Kickstarter Picks: Dungeonmans, Laika Believes, and more!

After last week’s double Sierra happy hour, I think we need a break on adventure games.  Luckily, there are a lot of underrepresented genres to swoon over this week, including roguelike, stealth action, and the can’t-go-wrong-with Metroidvania.  Also, I lied: there is an adventure game.

Rather than profiling a single Kickstarter project, future Kickstarter Picks articles will be rounding up a bunch of great games that we feel are worthy of your backer dollars. Like the new format? Have a project you think we should be aware of? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Legend of Iya – A Metroidvania with gorgeous visuals reminiscent of the Mana series, a massive 100+ room map, and an endless barrage of unique monsters to fight.  It’d be easy to claim that Legend of Iya is a huge-budget, AAA title coming soon to a handheld system and not the mostly-one-man, decades-long labor of love that exists on Kickstarter.  With iterations of the series stretching all the way back to the ZX Spectrum, this final, to-be-published version of Iya is a highly polished passion project that has evolved a dozen times over.  The story stars Iya, a young girl who gets lost in the forest one day and ends up wandering into a mysterious new world.  As she tries to find her way home through the sprawling, interconnected rooms, she’ll have to face a slew of monsters and bosses, including chainsaw badgers and wind-up mice, robo-dinosaurs and demonic flowers.  Preferring to fight with her fists over other weaponry, Iya will gain a variety of melee upgrades and magic powers that improve her chances in the dangerous new world.  All of this is visible in the high-quality footage of Legend of Iya currently available, which showcases a game we simply cannot wait another second—let alone two more decades—to play.

Adventurezator: When Pigs Fly – The Adventurezator is really best explained in its impressively put-together Kickstarter pitch video, which feels more like a trailer for an established indie studio title rather than a freshman creation seeking additional funding.  But since adventure fans love readin’, we’ll type about it anyway.  A point-and-click adventure sandbox game, The Adventurezator allows players to solve or create P&C levels through the use of emergent items set up to react to other object interactions.  Objects have specific rules in place that will affect how they can be used to solve or expand puzzles: for instance, orcs hate humans and will attack them on sight, gremlins need food and water to grow, and gnomes turn to stone during the day.  These rules are almost like mini-puzzles built into the engine itself, allowing player-creators to quickly evolve their adventure stages into challenging, multi-step goals.  At the same time, the Adventurezator specifically aims to stay away from the “tyranny of the crazy game designer that designs puzzles that are so ridiculous that you need to resort to walkthroughs to solve them” by making objects’ uses rational.  If you have a cup-like object, whether it’s a chalice, bottle, bucket, or otherwise, it will be able to carry liquid and solve liquid-requiring puzzles.  All of these features will contribute to the sandbox creation tools of the Adventurezator and also help shape the single-player campaign—When Pigs Fly—that is built with the Adventurezator  and ships with it.  Since the Adventurezator has already been mostly funded, there is an impressive amount of footage available to sink your teeth into.  The cool $20k they’re asking for on Kickstarter is a small price to pay for the most complete possible version of this amazing point-and-click engine.

Laika Believes: The Sun at Night– The story of Laika, the dog launched into space aboard Sputnik 2, is ultimately a sad one.  While she was the first living creature to ever make it into earth’s orbit, the Soviets did not have a return plan in place and Laika was left to die, alone in space.  We can’t undo the real Laika’s fate, but the team at Minicore Studios wants to make things right in some small way.  Laika Believes is that way.  Set in an alternate reality where Laika does return from space, sporting a new robotic body, Laika Believes allows players to guide her on a multi-part adventure to help a resistance force fight back against a growing Soviet threat.  After discovering a unique new energy source thanks to their lead in the space race, the Soviet Union became a global powerhouse with little opposition.  Laika’s timely return from space with new powers of her own gives the resistance both the hope and ability to change the current tide.  Her adventure will play out as a 2D action-platformer similar to Cave Story, with a 360-degree aiming mechanic that allows Laika to shoot her impressive robotic arsenal in any direction.  With plenty of upgrades, character interactions, and interconnected environments to explore, Laika Believes should be as enjoyable a gameplay experience as it is a heartwarming story of redemption.

Tangiers– I accidentally watched the Kickstarter pitch for Tangiers home alone, at night.  While it’s not a jump-scare horror flick, there’s an unsettling disquiet that pervades its muted, industrial aesthetic.  At the same time, its world is mesmerizingly uncanny, familiar in short breaks within the surrealistic overlay.  In this world, you’ll take on the role of an outsider with one goal: eliminate five other beings within it.  You don’t know who or where these people are and must explore the city and its inhabitants to discover your next steps.  Although the gameplay is stealth-based, players are free to approach their goal as they choose; the world will react to your actions accordingly by rebuilding itself based upon what you’ve done so far.  One option is to use language as a tool: in Tangiers, the spoken word actually materializes into visible text that can be collected and then used as distractions, bait, or to open up new areas.  These areas promise even more surreal environments, like a suburb surrounded by desert or gravity-defying, floating mountain ranges.  Nothing in Tangiers is expected, possibly most of all that a very playable, goal-oriented game exists within its avant-garde walls.

Dungeonmans – Dead means dead in the roguelike genre, and no backup save or phoenix down can change that.  Dungeonmans adheres to this critical requirement, but introduces a feature that helps alleviate the pain of losing all your progress: the Dungeonmans Academy.  As adventurers explore the randomly-generated dungeons in the role of their choice—including standard warrior, ranger, wizard, or even classless—they will uncover useful artifacts and lore that can be brought back to the Academy.  These bits of knowledge will help both the Academy and its students grow, giving the next wave of adventurers—who set out in the (funeral) wake of your last character—a leg up on powerful abilities, spells, and more.  Of course, outside the Academy, the world is full of invigorating dangers spread across a variety of environments, ridiculous amounts of loot to collect, and hilariously endearing sprite artwork.  All of this is already evident in the playable demo, recently updated and available on the Kickstarter page.  Coming from the mind grapes of industry veteran Jim Shepard, whose credits include time at Raven, Gearbox, and Bioware Austin, Dungeonmans should have plenty of AAA muscle to flex within its indie frame.

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