What I’m Playing: August – October, 2013

It’s that time again – where I recap everything I can remember playing over the last few months and try to tease out anything I can learn about game design, or just give a snarky one line review.

Stealth Bastard Deluxe – This is a stunning example of a stealth game and a puzzle platformer done right. It has that ‘just one more level’ addictive quality about it, and I expect I’ll end up playing it to completion over the next few months. Even though I’m pretty heavily investing in Unity3D now, games like this make me want to check out Game Maker Studio (the engine behind it) to see if it confers and serious advantage in making games like this.

X-COM: Enemy Unknown – now I know what all the fuss is about. My biggest gripe is that they wasted so much budget on amazing graphics it doesn’t really need, and just makes it a little sluggish on my aging Windows machine.

Bollywood Wannabe – a fun Bollywood themed rhythm game, which is a bit like Dance Dance Revolution mashed up with a very simple platformer. I’ve only picked it up twice so far, but it’s good for a laugh. I played it on my TV, viewing at a distance, and I don’t think it’s well suited to that – visually, your eye needs to be able to switch between looking at the oncoming beats, and the platformer obstacles you are walking toward, and I think this would be much easier at a close viewing distance like a PC screen or tablet.

qrth-phyl by hermit games – yes, it’s snake in 3D, but that doesn’t do it justice. I love everything hermit games releases, and this is no exception. I’m such a sucker for anything glowy.

3089 – Ph00t’s spiritual sequel to 3079 – another action RPG/FPS. I can’t say I’m as taken by this a 3079, but is has some great looking low poly trees and some interesting weapons (eg, the teleport ball gun thing which I’ve forgotten the proper name for). I’m holding off playing much more until the alpha is finished and the whole thing has gone through more iterations of balancing and polishing.

Star Command – I’m not sure if this was influenced by FTL or not, but it’s hard not to draw a comparison, since in both you manage a starship and it’s crew. FTL is procedurally generated and Star Command appears to be fixed scenarios. FTL tends to keep you on your toes, and Star Command mostly feels like a grind. I also wonder how fans of the simulation genre will like the inclusion of non-optional reflex-based mini games, which if you perform poorly at can extend the time a battle takes to win considerably. The pixel art is wonderful, but the difficulty curve doesn’t ramp up quickly enough for me, so I’m not sure I’ll keep playing unless I want something mindless on public transport to grind through.

Paranautical Activity – Quite liking this tough-as-nails FPS-rogue-like (famous for being rejected from direct publishing on Steam for having a Greenlight page). I find I can only survive more than one or two rooms if I use the grenade launcher character  – not sure if I’m just crap or it’s a balancing issue, but nonetheless I have high hopes for where this is headed in future updates.

Proteus – Whoa ! Mind blown ! Another one of those ‘I wish I’d made that’ games. I’m holding out for the consumer model of the Oculus Rift .. but you know one of the first things I’ll be playing once I get it …

The Walking Deadon Peter Silk’s suggestion, I decided to take the time to play this. I guess I’d been scared off by a few reviews that likened it to one long cut scene … no idea why I listen to some of the crap that popular gaming sites spout sometimes, since that’s a completely inaccurate assessment. There are interesting, emotional decisions to be made in this game, and it does a reasonable job of subtly exposing the internal ‘game model’ of trust relationships between the characters that evolves as you chose to favor the interests of one person over another.

Sonic CD (OUYA) – I bought this because Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Part 1 and 2 felt so bloody terrible to play, and this one has more or a classic Sonic feel.

Sentinel – another interesting take on tower defense, that evokes a bit of Rez-like synesthesia. Also uses a few ideas (pickups to click on) that I might steal for future expansions to Def :)

Rose In Time – I actually got this ages ago, when Sophie Houlden made it for an Indie Buskers event … but to be honest, I didn’t quite get it, and gave up too easily. I then also picked up the OUYA version since it’s a nice way to play it (right before Sophie pulled it from the store. Storm, meet teacup) and gave it a little more time … the penny dropped. It twists my brain in knots, but I love it.

X S.E.E.D (OUYA) – this is quite a unique take on a Metroidvania type game – you drop seeds that pop up different types of flowers – most of which shoot once like little turrets, and one type that forms a protective barrier (or can grab unreachable collectables).

Def – yep, as always, playtesting my own game lots, particularly to refine the gamepad controls on OUYA. It’s not just a shameless plug, it counts as something I’ve actually played !

Def is coming to OUYA first

(based on my recent post on IndieDB)

Def – tower defense devolved (OUYA release trailer)

Yep, you read right. I’m releasing Def on the OUYA first. I really like my little OUYA box, and once I refined the gamepad controls Def actually ended up playing very nicely on it. It’s not quite as easy as a keyboard and mouse (I’ve actually made the default difficulty on OUYA ‘easy’ rather than ‘normal’ to account for this), but panning around with the right stick and positioning the crosshair to place defences with the left stick and D-pad is more than accurate enough with just a little practise. In fact, playing with a gamepad just feels cooler for some reason – and this is coming from someone who can’t play an FPS using a gamepad to save their life.

Haters gonna hate

I’m always a little puzzled by the amount of hate that has been piled on OUYA in recent months. Sure the plucky little startup has made a bunch of missteps in the early days of their console launch, and some Kickstarter backers have a few legitimate reasons to grumble … but nothing’s perfect. Let’s not forget that from a developer and player perspective they are also doing a helluva lot of things right. Bottom line: there are a bunch of fun and unique games on the platform (soon to include Def !), it shines when it comes to local multiplayer games nights, and the hardware is cheaper than some AAA+ launch titles. I like my OUYA, and amongst a sea of naysayers I admire the tenacity of the ‘little console that could’. So Def will arrive there first, as a little nod to those trying to do something different.

Unless there is some unexpected delay, Def should be available on OUYA Discover on October 10th, 2013, with a special launch price of $1.99 to unlock the full game. That’s probably stupidly cheap, so get it before I decide I’m selling myself short and raise the price :) Oh, and check out the trippy trailer !