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Archive For March, 2011

Locomalito's Viriax Now Infecting PCs

March 31, 2011 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

For those of you anxious to play the latest from Locamolito, the Spanish developer behind last year's shoot'em-up gem Hydorah and L'Abbaye des Morts, he has just released his "medical terror arcade game" Viriax for Windows PCs.

The game features retro-style visuals and music (chiptunes composed in PXTone by Gryzor87, who also worked on Hydorah's soundtrack), simple controls, procedurally generated levels, boss battles, and a great antatogonistic plot:

"Be part of the Viriax infection and show humans who set the rules in the Earth. Infect important organs one by one, and destroy the ultimate defensive hope of humanity, the Nanobot Assembly System, implemented as a chip near the brain.

Reach the organ core to infect it, but watch your energy level: each time you move up or attack you will lose part of your energy, as also you will lose a bunch of energy if you get hit by an enemy cell. Collect red globules to keep your energy full and think when it's a good moment to stop and make some points."

Viriax is available to download for free -- as are its instruction manual, DVD box cover (pictured), and poster -- on Locomalito's site.

RedLynx's 1000 Heroz For iOS: Like Trials But With People

March 31, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

After teasing us last month with the promise of an iOS game that "lasts 1000 days" and offers "1000 heroes to guide, 1000 levels to explore and 1000 relics to gather," RedLynx has a gameplay trailer to show off its boastful 1000 Heroz project.

The iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad game is a mix of platforming and racing, and it appears to play a lot like RedLynx's popular physics-based stunt racing series Trials, except with people doing the platforming instead of motorcycles.

Every 24 hours, the game will present a new hero to navigate a new stage and find a new treasure. Players can take part in daily time-based challenges and compete on the daily stage's leaderboards, or go back to play previous levels to gather gold and relics for their Hall of Records.

"We've designed 1000 Heroz to last for a thousand days, so whether you play every day or play only occasionally, there's always something new for you," says RedLynx creative director Antti Ilvessuo. "It's a new idea, where you can get your daily dose of Heroz right from the start."

RedLynx plans to release 1000 Heroez for $0.99 on the iPhone/iPod Touch and $1.99 on the iPad this April.

Column: The Blue Key: The Era of Player Creativity

March 31, 2011 12:00 PM |

scribblenauts kid[“The Blue Key” is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch column from writer Connor Cleary. This week, he applauds the rise to prominence of games that emphasize player creativity, points out some of the more notable examples, and mentions the benefits of player-created content capabilities.]

Here at The Blue Key, I talk a lot about the desirability of immersion in gaming – about losing yourself entirely in a game. But there is another side of gaming which takes almost the opposite approach to player interaction, and it seems to be gaining a lot of ground lately.

In this alternate realm the goal is not to make the player feel like they are entirely inside the game, but rather to acknowledge the player as such and utilize their creativity to enhance the gaming experience.

Of course player-creativity has long been an aspect of gaming, whether you're trying to come up with an inventive combination of equipment and/or skills and/or magic, devising a tactical plan of attack in an FPS or an RTS, or trying to find a new way to think about a puzzle that's stumping you, games engage you in a way that few other mediums can.

When you boil it down though, video games are based on the idea of “play,” and the recent wave of creativity-games really embody that basic idea and take it to the next level. In fact some games are little more than physics playgrounds, like the popular Source-based Garry's Mod. But even when there are predefined goals (generally agreed to be a defining characteristic of a game) many of these creativity-centered games have a distinctively “playground” feel to them.

Look at Scribblenauts for a great example. If you've never heard of it: the game allows you to write a noun and and summon nearly any object you can come up with (exceptions include anything trademarked, offensive or vulgar) in order to solve a variety of puzzles.

With over 20,000 objects available for use in-game, every level has at least a handful of solutions. But if all you do is rush through each puzzle and get to the end, you're missing the point of the game. Sure, you could use a “jetpack” or the “ROFLCopter” on nearly every level and never look back, but the real brilliance of the game is to be found in returning to the levels you've already completed.

Tin, Matsuura Composing Tracks For OneBigAlbum

March 31, 2011 10:00 AM | Eric Caoili

OneBigGame unveiled the final line-up of contributing composers for its upcoming charity music release OneBigAlbum, including Grammy-award winning artist Christopher Tin (Civilization IV) and rhythm game pioneer Masaya Matsuura (Parappa the Rapper).

Working with Game Music Initiative, a group dedicated to promoting the art of video game music composing, non-profit publisher OneBigGame (Chime, WINtA) has gathered 17 award-winning composers to create new and original tracks for the charity album.

OneBigGame plans to send a minimum of 40 percent of net proceeds from the collaboration album's sales to its charity partners, Save the Children and Starlight Children's Foundation, which both seek to "help vulnerable children across the world".

The complete list of participating composers and their credits follows:

  • Michiel van den Bos (Unreal, Deus Ex, Overlord)
  • Allister Brimble (Alien Breed, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Hydroventure/Fluidity)
  • Marc Canham (Far Cry 2, Driver II-IV, Split Second)
  • Andrew Curnock (Escape Vektor, Pop, Avatar: The Last Airbender)
  • Jason Graves (Dead Space series, Command & Conquer IV: Tiberian Twilight, Prey 2)
  • James Hannigan (Harry Potter series, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, Evil Genius)
  • Akari Kaida (Breath of Fire III, Megaman BN series, Onimusha 3: Demon Siege)
  • Frank Klepacki (Command & Conquer series, Blade Runner, Universe at War)
  • Masaya Matsuura (Parappa the Rapper, Vib-Ribbon, WINtA)
  • Peter McConnell (Psychonauts, Grim Fandango, Brütal Legend)
  • Mike Reagan (God of War I-III, Darksiders, Spider-Man 2)
  • Chris Rickwood (Age of Empires Online, Global Agenda, Ghostbusters: The Videogame)
  • Bart Roijmans (Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force, Aliens in the Attic, Dragonhunters)
  • Cris Velasco (God of War I-III, Prototype, Clive Barker’s Jericho)
  • Christopher Tin (Civilization IV, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Cars Online)
  • Jonathan vd Wijngaarden (Adam's Venture, Fairytale Fights, Sims Medieval)

Veteran recording artist Tom Pearce of Practical Music, who has had over 30 years of experience recording, mixing, and producing with famous acts like Eric Clapton and John Lennon, will handle OneBigAlbum's final mastering.

"The idea for the OneBigAlbum instantly met with tremendous enthusiasm from video game musicians all over the globe and we were thrilled to see so many of them contributing with a track for OneBigAlbum," says Game Music Initiative founder Ruud van de Moosdijk.

He continues, "We think we have a very strong and diverse line-up for our album and one which fans of games and game music the world over can really look forward to." OneBigGame and Game Music Initiative will announce a release date and pricing for the album at a later date.

Rockstar Creates Creepy Cover For Esquire UK

March 31, 2011 8:00 AM | Eric Caoili

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Esquire UK invited some famous folks to produce a series of 20 covers for the men's magazine, including fellos like The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, The Rolling Stones Guitarist Keith Richards, portrait and fashion photographer Rankin, and The Office creator Ricky Gervais.

Rockstar Games, developer of blockbuster games like Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption, contributed this unsettling piece to the Take Cover project, which forms the studio's logo out of snakes, ants, and bees. There's also "a caffeine-hungry Statue Of Liberty, an eagle and a helicopter" somewhere in there.

"Our cover art, designed to reflect the decay that exists alongside all things beautiful, definitely warrants close inspection – not only is it a little creepier than it appears at first glance, but you might see a few things you recognize from our games across the years," explains Rockstar.

[Via @leighalexander]

First-Person Footage Of Multiplayer Mech Combat Game Hawken

March 31, 2011 6:00 AM | Eric Caoili

Indie outfit Adhesive Games posted a new trailer for Hawken, its much buzzed about multiplayer online mech combat game, demonstrating what the small, Los Angeles-based team has accomplished so far after working on the project for around nine months.

While the last, gorgeous clip was mainly third-person in-game footage and a few seconds of first-person action, this new video is all shot from inside a mech, so you can see the HUD and what it will look like when you're jumping around the devastated city, strafing behind cover, and firing away at your opponents.

There's still no word yet on when Adhesive expects to finish the title or what platform Hawken will release for, but the studio says it's interested in Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.

Column: Homer in Silicon: Pride and Prejudice and Plot

March 31, 2011 12:00 AM |

51NenxlwXJL._SL500_AA300_.jpg['Homer in Silicon' is a biweekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Emily Short. It looks at storytelling and narrative in games of all flavors, including the casual, indie, and obscurely hobbyist. This week she looks at Reflexive Entertainment's Matches and Matrimony, a visual novel/dating sim based on the novels of Jane Austen.]

Matches and Matrimony takes the plot, characters, and banter of Pride and Prejudice, together with some borrowings from Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion, and blends them into a Ren'Py dating sim.

These days, of course, you can get Pride and Prejudice remixed more ways than Coke at a soda fountain. Mr Darcy tells the story from his point of view. Elizabeth Bennet happens to meet Emma, for extra cross-over fun. Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr Darcy on a ship on the way to America, or as a Sheikh in the Algerian desert. Elizabeth Bennet solves murders. Elizabeth Bennet fights zombies. Mr Darcy turns out to be a vampire, more than once. Elizabeth and Darcy experience their first, second, third, Nth years of marriage. Charlotte Collins' daughters grow up.

And, of course, in the way of all fanfic, beloved side characters die, and Darcy and Elizabeth get it on, repeatedly and in lurid detail, including with variations where theirs is a gay romance or both of them have secondary lovers. And I have barely penetrated the thinnest surface of this genre. The search "pride and prejudice sequels" on Amazon delivers a mind-boggling 167 results; "pride and prejudice variations", 89 results.

That may not cover all the novels about Jane Austen herself as a character, or of course the modern remakes, and the movies, stage plays, musicals, television miniseries, and Marvel comics.

Consequently, there is a sweetness about how earnestly Matches and Matrimony takes its material. It uses a lot of original text, and its help files are all about reminding the player how the heroines of various novels acted and encouraging the player to emulate them. It's not trying to say something else through Austen; it's just doing the stories. It's like seeing a Shakespeare play where the director has had absolutely no funny ideas about arming the Capulets with parasols or making King Lear drive a vintage Rolls onstage: surprising.

The form of dating sim does introduce a few new demands -- namely, a choice of several suitors, and encouragement to replay. Often figuring out the right thing to do depends on being fairly familiar with the original stories, to the point where at least one player suggested the game might function as a helpful review for students.

The attempt doesn't completely work, for several reasons; and yet I had fun with it anyway.

Co-Op Strider-esque Action Game Moon Diver Now On PSN

March 30, 2011 4:00 PM | Eric Caoili

Publisher Square Enix has announced that Moon Diver, the new co-op side-scrolling action game from Feelplus (MindJack, Lost Odyssey) and Strider designer Koichi Yotsui, is now out for PlayStation Network (XBLA version releasing some time next month).

The new game "pays homage to [Strider] with hordes of enemies and gigantic bosses", but adds 3D graphics, a dynamic experience/leveling system for characters, and four-player local and online co-op (instant drop in and out) that spans 12 stages. 

Moon Diver also features "MoonSault Combinations" which are upgradeable and cooperatively combinable character special abilities that include area-of-effect attacks, passive power boosts, invisibility, and more. The game is available now on PSN for $14.99.

Scrap Metal Now On iOS, Coming To Android

March 30, 2011 2:00 PM | Eric Caoili

A year after Slick Entertainment (N+ for XBLA) released the vehicular combat racing game on XBLA, Scrap Metal is now available on the App Store with a Universal Binary release, Retina display support, Game Center leaderboards and achievements, and more. 

Slick Entertainment has a development blog post about the port in which the Vancouver-based studio talks about how it settled on the directional steering touch controls, automatic firing, and four game modes (Race, Derby, Survival, and Time Trial) with five races each instead of a big campaign.

Scrap Metal for iOS is available to buy for $2.99 on iPhone (3GS and newer), iPod Touch (Third Generation and newer), and iPad. The team says it's also workin on an Android version but hasn't announced a release date for that yet.

Defying Design: Bait and Switch

March 30, 2011 12:00 PM |

['Defying Design' is a bi-weekly GameSetWatch-exclusive column by Jeffrey Matulef analyzing gaming conventions and the pros and cons of breaking them. This week's column takes a look at games that dramatically alter their mechanics in the third act.]

I loved Splinter Cell: Conviction until I hated it. For most of the game it was an accessible (if divisive) take on the stealth genre, mixing tactics and shooting into a quick-paced adventure.

Levels were somewhat open with multiple routes inviting players to shimmy around ledges and crawl though windows before silently taking enemies out from behind. Silenced pistol ammo was an unlimited resource, so shooter veterans could go about popping enemies in the head if they were alone. Even if Fisher was spotted, he could slip away in the shadows and take out the opposition by force before hiding again.

About a two-thirds of the way the game everything changed. The level design shifted to aggressively linear paths with no room for deviation. Enemies traveled in groups, so there was no way to take out more than a few at a time without alerting the rest of the squad.

Worse, none of the lights could be shot out -- something absolutely essential for sneaking. These levels didn't even make sense as Fisher, an agile soldier adept at climbing, couldn't crawl over waist high shrubbery. It was no longer an action/stealth hybrid, but rather a straight up third-person corridor shooter, and not a very good one because Fisher would go down after a scant few shots.

This is by no means an isolated case. Lots of games switch up their focus too much in the third act leaving a sour aftertaste.

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