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February 2015

16

Feb

Back in 2013, you may have come across an online demo of a game called Stairs, a psychological first-person horror adventure in the vein of Amnesia. Now indie Swedish developer GreyLight Entertainment has turned to Kickstarter to complete work on a full-fledged commercial game by the same name. Though not a remake or extension of the original demo, it expounds on the concept of telling dark tales of man’s inhumanity toward man, all in the context of a chilling horror narrative.

Stairs tells the story of Christopher Adams, a journalist tracking three missing persons whose disappearances all appear to be connected to an old, abandoned factory. Upon examining the site, Christopher comes across some enigmatic stairs, leading down… but down to where? The team is hesitant to give away too many details, but as Chris descends further, he (and the player) will experience various dark and creepy stories, a new one on each floor. These surreal vignettes are set in various locations and will all be based on disturbing real-world events. As the developers claim, “We want to remind you of just how disturbed and depraved humanity can be. Stairs is that reminder.”


Adding another wrinkle to the gameplay, players will be able to utilize three tools to help them get the most out of the gameplay-driven narrative. Christopher’s photo camera lets him see otherwise invisible things and interact with objects in the environment via some supernatural influence. His video camera and tape recorder have more of a storytelling function; players may choose a location in each level to leave the camera or recorder, and retrieve them later in the hopes that they’ve chosen wisely and captured something of interest.

With a release date planned for July 2015, GreyLight has their hopes set on raising $30,000 via Kickstarter by March 18th. All those interested in making the descent this summer will be able to reserve a digital copy of the PC-only release starting at $7 for a limited time.



15

Feb

Being an identical twin could have its perks in an adventure game, but it could also lead to danger if your sibling is in trouble and pleads for your help before suddenly disappearing. That is the premise of Mirrored, an upcoming episodic mystery series from indie developers Ozan Civit and Cardboard Sword.

Mirrored casts players in the role of a man named Rob, who gets a phone call from his twin brother Nick, an anthropologist he hasn't seen for several years. Making out only garbled words like "they're coming", Rob rushes to his brother's office. But Nick is already gone, and now it's up to you to "reveal the truth about his dark connections and conspiracies weaved around you." As you begin to unravel the "enigma of the green mask", you must investigate your brother's connection to the theoretical physicist Dr. Richard Hudson and stay a step ahead of the secret operatives that are trying to track you down.


The series will consist of three individual episodes, each containing motion comic-style cinematics and a single first-person setting that can be explored thoroughly by rotating the camera 360-degrees around you. Accompanied by an original soundtrack, each installment should offer 45-75 minutes worth of investigative gameplay, including item collection and a variety of story-driven puzzles.

Mirrored was originally planned only for iOS platforms, but now the developers have set their sights on a PC/Mac version as well, for which they've launched a Steam Greenlight page. The first chapter is scheduled for release on iPhone and iPad this March, with the final two episodes to be completed before year's end. There is currently no firm launch date set for the debut PC/Mac port, but if all goes well we could be seeing it by the third quarter of 2015.



12

Feb

Many players expected to find horrific secrets lurking in the deserted Greenbriar home in 2013's Gone Home, only to discover a surprisingly poignant modern familial drama instead. The prospect is certainly compelling, however, and now a new indie developer comprised of experienced industry veterans is running with that Gone Home-meets-horror game concept in the upcoming House of Caravan.

House of Caravan casts players in the role of a young boy named Lester Bernard, who "awakes in the titular mansion with little knowledge of how he got there or why – other than vague memories of a kidnapping" at the hands of strangers on his way to school. In order to discover his role in the abduction and escape his predicament, over the course of one night Lester must thoroughly explore his surroundings, digging deeply for clues and solving a variety of environmental puzzles along the way.


Described as a "novel take on the room escape genre", House of Caravan takes place in the early 20th century and is set entirely in a single mansion in the fictional northeast American town of Candlewood. There players will find a "dark and twisted narrative to uncover, inspired by Edgar Allen Poe and classic horror films." Rendered in realtime 3D, the mansion promises to be "littered with lore and puzzles that, under the right scrutiny, may reveal the sinister history of the Caravan family." In keeping with the single setting, however, it won't be a long adventure, offering just a couple hours of exploration.

While the game's Spanish developer, Rosebud Games, may not mean much to people, the team's past credits include the likes of Silent Hill: Origins, F.E.A.R. Extraction Point and The Witcher, so their horror bonafides are certainly well established. We'll see how they fare with the adventuring when the game is released for PC and Mac sometime this spring. To learn more in the meantime, drop by the game's official website.



8

Feb

It's been nearly 200 years since Mary Shelley brought Frankenstein to life, but two centuries later her creation is still raising ethical questions about humanity and inspiring artists to explore them, such as Niklas Hallin in his upcoming point-and-click adventure, Belladonna.

When the titular Belladonna and her husband, doctor Wolfram von Trauerschloss, are left grieving the loss of their young child, the doctor "launches into a dark obsession, devoting his life to the quest of conquering death. The madness spreads and Belladonna is soon dragged into the despair, but the tale takes surprising turns as the dead are brought back to life and the living are not to be trusted." The game casts players in the role of a "corpse girl rising from the dead in an abandoned laboratory" who must now "unravel the mysteries concerning [her] own death and reanimation."


Described as a "mystery point-and-click adventure in classic style", Belladonna itself has been brought to life by just one man, indie Swedish developer Niklas Hallin. This "twisted and dark" gothic adventure is not a Hollywood-style horror game, but rather an eerie exploration of the "place beyond life and death [that] puts you into the mind of the unliving creatures and their worldviews." Progressing through the story will involve reading some "longer texts which are inspired in style by Mary Shelley's novel" and grappling with themes such as the role of villains and heroes and moral value systems.

While there is currently no firm launch date scheduled yet for Belladonna, the best news of all is that after two years of development, the game is now complete. To learn more while you wait, drop by the game's official website, and to help hasten its release you can vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.



7

Feb

While we're still waiting on the first full adventure to make use of Senscape's Dagon engine, now we can look forward to another in the form of Seclusion: Islesbury.

Seclusion stars Jason Endel, a detective whose wife disappeared nine years earlier, only to turn up dead in a car crash five years later. Still tormented by this unsolved mystery, Endel heads to the nearly deserted town of Islesbury when his wife's name is referenced in newly discovered clues to a murder investigation. For Jason this is "more than a murder case, it's a chance to come to terms with his wife's death and to make his life bearable again." But closure won't be easy in this "town with an infamous past", as there will be "a lot more to this journey then simply solving the secrets behind a few murders. Things are always worse than they seem to be in this world."

Much like Asylum, Seclusion will be a first-person, node-based adventure that allows 360-degree panning at each realistically detailed stop, which range from "desolate apartments to lonely streets, dark woods to dangerous cliffs, and more." Created by small Turkish developer Silent Game House, the game's fictional town was largely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's New England settings, and though no timeline is specified, events occur before the spread of mobile phone technology, an important detail in emphasizing the protagonist's loneliness in Islesbury.

There is no firm release date scheduled yet for Seclusion: Islesbury, but if all goes well we could see the game launched sometime this summer. In the meantime, keep your eye on the official website for more information.



5

Feb

“If you can Google, you can play."

That may sound like a strange qualification for a video game, but not when the game is Her Story, an upcoming live-action, non-linear crime story in which you must piece together evidence exclusively through filmed interview archives.

In Her Story, your own computer becomes a police terminal that allows access to seven different 1994 video interviews in which "a British woman is interviewed by detectives about her missing husband." Instead of merely viewing the video footage passively, however, in order to find relevant details you must "type search queries and the database returns clips of the answers where the woman speaks those words."


While the investigative concept may be simple, indie developer Sam Barlow, perhaps best known to adventure gamers as the writer/designer of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, claims that "it’s a mechanic that quickly reveals its richness and complexity. At times it can feel like you’re engaged in a genuine dialogue with this woman and her story. It’s a unique way to interact with a narrative, a sculptural way of viewing a story – and something that can only be done interactively.”

When asked about the actual objective, Barlow responded that "there is a end-game of sorts, triggered somewhat organically", but that the focus isn't on "solving the case" so much as exploring the suspect (played by actress/musician Viva Seifert) and scenario more deeply. It's a very personal process, as he went on to note: "What's fun about the game is that some players might get the 'specifics' of the crime quite quickly, so they're playing a Columbo style story where you know the who but perhaps not the why. Others might get a conventional whodunnit if they unravel the story more linearly, etc. It's fascinating how robust stories can be, how they can cope with being rearranged quite dramatically."

There is currently no firm release date for Her Story, but the game is due to arrive soon on PC, Mac and iOS devices. If you'd like to see it available on Steam, you can vote for the game now on Greenlight.



4

Feb

First-person puzzlers are making a comeback! Though unlike in Myst's heyday, they're often done in real-time 3D these days. The latest in the new crop of exploration- and puzzle-based adventures is Pneuma: Breath of Life, which is set to debut later this month.

The titular Pneuma is a god who witnesses the "genesis of the universe" in a "narrated story of self-discovery, exploring the fundamental nature of being." If you think that's hard to wrap your brain around, you're all set for the game, which promises to be a "difficult puzzler designed to force players to think outside the box and explore beyond what they know as reality."


The game's real-time 3D environments are powered by the Unreal Engine 4, and Pneuma's "comical self-obsessed inner monologue" will be voiced by actor Jay Britton. Gameplay promises to consist of a "series of environmental challenges that require perception, observation, and lateral thinking skills to succeed." As a god, you'll be able to overcome obstacles through your ability to "lift bridges, rotate platforms and move entire rooms all with the power of your mind."

A collaboration between British teams Deco Digital and Bevel Studios, Pneuma is already well along in production. In fact, the game is due to be released as a timed Xbox One downloadable exclusive on February 27th. But non-Xboxers fear not, as the game is also planned for PC with Oculus Rift support. There is currently no firm timetable for the PC port, but it has already been successfully Greenlit on Steam. While you wait, you can learn more about the game through the official website.



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