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March 2014

7

Mar

Danish animator-turned-indie-developer Alina Constantin has a world she wants gamers to explore, but needs a Kickstart(er) to make the first chapter come alive.

Currently in development at her studio, Amazu Media, Shrug Island is an upcoming 2D point-and-click adventure game set in the same universe as Alina’s award-winning 2009 short film, “Shrug.” Like the film, the game revolves around a group of shape-shifting tribal creatures called shrugs, who survive their island’s seasonal flooding by turning into birds during the inundation, before returning to their home when the tides recede.

The first chapter in the planned four-part story will focus on a pair of shrug children named Li and Shri, who have become separated upon returning home from one such migration. It will be the player’s responsibility to help these two find each other again by switching between them as the game progresses in order to solve puzzles…

But there’s a catch. Because of the shrugs’ close bond with the environment, the island itself plays a “third character” in the story. Music is the island’s “language,” and players will have to learn to “speak” to the island along the way if they hope to reunite Li and Shri. In addition, each character has special abilities of their own, such as Shri’s ability to “transform and move his surroundings,” that allow them to interact with the island in various ways, promising plenty of challenges for players to overcome throughout the game.

The game’s graphics are likely the first thing potential backers will notice. Owing to Alina’s background as an animator, everything in Shrug Island is hand-drawn in a vibrant water-color style. The theme of harmonious living with nature has carried over into the sound effects and musical score for the game: the character “voices” consist of bird-like chirps and squawks, and the soundtrack clips revealed so far include Aboriginal-sounding instruments and effects.

Interested gamers have until March 23rd to back the game, and if the $25,000 Kickstarter is successful, outside publishers are reportedly interested in picking up the tab for the remaining chapters in the Shrug Island saga. Various rewards, both digital and physical, are available for higher pledges, but a digital copy of Chapter 1 is available for a minimum $10 pledge, and all chapters can be had for $30, with delivery provided as each is released.

The game is tentatively scheduled to arrive in October 2014, on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms, as well as iOS and Android devices. More information can be found at Shrug Island’s Kickstarter page, as well as the developer’s official website.



6

Mar

Japanese independent developer iQiOi, led by Jeremy Blaustein (known for his work on the English version of Snatcher, as well as a slew of other properties in Konami’s stable), is reimagining Victorian-era London with a gritty steampunk vibe to explore their own version of the Whitechapel Jack the Ripper slayings in Blackmore, a new adventure now in the crucial final stage of its crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Players will assume the role of Emma Honda-Blackmore, an English-Japanese pioneer for women’s equality by virtue of being the first female medical doctor, who gets pulled into the grizzly slayings and begins to unravel the mystery behind them. Blackmore is a classic point-and-click adventure, with plenty of exploration and puzzle-solving. Additionally, Emma will need to gather clues using gadgets invented by her late father, and will need to participate in forensic investigations that will keep her on the trail of the notorious serial killer. Among her bag of tricks are a high-tech monocle that can take close-up photographs of objects and characters, and her robotic sidekick, Descartes.

To create the game, Blaustein has enlisted the help of several returning members of the Snatcher team to handle music compositions and character designs, and has already secured the vocal talents of such well-known voices as David Hayter (Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid). As a Westerner living in Japan, Blaustein is intimately familiar with both distinctive cultures, and feels confident he has written a game that will work in a Western market while still maintaining its Eastern design elements for a unique combination not frequently found in adventure games.

Blackmore is expected to ship March 2015, and will be released on Steam as well as “other distribution methods” for both PC and Mac. A downloadable copy is available starting at $25 at the game’s Kickstarter campaign page, which has a way to get yet if it’s to meet its $200,000 goal by March 12.



1

Mar

Erin Reynolds, designer and creative director behind the biofeedback horror adventure Nevermind, is hoping to bring a whole new level of interaction between game and player to the table, but her Kickstarter campaign is going to need some serious support in its final days.

Claiming to be a game as well as a “stress and anxiety management tool”, Nevermind literally changes in response to players’ fear responses as they traverse a nightmare world of frightening imagery. The first-person horror game is described as being similar in gameplay to the likes of Myst, filled with alien worlds and complex puzzles to solve that will ultimately unlock a terrifying mystery. As a Neuroprober, your job is to literally delve into the minds and psyches of trauma victims, exploring their unnerving and twisted memories in order to help resolve them.

Responding to a heart rate monitor worn around the torso, which measures the player’s heart rate variability and can sense when stress and anxiety get the upper hand, the game has been designed from the ground up to respond to these changes in emotional state by altering variables found within the levels. For example, an increased fear response may result in light within the game dimming, the screen becoming grainy, or even the current room to start flooding.



In addition to providing a creepy and unique gaming experience, Reynolds hopes to see Nevermind used as a tool that will teach players how to respond to stressful stimuli with a minimum of anxiety, and how to deal with nervousness and fear more effectively. However, the game’s Kickstarter page does warn that “if you are a player who suffers from serious issues relating to PTSD or anxiety, it’s likely that you should only play Nevermind under the supervision of a medical professional or – perhaps – refrain from playing it all.”

To make the game more accessible for those whose budget won’t allow the purchase of a heart rate monitor, Nevermind can be played monitor-free as well. Secondary responsive cues, like the manner in which the player is moving, will then take its place and provide the game its cues and triggering reactions within the game.

Nevermind is expected to ship June 2015, provided that the Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal of $250,000 by March 7th. A digital copy of the game is available starting at $25, while a special Kickstarter-only bundle including a heart rate sensor and the game runs $250.

Nevermind will be available on PC and Mac, and has been slated to appear on Steam, with an Xbox One version currently in negotiation (pending a $275,000 stretch goal being reached).




February 2014

14

Feb

Developer Sunlight Games is bringing to light a remake of one of Sierra On-Line’s lesser-known titles, Gold Rush!. For those unfamiliar, Gold Rush! was originally released back in 1988, towards the end of Sierra’s own metaphorical gold rush of games based on their AGI engine (think King’s Quest I – III).

Gold Rush! put players in the persona of mild-mannered Brooklynite Jerrod Wilson, circa 1848, who receives a letter from his long-lost brother imploring him to join him in Sacramento and confirming rumors of the eponymous California gold rush. Being one of the very few Sierra adventures not ending in “Quest”, Gold Rush! was a bit of a unconventional game at the time, essentially being Sierra’s take on Oregon Trail. It featured a branching campaign that allowed players a choice of three routes to California (overland pioneer-style, sailing to Central America and crossing the Isthmus of Panama, or sailing around Cape Horn), with each route consisting of its own set of unique puzzles and challenges.

For their remake, Sunlight has promised the expected enhancements, including high-resolution (pre-rendered) graphics and voiceovers. In keeping with the game’s central conceit, they’ve also promised a choice of three different input options: parser, point-and-click, and “modern” point-and-click (though no details on the distinction between the latter two have been offered). Although the developers are committed to preserving the story and branching paths of the original, there is no word yet on whether they also plan to maintain the dead-ends found in its predecessor.

Full details about the Gold Rush! remake can be found on the official website. The game is slated for a PC release in late 2014, with Mac and mobile versions (iOS and Android) to follow. In the meantime, for those who can’t quite wait that long to die of cholera, Sunlight is also planning to re-release a port of the original]http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/17835]original version[/url] for PC and iOS sometime this spring.



11

Feb

As hordes of satisfied fans can attest, KING Art's The Book of Unwritten Tales was one of 2011’s very best adventures. A shorter-length, stand-alone prequel arrived the following year, but now the German developer is ready to announce a proper sequel in the world of Aventasia. Appropriately titled The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, the game is already fully funded thanks to Austrian publisher Nordic Games, but KING Art has taken to Kickstarter in hopes that community support can make the final release even better.

While story details are scant at the moment, gamers can already expect around twenty hours of point-and-click puzzle-solving, more homage-laden humor, and the return of familiar characters such as the dwarf Wilbur Weathervane and elf Princess Ivo. The base crowdfunding level of $65,000 would allow the inclusion of “projection-mapping,” a rendering technique that enhances the 3D graphics and allows more dynamic use of the game’s camera, while leaving the system requirements unchanged. Higher stretch goals allow for a variety of enhancements not usually seen in point-and-click adventures, including RPG-style elements such as optional “sidequest” puzzles, custom outfits for your characters to wear, and the opportunity for the soundtrack to be recorded using a live orchestra. The Kickstarter also provides gamers the opportunity to snag an exclusive boxed copy of the game.

Regardless of how much public support icing ends up on this much-anticipated cake, the final game is slated to arrive in January 2015, with DRM-free release on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. Gamers who pledge $25 will receive the final game, plus be eligible for Steam Early Access, which will see each of BoUT’s chapters delivered separately to backers as they are finished, starting in fall 2014.

Interested gamers can find more information at The Book of Unwritten Tales 2’s Kickstarter page and the series’ official website.



9

Feb

It’s been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Each new age and civilization, no matter the amount of technological progress available to them, seems to suffer from the same set of challenges. That cycle certainly holds true for the inhabitants of Wax Lyrical Games’ upcoming cyberpunk dramedy, Mega Bad Code, in which advanced technology, classism, and crime set the stage for a futuristic, darkly funny murder mystery.

The story takes place in the year 2095, in a Western-Europe city-state known as BlueBan (short for Blue Banana) Metropolis, ruled by a megacorporation known as the Tribunal. The city has been overrun with crime ever since the Cybernetics Revolution twenty years ago, when hordes of its citizens were made redundant by the lucky few able to afford cybernetic improvements for their bodies. In typical fashion the “cultural and business elites” are able to escape from the chaos via the Tribunal’s own Mind-Uploading technology, sending them permanently into the digital reality known as Cyberspace. This leaves the lower orders of BlueBan to fend for themselves, quickly grouping into “criminal fraternities” in the city’s Anarchy Zone, the southernmost tip of the metropolis. The middle classes are left to inhabit the remainder of the city, hoping that one day they will be able to afford their transfer into Cyberspace.

Players will explore the bizarre world of Mega Bad Code as Lucas McCreebie, a Tribunal Cyberspace programmer and consummate nerd, right down to his very stylish red suspenders and crisp black bow tie. Recently, a serial killer has been terrorizing the streets of the city, claiming 31 lives so far, including one of Lucas’ friends. When no motive can be uncovered for these brutal crimes, Lucas quits his job to lend his skills to the confused and overwhelmed BlueBan police department, befriending a couple of officers—a slacker named Pendragon, and cyborg Vega Carlson—in the course of his investigation. Soon he discovers a heavily-encrypted clue left behind by the killer, and he realizes that the murders are part of something larger, something that threatens “the future for everybody in BlueBan.”

Players will assist Lucas in his quest to unravel the mystery, and the developers promise “varied locations, challenging puzzles, bizarre characters, sinister goings-on and touches of weirdness throughout,” but say the game will also feature “comic-style surrealism,” lending a humorous touch to the proceedings. Several control options will be available, including the classic point-and-click mouse setup, a keyboard, or touch-screen, depending on the platform. Mega Bad Code will feature hand-drawn, high-definition 2.5D graphics, voice-acting, and a full soundtrack.

You can expect to get your hands on Mega Bad Code sometime in late 2014, with release planned for a multitude of platforms and devices, including PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. In the meantime, more information can be found on the game’s official website.




January 2014

23

Jan

Following up on the 2013 release of ASA: A Space Adventure, indie developer Simon Mesnard is working on a follow-up called Catyph: The Kunci Experiment.

While not an actual sequel to ASA, the game will once again be a first-person, point-and-click affair, requiring the player to sort out some strange goings-on in the universe:

“You play in 2062 as an astronaut sent by Terra to explore the solar system in search for signs of intelligent life. After going through strange events, you finally land on Tytaah, a moon of planet Catyph. You quickly realise that a mechanism called the Kunci is the reason for your presence here, and a man of unknown identity asks you to make it work for him. You'll have to explore the moon and other places to gather more informations and understand the situation.”

For his sophomore effort, Simon promises a similar gameplay experience while addressing some of the issues from his first game, including improved (HD) visuals and multiple difficulty levels: “I think I can say that Catyph is to ASA what Riven was to Myst.”

Additional details can be found at the official website. Catyph: The Kunchi Experiment is currently scheduled for release on PCs sometime this summer.



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