Kickstarter Picks: Octopus City Blues, Death Road to Canada, and more!

This week’s Kickstarter quintet gets two tentacles up for quirkiness.  We’ve become enamored with an octopus city simulator; a zombie survival game with an abundance of “cool it” dialogue choices; and a crime-solving, fedora-wearing feline.  To round things out, our final two games exist entirely in the imagination, but on completely different ends of the horror-to-cute spectrum.    

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!

Neverending Nightmares – Although last week’s horror feature, Shades of Sanity, drew inspiration from the deceptive world of mental illness, Neverending Nightmares is born from real life experience with it.  Creative director Matt Gilgenbach’s struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, heightened after the stress and financial failure of Retro/Grade, encouraged him to create a game that would speak and give hope to others suffering from the alienating challenges he was dealing with.  At the same time, Neverending Nightmares is an engaging horror adventure that is focused on immersing all players in its world by abandoning distractions like an item inventory, HUD, shoehorned puzzles, or pixel-hunting.  Players will take on the role of protagonist Adam as he keeps waking up in new nightmare worlds made up of “a diabolical mix of carefully crafted tension, startling moments, and disturbing imagery,” much of which is based on Gilgenbach’s own intrusive OCD thoughts.  Deciding what is real and what is a creation of Adam’s subconscious will be vital to escaping the hand-drawn, black-white-and-blood red environments, although seeing every branching ending will require multiple playthroughs.  The playable demo available on its Kickstarter page proves Neverending Nightmares is already a heavily atmospheric, engaging experience that could set a new bar for both the fact and fiction of psychological horror.

Octopus City BluesOctopus City Blues is poised to take the “Octopus City simulation genre” by storm.  While the gameplay is technically that of an old school point-and-click adventure game, the setting is the last human city on earth, built up around a giant octopus.  Our hero, Kaf Kafkaryan, is an octoblood addict who ekes out a living as a tentacle trimmer.  When not maintaining the grounds of Octopus City or searching for his next blue blood fix, Kaf will interact with NPCs whose schedules and attitudes towards him change throughout the game, based on your actions.  As a mostly spineless hero, Kaf is easily stressed by uncomfortable situations and may make mistakes or adjust his approach to characters based on his current emotional state.  To help reduce his stress level and keep Kaf functional, players will need to gather information to keep him prepared for unexpected scenarios or occasionally find him a hit of octoblood to ease his nerves.  The primary goal of the story remains vague at this point besides some sort of lonely king who enjoys Cubist art and turkey.  We do know Octopus City Blues will send Kaf into a number of dreamscapes where he will have to take on new roles and challenges, such as a newly recruited soldier escaping from an island ruled by dung beetles.  The game’s quirky, hilarious slant extends throughout the Kickstarter project and rewards, which are worth checking out on their own—a $1 pledge will allow backers to meet the CEO of developer Ghost in a Bottle, assuming the backer pays all travel expenses for the trip to Kuwait, while a $25 pledge will earn players a copy of Octopus City Blues with “over 10% more animated tentacles than the regular version.”   

Death Road to Canada– Just mentioning Death Road to Canada is the next game from Punch Quest developer Rocketcat Games should be enough to get most potential fans to check it out.  If you need a little extra push, it’s a roguelike post-apocalyptic zombie survival sim in which you’ll gather a band of up to five survivors together to stave off imminent death while traveling from Florida to Canada.  When not fighting off hordes of up to 200 zombies with your pixelated wrench, shotgun, pistol, or other makeshift weapon, you’ll scavenge the randomly-generated ruins of the city for supplies and other non-zombified humans.  These survivors interact with and have opinions of each other, and you’ll need to keep them moderately civil if you want to make any sort of progress before perma-dying.  Or, as Rocketcat suggests, you could “Find a dog, teach it to drive. Have all the humans in your party die. Make the dog recruit other dogs until your band of survivors consists of 5 dogs driving a muscle car.”  Come on, that is obviously what we’re going to do as soon as this comes out, hopefully on Steam as well.

Sword ‘n’ Board – We’re somewhat shocked to be including Sword ‘n’ Board here; with a charming theme, playable demo, and modest request of $7,500, we expected this puzzle-adventure game to be funded almost immediately.  But with only one week left on Kickstarter, it’s still shy of its goal and a guaranteed completion.  We sincerely hope it finds success in this final week: inspired by the simplicity of youth and the joy of turning everyday objects into fantastical creations, Sword ‘n’ Board stars a young boy named Sidd whose imagination is his greatest weapon.  He sets out on a pretend adventure to retrieve the missing pieces of his game console; the monsters and dangers he faces are make-believe; his sword is made of cardboard and the dark dungeons are composed of pillows.  With a strong focus on puzzles in a Legend of Zelda-type adventure atmosphere, Sword ‘n’ Board is reminiscent of Ittle Dew, but with an even greater emphasis on retro-difficult challenges, item combinations, and secrets.  This challenge may appeal to the past gamer in all of us even more than its youthful theme, but like every aspect of Sword ‘n’ Board, it’s a charming idea just waiting to be made real.

Hot Tin Roof – This choice should come as no surprise after our extended preview earlier this week, but Hot Tin Roof is quirky and compelling enough to warrant a second tip of the fedora.  As a Metroidvania-platformer-puzzle-adventure game, the Jones On Fire pseudo-sequel is worth checking out on gameplay alone, but truly shines thanks to its noir stylings.  Emma Jones has taken on the role of hard-boiled detective, and with the help of her feline sidekick, Franky, sets out to solve a string of grisly murders attributed to one of the local animal mafias in town.  Jones’ various abilities come in the form of endless bullets for her revolver, which can be used for anything from high jumps to bluff-intimidating suspects.  If all this isn’t enough to get your gin-soaked heart racing, the Kickstarter has some sweet swag available, including suspicious kitty buttons that are so cute they must be feline fatales.

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