Fight the Dragon Preview: With 450 dungeons in just two weeks, this one's a keeper

Apr 12, 2014

On March 27th, developer 3 Sprockets launched Fight the Dragon on Steam Early Access. The top-down 3D dungeon crawler's main attraction was its allegedly super simple level editor which allows players to upload and share their creations. While level editors are not an uncommon sight in video games, 3 Sprockets have gone to lengths to ensure that their dungeon editor is seemingly the main feature of the game.  After creating my own dungeon from scratch in a little under two hours, I'm here to report back that making a dungeon is just as fun as playing through everyone else’s.

Fight the Dragon

Turns out I'm not the only player to think so. In just two weeks, over 450 dungeons (nearing 480 at the time of this writing) have been generated by players and are now waiting to be discovered by other adventurous players. 

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Battle Casters Preview: To the dungeon, and quickly!

Apr 9, 2014

Looking at Get Set Games existing catalog, it’s not hard to see the “Three C” approach at work. With past efforts like Mega Jump and Mega Run under their belts, you can’t deny that “cute, cuddly and casual” are the adjectives that seem to work best. Their next project, though, goes in the direction of a very different C: challenging.

Last week, Gamezebo was invited to Get Set Games studio in Toronto to go hands-on with Battle Casters, their upcoming dual-stick dungeon crawlfor mobile devices. While the gameplay still remains pick-up-and-play friendly, there’s a level of ferocity in the game design that their existing fans might be surprised by. It’s an action-packed experience that puts players on a timer with an incredibly short fuse.

Battle Casters

The object of the game is to proceed through different floors of a dungeon within a set time limit. If you complete a floor you’ll get a time bonus and a quick trip to the next floor. If you don’t, you’ll be right back at square one. 

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Dungeon of the Endless Preview: Roguelike isn't a dirty word

Apr 2, 2014

I hate the word ‘roguelike.’ Judging by the recent adoption of new phrases like ‘YOLO’ and ‘procedural death labyrinth,’ it seems I’m not alone in this (though it’s not exactly like that last one rolls off the tongue, either). Regardless of how I feel about the terms we use to describe it though, I very much like what the genre represents: the challenge of outdoing your own personal best.

Dungeon of the Endless is very much a roguelike at its heart – you’ll face procedurally generated stages, plenty of treasure discovery, and permanent death – but it manages to bring something new to the genre that gives it a truly unique appeal: controlling multiple characters at once.

Dungeon of the Endless

Rather than controlling a single hero in a “fight or die” scenario, players start with two characters to swap between and will uncover more as they proceed deeper and deeper into the game. With different skillsets and upgrades, players will balance their time between both, employing tactics that will make or break them.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – I haven’t even told you what Dungeon of the Endless is about!

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Vertiginous Golf Preview: Tiger Woods by way of Bioshock Infinite

Mar 20, 2014

"Vertiginous Golf." It doesn't exactly roll of the tongue, does it? Yet it's somehow a perfectly appropriate title for what has to be one of the most unusual mini-golf games to come along in, well, just about ever: A heavily-ornamented steampunk mini-putt that plays out in the sky, high above the thick, black rain clouds that have permanently encased the drab alt-history city below.

How? Through the power of the Vertiginousphere, an alternate-universe technology that has freed mankind from the yoke of gravity – but not without a cost. It's an idea that actually took root more than a decade ago as Vertigolf, a more conventional (although the term hardly seems appropriate) anti-gravity golf game made by coder Paul Barnes and artist Christian Holland.

Vertiginous Golf

"We always loved the original game but felt the graphics at the time didn't do it justice," Barnes said. "So we thought now was a good time to create the spiritual successor, Vertiginous Golf."

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Shattered Planet Preview: An RPG roguelike in the weird reaches of space

Mar 5, 2014

Clone_001 has made 50 trips down to the uncharted planet and has died 50 different ways.  I initially planned to change her name after each death, to honor the fallen.  But now I imagine every clone is given that moniker to trick them into thinking they are the first, that no horrible fate befell anyone before them, that this science expedition will be noble and safe and mostly mineral-collecting.  Never mind that she’s outfitted with a battleaxe and biker helmet instead of a microscope.

Some of her deaths are noble.  Most are embarrassing.  She tried to help a Nest Guardian in need; it turned on and trampled her.  She dropped an explosive container at her feet.  She jumped off a cliff while low on health.  She was mauled by a defective vending machine.  These things happen in Shattered Planet; they come with the bizarre and always-surprising territory.  What matters is that Clone_001 (v51) gets some sweet swag out of her predecessor’s demise.

Shattered Planet

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NOWHERE Preview: Stranger in a strange land

Feb 5, 2014

You’re floating in space.  Not the recognizable expanse of Milky Way planets and stars, but another region, populated by gently rounded masses that pulse with a neon glow.  It’s abstract but also familiar, with invitingly warm colors and caves just begging to be explored.  The surface of these masses appear soft, clay-like, and tactile; if you could reach out, they would mold around your hand like a foam mattress.

You can reach out.  You have a long, tentacle tether that snakes easily towards the landscape before you, latching on almost magnetically.  This is all you have.  The tether connects you to the terrain, allowing you to casually rope-swing around the pulsating colors, keeping you from floating into the black emptiness beyond.  You can weave through the caves, but there’s nothing to find.  You’re alone, save the ever-present electronic beat and the sense that something big is about to happen.

 NOWHERE

That something is Nowhere, the in-development open world adventure visible in alpha snippets like the one just described.  While the current version is minimalistic and focused on sharing the sense of movement in thegame’s gravity-free space, the ideas behind Nowhere and its long-term goals are much larger than even its vast environment demonstrates.  We spoke with Leonard Ritter, one-half of the husband-and-wife development team Duangle, about where Nowhere is headed.  

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The Mims: Beginning Preview: A whimsical new godlike game

Jan 29, 2014

Call me narcissistic, but sometimes it just feels so good to be a god – in a godlike video game that is! For you see, the god life actually chose me, when a stray asteroid careened into a spaceship carrying a crew of funny-looking orange creatures called the Mims. When the Mims crash-landed on some foreign planets, I just happened to be watching, and the next thing you now, these guys start depending on me to get them home safe. It’s just good for them that actually doing so is nothing short of a godlike great time!

The Mims: Beginning has been in development over the past 18 months by the three-man studio of Squatting Penguins, and although the game is about 90% complete at the time of this writing, they’ve decided to turn to Indiegogo for one final push of crowdfunding support. I recently had a chance to go hands-on with an early beta build of the work in the progress, and I have to say there are plenty of reasons to donate to the Mims’ ambitious (and adorable) adventures.

The Mims: Beginning

From the moment you first boot up The Mims: Beginning, you’ll immediately get a feel for the game’s lighthearted sense of humor and whimsical island settings. The titular orange creatures are always a delight to behold, whether it’s in their cutscene dialogue referring to the player as “you, behind the screen,” or just from watching the little guys meander around the greenery and wildlife that make up the main game’s terrain.

Playing an all-powerful god to the Mims is certainly fun, but it’s also a big responsibility. The game weaves a number of classic strategy mechanics into its gameplay, and the main items on your god itinerary are usually getting the Mims to build various structures and power sources to harvest more Bio Mass for further exploration and discoveries. The Bio Mass substance itself is derived from island fruit, which must first be planted and extracted by your little orange colonists.

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Aerena: Clash of Champions Preview: Clashing in the clouds

Jan 23, 2014

On another planet Earth that’s very different from ours, human history has taken a dark turn. The discovery of Aether early in the 20th Century granted mankind almost limitless power – and sparked a war for control of that power unlike any ever seen. Great Aether-powered flying machines plied the skies, raining devastation down upon the cities below until there was virtually nothing left. From the ashes of civilization, a desperate humanity founded the United Nations, which took control of the few remaining Aether extractors and replaced war with The Games – battles between champions for control of the Aether.

That's the story behind Aerena: Clash of Champions, the new online battle arena game from Cliffhanger Productions, and it's a pretty good one. "We're proud of the original story behind Aerena (actually we got carried away and wrote MUCH more than necessary), and this will increasingly show in the upcoming versions," Creative Director Jan Wagner told me. "I think the care and love for the universe we created helps set us apart from the more utilitarian approach of many other games."

Aerena: Clash of Champions

Aerena is different from other entries in the MOBA genre in other ways, too. Wagner acknowledged that comparisons are inevitable, but said that Cliffhanger's game has little in common with other battle arenas at the gameplay level. "We really wanted to create something that combined the tactical depth of a game like chess with the sort of personalized play style you see in a collectible card game. So, each champion has set strengths and limitations, and building your team is one layer of personalization, but then you refine that even further by stacking your deck, so to speak, with abilities from ships and Aether shells," he explained.

"Aerena is turn-based, but the time limit per turn also adds a speed-chess element to the gameplay. It encourages players to really dig into their teams' potential combinations and develop strategies," he continued. "On the flipside of that, getting hit actually gives an Aether boost, so matches stay competitive until the end. After all, we want people to win through skill, not because they happened to land the first blow."

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Naughty Kitties Preview: Cutthroat, but oh so cute

Jan 23, 2014

On the distant Cat’s Planet, a war is waging.  An army of blobby alien invaders, cozy and confident in their heavily-armed spaceships, are attempting to invade.  While they’ve come equipped with lasers, mines, and missiles, the cats refuse to surrender.  In an attempt to protect their home world and everything they hold dear—naps and snacks—the cats take to the air and fight back.

This fight is the basis for Coconut Island’s upcoming strategic runner, Naughty Kitties.  One part tower defense, one part endless runner, and all parts adorable, Naughty Kitties successfully combines twitchy reaction gaming with a need for pre-planning and forethought.  Each play is a distance-scored run graded by how many kilometers your kitties’ ship manages to fly before being destroyed.  On the destroying end of that equation are the alien attackers, flying at and into your ship with guns blazing and bombs exploding, continuously reducing your ship’s health meter with each direct hit.

Naughty Kitties

The defense comes from your band of kitties, who are outnumbered but far from outgunned.  Kitty units are stationed on the ever-hurtling spaceship by dragging them from the deck at the bottom of the screen to one of the artillery posts on the ship’s hull.  There are always three kitties available to choose from, so long as you didn’t just assign a kitty—if so, you’ll have to wait a few seconds for that unit to reload with a new, randomly selected feline.  You can also discard from the deck by swiping a kitty aside, but you’ll still have to wait for his spot to refresh.

Each type of kitty is a specific class, and you have to pick your available units before going into flight.  Kitties’ specialties vary from firing missiles to ship repair, but all have a place in battle.  Michale, the Rambo-wannabe orange tabby, fires eggs from a machine gun at high speed.  Catzilla, usually half-asleep in his favorite pot, launches powerful-yet-slow fish-bone bombs.  Chou-chou, the always-essential mechanic, is actually an alpaca who believes he is a cat, but that’s close enough for the nondiscriminatory cat army.

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Deadlings Preview: Super Zombie Boy

Dec 19, 2013

In the upcoming Deadlings from Artifex Mundi, the Grim Reaper has decided to make nice with the living world once and for all. After all, he’s always getting such a bad rep from humans, but it’s not his fault that people sometimes die! So to make it up to them, the Reaper drafts a genius plan to raise the dead and get them on their way. The result, of course, is hoards and hoards of brain-loving zombies.

I recently had some time to go hands-on with an early build of the game, and believe it or not, Deadlings actually plays out like an awesome cross between tough-as-nails platformer Super Meat Boy, and a more strategic zombie affair like Plants vs. Zombies. At the start of each level, you’ll be presented with a digital overview of the level layout, where you can scope out the location of each brain collectable and plan your most efficient path. Once you have your bearings all set, you tap on the starting point and choose which type of zombie you’d like to unleash, and which direction you’d like them to start running in.

Deadlings

At this point the game switches over to its Super Meat Boy inspiration, with your selected zombie automatically running forward in the direction you’ve chosen, and your new task being to make them jump over spikes and other obstacles by quickly tapping on the screen. If you mess up the timing, your zombie will splatter against the environment and remain a bloody mess there until you either finish the level or use a special power-up to resurrect him. But not to worry though! Each level will give you a fixed number of the undead to go through, so you have a little breathing room on your endless quest for brains.

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