Adventure News
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November 2014

3

Nov

The latest project from Lucas Pope, indie creator of the acclaimed Papers, Please, will be trading in Eastern European paperwork for salty sea air, creaking decks and nautical mystery in the upcoming Return of the Obra Dinn.

The Obra Dinn is a merchant sailing ship that set out from London in 1802, bound for the Orient and carrying a cargo of trade goods. When it failed to arrive at the Cape of Good Hope six months later it was declared lost at sea, thought to be just one of all too many casualties the East India Company suffered at the hands of pirates or rough seas. Until, that is, on the 14th of October 1808, it finally drifted into port, battered and apparently abandoned, the remains of its crew still lying where they fell. The player, as the East India Company's investigator, has to board the ship and uncover what happened.

It might sound like just another spooky abandoned locale, but the game is shaping up to be a good bit more than that. For one thing, it uses an intriguing core mechanic: a pocket watch that can take you back in time to the very moment of a person's death. Just that exact moment, mind you, and not for long, but long enough to help you start putting together the pieces of the Obra Dinn's fate. Pope promises that it won’t follow the “collect items and look for clues structure," and indeed the brief demo available looks to be anything but typical. Flitting from moment to moment, inspecting frozen tableaux that aren't always what they seem, there's a powerful sense of something dark and evil. Your leisurely perusal of them clearly belies the frantic struggle that played out in the ship's last moments.  

Flamboyantly atypical, too, are the graphics. Pope has a soft spot for the Mac Plus and its 1-bit graphics, so despite being in free-roaming 3D, the visuals are both low-res and monochrome. No colours, no shades of grey, just black and white. There's a certain amount of stippling to indicate shading, but otherwise it's reminiscent of very early 3D games, such as the original Elite or Driller. It also feels a little like an animated pen-and-ink drawing (albeit one drawn by an artist with an obsession for straight lines), which is appropriate to the setting. The production is rounded off with silent movie-style interstitial cards subtitling the limited dialogue and sparsely-used but stirring orchestral music.

Return of the Obra Dinn will be available for Windows, Mac and possibly Linux, but there's no word yet on a release date. In the meantime, you can check out the 15-minute demo first hand.



2

Nov

Exploring strange happenings and enduring frightening circumstances are common activities for adventure gamers, but it's a bit of a rarity when a game's spine-tingling story is based on real-world events. Nevertheless, that's exactly what is promised by the upcoming first-person horror adventure Kholat, currently in production by Polish indie IMGN.PRO.

The game is based on an actual 1959 event known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident, in which nine climbers died on Russia's Ural Mountains under mysterious circumstances. An investigation by Russian authorities at the time revealed puzzling clues, including high levels of radiation on some of the victims' clothing and skeletal trauma without external injury. Although various theories have been put forth to explain the deaths, the incident has never been fully explained, providing lush ground for speculation and conspiracy theories, including those involving the paranormal.

Kholat is set a number of years after the incident, thrusting players into the shoes of an explorer given the chance to discover exactly what happened in the icy Russian wilderness. Details about the exact nature of the gameplay are vague at the moment, but players can expect it to be heavily focused on narrative and exploration. There will be a few enemies along the way, but the developers indicate that the player’s only option in dealing with them will be to escape, leaving the focus on examining the real-time 3D environments (presented using the Unreal Engine 4) and interpreting the story as it unfolds, rather than on twitch-based gameplay or combat. Of course, players can expect their share of hair-raising moments, as evidenced by the inclusion of a “fear management system.”

Kholat is currently planned for release in the first quarter of 2015 on PC and Mac via Steam and other digital distribution platforms, although some as-yet-unannounced territories will also get a boxed retail release.



1

Nov

In 2010, critically-acclaimed Interactive Fiction (IF) author Andrew Plotkin set up a Kickstarter project to fund a commercial text adventure, Hadean Lands. It received nearly four times its goal. Now after a four year wait, the game has finally been released.

Hadean Lands is billed as a “classic text adventure,” where the entire game world and all the gameplay is entirely in text. You play as an apprentice alchemist “marooned in an alien, airless wasteland.” To leave, you'll need to repair your starship single-handedly, discovering new rituals and using your various alchemical skills to achieve this.

Being a classic text adventure, this of course means puzzles. The game promises to be an immense puzzle-fest, and players can expect a substantial world to explore with what Plotkin describes as the “most complex puzzle structure” he's ever designed.

To learn more or purchase Hadean Lands, check out the official website. It is available now for Windows, Mac, Linux, and also for iOS devices, each at only $4.99.




October 2014

19

Oct

It's rare for Xbox systems to get adventure game exclusives, but that's just what will happen in early 2015 when NERO arrives on the Xbox One.

Described as a "magic adventure in an unknown world", NERO casts players in the role of a child travelling with a mysterious black-cloaked companion. While most story details are being kept under wraps for now, indie Italian developers Storm in a Teacup claim that: "NERO is about love. NERO is about faith. NERO is about feelings. NERO is about questions that need to be answered." If that sounds vague, perhaps it's because "the goal of this epic journey is to find something you really care about", which may be different for everyone – for one person it might be something material, for another something spiritual. The story is based around the simple question, "what are you ready to sacrifice for someone you really love?"

As seen in the early screenshots and trailers, NERO is a free-roaming, first-person adventure with "dreamlike visuals", an original atmospheric soundtrack, and a "rich interactive environment filled with puzzles". Inspired by the likes of Myst and Journey, the developers promise that "the world of NERO is wide, magic and varied enough to make exploring an ongoing challenge." Exploration will be paramount, as there are optional environmental details and bonus puzzles to find that will result in a better understanding of the story. Unlike either Myst or Journey, NERO's "complex" story will be fully narrated as the two protagonists progress in their journey.

There is no firm release date for NERO, but the game is currently on track for release sometime in the the first quarter of next year. In the meantime, you can follow its progress on the official website.



18

Oct

The time has almost come to break out those costumes, carve pumpkins, and fill the pillowcases to overflowing with sweets and treats! And for those who just can’t wait to bask in the spooky goodness that Halloween promises, independent developer Nostalgic Software have quite a trick in store for Android owners.

Candy, Please! is the latest offering in the Quiet, Please! series of handheld adventures. Following in the footsteps of the Yuletide-themed Quiet Christmas, Candy, Please! tasks you with fulfilling your childhood wish and amassing the candy motherlode in your neighborhood on All Hallows’ Eve. But to do so, you’ll need to be crafty and prepare for multiple go-rounds, as one simply will not do. And first you’ll need to explore, assemble your costumes, even carve your own pumpkin to make sure the night is a successful one.



Candy, Please! promises a lighthearted world full of puzzles and that classic adventure-game spirit of exploration. It is available now for Android platforms, and can be purchased for $1.99 USD from Google Play or the Amazon App Store.



17

Oct

Who's ready for The Antiques Roadshow: The Adventure Game? Okay, you might have to wait a while for that particular title to come along, but there's another game along those lines whose release is right around the corner. The Shopkeeper, currently in the home stretch from Viennese developer verse publications, is being billed as a combination of "The Twilight Zone, classic LucasArts adventures, and The Antiques Roadshow," though it thankfully aims for inspiration more from Rod Serling stories and less from public television programs.

The game tells the story of a man on the hunt for a special gift to impress a "difficult" older relative of his, and in his quest stumbles upon a small antique shop full of items with their own stories to tell, "some quirky, some macabre." Although details are being left intentionally vague in order to keep the mystery intact, the game’s trailer strongly hints that the protagonist has less-than-altruistic intentions for the "gift's" recipient. There's obviously more to the proceedings than meets the eye in any case, as touching the wrong item may have "unexpected consequences" for the main character as he uncovers each object's past.

The Shopkeeper will be a mouse-driven, third-person point-and-click affair, hand-drawn in 2D graphic novel-style. It will also feature a fully-voiced cast of characters, including Jeff Ricketts (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as the lead. For those who want to unearth all the mysteries this little shop of (probable) horrors has to offer, it is worth noting that the game will require multiple playthroughs for a full experience. The developers describe it as a "short-form" narrative that will encourage a completist playstyle.

Primed for release on PC, Mac, and Linux, prospective customers can expect to snag the game on Steam later this month. Until then, more information can be found at verse publications' official website.



16

Oct

The first taste may be free, but once you're hooked it's going to cost you. No, we're not pushing drugs here, just describing the marketing tactics of House on Fire's The Silent Age series, which launched free to great acclaim last year. Now the series returns with its second and final installment, but this time there's a price tag attached.

The Silent Age casts players in the role of an "average Joe", a custodian whose encounter with a dying man thrusts him into a time-traveling adventure to help save an imminent apocalypse. In the first game, Joe found himself shifting back and forth between his present day 1972 and 40 years later, a future in which everyone is already dead, the world eerily silent. The second installment promises to conclude Joe's "quest to save mankind from a hellish demise."

Like its predecessor, Episode Two will feature an "eerie soundtrack and stylistic visuals that will keep you in suspense as you solve mind-bending puzzles." Along the way, you'll explore over 60 new locations and interact with new characters using an "optimized interface" for touch devices. The sequel also boasts of including an improved dialogue system, dynamic new animations, and enhanced graphic effects.

If you missed out on Episode One the first time around, it is still available free of charge for both iPhone and iPad and Android devices. If you like what you see, the sequel is now available for $4.99 as an in-app purchase on all devices.



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