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March 2015

14

Mar

Gamers interested in surreal sci-fi point-and-click adventures will be pleased to hear about Ira, an upcoming game from Michigan-based developer Ore Creative that already has a playable demo available.

The game is set in an alternate history-version of the 20th century, where the people of Earth have focused their collective efforts on reaching beyond our solar system. Ira has always dreamed of being an astronaut, growing up in the shadow of a mission that sent a team of researchers to a newly-discovered solar system. Over a decade after the first launch, Ira’s dreams are fulfilled when he joins the second team of researchers sent to explore the new system. But when he emerges from stasis, he finds that his fellow crewmen are gone. Players will be tasked with helping Ira, along with an AI companion found early in the adventure, discover the fate of the crew and uncover various mysteries along the way, such as why he has been so drawn to this journey in the first place.


A 3D game played from a mouse-driven, third-person perspective and featuring colorful stylized graphics, Ira promises to have a variety of both inventory and environment-based puzzles to keep players busy. Dialogue sequences will be an important part of gameplay as well, with players guiding the "tone" of conversations. These interactions will serve a number of purposes, including shedding light on the story and overcoming puzzles.

Ira’s story is shared across three different timelines. The first, of course, is Ira's current adventures in new alien environments, but two other timelines – moments from Ira's own past and “memories” from the first expedition held like “specters of the system” – will reveal themselves as playable sequences along the way. The game’s surreal element comes from the interplay of these three storylines, with "past and present bleeding together" and running in parallel to form an overarching whole. This melding of timelines is on clear display in the browser-based demo now available.

Ore Creative is planning to launch a Kickstarter on April 2nd to secure the necessary funding to achieve blast-off. Assuming a successful campaign, Ira is scheduled to release in early 2016 on a variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, Mac, and SteamOS; Wii U, Xbox One, and Playstation 4.



11

Mar

While many adventure games fall within distinctly Eastern or Western design philosophies, indie developer Cherrymochi's Tokyo Dark will seek to bridge the gap between the two when it's released late next year.

Tokyo Dark stars Detective Ito, who finds herself caught up in much more than a missing persons case when her partner disappears. Ito's investigation "soon spirals into a twisted nightmare" that causes her to "question her own sanity while blurring the boundary between life and death." The deeper she probes, the more haunting the questions become: "Is there really a lost door deep below Tokyo? Are there living shadows, lurking in the dark? Will the past come back to haunt you, or should you stand by your decisions?"


Set in the "sinister underbelly" of the eponymous Japanese capital, the game is based on "first-hand experience with the tragic Tohoku earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan." The early screenshots and trailer show off the game's grounding in "Japanese design, anime aesthetic and visual novels", but the adventure has been adapted for international audiences. In "combining the cinematic decision-making of Heavy Rain with a slick 2D interface and stunning stylised artwork, Tokyo Dark confronts the darker side of the city: suicide, child idols, institutionalised sexism and increasing nationalism." In fusing East and West design, the point-and-click branching story promises a "wide range" of endings, multiple solutions to each puzzle, and player choice that determine social stats and impact your interactions with others.

There is currently no firm release date for Tokyo Dark, but for now the developers are targeting completion sometime in 2016.



10

Mar

If you've been thinking recently that we need more psychological thrillers that not only entertain but also "raise awareness of mental health and the long term effects of heavy drug use on the human brain", then you shouldn't be surprised at the announcement of The Baader Meinhof Phenomenon, currently raising funds through Kickstarter.

The game casts players in the role of a "very damaged" man named Shawn Waters. Five years earlier, Shawn was babysitting his niece Hannah when she mysteriously disappeared, along with four other local children. Blamed by his family and suspected by police, the fallout of this traumatic event drove Shawn to heavy drug abuse. Now two months sober and trying to get his life back in order, Shawn is called back to the village to find out what's become of his brother, who had doggedly continued to pursue the mystery of Hannah's disappearance but has now gone missing himself.

As you guide Shawn through the fictional but realistic 3D village in middle England, you must "wade through the endless questions surrounding the disappearance of the missing children." In doing so, you will soon come to discover that "the secrets in this village are far darker than you had originally thought." Unfortunately for Shawn, his investigation threatens his fragile mental state, as he too blames himself and it's "the manifestation of his guilt and self-loathing that will slowly start to encroach on his reality. It's up to you to find out what really happened and uncover the village's dark secrets before you completely lose your mind."

 


Although there will be situational puzzles to solve along the way, the bulk of the gameplay will be based around talking to the local citizens in this "tightly knit community". There's an evidence wall at Shawn's sister's house that will gradually fill up as you uncover new clues, but you will have to draw the correct inferences yourself in order to solve the mystery. Accusing the wrong person won't end the game, but it will have consequences as you continue to press towards the correct solution.

Aptly named indie developer Bearded Pixel has been busy working full time on the game for the last six months, but in order to complete it, the team is seeking £25,000 by April 3rd through Kickstarter. A limited-time £8 early bird pledge is all that's required to secure a digital copy of the game for Windows, Mac, or Linux as early as December 2015.

To learn more about The Baader Meinhof Phenomenon, visit the Kickstarter page for complete details, and stay tuned for a playable demo still to come before the crowdfunding campaign is over.



3

Mar

It's a common lament among hardcore gamers that new releases just aren't as challenging as they used to be. Well, be careful what you wish for, as the upcoming Perturbia is a horror adventure promising to offer an old-school challenge. First, though, it must overcome a challenge of its own in raising the necessary funds through Kickstarter.

Perturbia casts players in the first-person role of Josh, a man who finds himself trapped in an "old building in the middle of nowhere." Originally unaware of what awaited him inside, as the "doors closed after him, he felt as if he was walking a path straight to hell... That feeling, unfortunately, wasn't far from the truth." When the elevator taking him to the fourth floor suddenly stops and all the lights go out, his reasons for visiting are immediately forgotten. Now his only motivation is escape.


Inspired by cult horror classics like Alone in the Dark, The 7th Guest and Silent Hill, Perturbia is labeled a "survival horror" but the emphasis is clearly on exploration and puzzle-solving. As you freely navigate your way through the building's 35-plus different rooms, you'll encounter a number of difficult puzzles that will offer a challenge to anyone. This is entirely intentional, as the developers have a fondness for the old-school games in which the most satisfaction came from working through the hardest obstacles. But the puzzles aren't the only thing causing trepidation in a story that's been "created and supervised by a team of expert psychologists." There are some dangers to overcome as well, including one minigame-type scenario that hearkens back to the early first-person shooters like Wolfenstein 3D.

In order to complete the game early next year, indie developer Imaginary Game Studio has taken to Kickstarter to raise $18,000 by March 26th. For a limited time, a minimum $15 pledge will earn backers a DRM-free download of the game for PC or Mac. Fortunately, you can try before you buy (so to speak), as there's a playable demo available for PC. Entitled “The Mind Forest”, the demo will introduce you to the game's old-school puzzle-solving sensibilities and includes the FPS minigame scenario.

If you like what you see, you can support Perturbia through its Kickstarter page and vote for the game to be Greenlit on Steam.



2

Mar

Using the interactive medium of adventure gaming as a means to educate rather than just entertain, independent Swedish developer Michael Levall is tackling the contemporary issue of depression in an upcoming game called Please Knock on My Door.

Featuring a gender-neutral character, the game will offer an idea of what it’s like living each day with this debilitating mental illness, and will be partly based on the developer’s own struggles with depression. One of the Levall’s main goals for the game is to convey a “feeling of pointlessness, and the inability to find joy in things such as previous hobbies and everyday situations.”


Rather than a traditional adventure game of exploration and puzzles, this game is a “social commentary” in which players find themselves stuck in the same room day after day, performing various actions (or choosing not to), struggling with despair, loneliness, and certain phobias like the paralyzing fear of spiders. As you perform certain actions while neglecting others, your choices will be tracked behind the scenes and have repercussions; skipping a meal one day, for example, may lead to a negative consequence somewhere down the line. The majority of the game will take place in the protagonist’s apartment, with dreams providing the only means of temporary escape.

Ultimately, the object of Please Knock on My Door is not for players to win at some arbitrary goal and somehow “beat” depression. Rather, the game is designed purely to enlighten players about these conditions. While no firm release date has been set yet, a PC version will be available via Steam before the end of this year. You can follow the game’s development on its Facebook page in the meantime.




February 2015

27

Feb

Normally the phrase "it's a dog's life" isn't considered a good thing, but it is when the canine in question is the star of a new upcoming point-and-click adventure Seventeen Uncles: A Pug's Life, currently seeking funding through Kickstarter.

Life does indeed become pretty rough for Kirk the pug, a "happy family pup and Grub Relations Executive in the local bee-run honey factory, whose life is turned upside down when a deal with the Devil goes horribly wrong following the death of his darling wife Dilys." Now in order to win back his wife's soul, Kirk must venture through a variety of bizarre locations, including a "tattoo studio run by an octopus, a rocket launch site manned by an axolotl astronaut and a massive termite mound cut off from the rest of the world since the end of the great war with the ants." As if that weren't enough, along the way he'll run into a handful of other zany characters such as "occult armadillos, pub crawling sloths, stink selling bats, taxi driving dung beetles and many many more."


A one-man production by indie developer Jonathan Cheetham, the game's 2D hand-drawn graphics clearly show off his artistic inspirations, including LucasArts classics like Sam & Max Hit the Road and cartoons like Rocko’s Modern Life and Adventure Time. According to Cheetham, Seventeen Uncles will be "family friendly without being too sickly sweet and boring, but not afraid to have some darker themes without resorting to excessive violence, gore or foul language." In between the comedic dialogue will be puzzles that are "logical with the fun cartoon nature of the visuals", though if you need some help you can "consult the psychic tick that lives on your head... who, in exchange for a little mammalian blood, will tell your future and give you some puzzle hints."

To this point Seventeen Uncles has been entirely self-funded, but in order to finish it for PC, Mac, and Linux before the end of the year, Cheetham has turned to Kickstarter to raise a modest £3,000 by March 25th. A minimum £7 pledge is all that's required for a downloadable copy of the game upon completion. If you're on the fence, a playable alpha demo for PC is already available for download.

If you like what you see so far, you can help out a puppy in need on the Kickstarter page. You can also drop by the game's official website and vote for it on Steam Greenlight.



23

Feb

First The Last Door, then Ron Gilbert's Thimbleweed Park, and now the upcoming comedy/mystery adventure The Darkside Detective... looks like the chunky pixel is back in style!

The Darkside Detective is Francis McQueen, the "sole member of the criminally underfunded Darkside Division" in Twin Lakes City, a place where "cultists crawl, where demons dwell, where the occult… occults?" Whatever the evil threatening his town, "he’s there, ready to investigate the cases that nobody else will." He'll have several cases to solve here, as rather than presenting a single unified mystery, The Darkside Detective is a "micro-adventure game" consisting of the "most bizarre and obscure cases that come across his desk."


Originally conceived in less than eight hours at the November 2014 Galway Game Jam by Irish indie developers Paul Conway and Christopher Colston, the success of the prototype inspired this full-fledged commercial version, with writer Dave McCabe and composer Ben Prunty joining the expanded DoomCube team. The early screenshots show off the game's distinctive pixel art style, while the trailer highlights McQueen's "humorous bite-size investigations into the occult and extraordinary." But you can do more than just passively observe, as a browser-based demo is already available to play at GameJolt.

Currently in production for PC, smartphones and tablet devices, there is no firm release date scheduled yet for The Darkside Detective, but the game is slated to be completed sometime later this year. In the meantime, you can keep up to date at the game's official website and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.



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