Monthly Archives: June 2014

Indie Wonderland: Unholy Heights

As far as I can tell, Unholy Heights — by Japanese four-man-sans-website-team Petit Depotto, and localized by Playism Games — seems to be a game about running an apartment complex for a wide variety of mythological monsters.

What? What more do you want me to say? What more justification could you possibly need from me at this point? Why aren’t you already playing it yourself?

Unholy Heights was gifted to me by reader and Steam-friend Warhobo, under the stipulation that this gift was entirely free of review expectation overtones. I know, what a fiend, right? That’s not how I work and he damn well knew it. I tried my very best to resist the siren call of imagined peer pressure, I really did… and I managed, too, for an unprecedented two months. Two months is not forever, however.

Still, I got a free game and freedom from having to consider what to review out of the deal, so eh. I’ll take my ‘losses’ on this one.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Low. Mechanical, Medium-ish.)

After the break: Wait, Unholy Heights? Aren’t monsters and devils and the like usually associated with the low places? What a bold breach of tradition!

Talk of the Ninja: Steam Badges — Spending Money on Virtual Trinkets

A friend recently retweeted a snarky article from this site called Play4Real, which is basically a gaming equivalent of The Onion. The article is called “Valve Adds Button to Steam That Says Give Us Money, Makes 2 Million Dollars in 3 Hours“. The article bugs me, though not for the reasons you might be thinking.

So Valve has this weird system with trading cards and badges that cost real money and put knickknacks on your profile and give you a chance at getting games you want.

Wait, hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Tell you what, I’m gonna give you a little history lesson about Steam and its monetary infrastructure.

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Indie Wonderland: Space Run

Happy Steam Summer Sale, everyone! To celebrate, I’m reviewing a game that, even though it came out very recently, is already surfing the sale waves as we speak: Space Run, by Passtech Games. It looked neat on the Steam store page, hence. Plus, the name intrigues me a little. ‘Space Run’? How does one run space? Or run in space? Or maybe, maybe, space is the thing that’s doing the running? The seemingly-simple name hides a great deal of potentially cool video game ideas, and I intend to find out which one Passtech Games actually ran with.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Low. Mechanical, Medium-to-high.)

After the break: Space Run, the smuggle-running game in space. It’s hectic and colourful, but is it cool?

Indie Wonderland: Teleglitch

I’ve heard stories about Teleglitch, Paradox Interactive‘s top-down rogue-like death simulator. It’s supposed to be dark, oppressive, incredibly atmospheric. It’s also supposed to be fiendishly difficult, an assertion that this enhanced version’s subtitle — ‘Die More Edition’ — does little to dispel.

I’ve had Teleglitch sitting on my desktop for a little while now, ever since I bought it in May of this year. I’ve been intending to review it for that long, but… I don’t know. Something kept me from launching it for the first time, all this while. Was it… was it fear? It couldn’t have been fear, could it? Do you think it was fear?

It probably wasn’t fear.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Low. Mechanical, High.)

After the break: Why would it have been fear? That just doesn’t make any sense.

Talk of the Ninja: No Female Assassins Allowed

Time for another stupid publisher response to a question about representation in gaming! So Ubisoft showed off Assassin’s Creed: Unity at this year’s E3, and people noticed that despite the arguably most prominent assassin during the French Revolution being a woman, all four of the French Revolution Asscreed centerfold characters are dudes. There will be cooperative multiplayer with customizable characters, but everybody will always play as a dude.

ACU_hero

Source. Could you tell any of these people apart if not for costume color?

Alex Amancio, the creative director behind the game, explained that they originally intended to have female playable characters, and that the feature got dropped because of production costs.

“It’s double the animations, it’s double the voices, all that stuff and double the visual assets. Especially because we have customizable assassins. It was really a lot of extra production work. Because of that, the common denominator was Arno [the protagonist]. It’s not like we could cut our main character, so the only logical option, the only option we had, was to cut the female avatar.”

Their priorities are kind of baffling. They make a huge virtual replica of a historical French city with exquisite attention to detail, but female playable characters? Nah, they can’t afford it. They add loads of customization options for the male characters. But female playable characters? Nah, not worth the costs. Women are an extra feature that they’ll work in if they have the time and money after everything else. If not, oh well, right?

I say that’s bullshit, and plenty of other people are saying the same. I propose that rather than including women being an extra feature, leaving women out is an omission. Ubisoft should be held accountable for this, and it’s very heartening to see tons of people call them out on that.

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Indie Wonderland: GhostControl Inc.: An Update

Regular readers may remember that in January of this year, I reviewed a game called GhostControl Inc. on the now-rapidly-approaching-defunct Blue Screen of Awesome. If you haven’t read that review yet: go now, quickly! Read it while the site is up! While it’s still up!

If you can’t, or won’t, read that review, here’s my summary: I thought GhostControl Inc. was a game with an interesting central idea and a neat Ghostbusters meets XCOM gameplay hook, let down by lackluster implementation and gameplay that wasn’t nearly as fun as it could have been. I particularly lamented elements like a lack of gameplay information, an unclear progression structure, and a gameplay flow that never really felt like it was going anywhere.

One of GhostControl Inc.’s developers, Volker Ritzhaupt, actually commented on that article, letting me know that the team agreed with many of my criticisms, and that quite a few of them were actually slated to be solved in the near future. And a few days ago, undoubtedly triggered by the recent Steam release of GhostControl Inc., that same Volker Ritzhaupt emailed me again — yes, actually emailed me, individually. I know! — suggesting that now-of-all-times might be an excellent time to take another look at GhostControl Inc.. And write some more about it, maybe?

I liked what GhostControl Inc. tried to be, and I’m a sucker for a dev team that actually goes out of their way to talk to enthusiasts. So I figured, why not?

Two things rapidly became clear to me: a) it’s true that GhostControl Inc. has seen a few significant improvements, but b) it’s still basically the same game under the polish. As such, I felt it would be dishonest and overkill to write another ‘full’ review on it. So instead, what I’m presenting you with today is a brief second look at GhostControl Inc., focusing on its improvements since launch and the problems I perceive it has now fixed. And maybe, if I run into any, the problems I perceive as still being there.

After the break: a brief second look at GhostControl Inc..

Indie Not A Whole Lot To See Here Land

Heya, readers. Apologies are in order: due to a week that was, in many ways, much more hectic than I’d initially planned, I couldn’t find the time to play and review a game this week. Which, you know, can happen, but I’d prefer to give some advance warnings about these things, not just have the news show up on Monday. I know how much all of you look forward to my columns to take the sting off the early week, after all.

So yeah, apologies for springing this on you. Regular service should resume next week. I might also have something shorter for you, an updated-review instead of a full-review, somewhere halfway into this week.

To not leave you entirely empty-handed, have this picture of my Wildstar character.

He never asked for this.

Indie Wonderland: Transistor

Supergiant Games‘ newest jeu vidéo, Transistor, serves as an excellent case study into the way I consume and make uses of game news. Because… I really don’t? Beyond the occasional exposure on Twitter, in digital storefronts, and through my various social networks, I hardly ever read game news of any kind anymore. Not even about games I like! Especially about games I like, really: for games I am — intuitively or through initial exposure — really looking forward to, I’ll often move from passive disinterest to active news avoidance. So as to better keep up my ‘first contact’ style of columning, and also because I really value an untarnished first look. And yes, I’m well aware that that kind of makes my own writing super hypocritical.

I’m giving you this peek behind the curtain so you fully understand how totally blindsided I was by Transistor. I knew it was coming, on a certain level, but… suddenly it was just there. Taunting me on its Steam store page. And beyond the well-worn visual of the red-haired woman and her weird green sword, I knew nothing about it.

Obviously, this could not do.

(Spoiler levels: Narrative, Low-to-medium. Mechanical, Fairly high.)

After the break: I got through the entire intro without mentioning Bastion. But will my lu- damnit!