed by an original 80’s style synthwave soundtrack.
Title: Earth's Dawn
Developer: Dracue Software
Packed with super-fast sci-fi action, Earth’s Dawn offers 2D side-scrolling gameplay in a beautiful hand-drawn style. Combat is intuitive, but deceptively deep with combos, finishers and rankings after enemy encounters all adding depth to the game, while RPG-style skill trees, equipment crafting and character evolution open up things even further.
Title: Type Knights
Developer: Type Knights team
A casual RPG with simple text commands controls
Title: Grave Danger
Developer: JB Gaming
Grave Danger is a 2D sidescrolling adventure game about utilizing unique characters to solve puzzles and stay alive. Run, jump, float, shoot, and scythe your way through puzzles involving teamwork and precision! Alternate between each hero: Dante the cowboy, Elliot the wizard, and Malice the reaper.
Title: Slime-San
Developer: Fabraz
Slime-San was minding his own business, sliming around in a peaceful forest when suddenly…A giant worm appeared and gobbled him up! Now deep within the worm’s belly, Slime-san has to face a decision: Be digested by the incoming wall of stomach acid... Or jump, slide and slime his way through the worms intestines and back out its mouth!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

PC Review #151: Clustertruck

Title: Clustertruck
Developer: Landfall Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4
Price: $14.99
Clustertruck is an exercise in simplicity. Strip everything away, and you're left with a frantic game of first person platforming across a dynamically shifting path. It's how developer Landfall Games builds upon that foundation that Clustertruck truly impresses, delivering a chaotic rush of aerial acrobatics, insane wrecks, and unpredictable levels.
In this self-described "truckformer", every stage begins the same way: you, on top of a truck, amid a convoy of similar trucks driving forward. For a split second, all is calm...and then Clustertruck's brand of chaos ensues. Drivers weave and crash, trucks tumble and jackknife and barrel onwards with reckless abandon. Somewhere up ahead lies your goal, and you must navigate these high-speed pile-ups to reach it. That alone would be a satisfying challenge, as you leap off trucks in mid-air, wall-jump off siding, and truck-surf through the chaos. The dynamic nature of the convoys makes success a matter of a keen eye and fast reflexes, as you use any truck-based surface to maintain your forward momentum.

But Clustertruck's levels aren't asphalt straightaways. Across themed worlds that range from steampunk to sci-fi, these levels are mad gauntlets of hazards and chasms and multi-tiered environments. Massive hammers smash trucks into the void. Lasers and barriers force you to evade with precision. Huge drops send you plummeting to roadways far below, aligning your descent to land atop more trucks. Gravity wells send trucks and yourself flying across levels, long soaring seconds of airtime that often challenge you to leap from truck to truck.
It's this variety in dangers, terrain, and level design that turns Clustertruck's already-intense style of first-person traversal into a wild test of platforming prowess. Every level and region introduces something new, be it a shift in how levels are designed or some new obstacle, sometimes for only a single stage.

Death is frequent but rarely frustrating, since instant restarts and relatively short stages let you quickly get into a flow of "try again and improve" on even the most hectic levels. But once you've survived the game's 90 levels, what other challenges could await a truckformer-ing master? Speedrunning and earning points by pulling off tricky maneuvers is one avenue, but more importantly is the collection of skills and abilities waiting to be unlocked, that completely change your approach to your levels.
Slow-motion alone grants you more precision and air control to deftly dodge and stick landings, the grappling hook lets you latch onto trucks and the scenery to zip forward, and unlocks like the jetpack and double jump drastically increase the distances you can leap. Additional unlocks turn the game into a truck-filled version of SuperHOT where time is linked to your movement or add additional explosions and danger for a score multiplier.

It's choosing your loadout of unlocks that flip Clustertruck on its head. Leaping from truck to truck is crazy enough, but hooking on a truck as it tumbles through the air then slowing time to leap off the truck with perfect precision to reach the end of a level is another level of satisfaction. It combines the fast-paced traversal with an element of experimentation that changes how you look at the level architecture and truck placement. Trucks in mid-air are grapple anchor points, a tunnel lets you bounce a truck spawn pellet down the track, and so on.
Clustertruck takes such a simple premise and just wrings every possibility from it, as truck-surfing evolves into daring leaps over missiles as those trucks fly across huge gaps. If the developer's levels are this insane, one can only imagine what kind of gauntlets the community will create through the in-game editor.

Clustertruck is available on Steam, GOG, and the Playstation Store. The game is coming to Xbox One soon.

Friday, September 16, 2016

PC Review #150: Flat Heroes

Title: Flat Heroes
Developer: Parallel Circles
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $14.99
The wave of local multiplayer games have been washing onto the PC and consoles shores for quite some time now. From Nidhogg and Samurai Gunn to Push Me Pull You and Overcooked, there's no shortage of titles in that vein. A few offer modes and gameplay for the solo player - Towerfall Ascension and Inversus to name a few - but Flat Heroes offers the best of both worlds, a finely-tuned evasive platformer featuring a sizable amount of modes for both single and multiplayer.

Flat Heroes is one of those games where its polish and style is evident straight from the menu, as its clean minimalist screens smoothly shift between menus and level selections. The set-up is simple: an acrobatic square, in ever-shifting single-screen gauntlets, don't get hit. Of course, that last part often isn't so easy. For solo player, you start in Waves mode, distinct stages and boss fights that wrings smartly-designed challenges from the game's varied hazards. From screen-filling rectangles that threaten to crush you against the walls, to swarms of homing rockets and bubbles, to ricocheting triangles that streak across the screen in a frenetic hailstorm of color, each hazard is a new test of your platforming prowess. 

Thankfully, your square's agility is more than enough to handle Flat Heroes' dangerous onslaught. With simple hops, wall clinging, and air dashes, you can leap and tumble through levels with ease and precision. The controls are perfectly balanced to always make you feel in control, but with enough fluidity to feel reckless and tense as you just barely dodge over incoming swarms or outrun a laser grid.
Flat Heroes rewards your progress through Waves with new color palettes and more importantly new game modes that cleverly twist the core foundations precise evasion and agile movement. Battle is a geometric take on deathmatch where you dash through enemies, while Runner and Catch are Flat Heroes' versions of capture the flag (with a slight dual stick shooter angle as Runner lets you shoot projectiles). Each is a hectic rush of close calls and exploding squares, and can all be played against the AI if friends aren't around.

Flat Heroes's minimalist platforming is currently on Early Access, with more modes and levels planned in future updates. But as is, the game already shines, through its responsive agile gameplay and slickly-designed aesthetic. You can purchase Flat Heroes on Steam

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Watchlist: Astroneer

Title: Astroneer
Platforms: PC
Fall 2016
A game of aerospace industry and interplanetary exploration
Between Starbound, Elite: Dangerous, Evochron Legacy, and of course the upcoming No Man's Sky, those looking for procedurally-generated space exploration have a wealth of games to scratch that itch. Astroneer is another game to watch, promising gorgeous low-poly landscapes to explore and survive. 

Alone or with friends, Astroneer's worlds will be a challenge to conquer. While there's no combat, there will be hazards, and often the greatest one is nature itself. Looming clouds of dust on the horizon mean a sandstorm is coming your way, bringing strong winds that can tear your structures apart. Unstable terrain can cave in as you dig underground. Acid rain and other inclement weather, as well as dangerous flora and fauna such as hungry sand worms entrenched in the dunes, make surviving in Astroneer a taxing endeavor.
But not an impossible endeavor: through research, crafting technology, and planning, your traveler will be able to brave the storms and other dangers. Guidelines and tethers help you not get lost as you explore and keep you from getting blow away by the storm gusts. Using terraforming technology, you can carve barriers and shelters from the deformable terrain and tunnel deep into a planet's depths.

Research is important not just for survival but for profit. You're not braving these conditions and dangers for fun, but to extract materials and make money. As you gather funds, new equipment becomes available, from rovers and trailers to crane-armed diggers and automated rail systems, to spacecraft that allow you to leave one world and travel to countless others.
Astroneer is slated to release on Steam Early Access this fall. You can learn more about the game on its website and Twitter page.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

PC Review #149: Anarcute

Title: Anarcute
Developer: Anarteam
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
Price: $14.99
A quick glance at Anarcute, and one might assume it's some kind of RTS or strategy game. How else can you control and direct such a large crowd of rambunctious rioters, especially when the two other games in development about protesting mobs - RIOT and Okhlos - hewn to the tactical design. But Anarcute isn't like that; in fact, it's a breezy arcade-y action game that feels like part puzzle game, part shooter.
The set-up is simple: evil world-dominating corporation, police force in the city streets, take down the bad guys. That last part is where Anarcute shines. Starting as a single animal protestor, moving through each level's streets allows you to gather up others and grow your one-fox/frog/giraffe/etc-protest into a dozens-strong mob. The tight maze-like stages and pre-set enemies gives Anarcute the sense of a fast-paced puzzler; you need to choose the best approach through the streets, deciding which enemy and hazards to tackle in the best order to build your mob while losing the least amount of protestors. There's even a slight stealth aspect, as you avoid enemy line of sight until you have a large enough group to take them on.

Loosing protestors is something you want to avoid, because the size of your mob is more than just a visual effect. Your mob acts essentially as a ship in a shoot-em-up, each individual acting as a point of health and being to able to carry items as ammo. Early levels may just have you facing single cops and lasers, once rooftop snipers, armored foes with area-of-effect attacks, and rockets enter the mix, Anarcute becomes an evasive shooter. Using your mob's dash to dodge attacks, unleashing hailstorms of debris, charging up your shockwave to gain some breathing room. The game's mechanical bosses put those skills to the test.
The size of your mob also enables powerful abilities, from being able to knock buildings like an unsteady jenga tower or blast enemies back with a stomp to temporary invincibility and buffed attacks. These abilities tie into both the puzzle aspect and the action, as building your mob up to defeat well-guarded areas is key, as is keeping your larger mob alive with well-timed dodges and use of your abilities. Tokens earned through the campaign also unlocks perks and upgrades that can add a fiery touch to your stomp or allow thrown objects to bounce into additional enemies, among others.

While Anarcute isn't the most taxing game in terms of difficulty, it has enough moving parts - keeping your mob alive, assimilating more protesters, avoiding enemies until your mob is big enough, using abilities, dodging, attacking, and so on - to make it a reasonable challenge. The aesthetic may be colorful, cartoon-y, and vibrant, but Anarcute is surprisingly involved and briskly-paced beneath its veneer of cute animals.
Anarcute is available on Steam, Humble Bundle, and Xbox One.

Friday, July 8, 2016

SitRep: Broforce (Post-Release)

Title: Broforce
Developer: Free Lives
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, PS4
Price: $14.99
It's been a few years since I last covered Broforce, so long that the game has since left Early Access and been expanded and updated in myriad ways. The most recent update grew the already diverse broster with three more heroes, building upon an already engaging foundation.
The quite fitting July 4th update introduced the fearsome trio of bros stylized after Bruce Lee, Dirty Harry, and Tank Girl. As usual, each adds their own unique strengths and attacks to your arsenal, from Lee's famous fighting skills to Tank Girl's own personal tank to obliterate mooks. Other post-release updates injected some electric action into the mix, with the combined power of Highlander and Mortal Kombat-alum Raiden.
You can test your skills with these new bros, and the rest of the game's line-up, in new single-character Tactical Missions, and unleash powerful perks with useful Supply Drops that can boost your abilities or distract aliens, among others.

Broforce is available on Steam, Humble, and the Playstation Store.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 7/2

Title: Saint Kotar
Developer: Tanais Games
A psychological horror point & click adventure game
Saint Kotar draws inspiration from p&c classics like Broken Sword and Monkey Island, along with the works from horror fiction writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe
Title: Botlike
Developer: Binji Games
Botlike is a 2D-Sidescrolling Action Platformer with roguelike elements like permadeath and random level generation. You play as an old distinguished bot who is putting up the hopeless fight against the totalitarian regime of evil AI.
Title: Downhill Prototype (working title)
Developer: Megagon Industries
Choose between different mountains with unique animals and weather effects. Customize your rider. Crash a lot.
Title: Eternal Desert
Developer: Karnak Arts
A third-person adventure game with platform and shooter elements. The game is set in ancient Egypt with numerous references to the myth of Horus and Seth. You will be living a surreal adventure under the sun of Egyptian desert and along the legendary Nile River.
Title: Killer Robot Party
Developer: Fran Boot
Reports are coming in of Killer Robot battalions sweeping across the kingdom. They’re deadly, they ruin parties, and they’ll steal anything that isn’t bolted down. Use your longbow, magic potions and scavenged weapons to defend the Queen, and stop them from making it into the party at ALL COSTS.

Friday, July 1, 2016

PC Review #148: Expand

Title: Expand
Developers: Chris Johnson & Chris Larkin
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Price: $5.99
There are only a few games that I've played that would merit the description of "hypnotic". SpaceChem and Factorio are on that list, watching your carefully crafting assembly line shift and spin and intersect and interact in perfectly synchronized loops. The artful combat of Dust, as you cleave the air with your blade and leave trails of mystic energy in your wake or twist it into screen-clearing vortexes. The lines of sound emanating from your footsteps in Dark Echo, as they criss-cross and ricochet in colored patterns through the darkness. And now Expand makes a excellent case for its inclusion.
Expand is at once both an exercise in simplicity and complexity. From a small palette of white, black, red, and pink merges a seamless flowing experience, a shifting world flowering from a central core, a maze of negative space. Expand's world is bound to the confines of the screen, instead morphing dynamically between levels and areas, A path may emerge in sync with your movement, or a black or red block might shove its way through the screen, or the screen may recede and retreat into corridors and openings. It's gorgeous to watch in motion, always a joy to wait in anticipation for a new level to reveal itself.

But despite its minimalist appearance, Expand isn't a calm game. In fact, it's one of timing and evasion, akin to a slower-paced Super Hexagon. Your pink square must brave five stages, each a seamless gauntlet of moving obstacles and complex patterns of deadly red hazards. These stages can be tackled in any order, introducing new mechanics and interesting twists on established elements as you progress. While all revolve around carefully dodging dangers and timing your movement with the level architecture, some lean more towards puzzles, challenging you to consider the link between your movement and how a level changes, or featuring buttons and switches to activate. Elaborate screen-shifting "bosses" are true tests of your evasive prowess.
Expand isn't a long game, but it is a consistently surprising and engaging one. Come for the hypnotic nature of its art and unfolding world, but stay for the challenge and clever level design.

Expand is available on Steam, Humble, and

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Watchlist: Fulcrum

Title: Fulcrum
Developer: Phosfiend Systems
Platforms: PC, Mac
A snowboarding game on an infinite mountainscape that evolves and changes as you ride it
If you've played Fract OSC, it's a game you can probably recognize in an instant. Its low-poly, vibrant, cyberpunk-esque landscape was a unique world to explore, especially when brought to musical life. So seeing Fulcrum, you might get flashbacks. The slick aesthetic remains, now with colder wintry palette, as the game revolves around first-person snowboarding rather than music-driven puzzles.

This isn't SSX or Snow. While you're grinding along rails, speeding through passes, and flipping through the air, Fulcrum promises a slower more exploration-driven experience, as you chase evasive lights through the world. Each region loops, letting you gain a lay of the land and master its secret areas and enjoy the architecture, before moving onto another area.

Steep drops through angular boulders. Neon-lit caves that would fit nicely in Fract's world. Serpentine rails around obsidian ruins. Fulcrum offers both skillful challenge on obstacle-strewn descents and zen-paced exploration, measured at your pace as you travel across the terrain. Fluid movement, big jumps, and wind-whistling speed opens up a moveset that you tackle any of Fulcrum's abstract slopes.
Fulcrum is currently in development, with no release date slated at the moment. You can learn more about the game on its Tumblr and TIGSource devlog.

Friday, June 17, 2016

No Money, No Problem: skorpulac

Title: Skorpulac
Developer: Strotch
Platforms: PC
Skorpulac is a quick adrenaline shot of old-school action for the players who've conquered the likes of Volgarr and Odallus. 
Wielding merely your spear, you leap and run through bleak ruined halls and caverns where dangerous oddities lurk. Fans of retro-style platformers will feel at home with Skorpulac's limited levels and precise action. Gauntlets of conveyor belts over deadly hazards and zapped by the rhythmic flashes of lasers. Deceptively trudging foes that lung forward with a devastating sword blow. Narrow platforms under the deadly aim of organic turrets. Skorpulac only offers a few levels, but each offers a finely-tuned challenge.

The game's dark pixel art is impressive as well, establishing an alien world of bipedal walkers and humming electric fields. The decrepit arches and deep shadows gives Skorpulac a foreboding mood fitting its difficult gameplay.
You can download Skorpulac from

Thursday, June 9, 2016

PC Review #147: House of the Dying Sun

Title: House of the Dying Sun
Developer: Marauder Interactive
Platforms: PC
Price: $19.99
For a long time, years in fact, this game went by another name: Enemy Starfighter. A simpler name, without the "epic sci-fi opera" style of its current title, but perhaps a more apt description. House of the Dying Sun is all about destroying your enemies from the sleek low-poly cockpit of your Interceptor starfighter, a lean adrenaline rush of arcade-y space combat and fleet tactics
House of the Dying Sun's lean style is practically a breath of fresh air compared to the sprawling sims and strategy games often found in the space genre. A few lines of text tell you that your emperor is dead, the murderous traitors that usurped him rule now, and you are a loyal warrior exacting swift and brutal vengeance upon them and their people. That's all the narrative and motivation needed to drop you into combat scenarios, from assassinating lords in the blinding glow of an adjacent sun or destroying supply caches within a claustrophobic asteroid field.

From the mission map, you choose which of the game's 14 scenarios to tackle, each one divided between three difficulties that add more enemies and smarter AI tactics to outfight and outplan. Each mission features bonus objectives, and most reward you with new weapons or additional fighters and frigates to your personal fleet. The missions are never that long, and always imbued with the tension as you fear the inevitable announcement and countdown of the traitor flagship, a massively powerful brute of a  vessel that can wipe out your entire fleet. The looming threat of the flagship adds to the sense that you're a small loyalist rebellion against the much more powerful forces that overthrew your emperor.
No map to travel, no trading or hangars to buy a better fleet, no smaller jobs to build up your reputation. House of the Dying Sun understands that its strongest aspect is its combat, and streamlines the space shooter formula to make sure you're back into the interstellar dogfights as fast as possible.. And what wonderful combat that is. Warping into your chosen scenario, you can order your fleet from a tactical view, telling fighters to attack or defend, moving frigates around the map, while also being able to jump into the cockpit of any fighters you have. Once behind the flashy console cockpit, fleet-wide tactics take a backseat to the action, as you unleash homing missile and torpedoes, kinetic autocannons and flechette spreadshot. Holding a button lets you shift drift forward, maintaining velocity while rotating around, allowing for deft maneuvers and precise strafing runs.

But while House of the Dying Sun's combat nails the tight controls and dogfighting action, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying without its stellar sound design. Personally, I argue the audio makes the game. The muted rumble and thuds of your weapons. The rasp of your oxygen mask. The tinny chatter of your wingmen, The mechanical whir when you reload or switch weapons. The sound design draws you into the combat, gives every action an immersive and atmospheric reaction. You feel powerful, you feel like a master pilot behind the cockpit among fellow warriors.
House of the Dying Sun is currently on Early Access; however, the main campaign and core features are finished and polished. An mode against escalating waves of enemies is planned for future updates. You can purchase the game on Steam and directly from the developer's site.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 6/4

Title: Light of the Empire
Developer: YC960 Studio
A space and land RTS/RPG hybrid
Title: Eliosi’s Hunt
Developer: TDZ Games
Eliosi's Hunt is a sci-fi top-down shooter and platformer with a unique universe, challenging and fluid gameplay and stunning visuals.
Title: Axis Descending
Developer: Mars Ashton
Axis Descending is a Metroidvania Dark Souls-like where you dodge, slash, dash and shock your way through a story mode, randomized "Divecaching" levels, unique bounty hunt adventures and tons of treasure chests full of loot!
Title: GravLab
Developer: VR Bits
The Gravitational Testing Facility & Observations would like to introduce our new range of gravity modifying appliances.

Friday, June 3, 2016

SitRep: Rimworld

Title: Rimworld
Developer: Ludeon Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Coming to Steam in July
Three years ago when I wrote about Rimworld, it was still gathering backers on Kickstarter and seeking votes on Greenlight. So it's only appropriate that, when I come back to the game now, it's slated to come to Steam Early Access next month. Between then and now, Rimworld has evolved and expanded exponentially, growing into what is easily the closest we've gotten yet to a sci-fi Dwarf Fortress.
The basic idea of building a colony from scratch, and then expanding into a thriving settlement, remains the same, but it's grown and expanded in all directions. Colonists aren't just schedule-driven robots; they have emotions, and activities that bring them joy like sky gazing and mediation, and have opinions of each other.

Families extend from fathers and sisters and cousins and uncles, colonists can become couples and get married...and then divorced. Colonists are carpenters, or sculptors who past the time making artwork, or animal tamers with their favorite pets, or drunken narcissist, or doctors and hunters. They grow old, and their backs give out, or they fall ill with malaria, or they get badly burned in a raging fire and lose their legs (only to replace them with bionic prosthetics).
And all that happens in a dynamic world that doesn't wait for you to change and thrive. Predators and prey roam, both the animal kind and the human kind that raid your colony and perform devastating sieges. Time passes literally, seasons changing bringing downpours and feet of snow that has to be shovelled. With weather comes heatstroke and hypothermia and frostbite and spoiling food.

Thankfully with the right tech and gear, you can endure all of that, through clothing such as parkas or equipment like heaters. A vast arsenal lets you hunt roaming herds, and fend off attacks with mortars and rocket launchers. But even your best laid plans and tools might not prepare you for the long-lasing chill of a volcanic winter or the insanity-spreading psychic pulse of a crashed alien vessel. Survival in Rimworld is never easy.
Rimworld is expected to arrive on Steam Early Access in July, along with an new alpha update that adds a host of changes and, more importantly, a deep scenario creator that lets you edit everything from the traits your colonists might develop to what gear they start with and what random events might befall them.

You can purchase the alpha from the game's site and add Rimworld to your Steam wishlist here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

PC Review #146: Mu Cartographer

Title: Mu Cartographer
Developer: Titouan Millet
Platforms: PC, Mac
Price: $5
Lumino City. Papers Please. The Room. Deadnaut. Disparate genres, atmosphere, stories, and gameplay, all linked by a singular concept: tactile interactivity. More than merely pressing buttons on your controller or keys on your keyboard, they present you with dials to turn, switches to flip, panels to activate, turning the means of interacting with the world into a puzzle in itself. Mu Cartographer is perhaps the epitome of that idea, where learning how to discover alien secrets and landscapes is as much a part of the game as the discovery and exploration.
Mu Cartographer doesn't explain much. A mysterious device, a form of scanning console, with a slice of landscape in the center. The two sides of the game - the flat digital panel of dials, meters, switches and the circular window into a mysterious world - are inexorably linked; interacting with the console is your means to explore, and exploring gradually unlocks new means to interact.

But first you have to understand how to use the device at hand. You'll undoubtedly start with cautious inquisitive interactions, dragging and clicking each button and dial to see what it manipulates and how changing them affects the manipulation, and gradually what is a cluster of odd symbols and icons becomes something you understand. How one dial lets you zoom in and out, or move your central porthole across the land, or rotate the world, or perhaps even alter the environment itself.
With each twist and press and drag, the landscape shifts, dropping into steep canyons or impossibly jagged peaks, vast plains or rugged terrain, colors and hues shifting from grayscale to the blooming reds and yellows and greens and blues akin to infrared imagery. The world mutates with the satisfying fluidity that brings to mind clouds in the wind or a disturbed pool of water or the cross-sections of an MRI.

Seeing how your actions influence the land is enjoyable on its own, and endlessly gorgeous, but Mu Cartographer isn't merely an interesting piece of interactive art. There are secrets to be found, signs of civilizations amid the vast landscape, and perhaps by mastering the console, you'll be able to uncover more than just how to make the world look pretty...
Mu Cartographer is at once a gorgeous piece of digital art, a tactile puzzle to learn and master, and an an alien enigma to explore and discover. You can purchase the game on

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Quick Fix: Screenshot Saturday 5/28

Title: AiK
Developer: Christian Arnold
Aik is a journey. It is about discovering a 2D open world setting and the more you understand and observe the environments, behaviours and creatures in this world, the more you understand how to interact and make your way through it
Title: Gunnhildr
Developer: RatDog Games
Gunnhildr is a Dark Souls meets Binding of Isaac style Rogue-like FPS. Taking place on the Norse world of Niflheim you are Gunnhildr, the only warrior to ever achieve the honor of becoming an ancient.
Title: Aya Blaze
Developer: Bastian
Aya Blaze is a high-speed, low gravity arcade racer with focus on a fluid racing experience and energizing, uplifting vibes
Title: Aye Captain!
Developer: Aye Captain team
Aye Captain! is a rogue-like tactical pirate game. Sail through the waves, kill enemies, steal ships and become The King of The Seas! FTL in a pirate world
Title: SOUL
A VR relaxation game, a digital home away from home