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March 2017



It's a bit early for most of us to be looking for the first leaves of the season, but spring has come early this year in the form of not one but TWO games from German studio ZAR 21 and Daedalic Entertainment.

In LEAVES: The Journey, players arrive on the "high plateau of the Stony Mountains" inhabited by a race of tiny creatures known as the Treefruities. Unfortunately, your appearance causes such a commotion that they let go of their protective leaves, only for a gust of wind to scatter them "all across the lands of Mononino." After exploring this fantastical land to help the Treefruities retrieve their missing leaves, it might seem that all is well. But many years later in LEAVES: The Return, after the Treefruities have moved to a less windy location, their new home tree is "rocked by a giant fit of sneezing" that sends the leaves flying in all directions once again. And so you head out once more, traversing the strange world of Mononino on your second leaf hunt.

Inspired by the likes of Samorost and Machinarium, each LEAVES game sends players through four distinct worlds depicting "real sculptures in a surreal dreamscape." Both are first-person point-and-click adventures, and you can can expect plenty of "challenging puzzles and unique mini games" along the way, as the developer also cites RHEM as a key influence. If for some reason you're interested more in the sequel than the original, The Return can be played as a standalone game with no knowledge of its predecessor.

Both LEAVES: The Journey and LEAVES: The Return are available now on Steam for Windows and Mac.



While most adventure games feature protagonists who are upstanding citizens acting for the greater good, they also involve a fair bit of underhanded manipulation and even rampant kleptomania – the end justifies the means, right? But what if your goals weren't so noble, your intentions not nearly as pure? This is the moral dilemma at the heart of The Low Road, an upcoming indie point-and-click adventure from XGen Studios set in the 1970s world of corporate espionage.

In 1976, Noomi Kovacs (recently graduate of the ominously-acroynmed LeCarre Institute for Exceptional Spies – or L.I.E.S. for short) is hired by the Penderbrook Motors’ Division of Outside Intelligence. It's not a great job, being "confined to an office and underestimated by her gruff supervisor—a disgraced former government agent named Turn," but Noomi has much higher ambitions. To fulfill them, she will need to "exploit her colleagues and surroundings to help further her dream of becoming a globetrotting secret agent." Once operating in the field, however, both "Noomi and Turn begin to realize that their company’s dogged pursuit of their rivals extends to something far more sinister than 'healthy competition' and the two will be forced to reconsider the paths they’ve chosen." In a world where nice guys finish last, "lying, blackmail, and emotional manipulation will become Noomi and Turn’s greatest assets."

The Low Road features a distinctive visual style inspired by gouache paintings and 1970s television, accompanied by an "original score of swirling psychedelia and dusty Americana." Players will control both agents in carrying out top-secret missions, a "fully-voiced cast of spies and civilians joining you and thwarting you in the dark comedy of corporate espionage." The game's more traditional genre elements include numerous puzzles to solve and branching conversations meant to "challenge the player’s deductive and intuitive abilities."

Would-be auto spies don't have much longer to wait, as The Low Road is due out for Windows and Mac on April 20th. While you wait, you can snoop around the game's official website to see if you can dig up any additional details.



If you're up for an intriguing new 3D murder mystery, then look to the north later this year (and probably a little east or west). No no, farther north, WAY north! We're talking Alaska north.

Alaska casts players in the first-person boots of a man living in a remote Alaskan mountain village. It's a small, tight-knit town consisting of "five families, living in their own way, providing for themselves and for their neighbors." They enjoy each other's company and do many things together, whether skating, fishing, or sharing in feasts following a hunt. But all that changes one fateful day when "a body is discovered, murdered, on the town's airstrip... Who do you trust now?"

A free-roaming mystery creating by Wreck Tangle Games' solo UK developer Adam Reed, Alaska introduces players to a day-in-the-life of this rugged but seemingly quaint and hospitable setting, with important tasks to perform such as wood chopping and turning on generators when necessary. After the murder, however, the stakes are raised and the game becomes more of a thriller in nature, as anyone could be the killer, and surely it's possible they might strike again if you're not careful. Along the way there will be some basic puzzles to solve and "minimal" action elements incorporated into the otherwise adventure-oriented gameplay.

There is currently no firm timeframe for the release of Alaska, but Reed is hoping to complete the game for PC sometime in 2017. To follow the game's progress in the coming months, pop over to the official website for additional details.



If you're planning for March break on a budget, you might want to consider the Wild Unknown as your target destination, as the first-person 3D indie adventure has just released on PC.

Wild Unknown sees players awaken in a "beautiful yet foreboding forest" with no memory of how you came to be there. Cue the adventure gaming spirit, as "frightened and confused, you venture off into the strange wilderness to search for help and quickly come to the uneasy realization that nothing is as it seems." The deeper you explore, the more you realize that "the forest hides many secrets and a past that is both morally suspect and deeply intertwined with your own." In order to flesh out the mystery, you must "use what others have left behind to solve problems, access new areas, and discover how deep the rabbit hole goes." And in the end, it will be your choices that determine how the story concludes.

The creation of indie developer Joe Sansone, Wild Unknown is a free-roaming adventure that allows players to "collect important items, solve environmental puzzles, and piece together the narrative in a variety of ways." But it also promises to ask important questions along the way, tackling issues such as "human nature and consciousness, the significance of intent, and the possibility of redemption." How you interpret the story will impact your decisions, which in turn will lead to one of "numerous endings, some of which are very difficult to discover."

Willing and able explorers need not wait to tame this Wild Unknown, as the game is available now for Windows PC download on Steam.



The threat of apocalypse is no laughing matter... unless you're sci-fi author Nicholas Brakespear, whose upcoming text adventure The Pilgrimage takes place a thousand years after Earth as we know it was destroyed. If that doesn't sound funny, wait 'til you get a load of the details of this interactive "hangover odyssey."

While most end-of-the-world stories take place in the immediate aftermath, in The Pilgrimage mankind has begun to rebuild (or at least, get on with things). The planet is still a mess – a literal "burning sea" – but you have more important things to worry about: namely, that "you woke up in the pub with a massive hangover; that the landlord claims you owe him money... and that you don't have any. Oh, and the police think you murdered someone." And so begins a tale that blends comedy and tragedy and includes "incompetent heists, murder investigations, pirate attacks, ancient tomb ships, vast cities... and the nightmarish resurgence of repressed memories."

The Pilgrimage aims to find the sweet spot between pure choose-your-own-adventure-style gameplay and old school text adventures. You'll still type in commands using a "forgiving text parser" to proceed, but the experience promises to be a "more streamlined and plot-driven experience than traditional Zork-clones." Navigation will rely solely on environmental clues, rather than the usual "dungeon-like grid of rooms. How do you know which way is north? You don't. There is no north. Go through the door instead, or look at a signpost to follow directions." Character interactions will include branching dialogues, the ability to ask questions, and a more RPG-inspired "personal reputation" system. Other features include an inventory that lets you combine items, a journal chronicling events along the way, and a quasi-real-time clock, with "certain events and NPCs appearing only at certain times of day, and others happening to the player if they take too long."

If you think you have what it takes to tackle a "fully-fledged interactive novel," you can get an early sample from the playable demo that's already available. Those who like what they see can support The Pilgrimage on Steam Greenlight, and if the response is sufficient, there's a chance the game will get "voice-overs for major narrative elements."

The release date for The Pilgrimage is still undecided, but Brakespear is "hoping" to complete it sometime in 2018. That's a long time to wait, but in the meantime you can follow its progress through the developer's blog.



We're all pretty used to sci-fi stories about humans dealing with AIs gone awry. But what if it were the other way around? In Not Human Games' upcoming Clarisse, players will step into the circuits of the titular artificial intelligence when the game is released later this year.

While little has been revealed about the story so far, you are the creation of Dr. Matt, who believes this technological advancement will change the world significantly for the better. After activating yourself in a science facility, you will carry out a variety of tasks in order to "help and support" the doctor in his final adjustments. In doing so, you will begin to evolve and "feel like an AI that is learning things about the world that surrounds it." As you utilize different built-in mechanics and experience new narrative experiences, you will be given the opportunity to "know more about the experiment, Dr. Matt and even yourself."

While an AI simulation is high-tech, Clarisse's design aesthetic is quite the opposite. The chunky pixel art should come as no surprise, as the Spanish studio behind the game was founded by two of the artists who worked on the survival sim Gods Will Be Watching. The game plays out in first-person(?) using simple point-and-click mechanics to perform your expanding duties and solve puzzles along the way.

Clarisse's unique gameplay approach may be difficult to describe, but there's really no need as a playable demo is already available for Windows PC on either Game Jolt or The final game is coming later this year, though no firm release date has yet been announced. In the meantime, you can stay up to date on the official website.



Mobile-exclusive adventures have been relatively rare thus far, but one of the games hoping to change that trend is After the End: Forsaken Destiny, a 3D environmental puzzler just released for iOS and Android devices.

While story details are sparse, After the End casts players in the dual roles of father and son, who find themselves separated not by space but by time. Each on a parallel journey across "a breathtaking, ancient world rendered with shades of natural light," the two heroes will be confronted by increasingly challenging puzzles along the way. Players will have full character and 360-degree camera control to navigate the landscape, while using "varied touch control mechanics" to manipulate the environment and solve the "elaborate centerpiece puzzles" standing in the way.

The trailer and screenshots for After the End show off its stylish 3D visuals and demonstrate a number of the many hazards to be overcome, requiring players to "turn hidden levers and press secret switches to create new pathways." Explorable settings promise to include sun-swept landscapes, massive ruins and dark temples, among others. Scattered throughout will be ancient stone fragments, which you'll collect in order to "rebuild statues honoring your ancestors."

After the End: Forsaken Destiny is available to download now, on both the App Store for iOS and Google Play for Android.

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