The secret of life and death. Trolls in love. Home defense taken to the extreme. And a piping hot cup of your favourite coffee to boot. You wouldn't expect all that in your browser all at once, but, well, surprise! Plus, I think we can all agree that the Doctor would probably approve of this week's news too.
News and Previews
But Will It Have A Narration? Digital magicians Supergiant Games are currently best known for their stunning, evocative action RPG Bastion, and now two years later it looks like they're gearing up to floor us yet again. Transistor, planned for a release in 2014 (no platforms yet decided), is another action-RPG, but this one set in a sci-fi dystopian world where a young girl gains control of a powerful weapon after she's attacked and nearly killed with it, and you'll have to fight against everyone who wants to take it with her as she tracks down all of its former owners and tries to discover what's happening in the city. The trailer is as jaw-droppingly gorgeous as you'd expect, with more of the team's fantastic music, and some creature design that wouldn't look out of place in Atlus's Persona series. Watch for more details on this one, because you're going to want to play it.
We Play Fez Now. Fez is Cool. PC gamers, rejoice! If you're like me and don't own an XBOX, all you could do was lay facedown in a pool of your own sadness while others were enjoying Polytron's XBLA exclusive Fez, the puzzle platforming adventure that took the gaming world by storm. Well, be sad no longer, because this May 1st Fez is coming to Steam! This is fantastic news and time to do your best Dr Zoidberg impression in celebration while you wait.
Sounds Like... Michael Molinari OneMrBean) has been responsible for some of our communitie's favourite creative games, so if you know him at all you should be intrigued to hear about his latest project, Soundodger. It sounds sort of like what you'd get if you took a "bullet hell" shooter, then took all the bullets out. Each level is a song, choreographed to let shapes and patterns fill up the screen, and you need to dodge them all. I'd say it sounds relaxing, if not for the fact that the trailer, which is about as funky cool as it's possible to get, makes it look more than a little challenging... and hypnotic! No word yet on whether it'll be a pay title, though if anyone deserves to get paid for his creative work it's definitely this guy, and you can keep your eyes peeled for a release for PC, Mac, and Browser.
It Could Be Witches, Some Evil(?) Witches... NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and takes place in November, but you might not be familiar with NaNoRenO, ((Inter)National Renai Game Writing Month) where daring developers create visual novels in March. Mink, along with Ristorante Amore's AuroCyanide, is working on an intriguing sounding title called Witch/Knight, and if you're a fan of fantasy and introspection, this might be one for you to watch out for. It's about a knight named Bethlyn who's been trying to track down the Goddess of Rebirth to convince her to bring someone back to life, but may have bitten off more than she anticipated. It's planned for release on April 1st, and considering it's being done in a month you can probably expect it to be on the short side, but it looks absolutely stunning and is something visual novel fans will want to keep their eye on.
Lands of Dream, Here We Come Pack your bags, because later this year Jonas Kyratzes is sending you on another doubtless incredible adventure. Thanks to players like you, Ithaka of the Clouds has been successfully funded, and we couldn't be happier. The game will follow two trolls in love as they journey across Kyratzes' iconic Lands of Dream in search of the legendary city of Ithaka, and if you know Kyratzes' work at all, you know you can expect this to be another of the sort of intelligent, emotionally driven game we wish there were more of. Congratulations, Jonas, and we can't wait to see it!
Two for Two And speaking of successful Kickstarter projects, spare some more applause for White Lotus Interactive's XING: The Land Beyond. We've talked about this first-person puzzle adventure before, but now you can rest easy knowing it's going to be a reality since they've successfully reached their Kickstarter goal with more than a week left in the project, though you can still donate if you'd like to fund some additional environments in the game. Having been fortunate enough to try the demo, without spoiling anything I can tell you that XING is the sort of achingly beautiful and impressively atmospheric adventure game that we could do with more of, and one fans of lush exploratory puzzle gameplay would do well to keep their eyes out for.
Home Improvement... and Warfare Reecer6 has brought Jason Rohrer's upcoming multiplayer defense game The Castle Doctrine to our attention, and it looks like a doozy. Within the game, you're tasked with building a safe yet deadly home filled with traps and other defenses that will not only keep you and your family safe from invaders and burglars, but also allow your family to move about without getting killed by their own defenses. The catch is that all the burglars are other players, and you're a burglar as well, allowing you to try to steal from other players' compounds... if you can get past their defenses. It's currently only in Alpha, though if you purchase it now you can play it as it is and get free updates, so make sure to check it out, and hopefully a demo of some sort will be forthcoming for players who want to try before they buy.
Like Mother, Like Son For some people, stories about paternal love and sacrifice can be intensely personal and emotional, and if you're one of those people, you might want to check out the Kickstarter for Studio Fawn's upcoming action/RPG Bloom: Memories. It's about a woman who's an "abomination", a person becoming twisted by the corruption invading the land, and winds up giving birth to a son like her, with whom she'll set out on this adventure. The idea is that both characters share pain that the other endures, and each has special abilities that can help the other as you play. It looks absolutely gorgeous, and if you love otherworldly fantasy, you'll definitely want to add this one to your list.
Take THAT Starbucks! The time management/simulation supercombo is one that's hard to pull off just right, but Danny Vink's Kickstarter for his upcoming game Barista Blast shows he might just know what's up. Planned for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android (yay, equality!), the game tasks you with running a coffee shop with a realistic environment, where you actually have to craft the specific, specialised drinks the customers order on top of keeping a clean, tightly-run shop. It looks cute and fun as all get-out, and asking the player to craft the orders themselves is, as proven by the Papa's Series, a great way to keep the player involved. Look for this one to release later this year!
Not Starring Robin Williams Getting people to listen to new thoughts and ideas they don't typically entertain can be hard, and John Colburn wants to take a crack at it with his IndieGoGo campaign for his upcoming action-adventure Ninmu Nanmu. The game follows our hero, a guy living in the near future, who winds up accidentally exposed to an alchemical experiment that swaps his gender... and tosses him into a conflict between two secret societies. Lots of stories tend to use gender swapping as a punchline or fetish, but Ninmu Nanmu wants to try to make you think beyond all that as the protagonist suddenly is faced with what's inside him(her)self and deciding what he(she) wants out of life. Ninmu Nanmu is already a webcomic (that isn't suitable for children), and John does have some experience making games, so this one has a lot of potential.
This Is Way Better Than The Lonely Island's Idea Like indie games? Like paying what you want? Then be sure to check out the latest sale over at Bundle In A Box! Billed as "The Cerebral Bundle", it features five games for a minimum price of $1.99USD, plus four more if you beat the current average price paid. Amoung the offerings are RPG adventure Phantasmaburbia, and the first chapter of the Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller series. This is a fantastic deal with some seriously stellar items all around, and since proceeds not only support charity but also the Indie Dev Grant, it's a great way to ensure there are even more amazing indie titles down the line.
NO THOUGHT FOR YOU Back in 2011, we reviewed Littleloud's weirdly charming and unsettling management simulation Sweatshop, which tasked you with running a factory overseas responsible for pumping out the sort of things people around the world consume without a thought for how they were produced. It stood out for its style and unique way of bringing awareness to an issue too few people really think about. It recently made its way to iOS, but has now been removed from the App store under 16.1 - "Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected." While it's true that the content in the game is objectionable, it's also true that that's sort of the whole point of it, and this isn't the first time Apple has put its foot down over a game that tackles uncomfortable issues. Fortunately, you can still play the free browser version, and we can only hope in the future that Apple considers the difference between "offensive and crude", and "eye-opening and thoughtful".
Caveat Emptor Games that incorporate microtransactions are one thing, but free-to-play or "freemium" is quickly becoming a dirty word in the gaming community. Of course, not that you'd know that going by industry giant EA's numbers for its latest iOS game, Real Racing 3, despite heavy criticism for its aggressive monetization. As CNet says, EA believes this is proof players not only accept but embrace freemium games, and it's hard to deny that the numbers appear to be in their favour. Of course, as any gamer will tell you, there's a difference between a microtransaction and holding your customer upside down and shaking them until all the quarters fall out, and there has definitely been a disappointing trend with many mobile games tending towards the latter. As it relates to the indie market, Vlambeer offers this opinion on mobile developers and what they should charge their players.
Do you know an upcoming indie project or some community gaming related news you think deserves some attention? Send me an e-mail with LINK DUMP FRIDAY in the subject line at dora AT casualgameplay DOT com with the info, and we'll judge it with the all-seeing glare of our own self-importance for inclusion in a future Link Dump Friday article!