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September 2016

8

Sep

Remember Dark City? The cult favourite sci-fi movie featured a place called Shell Beach that everyone wanted to visit but no one actually seemed able to reach. Well, Isoland may not quite be Shell Beach, but it's certainly inspired by it, and now anyone with an iOS device can book passage there.

Isoland, as its title suggests, is set on an isolated island whose inhabitants can't actually remember "how they got there or why they stay." Players assume the role of a researcher responding to a request for help from a friend. Upon your arrival, however, you "realize all too late that you, too, are now trapped." Although beautiful and seemingly peaceful from afar, the island conceals many secrets it doesn't want exposed. To piece together the truth behind the island, you will need to keep your wits about you and solve the many complex obstacles you encounter in your investigation.


Although described by indie Chinese developer RedFish Game Studio as being "in the vein of the original Myst", Isoland's aesthetic is anything but Myst-like, with hand-drawn graphics "made of crooked lines, off-kilter perspectives, and a muted color palette." The similarity comes in the form of its first-person perspective and varied puzzles that promise to be "often quite difficult" – so potentially difficult, in fact, that while hints will be "free after watching a short ad", actual puzzle solutions will be offered as in-app purchases.

All this brain teasing goodness is available only to iOS platform owners for now, as Isoland releases today exclusively on the App Store.



2

Sep

Like the red-shirt security officers on Star Trek, being a pioneer colonist on an alien planet in an adventure game is pretty much a death sentence. Whether that is true once again in Pulsetense Games' newly-released De-Void remains to be seen, but one thing's for sure: something has gone seriously wrong on the distant planet Ancyra, and it'll be up to you to find out what.

As Elizabeth Woolgather, a Human Resources specialist for the company financing the outpost on Ancyra, you are sent to determine what caused the station to suddenly cease all communication. Once there, you discover that the crew has disappeared under mysterious circumstances – but not entirely, as "the station and its surroundings still echo with their thoughts and emotions." As you investigate the colony through the eyes of an A.I. cyborg named Wilco, you must interpret these memory fragments to piece together what happened. But expect "no easy answers", as the more you delve into the mystery, the more a "confrontation with a presence both ancient and impossibly vast becomes inevitable and unavoidable."


Described as a "story-driven meditative journey of exploration, investigation and discovery", De-Void will send players through a variety of crisp 3D locations, including "highly detailed space stations, alien forests, deserts, colony settlements and military installations." At each stop, you will encounter left-behind crew videos, audio and text logs that will gradually reveal a tale that "on the surface [...] is a tale of humanity lost in the depths of space, but beneath the surface lies a complex psychological story of conspiracy, betrayal, and madness."

If you're interested in boldly going where bad things have happened before, there's no need to wait, as De-Void is available now for Windows download on Steam and the Humble Store.




August 2016

30

Aug

Alice VR, as the title rather bluntly suggests, is inspired by Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland and designed for virtual reality. So far, so straightforward. However, Polish developers Carbon Studio have also got a pretty major twist up their sleeves: sci-fi. Anxious white rabbits and grinning cats are replaced by interstellar spaceships and robots, and the rabbit hole's more metaphorical than literal, but hopefully the scent of fantastical adventure will remain when the game is released later this year.

Playing (naturally) as Alice, you're peacefully cryosleeping your way to the next stop on your latest mission for the Interstellar Corporation when you're rudely awakened by your ship's AI. Low on graphene (a vital fuel component), there's no choice but to head down to the isolated desert planet Speculo to find more. There's even a settlement there, Mirabilis, but – stop me if you've heard this one before – it turns out to be mysteriously abandoned, filled with nothing but sun-bleached skeletons and some still-functioning droids. What happened, what can you do about it, and can you stay alive long enough to find that graphene?


Based on the screenshots and trailers released so far, the Unreal-powered 3D graphics look fabulous: the city of Mirabilis towers above the desert, equal parts technological wonder and shantytown. The game is intended to be a peaceful explorative-style experience, free of scares or time pressure. Over three hours or so of playtime, we're promised Wonderland-inspired puzzles (for example, requiring Alice to grow and shrink), variable gravity that lets her walk on walls, and multiple paths that impact Speculo's future. The developers also suggest that it'll take at least two runs through to tease out the whole story of what happened to Mirabilis.

Alice VR is scheduled to land this October, for Rift, Vive, OSVR and plain old Windows if you haven't made the leap to VR yet, as it can also be played on a regular monitor. If you want to know more, you can hop on over to the official website for complete details.



29

Aug

When it comes to videogames, the only thing scarier than being all alone in the dark is the possibility that you might not be. In a new psychological horror adventure from Deceptive Games, that very question is at the heart of ALONE?

ALONE? thrusts players in the first-person role of a man named Sam, who returns to the hostel where he was raised after receiving a troubling letter from his sister, asking for his help. While that's it for concrete story details so far, we know that Sam gets more than he bargained for in his homecoming as he soon finds himself an unwitting captive. Simply surviving the ordeal will become a challenge as you attempt to help Sam "track down [his] missing sister, and discover the strange occurrences happening at the home where he grew up."


Adding to the nightmarish circumstances is the fact the the world will dynamically change around you in deliberately unnerving ways. As you freely explore the high resolution 3D environments, it will be easy to "get lost amongst the darkness", and in order to succeed you must collect items that will aid in your survival along the way. According to the developers, there are four different endings available depending on how events play out.

Although there is no firm timeline for the game's final version, the budget-priced ALONE? is available now for Windows, Mac, and Linux on Steam Early Access. A VR version is also being planned for release on HTC Vive sometime down the line. To follow the game's progress in the coming months, you can learn more at the official website.



28

Aug

Whoever said slackers never achieve anything might just change their mind after playing Elroy and the Aliens, a point-and-click adventure currently in production by the decidedly hard-working Slovenian developer Motiviti.

Inspired by games like Day of the Tentacle and Saturday morning cartoons like Tom and Jerry, Elroy and the Aliens follows the story of the eponymous protagonist, a consummate slacker and aspiring scientist who stumbles upon a plan by aliens to destroy the Earth. It will be up to players to help Elroy and his sidekick Peggie, who first told him of this diabolical plan, get to the bottom of the conspiracy and hopefully prevent catastrophe.


As the screenshots and trailer vividly illustrate, the developers have confirmed that the art and “most of” the animation will be hand-drawn in a colorful cartoon style. Likewise, the music will be produced in-house as well. Played from a third-person, 2.5D perspective, the game is being optimized for a touch-screen interface while also supporting mouse controls. Players are promised a story full of slapstick humor and a variety of puzzles to solve along the way, ranging from “touch-friendly full screen” challenges to more traditional adventure game fare such as logic and inventory puzzles. In addition, there will be some mild action-based “running” sequences in which Elroy must dodge obstacles in his path while moving along a pre-determined course.

The release plans for Elroy and the Aliens are extensive, with Motiviti planning initial launch sometime in 2017 for Windows, Mac, and Linux, with a concurrent PlayStation Vita version also possible. This will be followed by an as-yet-unspecified arrival on iOS and Android platforms. For more information about the game in the meantime, check out its official webpage.



27

Aug

Ever since its stunning debut announcement as a PlayStation exclusive back in 2013, RiME has been one of the more highly anticipated titles for fans of open world adventures. And yet with so few updates in the last couple years, is there cause for concern that the project has been shelved? Not so! In fact, the game is gearing up for a 2017 release, this time across multiple platforms with a couple of new publishers in tow.

RiME is a "puzzle adventure game" starring a young boy who finds himself stranded on a mysterious island after being shipwrecked in a terrible storm. That's about it for story specifics so far, but exploration will be key as "players must use their wits to decipher the challenges and secrets of an expansive world strewn with rugged terrain, wild creatures and the crumbling ruins of a long-forgotten civilization."


Created by Tequila Works, RiME has a presentation similar to the highly-acclaimed Journey, featuring a "subtle narrative, colorful cel-shaded artwork and a sweeping score". Players can freely explore the 3D island, and its "dynamic" puzzle-soving means that "you are integral to how puzzles are solved and with the help of a mysterious artifact you can manipulate the environment and even time itself."

The bad news about RiME is that we won't be seeing the finished game until sometime in 2017. The good news is that Grey Box and Six Foot will now be joining forces to publish it when the time comes. And with Sony no longer the driving force behind the game, we can now expect to see it on more than one platform, though specific details won't be revealed until early next year.



26

Aug

With all due respect to Johnny Cash, the boy named Sue ain't got nuthin' on indie developer Steve Gabry's boy named Sally Face, the star of a new episodic series that just debuted on Windows and Mac.

Having what is traditionally a girl's name is just one of the titular character's unusual traits, as he also happens to have "blue pigtails, a prosthetic face and a mysterious past." As you can imagine, these might present certain hurdles for a teenager, and indeed the series will be about Sally "dealing with the many oddities and hardships in his life." The first episode, called Strange Neighbors, sees Sally and his father "move into a new apartment filled with odd tenants and an unfortunate crime scene."

Described as a "casual, story-driven" adventure, the side-scrolling Sally Face is controlled either by keyboard or gamepad. In all other respects, however, the gameplay sounds quite traditional, as you must "interact with different objects in the environment, collect inventory items, talk to NPCs and solve puzzles." Gabry has five episodes planned for the first "season" of Sally Face adventures. Each installment will be quite short, offering less than an hour of gameplay to parallel a television cartoon, and will have its own central narrative focus, though with a larger story arc connecting the episodes together.

Episode One - Strange Neighbors is available now for Windows and Mac exclusively on itch.io.



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