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April 2015

7

Apr

The Cold War may be over, but the Russians could still have a few tricks up their sleeves – or at least hidden away in underground bunkers. We'll soon get to find out for themselves, as indie developer Nightly Studios has just announced its upcoming comic adventure, Bunker: The Underground Game.

Bunker stars Otto Thompson, a young hipster seeking a date through an online ad. Unfortunately for Otto, the "beautiful girl he chatted with turns out to be a hairy Russian dude." Before long, Otto finds himself kidnapped and waking up in "what just might be the oddest Soviet era bunker he has ever been unwillingly dragged to." In order to escape his predicament, preferably without starting a nuclear World War 3, Otto must "struggle with old Russian technology and ponder cultural differences" in solving puzzles as "things take [one] ridiculous turn after another, until the inevitable epic confrontation with the final boss."


Given its political sensibilities, it should come as no surprise that Bunker is itself a retro point-and-click adventure, inspired by the great LucasArts classics and promising a mix of "old school puzzles with new school twists". Jokingly referred to as "episodic" yet really just a single standalone adventure, Bunker will nevertheless be fairly short, providing an expected 2-4 hours of play time.

There is currently no firm release date scheduled, but look for Bunker: The Underground Game to be completed sometime this year for PC, with Mac and Linux versions to follow.




March 2015

21

Mar

The American south is becoming an increasingly popular adventure game destination following the success of Kentucky Route Zero. The next stop is Cypress Knee, Florida, home to an upcoming new adventure series called Knee Deep.

A murder mystery set in the swampy backwoods of Florida, the game will let players control three unique characters, the “cheeky blogger Romana Teague, beleaguered local newspaper reporter Jack Bellet, and cynical private investigator K.C. Gaddis” as they investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide-by-hanging of a washed-up Hollywood actor. Taking a cue from such like-minded games as Telltale’s episodic adventures, indie developer Prologue Games is placing emphasis on dialog choices rather than traditional puzzles, though some of the latter will be present. How players respond and interact with other characters has an effect on how the game unfolds, and some decisions could lead to drastic differences down the line.


Inspired by the spectacle of live theater performance, Knee Deep is presented as a melodramatic stageplay unfolding on-screen in front of the player. The story will be told in three distinct acts, all interconnected but each also telling its own tale with a beginning and end. Locations are designed with the trappings of stage and audience in mind – set pieces change as backgrounds are appropriately lit and put in shadow, players are privy to the director’s stage notes along with the on-stage dialog, and information is presented in a manner that makes it accessible to all in the audience, i.e. a large screen backdrop serving as a cell phone display, so spectators can follow exchanges via text messages.

The first episode of Knee Deep, entitled Wonderland, will release concurrently on PC, Mac, and Linux this summer. In the meantime, you can follow the game’s progress at the official website, where you can pre-order the discounted season pass for all three episodes.



17

Mar


The creators of Quest for Infamy clearly haven't been resting on their infamous laurels of late, as not one but two new adventures have just been announced, including a prequel called Roehm to Ruin and a new anthology called Order of the Thorne.

 

Quest for Infamy: Roehm to Ruin


Last year's Quest for Infamy picked up the tale of the rogueish Mister Roehm after he escaped the castle of an enraged Baron. But what did he do to inspire such wrath? That's a story for the prequel, in which Roehm, "after hearing of an illustrious gathering of many wealthy and rich individuals at the Baron’s castle... decides to crash the party and try to swindle a few valuables and goodies for himself." Naturally Roehm's plans go awry, and as the new game reveals, he "ends up getting more than he bargained for."

While Roehm to Ruin shares its predecessor's hand-painted, low-res pixel art style, there are a number of key differences this time around. Gone is the combat that made up the RPG part of the hybrid gameplay originally. The much shorter prequel promises to be a classic-styled, puzzle-oriented adventure with "witty dialogue, fun puzzles and alternative solutions." There will also be hidden objects to find, though not in the sense of the seek-and-find casual games, but rather that "each screen will feature secrets and objects and the more you uncover, the better your high score will at the end of the game, resulting in different rewards and achievements."

Currently in development for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Quest for Infamy: Roehm to Ruin is expected out sometime late this year.

 

Order of the Thorne: The King’s Challenge


Not content with one new game, or even one series, Infamous Quests also plans to start a new "anthology" of adventures entitled Order of the Thorne. In the first episode, The King’s Challenge, the King of the fantasy realm of Uir issues a challenge for all those brave enough to accept it. The quest: to find and return his missing Queen. The reward: one wish granted. The proclamation inspired many champions to take up the cause, but the news also reached "even the dusty old corners of an Inn in the neighboring kingdom of Rosette. Finn the Bard, young and headstrong, packed his lute, his songbook and dressed in his travel clothes for the journey to the Fairy Realm."

As a "brave and cunning songsmith" rather than a noble knight or powerful mage, you will need to use your wit and musical ability to succeed. Your most important possession is your lute, which allows you to "perform musical songs to solve puzzles and complete tasks." Like the developer's other games, the new series will feature the same retro design aesthetic, but promises to include an original soundtrack and fully voiced characters.

Currently in production for Windows, Mac, and Linux as well as Android devices, there is no firm timeline for the release of The King’s Challenge just yet, but the new series is set to debut sometime before the end of 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.



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