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November 2016



We adventurers love to gallivant across the world, battling dastardly criminals, unearthing mystical artifacts and having amusing misunderstandings with the locals. For all that globe-trotting, though, the Dark Continent of Africa remains relatively unexplored. With their upcoming mobile VR title Rangi, Moroccan indie studio Funsoft is looking to change that, offering a chance to explore the culture, folklore and mythology of the cradle of civilisation.

The Nchi live in harmony with the land thanks to the kindly music giants that watch over them. Unfortunately, the neighbouring Zuluki have hatched a plan to steal the giants' energy, bringing discord and leaving them disoriented and lost. Balance must be restored, and it's your job to undo the damage, replenish their energy and overcome the saboteurs.

Based on the short pre-alpha trailer, Funsoft's vision of Africa looks sun-drenched if minimalist, featuring a warm but blocky stone temple with primitive art and symbology breaking up otherwise textureless walls. Even if the style is at least partly driven by the limitations of mobile VR, it's an attractive look. The music is similarly warm, gentle and rhythmically tribal. We're promised a "poetic and mystical experience" that incorporates the native art into challenging" puzzles and encourages players to explore and interact with a rich environment.  

Rangi is due to be unleashed in early 2017 for Gear VR, and hopefully other VR platforms down the line. If you want to explore further, you can venture over to the official website to learn more.



If you're an up-and-coming puzzle-adventure, you can do a lot worse than to name-drop the likes of Myst and The Witness as inspirations. That's heady company and a worthy goal for The Artist, a minimalist puzzler from indie one-man developer Motoda Media coming later this month.

Players will find themselves thrust into the titular artist's "canvas world," in which you must "solve the strange puzzles scattered across his island to find a way back home." Failure to do so will result in being trapped there forever. Along the way, you will discover hidden journals to read that will provide clues to this mysterious world, and perhaps your unwilling imprisonment in it.

Although the "devious puzzles" built into the game's open-world environment is indeed reminiscent of Myst, the full 3D exploration and stylized presentation hew closer to The Witness in design, taken to a more minimalist extreme of angular shapes and blocks of colour here, as seen in the screenshots and trailer. The action is backed up with an orchestral score to provide welcome atmosphere in this solitary first-person experience.

There's not long to wait for The Artist's budget-priced release, as the game is already finished for PC, with the developer promising "full VR compatability for both the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive." Mac and Linux ports are also possible in future. For now, the game is seeking traction on Steam Greenlight with the goal of releasing sometime in November.



From tech implants gone wrong to hypnotic suggestion to mind-altering drugs, human memory seems to be a precious commodity in many dystopian-future sci-fi tales. This is true once again in the Void & Meddler trilogy, which promises to blow your mind in more ways than one with the recent release of the second installment, Lost in a night loop.

Void & Meddler first debuted a year ago, introducing the story of a young woman named Fyn who is suffering from amnesia. Why she has no recollection of this time, we don't know, as co-developers no CVT and Black Muffin want players to feel the "frustration" of not knowing what has happened. What we do know is that, "tired of the last two years she spent wandering without a goal and without memories, among disenchanted strangers, and pitiless scavengers," Fyn decides she's had enough. In this "single night intrusion into Fyn's life and hopes," the game gives players just "a few hours to make things right, and seek strong, pure and substantial memories. In a city where genders and species melt into each other, maybe she’ll find the long lost touch of humanity missing from her life."

While promising plenty of traditional 2D point-and-click adventuring, including "old school mechanics" like inventory and multiple interaction menus, Void & Meddler also offers different ways to resolve certain puzzles, as well as variable story elements that impact how each of the six acts (across three episodes) will end. But the main focus of the game is neither story nor gameplay, but rather the atmospheric "fragments and details, rainy nights and blurry lights." Inspired by the likes of Philip. K. Dick, William Gibson, David Cronenberg, Shinya Tsukamoto and Gregg Araki, the developers have deliberately set out to create a world "full of fuzz literature, pixel music and analog dreams." Emphasized by the "sound and fury of organic bass and aggressive synthesizers," each episode is meant to be "packed with psychedelic detail that plunges the player into the deepest thoughts of this unsympathetic character."

If you're sufficiently confused and intrigued, that's precisely the point of the Void & Meddler experience. To learn more about the game (or rather, to become even more intentionally bewildered), check out its official website. Last year's first episode, Nobody likes the smell of reality, can be purchased as a standalone episode on Steam, but the second (and upcoming third) installments are only available as part of a full-season pass.



In contrast to all the dark, dreary, fear-inducing horror titles emerging this time of year is NAIRI, a game that is "trying to make everyone's world a little happier." That uplifting goal certainly seemed to resonate with people, as this "cute" point-and-click adventure with "adorable visuals, compelling characters and engaging puzzles" has just met its crowdfunding target on Kickstarter.

NAIRI tells the story of two unlikely heroes who find themselves thrust together under extraordinary circumstances. There's the titular young girl, a skeptical and stubborn upper-class child whose life has been extremely sheltered until she is suddenly separated from her family and cast out into the city slums. There Nairi meets Rex, a charismatic rat and "notorious criminal-turned-scholar." While specific story details are still sparse, we know that "together they adventure through the animal-inhabited oasis city of Shirin" as they uncover its "dark history and mysteries."

Described by indie Dutch developer HomeBearStudio as a "child-friendly story with subtly mature themes, inspired by works such as The Last Airbender, Toy Story and Spirited Away, the lighter, more whimsical tone of NAIRI's story is "juxtaposed with a strong focus on character development and a darker overarching theme." The "adorable visuals" are done in a vivid painterly style that brings Shirin to life. Carefully constructed around the development of a mysterious tower, Shirin comprises a number of unique districts and inhabitants, from the Royal Palace to public bazaars to dark ruins and crypts.

While much of the gameplay above ground will include inventory gathering and character interaction, with certain choices affecting the path each player's story will take, the dungeons promise to be "more puzzle-oriented than the overworld" and therefore more challenging. Fortunately, Rex's journal serves as a hint system, and a map system will help prevent any disorientation. In fact, the developers have stated their clear intent to avoid the usual genre pitfalls like pixel-hunting, backtracking, and obtuse puzzles.

Freshly bolstered by more than €7,500 through its Kickstarter campaign, HomeBearStudio can now buckle down with an eye to completing the game by its targeted PC release date of March 2017. In the meantime, you can follow NAIRI's progress through the developer's website.



What would you do if you found yourself trapped on a creepy space station with nothing but a computer to help you escape? That is the premise of Code 7, a very atypical, text-based, five-episode adventure game which recently received funding on Kickstarter.

Created by two-man German developer Goodwolf Studio, Code 7 tells the story of Alex, a hacker who finds himself on a space station with quite literally nothing but a computer to enable him to interact with the systems and other characters. Episode 0: Allocation, an hour-long prologue (designed as a rapid-prototyping project at Cologne Game Lab and available free from GameJolt), introduces the series’ intriguing hacking-based gameplay.

As you use DOS-like commands to access systems, bypass security doors, and communicate with Sam, a woman who is trapped with you on the station, you come to realize that all robots at the facility seem to be under the influence of a malevolent AI entity called S.O.L.I. As you help each other and uncover more information, it becomes clear that something known only as Code 7 is at the center of the mystery, and it will be up to you and your companion to find out what it is. Future episodes will introduce other characters to interact with, and the decisions you make during the game will influence their relationships with you and the outcome of each episode, leading to multiple endings in which some characters may not survive.

A variety of puzzle types are promised, and several are showcased in the prologue. Sometimes all that is needed is a log-in name and password, and your job is to find it, either in the system or by directing Sam to search for it in her location. Other times, you will have to hack a system using a graphical mini-game or help your companion bypass dangerous entities or situations by directing them on a mini-map. Other obstacles include balancing air pressure in two corridors or the energy in a system in order to gain access to another area.

Surprisingly for a text game, Code 7 is fully voice-acted and features both sound effects and a musical score. Much more traditionally for Interactive Fiction, players will use the keyboard to input commands and navigate the game, but those for whom typing is awkward or frustrating will be happy to know that an autocomplete feature and fairly forgiving timed sequences means that even slow typists are likely to find success.

The first episode of Code 7 is scheduled to arrive on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms in April 2017. While the crowdsourcing effort is now complete, those who missed out can still preorder a season pass at $14.99 or glean more information about the upcoming series by heading to the Kickstarter page and the game’s official website.

October 2016



Halloween parties are always fun and games until someone loses a tail... Wait, what? Well, yes, the stakes are a little different in SeaLeft Studios' Sleuthhound series, comprised completely of anthropomorphic animals. In the newest release, The Halloween Deception, players will be called upon to stop a costume party's pranks from spinning dangerously out of control.

Bram Tender is throwing the annual Halloween bash for his Novelty Company employees, but when things take a particularly wicked turn, detectives Pureluck Homes and Jane Ampson are urgently summoned to intervene. But this is not your usual mystery, as "our peerless private investigators must put a stop to practical jokes gone too far: itching powder allergies, critical banana slippage, silly string suffocation, and chattering vampire teeth." In order to save the day, the intrepid duo must "win the Halloween contests and ferret out the perpetrator all before the party ends with a bang."

Like its predecessors, The Halloween Deception features hand-drawn, cartoon-styled graphics, full voice acting, and intuitive point-and-click mechanics. As its trailer suggests, there will be a wide variety of bizarre characters to interact with, puzzles to solve, and minigames to complete, including Halloween favourites like bobbing for apples and pumpkin carving.

Originally created as a freeware series, Sleuthhounds first ventured into commercial territory with another holiday-themed adventure earlier this year, called The Valentine's Vendetta. As with that game, The Halloween Deception is being sold exclusively for PC through on a pay-what-you-want basis, with a minimum $3.99 fee.

For more about the game, as well as download links to the other Sleuthhounds mysteries, check out the series website for additional details.



Of all the possible horrors associated with being standed alone in space, it's perhaps the terrors of the mind that are the most dangerous. We'll find out soon enough whether that's true again in Tether, an indie sci-fi thriller from Freesphere Entertainment coming sometime next year.

Tether is set in "dilapidated science fiction" future in which the moon has been destroyed and Earth is dying from the natural disasters that ensue. The only hope for mankind's survival is colonization on a terraformed Mars, an undertaking driven by the newly-formed United Environmental Federation. Players control Lesleigh Hayes, a Biological Research Assistant for the UEF, on her "first deep space voyage to Mars." The trip will be far more eventful than she ever imagined, however. With her thoughts turning to the children she left behind, "as catastrophic events unfold on the UEF Sonne, Lesleigh is forced to survive the psychological horrors of isolation in deep space."

While gameplay specifics are fairly scarce at this point, the first trailer shows off the atmospheric 3D environments, in which the developers claim that "exploration and puzzle solving will be the main gameplay features driving the narrative forward throughout the game." Yet even as Lesleigh deals with the physical challenges around her, she must also grapple with her emotions as a mother, raising questions about the consequences of her choices and their impact on her children.

Currently in development for Windows, Mac and Linux for release sometime in 2017, it's possible the game may also support VR headsets at launch. In the meantime, you can vote for Tether on Steam Greenlight and visit the official website to learn more.

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