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April 2017

1

Apr

The Black Cube universe is expanding at an exponential rate that even Einstein couldn't have predicted! That's because there are not one, not two, but THREE new PC games coming from the group known as The Icehouse collective over the course of this year and next, building on the worlds first introduced by French developer Simon Mesnard with ASA: A Space Adventure, and Catyph: The Kunci Experiment.

 

Blue Moon: The Lucium Project


In the year 2057, an astronaut returns from his mission in an alien spaceship, bringing back with him a "fragment from a Black Cube never seen before, and emitting strange radiations." The discovery was classified as top secret, and a governmental research project was established on the blue moon of Terra's neighbouring planet, Mapk. Led by your "brilliant scientist" sister, the Lucium labratory operated for a year with a great deal of money invested. However, now you have lost contact with her, and your inquiries are dismissed. According to official reports, it would seem that "she and the others never existed, so you decide to conduct your own investigation."


A "short adventure/exploration game" by Juanjo Barcelo Molina – no stranger to the genre as part of Luminy Studios (Bloodwood Reload, Green Mirror) – under the supervision of Mesnard, Blue Moon is being created entirely in high resolution 3D using the Unity engine. Focusing more on "exploration and a dark immersion than complex puzzles," as you explore the moon where your sister disappeared, you will unravel the truth of what happened to her by collecting pages of her diary, and in the process will "discover the secrets of creation of the Blue Matter, a major evolution in the Terran technology."

While there is currently no firm timeline for the release of Blue Moon: The Lucium Project, hopefully we don't have to wait for the next real blue moon here on Earth to play it, as the developers are hoping to be done by the end of this year. The plan, however, is to release a playable demo first, in order to gain input from players before the final version is complete. To learn more about it while you wait, the official website has additional details.

 

Boïnihi: The K'i Codex


The adventure most closely aligned with the previous games, and developed by Simon Mesnard himself, is Boïnihi: The K'i Codex. Set in the year 2062, the people of Terra have discovered the "Blue Matter System," an advanced technology that has allowed them to "explore the galaxy in search for signs of intelligent life." Players control an astronaut who has been traveling through space for four years when he lands on "a moon with no name, where a mysterious man used to live alone." The name of the man, long since deceased, is Boïnihi, a "solitary Talifan who had luckily survived the terrible events of Day Zero, long, long ago."


Like ASA and Caytph before it, Boïnihi is a point-and-click first-person adventure with 360-degree panning, packed full of puzzles to solve. Unlike those games, however, Boïnihi is meant to be shorter, easier, and more accessible than its large-scale predecessors, though as anyone who has played those games can attest, "easier" is a relative term. Puzzle fans can still rest assured that the game will be "challenging enough" as you journey through another "exotic" faraway land. With four different regions "inspired by Asian countries and mythologies" to explore plus the "K'i codex to translate, inspired by the famous Voynich manuscript" along the way, the experience should provide more than three hours of gameplay.

Boïnihi: The K'i Codex is the nearest of the three games to completion, with a target launch sometime in either April or May as a budget release on itch.io. To learn more while you wait, check out the game's official website.

 

RealMYHA


In RealMYHA, players control a Tongolian cosmonaut from the planet Terra, who is sent to the moon to investigate when an unknown distress beacon is received. Upon your arrival, however, the only thing you find is a mysterious Black Cube that suddenly teleports you to "an island in a faraway world: a moon named Myha."


If the name Myha sounds familiar, that's because it was originally developed in just ten days by Mesnard for the Myst Game Jam and publicly released for free last year. Like Myst gave way to realMyst, Myha is now being converted to a full 3D adventure from its original node-based incarnation. RealMYHA promises "more realistic graphics, new textures, dynamic lighting, [and] day/night cycles." But this is not simply a mechanical upgrade to the Unreal4 engine. The remake, spearheaded by RoonSehv's Denis Martin, will also include an original new soundrack, plus "new puzzles and ideas [to] make the game longer and more impressive, and you'll have once again to rely on your precious notes and ingeniousness to discover the secrets of this world."

The goal is to release RealMYHA sometime in 2018, but a Kickstarter is planned in order to bring the game to fruition. To learn more about the project, visit the official website for additional details.




March 2017

31

Mar

If there are two words in futuristic sci-fi destined to end badly, it's "neural implants". Indie developer Neurosaur plans to put that axiom to the text in the upcoming point-and-click adventure, Exit: A Biodelic Adventure.

Exit is set in a world far removed from our own. It all started innocently enough, with "brain-implant neuronets designed to help people: the sorting of information, the filtering of smells and tastes, the organization and purity of thought." Noble goals, all, though the process had its detractors, who believed the implants to be reprogamming the hosts' minds rather than adapting to them. Turns out they were right, as any progress came at the cost of the neuronets evolving and growing stronger to capitalize on the weaknesses of their human carriers. Eventually it all came crashing down in an artificial epidemic that ravaged the human race and turned people into "slaves of the mysterious Worm." Having surrendered to the neuronets, there are now "whole wormy cities whose inhabitants perform sinister rites and look for new victims." In the midst of this horrific setting, you must decide "who are you in this story: hunter or prey, fugitive or rescuer? Which do you choose: to fit or to quit?"


If that sounds like a lot to wrap your head around, you can expect a lot more of the same in a "surreal biotech world where computers can be fed and cured, spores of mutant insects revive memory, gene-locks are opened with DNA-passwords, household objects are born in animal bio-factories, [and] gene-modified molds generate a virtual reality." This third-person world is presented in hand-drawn 2D graphics, promising a classic point-and-click adventure experience filled with puzzles to go with its decidedly untraditional "humor neuroinjection" and "built-in chloroplast displays, somatotropin claws and implanted slimeapp 'Jolly Helpmate'."

What does that all mean? You can begin to discover that for yourself, as there's an early playable demo available for download (though at this point there is neither a visible protagonist nor a save/load feature implemented). The full game is still a year or more away, with a target release scheduled for sometime in 2018.



29

Mar

What's better than a comic fantasy adventure where the hero gets to save the world from unspeakable evils? How about TWO heroes saving the same world, a thousand years apart – or, well, "more like one and a half men" in Sick Chicken Studios' upcoming Guard Duty.

Guard Duty casts players in the dual roles of Tondbert, a night watchman in the medieval town of Wrinklewood who is a "part time drunk and three-quarter dwarf," and Agent Starborn, a "time travelling Lieutenant General of the Guardians of New Haven" in the year 2177. Tondbert must leave behind the safe confines of his village in order to rescue the princess who was "snatched from right under their noses [by] a mysterious, cloaked stranger." A millennium later, the world is oppressed under tyrannical rule by an immortal man. Agent Starborn is one of the last freedom fighters who leads "humanity's last hope" in opening a rift in time to "stop the immortal overlord from ever establishing his reign."


While the two characters are controlled separately in their respective times, each with his own "unique mechanic for interacting with the world," they are connected as "past events drastically influence those of the distant future." The settings vary as drastically as the eras, with locations "ranging from enchanted forests to dystopian cities of the future." Regardless of the period, the game has a distinctly retro aesthetic, with low-res, hand-crafted pixel art reminiscent of the LucasArts and Sierra classics that influenced the developers. Yet it also promises a number of modern conveniences, such as an integrated "to do" list and a streamlined inventory system and puzzle design for a more user-friendly experience. For such a small indie team, Guard Duty is remarkably ambitious, combining "the humour of Discworld, the charm of Monkey Island and [...] the scope of a Hollywood blockbuster," including full voice-overs, 15 unique music tracks, a multitude of bespoke animations and sound effects, and most importantly, "a healthy dose of fun."

Having more than doubled their very modest goal of £2,000 on Kickstarter, the two-man Sick Chicken team can now return their attention to game production itself, with a target release date of June 2018 on Windows and Linux PC.



28

Mar

When you think “cyberpunk,” the name “Blade Runner” usually isn’t far behind. Citing the cult favorite from Westwood Studios as an inspiration, indie developers Mercy Ground Creations are hoping to add their own successfully Kickstarted project Ama’s Lullaby to the list of popular cyberpunk adventures, though not for another two more years.

Ama’s Lullaby is set in a post-apocalyptic future where Earth is threatened by an asteroid impact. The eponymous Ama, “a young computer-science prodigy,” and her father create an AI that leads a space mission to construct a colony on another planet and relocate humanity there. Ama is now an “ambassador for the human race,” and is “being protected by her artificial creature.” However, when she discovers the “actual reason for her presence in this colony, and notices the strange behavior of its inhabitants, her world suddenly falls apart.”

Played from a third-person perspective in real-time 3D with point-and-click controls, gamers will “explore the colony, meet its human and non-human inhabitants, negotiate with the AI and make decisions that will impact directly the course of events.” The colony is “ruled by numerous networks, either independent or connected to each other,” and thus command line-based hacking will be a central gameplay mechanic, enabling you to gain access to various resources, “launch programs, connect to protected networks by forcing their firewalls, [and] copy or delete files” along the way.


A dialogue system will allow for player choice: the developers indicate that “asking as many questions as possible won’t lead you any further, you’ll have to pick them carefully and anticipate the consequences.” An intriguing tease hints that the characters will also change their behavior from one “game session” to another, making them “less predictable” and promising some level of replayability. For less-dexterous gamers, it should be noted that fighting sequences will be possible, though “not very frequent.” For instance, if a dialogue sequence goes south, you might have to resort to violence in a “real-time” fighting event, “relying on your reflexes and ability to aim” in order to resolve the dispute.

Ama’s Lullaby is being billed as a “prologue” to more stories set in the same universe, and as such the success of this project sets up the possibility of additional games being produced. However, Mercy Ground Creations stresses that the current title is a full game, “with a beginning and an ending,” and around 20 hours of gameplay. The game is slated for release in spring 2019, and will be available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms through Steam, as well as DRM-free digital download services. For more information about the game, check out the game’s recently completed Kickstarter page.



26

Mar

Artificial intelligences in sci-fi tend to be either perfect paragons of rationality and benevolence, or just want to cleanse the planet of us inferior humans. Have you ever wondered what would happen if, instead, they were just as flawed as their creators? Christian Miller (aka Silver Spook Games) has, and the result is Neofeud, a newly-released hardboiled cyberpunk adventure inspired by films such as Elysium, Blade Runner and The Matrix.

The year is 2033 and sentient robots are among us, but things haven't quite worked out as planned for "humanity's unwanted bastard children". Most of them defective deadbeats, they've fallen through the social safety net to land in a massive landfill known as "The Pile", along with mankind’s own failed genetic experiments. Meanwhile, the successfully bio-engineered "Neofeudal Lords" live dream lives of neon, glass, nanotech and cybernetic implants, as flawless and cold as the robots were intended to be. Players control Karl Carbon, ex-cop turned social worker, exiled to the Pile for refusing to shoot an unarmed humanoid. In between dealing with robot gang culture and chimera children, he's drawn into a conspiracy with potentially civilisation-shattering consequences.


Neofeud is a defiantly indie game, with lo-fi graphics in a naive, hand-painted style that could almost be called impressionistic, accompanied by a soundtrack that varies from ambient to metal. Drawing on the developer’s personal experience teaching the inner-city poor of Honolulu, the game promises a fleshed-out world and a plot that may make you question your beliefs. There will also be "tricky yet satisfying" detective work, endless one-liners and occasional action shootouts along the way.

Neofeud has just been released for Windows, with the possibility of Mac and Linux versions to follow. To buy the game or just delve deeper, you can check it out on itch.io.



25

Mar

Stage 2 Studios sure has a habit of sucking all the life out of everything it touches. Normally that's an insult, but not when you're the creators of 2014's Lifeless Planet and its newly-unveiled spiritual successor Lifeless Moon.

Like its predecessor, Lifeless Moon strands players on a space orb, but this time it's a pair of astronauts on a mission to the moon in the 1970s. Rather than finding just an American flag and Neil Armstrong's footprints, however, the astronauts discover an actual town that's uncannily reminiscent of another back on Earth. But the surprises don't end there, as it soon becomes apparent that the town is only the "beginning of a strange and mysterious journey."


That's it for story details so far, but the developers have teased that the story of Lifeless Moon and that of Lifeless Planet (set in the distant future) are "loosely connected," making the new game a kind of spiritual prequel with entirely different characters and setting. Players will encounter some "light platforming" and puzzles on the moon, but for those concerned about the degree of dexterity involved in the first game, rest assured that there will be "a deeper focus on puzzles" this time around, reinforcing the core experience of "exploration and discovery."

Platforms have not yet been confirmed, but with Lifeless Planet available on both PC and consoles, Stage 2 is hoping for another cross-platform release for Lifeless Moon, including VR hardware. While waiting for its target launch sometime in 2018, you can check out the official website for additional details.



24

Mar

Domino Digital's upcoming Peregrin isn't a spin-off Middle-earth adventure about Pippin, but it is a promising fantasy adventure featuring arcane magic, deadly creatures, and a beautiful but treacherous land to explore, as we'll find out when the game is released later this year.

Set "countless years after the Gods sought revenge on Earth," Peregrin stars a young woman named Abi, an adventurer determined to save her scavenger tribe. In order to fulfill a prophecy and "beg the vengeful Gods for forgiveness and to restore life to the ravaged lands of her home," Abi must leave safety behind and venture out across The Divide, a quest that will "see her face many challenges, and reveal the story of the world before it was turned into a wasteland."


Described as a "moving take on the struggle to overcome both personal and collective loss," Peregrin's early screenshots and trailer show off its minimalist stylized art, frequently presented from an isometric viewpoint. The key to overcoming the many obstacles in Abi's path is the use of "arcane powers to solve puzzles and survive battles." By activating area totems, players can then temporarily possess the local creatures, ranging from "simple animals to the divide's hostile guardians," in order to capitalize on the unique abilities of each.

There is currently no firm target release date for Peregrin, but the developers and publisher Green Man Gaming are seeking to complete the game for Windows, Mac, and as-yet-undisclosed consoles sometime in 2017.



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