Something to Play: “SpeedRunners”

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In the lexicon of the gaming subculture, one of the most common terms thrown around is speedrunning, meaning to play through a level or game as fast as possible. From the popularity of this style of play comes SpeedRunners, the latest in a long line of time attack styled, speed-based platformers. It lays a solid foundation,but could use some more polish.

The gameplay of SpeedRunners can be compared to the likes of Super Meat Boy or ‘Splosion Man. No matter which character you choose, you’ll be able to run really fast and race through increasingly difficult 2D obstacle courses to beat the clock. You’re then encouraged to play though the level again to perfect your time and score.

Now, before I get into some of the weaknesses of this game, I should note that, at the time of this writing, this game is in what Steam calls “Early Access”. This means that, while players can purchase and play the game, it’s still technically in development. However, I want to go ahead and tell you about the game as it stands right now.

With that in mind, let me go over the one slightly weak spot in the game: the story mode. Here, you’re cast as a superhero sent out to protect the city from a mad bomber. It makes for an entertaining diversion, but you can easily beat it in about an hour. On top of that, the stages themselves don’t get to be particularly challenging until the halfway point.

What does make this game more unique is the multiplayer mode, where you can race against three other players until you’re the last man standing. You can also play as several different characters, including caricatures of actual YouTube stars if you care to buy the DLC. There’s also support for user-created levels, as well.

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Again, this is a game in development. And for what it’s worth, you’ll get some fun and exhilarating gameplay. But when you compare it to the competition, you may find that your money may be better spent elsewhere. Pick it up if you’ve already played the time attack essentials and looking for a little something extra.

You can find SpeedRunners on Steam, here.

Something to Play: “Cloud Chamber”

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First of all, I’ve gotta give a shout-out to the folks at Extra Credits, a YouTube show that discusses the evolution of video games from a developer’s point-of-view. It’s because of their recent episode “Interactive Video” (which you can watch here,) that I even heard of today’s game. It’s a very well thought-out out show and if you’re really into indie games, they have a spin-off, James Recommends, that’s all about that.

Anyhow, the game I’m talking about this week is called Cloud Chamber, and I honestly haven’t played any other game that’s anything like it. Here’s the concept: A filmmaker has been developing a documentary about a secret laboratory that’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough to end all breakthroughs. However, after a strange and disastrous happening, he decides to upload everything he has gathered to an online database, represented here as a 3D landscape, with the height of the landscape signifying the importance of the information. Your job as the player is to investigate all of this information and work with all of the other players to determine what happened and in what order.

Still with me? Great. It’s best summarized as a massively-multiplayer mystery game. Every node of information, be it audio, video, or article, has a comment section built into it. By participating in the community and adding things to the discussion that people find worthwhile, you unlock more information to further discuss.

If you ever had an in-depth discussion with your friends after watching a deeply thought-provoking movie, you know what this is like. Cloud Chamber takes that kind of conversation and implements it into every part of the story it’s trying to tell. It’s very detailed, too, with subtle clues sometimes being the only indicator of a clip being before another clip, or after it.

This is not a game for everyone. If you prefer games with more direct interactivity, or if you’re not one to converse through message boards, you should probably look elsewhere. It’s not perfect, either. There’s some overacting in the clips and I still can’t tell if one of the main character’s accent is supposed to be American or British.

But Cloud Chamber is definitely one of the most unique and creative concepts for a game I’ve seen in quite some time. At a $20 price tag, it might be a little pricey for those not sure if this new kind of game is something they’d enjoy. But if you’re looking for a game that’s nothing like what you’ve played before, it might just be worth the price of admission.

You can pick up Cloud Chamber on Steam here.

Spotlight on Adult Swim Games

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Note: Those of you who read my “Discovery” article on Ghostly International should know that this is the continuation of that category. However, in the interest of self-explanation (and the desire to sound less pretentious), the category is being renamed “Spotlight”. Enjoy!

In a couple of past posts, I’ve mentioned [adult swim], a comedy network that shares channel space with Cartoon Network. They’re no strangers to the indie scene. Independent and experimental music is used regularly in the network’s promotions and packaging, and they even have a annual series of free downloads dedicated to highlighting some of these musicians. For the world of indie video games, they have a different approach. The publishing business.

[adult swim] Games focuses on finding independently developed games and using their connections to publish the games on various platforms, including Steam, the iOS and Android app stores and even their own website. They then use their position as a TV network to advertise these indie games to mass audiences, producing (often animated) commercials to air on breaks. On one occasion, they even went so far as to produce a full-length, live-action trailer to accompany a game’s release.

They’ve published a number of titles over the past couple of years. Let’s take a look a of few of them.

Retro Throwbacks

Games such as Super House of Dead Ninjas and Volgarr the Viking fit this category nicely. Defined by 16-bit graphics and a brutal difficulty, they harken back to the days of trial and error and memorizing passcodes in front of your Super Nintendo.

Mobile Games

Here you’ll find arguably the publisher’s most popular titles, the Rainbow Unicorn Attack series.

Not your thing? Me neither. Maybe Major Mayhem is more your speed!

Or how about my personal favorite, Monsters Ate My Condo!?

And… Everything Else!

Super Puzzle Platformer traps you in a Tetris board and challenges you to survive.

Soundodger mixes the music genre with a “bullet hell” style.

And Jazzpunk… Well, I still don’t know how to describe Jazzpunk (although, I did try).

I have a lot to respect for [adult swim] Games. This is a company that could have easily (and rightfully) focused on publishing games based on the network’s popular shows, but they instead do something really cool for the indie game landscape. Curating unique and interesting games and helping the developers get the exposure they deserve.

You can find more games published by [adult swim] by visiting their website, Steam page, iTunes page, and Google Play page.

Something To Play: “Jazzpunk”

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So I’ve been looking over some of the indie stuff I’ve gotten my hands on in the months before I started this blog. I may be plunging into that archive a few times before this year is over. One particular thing that stuck out to me is a strange little game, developed independently by Necrophone Games and published to Steam by none other than the video game division of experimental comedy network [adult swim]. Welcome to the world of Jazzpunk.

Where do I even begin with this one? Well, the story (nonsensical as it is,) places you in the role of Polyblank, a secret agent running espionage missions in an alternate-reality Cold War era. But don’t be fooled. This is a absurdist comedy, first and foremost. You’ll be asked to perform completely insane tasks to achieve slightly less insane results.

Need to get into a room? Go collect a bunch of spiders in a jar and let them loose on the guard. Need to fool a security camera? Go the copy-machine, take a picture of your butt and show it to the camera. Get the idea?

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As you do these strange things, everything happening around you becomes even stranger. Suddenly, your boss’s office is becoming flooded with water and octopuses. Now you’re standing in a creepy land made of pizza. It’s best to just go with the flow.

Actually, the best thing to do (in my opinion,) is to follow the story straight through on your first go. Then, after the end credits have finished, play again and go as far off the beaten-path as possible to see what else you can do. There’s pigeons to smuggle, frogs-with-Mohawks to escort and references to other video games to find.

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Both playthroughs will only take you a couple of hours, but I think it’s worth the price of admission, anyway. It’s really funny and I don’t think you’re going to find a game with this sort of look and feel anywhere else. What else can I say? Jazzpunk is a game where you’re thrown into a weird little world and asked to go see what you can make happen. If that sounds like fun to you, then hop on board!

You can find Jazzpunk on Steam here.

Something to Play: “Q*bert Rebooted”

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And now for something a little more old-fashioned. Remember Q*bert, the classic arcade game about an unexplained freak of nature hopping on blocks? Maybe you remember seeing him in Wreck-It Ralph? The little orange weirdo hasn’t seen a release since around 2005, but thanks to indie studios Gonzo Games and Sideline Amusement, he’s got one more shot at the spotlight.

Q*bert Rebooted has been released on Steam, this year, reintroducing the arcade veteran to a new generation. Not much has changed, in the grand scheme of things. The blocks have been swapped out for hexagons, and a few more enemy types have been added, but it plays the same. You’re still hopping around, changing the board from one color to another, while avoiding all sorts of creatures and balls who, for reasons we will never know, want you dead.  And it’s still just as fun.

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What is different this time around is that inspiration has been taken from modern-day mobile games. Each level provides you with a short list of challenges, such as beating the level in a certain time limit, or reaching a certain score, to get the full three-star rating. Gems (read: in-game currency) also tend to pop up periodically on the board for you to collect.

You can use these gems to buy new characters to play with. Ever wanted to play as a Q*bert cyborg, or a Dracula Q*bert? I know, the thought never entered my mind before, either. But there’s some fun to be had in seeing the classic mascot re-skinned in various costumes. I see potential for a toy line in this.

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Word is that the developers are working on iOS and Android versions of the game, and I can’t wait to see that. The mobile market is a place where these classic arcade franchises with simple mechanics can thrive and find new life. As it stands, it’s $4.99 on Steam for a simple, fun throwback. It even comes with a port of the original game, which may alone be worth the price of admission.

You can check out Q*bert Rebooted on Steam by following this link.