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February 2015

27

Feb

Normally the phrase "it's a dog's life" isn't considered a good thing, but it is when the canine in question is the star of a new upcoming point-and-click adventure Seventeen Uncles: A Pug's Life, currently seeking funding through Kickstarter.

Life does indeed become pretty rough for Kirk the pug, a "happy family pup and Grub Relations Executive in the local bee-run honey factory, whose life is turned upside down when a deal with the Devil goes horribly wrong following the death of his darling wife Dilys." Now in order to win back his wife's soul, Kirk must venture through a variety of bizarre locations, including a "tattoo studio run by an octopus, a rocket launch site manned by an axolotl astronaut and a massive termite mound cut off from the rest of the world since the end of the great war with the ants." As if that weren't enough, along the way he'll run into a handful of other zany characters such as "occult armadillos, pub crawling sloths, stink selling bats, taxi driving dung beetles and many many more."


A one-man production by indie developer Jonathan Cheetham, the game's 2D hand-drawn graphics clearly show off his artistic inspirations, including LucasArts classics like Sam & Max Hit the Road and cartoons like Rocko’s Modern Life and Adventure Time. According to Cheetham, Seventeen Uncles will be "family friendly without being too sickly sweet and boring, but not afraid to have some darker themes without resorting to excessive violence, gore or foul language." In between the comedic dialogue will be puzzles that are "logical with the fun cartoon nature of the visuals", though if you need some help you can "consult the psychic tick that lives on your head... who, in exchange for a little mammalian blood, will tell your future and give you some puzzle hints."

To this point Seventeen Uncles has been entirely self-funded, but in order to finish it for PC, Mac, and Linux before the end of the year, Cheetham has turned to Kickstarter to raise a modest £3,000 by March 25th. A minimum £7 pledge is all that's required for a downloadable copy of the game upon completion. If you're on the fence, a playable alpha demo for PC is already available for download.

If you like what you see so far, you can help out a puppy in need on the Kickstarter page. You can also drop by the game's official website and vote for it on Steam Greenlight.



23

Feb

First The Last Door, then Ron Gilbert's Thimbleweed Park, and now the upcoming comedy/mystery adventure The Darkside Detective... looks like the chunky pixel is back in style!

The Darkside Detective is Francis McQueen, the "sole member of the criminally underfunded Darkside Division" in Twin Lakes City, a place where "cultists crawl, where demons dwell, where the occult… occults?" Whatever the evil threatening his town, "he’s there, ready to investigate the cases that nobody else will." He'll have several cases to solve here, as rather than presenting a single unified mystery, The Darkside Detective is a "micro-adventure game" consisting of the "most bizarre and obscure cases that come across his desk."


Originally conceived in less than eight hours at the November 2014 Galway Game Jam by Irish indie developers Paul Conway and Christopher Colston, the success of the prototype inspired this full-fledged commercial version, with writer Dave McCabe and composer Ben Prunty joining the expanded DoomCube team. The early screenshots show off the game's distinctive pixel art style, while the trailer highlights McQueen's "humorous bite-size investigations into the occult and extraordinary." But you can do more than just passively observe, as a browser-based demo is already available to play at GameJolt.

Currently in production for PC, smartphones and tablet devices, there is no firm release date scheduled yet for The Darkside Detective, but the game is slated to be completed sometime later this year. In the meantime, you can keep up to date at the game's official website and vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.



22

Feb

What if one day you awoke to find yourself alone on an island, with no memories of how you arrived there? That is the basic premise of Helsinki Noir's upcoming game, Black Island, a 2D first-person adventure that aims to meld cinematic storytelling with gameplay inspired by classic titles like Myst.

In Black Island, your solitary exploration uncovers signs of recent habitation, as though everyone left quickly. Your memories slowly come back to you in flashes that both disturb and intrigue you, offering clues about who you are and why you find yourself in this strange place as you attempt to find a way off the island.


An early teaser provides a glimpse of the live-action videos that will gradually reveal the main character's memories, while an additional gameplay clip and screenshots show off the slideshow-style graphics composed of heavily-photoshopped images of locations around the developer's native Finland.

The game is slated to arrive on Android and iOS devices this spring, though a release on PC and Mac is also possible if the game is successfully Greenlit on Steam . For more information, interested gamers can keep up to date through Black Island's official website.



20

Feb

In 2013, gamers were treated to a disturbing surrealist freeware adventure aboard a train called Sepulchre, which hinted strongly of more to come. Today that "more" has been revealed, as the original game by Owl Cave will be surrounded with both prequel and sequel installments in the commercial release of The Charnel House Trilogy this April.

The original Sepulchre was an "unsettling take on trains, historians and huge bags" that starred museum curator Dr. Harold Lang. Awaking aboard a most unusual train, players had to interact with fellow passengers in order to "piece together Dr. Lang’s memory and steer him through turmoil and train-based unease."


Bookending that story in The Charnel House Trilogy will be a prequel episode, "Inhale", and a follow-up finale, "Exhale". The former casts players in the role of a young woman named Alex Davenport as she "waits impatiently for an urgent delivery. A delivery that will change her life. Haunted by snatches of a past she can barely face, Alex longs to escape her room, her apartment, her life. And yet unseen forces seem to conspire against her." The finale picks up Alex's story once again after she too awakens in a familiar location following a a "brush with tragedy". Players must help Alex in her "desperate search to find the doctor she met and travel to the mysterious island of Augur Peak. Can she survive the journey? Why does she want to escape? And what is the dark and terrible secret from her past that doesn't seem to want to stay hidden?"

If the pixel art on display has a familiar style, it might be because one of the artists is Ben Chandler, whose credits include the 2014 Aggie Award-winning Blackwell Epiphany and Wadjet Eye's upcoming Technobabylon. While the name Owl Cave may not be instantly familiar, the design team also has an established genre pedigree, with Richard & Alice's Ashton Raze and Lewis Denby co-developing the game along with another artist, Ivan Ulyanov. Unlike their previous adventure, The Charnel House Trilogy will be fully voiced.

There isn't long to wait for The Charnel House Trilogy, as the game is slated to be released for PC in April on Steam. In the meantime, you can still download and play the original Sepulchre. Registration is required, but the game is free to play.



19

Feb

In 2009, the semi-interactive webcomic Homestuck was launched, a kind of "mock adventure game" combining a story about teenagers who become trapped inside the world of a video game with a comedic parody of the genre. It went on to gain a cult following of fans, bolstered by community involvement in the comic's direction. In 2012, creator Andrew Hussie took to Kickstarter to raise funding for a proper video game set in the Homestuck universe, garnering nearly $2.5 million dollars by campaign's end.

Three years later, Hussie's What Pumpkin Studios has announced that the first episode of the planned four-part game, titled Hiveswap, is nearly ready. The plot revolves around Joey, a young girl who gets sucked through a portal and trapped on Alternia, an alien planet. In Joey's quest to return home, she will join a group of "troll rebels," discover the "true meaning of friendship," and somehow save the world in the process. Although set in the same universe as Homestuck and loosely based on existing canon, the game's story is completely standalone and intended to be accessible to series newcomers, though references to the webcomic peppered throughout should satisfy diehard fans as well.

As seen in the first screenshots released, the point-and-click adventure will be played from a third-person perspective, with stylized 3D animated graphics providing a whimsical view of the proceedings. The developers promise that, despite its origin in parody, players will have honest-to-goodness puzzling gameplay and a variety of adventuring tasks to perform.

Hiveswap is scheduled to arrive this spring, with the other three episodes set to follow throughout the year on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms. For more information, head for the game's official website.



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.



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