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  1. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Retro City Rampage

    Developer: VBlank Entertainment Inc. Publisher: VBlank Entertainment Inc. Platform: PC (GOG, Steam, Web), PSN (PS3, Vita) Release Date: October 9, 2012 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PC version of the game Sometimes games have a long development cycle. If you“ve been waiting for Retro City Rampage since the beginning then you“re very aware of this fact. This isn“t a game that started up only a few years ago either. It began life way back in 2002 when it was just known as Grand Theftendo. A lot has changed since then but the basic idea behind the game hasn“t been compromised. Retro City Rampage is basically what Grand Theft Auto would be like if it were released for the NES. You start the game as Player, who is some tough criminal scum. Thanks to some time traveling plot, you go back to Theftropolis and get to wreak even more havoc. Although it looks old, it manages to bring in modern gameplay mechanics such as a cover system when in firefights. Shooting even allows for locking on to targets, or else you can simply spray and pray with the twin stick shooter style. Although the game can definitely be played on keyboard, it feels smoother on a controller, which is the intended mode of play. From visuals to audio to gameplay, this is definitely a retro-inspired experience. Although the game is a bit too technical to ever run on an NES now, it still evokes the feelings of those older gaming days. However, it“s not content to simply emulate past styles. It also makes jokes out of the play styles as well as mistranslations, character quirks, and more. While the game would play fine without this heavy coating of referential humor, it is certainly not usually hindered by it. In the very first minutes of the game you“re going to be simply overwhelmed by reference. Metal Gear, Mega Man, Frogger, Back to the Future, and more are brought to mind almost immediately. There are, in fact, so many references to other games packed in that only the most encyclopedic gamer would be able to catch them all. Regardless, the ones hammered on most often tend to be for the most popular games. In that way, both gamers with a casual retro game knowledge will be able to get as much enjoyment out of the humor as others. As mentioned in the list, 80s movies also have a place in the game. Very obvious references to other popular time travel movies are brought up and it works well with the tone. For all the constant reference, it feels very much like the game is a celebration although it isn“t always as fun as that sounds. For example, do you remember a stage from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles where you must swim and dodge seaweed? That“s in here as a stage and it“s still not very fun. Retro games are now known for their difficulty and Retro City Rampage pulls few punches in regards to it. If it makes you play a minigame styled after a tough title then it“s still going to be a chore. Sometimes it“s not a frustration, but other times it really does get on your nerves. Obviously the developer recognizes the chore that these levels presented, and since we aren“t in those days any more, it would be nice to see them simplified. Why simplify challenge when the game is based off hard 80s titles? It isn“t all pure skill that will get you through them. The game itself has a specific control scheme which just isn“t best for all of the varied gameplay sections that it makes you play. It would have been much more time consuming to change play control for each mini game, but still, there should have been some middleground met to make them challenging, but not because of the controls not fitting the mode. Most of the time you will not have too much trouble due to controls, though. Beyond sections that evoke specific games, the rest of Retro City Rampage is very much like the older Grand Theft Auto games. From a top down perspective, you race around the city looking for missions to take on. “Race” isn“t exactly the right word though when half the vehicles plod along with no sense of speed. Going from place to place, noting all the references on buildings, streets, and billboards, is entertaining at first. After a while though the excitement drains from it a bit. Sure, it“s still a hugely detailed world with a lot to find, but it loses some charm along the way. One part of lost charm is due to the comedic stylings of the script. Some jokes are great fun, but others are uninspired and childish. Perhaps I was just in the wrong mindset for it all, but with the game constantly joking at you, it again loses some punch. With the world that the game inhabits, it makes sense that this could never be a serious game, but it could have used an editor to trim text of less successful jokes. Again, the hits to misses ratio on the script favor the hits. It“s just something you tend to notice when playing through every mission available. Visually, Retro City Rampage excels. It does pixel style in a way truly reminiscent of older days, instead of some of the fancier pixel art we see with other indie games. This may mean it looks “ugly” to modern gamers, but most of us should still be able to appreciate it wholeheartedly. Possibly the coolest feature in the game is the ability to change the visual “style”. Although it will not change how the pixels actually look, it will change the color schemes. This is done to emulate, say, the Game Boy“s original greenish screen with black blocks. There are a multitude of these modes for things like a black and white TV, green and black screened PCs, and even the Virtual Boy. It“s a testament to how much the developer loves retro games that they implemented so many color modes. Would gamers who missed out on the 80s and early 90s eras of gamings benefit from this title? It seems like this game would bewilder them. Without knowledge of the past, this game would probably seem schizophrenic and have no sense of self. To be fair, it really has little “self” that isn“t drawn from other games, but at least it“s funny for those of us who are aware of other older games. Really, it seems that Retro City Rampage is trying to sell gamers on nostalgia. The gameplay itself isn“t addicting, and at times annoying, but it“s worth it to have the joy of recalling our favorite games from the past. If you were someone who had an NES, SNES, Genesis, or even PC in the 80s or 90s, then this is a game you should check out. It may not be the most fun in the world to control, but it isn“t necessarily about the gameplay. It is about reminding us all of simpler gaming experiences that are now mostly gone. This is an ambitious goal and many have already accepted the game based on premise alone. Give Retro City Rampage a shot and you might just feel like a kid again. Pros: + Feels like a game that could have come out on NES + Great deal of visual customization + Thousands of references to spot Cons: - Some games it recalls for missions don't play well with control scheme - Some of the script fails to be humorous - References galore leaves less time for the game to excel on its own merits Overall Score: 6.5 (Out of 10) Decent Retro City Rampage excels at recapturing the feelings many gamers haven“t experienced since the NES era.
  2. If you were someone who hadn't heard of the Giana Sisters before this game, you wouldn't be the only one. The Great Giana Sisters was a 1987 platformer which was quite similar to Super Mario Bros., hence the humorously close title. Much later, Giana Sisters DS launched and attempted to get away from the "clone" status of its predecessor. Although there were only two games in the series, it captured many gamers interests and as such the "Project Giana" Kickstarter began. That campaign finished at the end of August and since then has been doing well. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams was selected in the second batch of Steam Greenlight games and about ready to launch. Now the game is finally out so platforming fans can get a taste of something new. This is the second game to make it through the Greenlight process, coming after McPixel. Right now, you can only pick it up on PC, but there are many distribution options. The game is available on Steam, GOG, and even GamersGate. Each of these storefronts has a current sale of 10% off for the title. Although versions are planned for XBLA and PSN, they won't be ready until 2013. Have you ever played a Giana Sisters game before?
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Retro City Rampage Screenshot 3

    From the album: Review Images

  4. Marcus Estrada

    Retro City Rampage Screenshot 2

    From the album: Review Images

  5. Marcus Estrada

    Retro City Rampage Screenshot 1

    From the album: Review Images

  6. Since Steam unveiled Greenlight, a lot has changed. First, they added in a $100 fee when it was clear too many people were screwing around with the system. Now, they have added new categories to the service which are looking to be filled with content. There is a new software category, since Steam recently started distributing non-game content, as well as a concept one. The software Greenlight category is basically what it sounds like. It is the typical Greenlight experience, except based around programs which aren't video games. Right now it is a very small selection of uploaded projects, but hopefully it will expand soon. In order for developers to put their software up, they must pay the same $100 fee as game developers do. What about the concepts category? This one is a bit different. Submitting things into it requires absolutely no fee. However, this is because they truly are "concepts" and will not get distributed on Steam, even if they get popular. The main reason to submit a concept is to get feedback and generate an audience for your ideas. It was also probably created to relieve some stress from the main Greenlight games page, which features its fair share of games in the very beginning stages. How do you think Steam is handling Greenlight? Will you check out the new categories?
  7. Marcus Estrada

    Steam Greenlights Next Bunch of Games

    Approximately a month ago, Steam Greenlight had its first set of games which were selected to be added to the service. Today Steam announced another batch of games which have been "greenlit". There are twenty games in this selection as opposed to the now paltry-looking list of ten from before. Still, it's great to see that Steam will be bringing games through the service at regular intervals. Afterfall InSanity Extended Edition AirBuccaneers Blockscape Contrast Fly'n Folk Tale Forge Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams (Project Giana) Gnomoria Interstellar Marines The Intruder Lost Story: The Last Days of Earth Miasmata Miner Wars 2081 NEOTOKYO Octodad: Dadliest Catch Perpetuum POSTAL 2 COMPLETE Secrets of Grindea The Stanley Parable: HD Remix Yogventures! Some of these games, like Postal 2 Complete, are finished and will probably arrive on Steam's storefront sooner. Other games are not yet complete and therefore will not be playable for a while. Currently, only one game between both greenlit lists has been released so far: McPixel. Do any of the recently greenlit games interest you?
  8. Developer: Opus Publisher: Marvelous AQL Platform: PC (Steam, Playism) Release Date: September 27, 2012 ESRB: N/A (E suggested) Are you tired of games? Their plots are always begging you to save the world, or save some person, or other related tasks. Sure, some games branch out of this basic storytelling frame, but it“s easy to see that many more fall right into it. Of course, it isn“t a bad thing to save the world, but it feels like every method of doing so has already been shown. Well, unless you“re playing Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy, where the world is in such dire straits that it will end in only 30 seconds. How is it possible to complete a game in less than a minute? Well, upon trying out the game you“ll find it isn“t quite as it seems. Starting out the game in “Hero 30”, you are a simple adventurer who is tasked with saving the world from vile Evil Lords. Each area has its own Evil Lord set on casting a spell which destroys everything in 30 seconds. Because it would be truly impossible to do anything in that amount of time, the Time Goddess lends a hand. By praying at her shrines located across maps you are able to reset the clock and continue playing. Another one of the Goddess“s powers is connected with leveling up. While most games require hours and hours of grinding, you“ve got seconds to become incredibly strong in this one. What she does is make it so that you can level up after simply one or two battles. It“s incredibly convenient, although the Goddess isn“t a pure entity. She loves money and requires you to spend it alongside praying to get time turned back. If you“re out, she“ll even help you out by giving you a “free” time reset... only to spring up on you shortly after to take all your hard-earned gear as payment, leaving you to fight naked. If you couldn't tell already, Half Minute Hero is a very goofy game; just the premise alone should reveal it as such. Every facet of the game works to be a silly adventure and makes it more enjoyable. Battles are taken care of automatically, levels go up fast, and the script helps keep you entertained in between. Although the game may seem too simple, there is more to it as you continue playing. For example, in order to fully complete a level, you“re going to have to unlock all the “titles” for it as well as beat the par time for a gold medal. Titles are given to you depending on what you do during the level and how long it takes. Breeze through a level and you“ll be given the better titles. If you instead spend a lot of time leveling up and buying items from shops, then you“ll be called a Sucky Hero. The game also keeps track of who you align with during play, what townsfolk do or don“t get helped out, and even what equipment you“ve got. These simple interactions affect what gifts you get at the end of levels as well as titles. Levels can take anywhere from under ten seconds to minutes, depending on what you choose to do in them. Starter levels have a lot less freedom of choice, but eventually they implement more possibilities as well as secrets. Sometimes the secrets are easy to find as they gleam in the light, or townsfolk tell you what they are. However, others are left as unknowns for you to discover on your own. As you“ve always got one eye on the clock, it even gets a bit hard sometimes to find everything a level has to offer in one go. There are multiple modes to the game as well in case you feel like 30 or so levels of this would get dull. These other modes are as long, but change up the main character. For example, there is Evil Lord 30 which sets you as the beautiful villain. Instead of battling enemies directly, you summon creatures to do your bidding. Similarly, there is a Princess 30 which has its own mechanics which mix side-scrolling with a twin-stick shooter. There are still more to unlock, but there“s no need to spoil them here. When starting up the game, you“ll find that it looks very cartoony. This visual mode, titled NEO Cartoon Mode, was created when Half Minute Hero came to Xbox 360, and it may appeal to those who are used to playing Flash games. If you“d prefer something else though, then I recommend opting to change visuals from the main menu. This turns the game back to the PSP original“s pixelated visuals and they better evoke the feel of the game. One plus of Retro Mode is that it comes with Evil Lord 30 and Princess 30 unlocked from the beginning, while modern visual mode doesn“t. There is even an included multiplayer mode, but at the time, it isn“t very good at pairing you with friends (or anyone for that matter). This is a shame, but the mode is basically like a larger world from single player, where everyone is trying to stop the Evil Lord first. Instead of letting you easily add friends to a game, it instead throws you into a lobby with little explanation or way to secure friends in a slot. Another small issue with the game is how, even when a 360 controller is plugged in, it continues to display PC-specific buttons on screen. You acclimate to them eventually, but seeing as how this version of the game was available on 360, it shouldn“t be hard to add those simple controller buttons in. Half Minute Hero is an incredibly simple game, but that“s part of what makes it so easy to pick up and play. The addictive, bite-sized nature is a lot of fun, as is the script“s silly wit. The multiple modes extend the length of the game as well, although most will probably prefer one gameplay style over the other. If you“re looking for a simplistic, fun way to spend chunks of your day with then be sure to give Half Minute Hero a shot. Pros: + Incredibly easy to understand and fun to play + Variety of modes that each last a good deal of time + Fun visual style and script Cons: - Lack of explanation for multiplayer mode - Game is best played in short bursts, which may annoy some gamers Overall Score: 8.5 (Out of 10) Great Half Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax Ultimate Boy lives up to it's own weird name and is a great title to pick up and play a little at a time.
  9. So, Gabe Newell on Gametrailers TV came and went back in August. There was no surprise announcement. Gabe Newell didn't kick off a massive alternate reality game that would ultimately end in the first ever world wide trailer for Ricochet 2, and we didn't get any information about Half Life 3. All of that was pretty much expected to not happen. But what really bummed me out was the distinct lack of insane theories linking every single second of Gabe Newell's screen time to some sort of clue about Half Life 3's imminent reveal. I mean seriously, come on guys. People will jump on a random 404 screen on the Steam website and make up a million reasons as to why it means Half Life 3 is coming, but you've got nothing for the sharks? Well guess what. I don't need you! Hold on to your tin foil hats because things are about to get crazy. ------------------------ As I said above, nothing related to Half Life 3 was revealed during Gametrailers trip to the Valve headquarters. And no matter how many times Geoff Keighley asked Gabe Newell about the long awaited sequel, the only answer he would receive would be about how much Gabe Newell hates sharks. I love that I didn't have to make this myself And also he would be swimming with them! Boom, there's your first hint (because why not) Gabe Newell is swimming with sharks. But not just any sharks, Gabe is swimming with great white sharks. And of course Gabe won't just be exposed out in the elements surrounded by giant boneless monsters, he'll probably be put into a cage... or a box. You have to see where I'm going with this. Gabe Newell is making a game based around sharks Gabe Newell is going to announce the sequel to The Orange Box, titled simply The White Box. Get it? Great Whites, cages are a type of box? No? Well screw you! Somebody has to think up these crazy theories and make connections where there aren't any! Haha, this is never going to get updated on consoles Going on with the shark theme, a Great White doesn't reach full maturity until they're fifteen years of age. That is half their life! And half of their adolescent life is seven and a half years, the amount of time that has passed since Half Life 2 released! Gasp, its all starting to make sense! Still no? Well how about this next piece of shark based trivia?! A great white shark has a never ending supply of teeth! No matter how long you wait, you will never ever get a shark's final tooth to come out! Wait... that isn't all. When you go diving with sharks it is more common to see the guide using fake bait to get the shark's attention. They advise against releasing the real stuff to the sharks for a multitude of reasons... So... uh... the sharks teeth will never really come out because they're always being developed and sharks are constantly being baited along with no chance of ever getting anything substantial... Well then. Sorry folks, but the shark theory apparently goes both ways. So according to great white sharks and Gabe Newell, you will either never get Half Life 3 or you'll get it when its done. I didn't learn anything! ------------------------ I'm not quite sure how to end this one, so I guess I'll leave a message for all of you people out there coming up with crazy theories about Half Life 3. Next time you see Gabe Newell make an announcement, you write up why it must mean Half Life 3 is coming because my insane theories seem to point towards it never coming out. Don't drop the ball next time! As always, thanks for reading.
  10. Marcus Estrada

    New Green Light Bundle Emerges

    While this isn't their first foray into the bundle world, Stolen Couch Games is doing something creative with their Green Light Bundle. As the name implies, their sets of games have to do with Steam's Greenlight program, although they are not sponsored by them. What is this bundle exactly and what makes it different from the others? In this bundle, you aren't able to get Steam codes with purchase at any price. Why? Because all the games included are currently on Greenlight, and as such, are not available through Steam yet. Obviously you'll still be granted download copies, but have to wait if redeemable codes are your aim. The bundle is meant to promote indies on Greenlight and convince people who pick up the set to vote them up. Here are the games you get with a $1 purchase: Omegalodon (PC, Mac) Pixel Blocked! (PC) Starlaxis - Light Hunter (PC) And here are the additional games if you spend $5 or more: Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land (PC) Dawn of Fantasy (PC) General Conflict (PC) Oniken (PC) Perpetuum (PC) Some of these games, such as Oniken and Omegalodon are probably very near Greenlight status, but others need more help. Regardless, if you pick up the bundle, next week you'll also be given Awesomenauts DLC. There are currently no other perks but eight games for a few bucks is still a deal.
  11. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Worms Revolution

    Developer: Team17 Publisher: Team17 Platform: PC (Steam), PSN, XBLA Release Date: October 10, 2012 ESRB: E10+ Chances are that if you“re reading this review, you“ve played at least one other Worms game before. The series is incredibly popular and has been ever since the first one launched back in 1995. Multiplayer has always played a big component in the series and new releases practically come out on a yearly basis. As the game is so fun by default, there usually isn“t too much added to the formula. Worms Revolution has attempted to bring a few new additions, but do they constitute a “revolution”? First off, let“s discuss the basics of the game. As the name should make clear, Worms Revolution is focused around worms. These aren“t typical earthworms, though, but warriors waging battle against each other. Players control their worms in a 2.5D world by arming them with various weaponry and goodies, such as bazookas, ropes, and air strikes. The sheer insanity of ways to arm worms is the main hilarious hallmark of the series. Battles proceed in a turn-based way to give each worm a chance to leave their mark during their timed turn. In this version of the game, little has changed in regards to the world, but there are still some things worth mentioning. For one, there are new objects in the landscape which can be used to your advantage (or used against you). These are things like water bottles and lighters dotted across various landscapes. Hitting a lighter can cause an explosive reaction, and other objects can be flung around to squash worms. Though these objects might add to strategy, at the start they aren“t placed in ways to make them incredibly useful. Often, you may find yourself simply getting your own worms blocked or blown up by an object. One larger addition to the world is water usable during battle, as well as odd water physics. Sometimes there will be water contained in sections suspended near worms. By breaking off some of the surrounding land you can of course get some water to rain down on the enemy. When worms stay submerged between turns it causes them trouble and, as you might expect, they will drown if in it for too long. As great as the addition could be, it has a fumbled execution. For some reason, the water doesn“t really flow like you would expect it to. No matter how steep the incline, water will pool up like gel and simply stop sliding down sometimes. It is highly unpredictable and therefore not worth relying on water heavily. The biggest and best change in Worms Revolution is the addition of new worms. There are four kinds of worms and they include Soldier, Scout, Scientist and Heavy. Along with having their own strategic uses, they also have distinct design to make telling what worms are out a simple process. As you might expect, the Heavy is a sponge for damage with a huge HP bar and stronger, though they take a hit in the speed department. Scouts aren“t as strong, but they make up for it with quick speed and agility. Scientists are the weakest of the bunch but offer up stronger weapons and will even help recuperate some health for the team. Finally, Soldiers are the basic type of worm that has been featured in previous versions. With the addition of new types of worms, the game allows you to customize teams of the various worm types. If you wish, you can have a team full of basic soldier worms. However, it“s often to your advantage to give other team types a shot to see which works best for you. Having the ability to specialize in certain play-types is a nice, if not revolutionary, addition. With teams, you are also able to dress the worms up with hats, facial hair, and other goodies. Even the voices of worms can be changed to sound classic, robotic, or other ways. When it comes right down to it, the main fun of Worms has always been multiplayer. However this game isn“t content to fail on offering single player stuff. There is both a main mission mode as well as puzzle mode. Although these modes don“t have an incredible amount of levels, when each match takes 5-30 minutes, you can expect to have a good deal of time spent playing them. Beyond that, they are at least fairly substantial with about 50 levels overall between the modes. If you want more then you can always design your own levels with the included level editor. In the main mode, you are tasked with battles against enemies while the puzzle mode is focused on figuring out solutions to problems. That“s not to say that these modes are perfect. One strange feature of the game is when the computer-controlled enemies take their turn. It“s doubtful that it takes the computer more than a second to formulate a move to go against yours. However, instead of immediately positioning a worm, attacking, and ending a turn, they instead take a great deal of time “thinking”. Perhaps this was done to emulate a human partner, but chances are, if you“re playing in this mode you don't want to deal with waiting. This might seem like a silly complaint at first, but it really makes no sense and the period of waiting is very oddly long at times. Then, the game tends to either lob off a weapon at you with perfect accuracy or miss completely, instead of being somewhere in between. Many players probably won“t notice though as all their time will be spent in multiplayer. As far as this goes, it works just like fans would expect it to. Beyond the addition of new worm types, environmental effects, and water, it“s your standard experience. As with single player, the matches may last a long time but it“s always fun to match wits against an opponent. Modes that are expected of Worms multiplayer are all present, such as Deathmatch and Fort, and also include a handful of match options to tweak things just right. You may play either locally or online and fight against up to four teams. When it comes down to it, Worms Revolution is a fine Worms game that adds a few things without destroying what players love. However, is it a necessary upgrade? It all depends on how much of a fan you are. If you“ve gone and had a blast with multiple previous versions, then go ahead! All that has been loved before is still here. For those who are completely new to the Worms world this is also a nice purchase, thanks to the addition of classes and handful of single player modes to get people started. No matter what, Worms Revolution is still a lot of fun and will no doubt gain a massive multiplayer audience soon. Pros: + Adds new features without breaking the formula of what works + New classes add new strategies to try out + Good deal of single player modes for the price Cons: - Water physics work in unexpected ways, making it an unreliable weapon - Enemy AI in single player is too good (or bad) and takes slow turns Overall Score: 8 (Out of 10) Great Despite some daring additions, fans of Worms will be relieved to know that Worms Revolution still remains an entertaining game.
  12. Retro City Rampage is one of those games that we have been hearing about for a long while and have been salivating over as the launch date approached. Because of this, it might seem impossible to believe that the game is finally available today. It is! It has just launched for PC via Steam, GOG, or through Vblank Entertainment's own shop, and on PSN for both Vita and PS3. The price is set at $15 across all platforms. However, PSN purchase in particular includes Cross Buy functions, meaning you can use it on PS3 and your Vita. Picking up via VBlank themselves offers a DRM-free version, but also a code for Steam or GOG if you choose to use it. If one were to sum up Retro City Rampage it would be best described as a comedic top down retro sandbox. For those who still don't know what Retro City Rampage is about this trailer should give you a great idea: Are you going to buy Retro City Rampage?
  13. Marcus Estrada

    Steam Finally Adds Software to Service

    We all knew it was coming but yesterday Valve updated the Steam store with a host of software applications. This was not the first non-game available to download on Steam, as Source Filmmaker got there first in late June. Interestingly, the announcement was initially made that more software would hop onto Steam on September 5th, but that date came and went with no change. This was around the time when Greenlight launched, so Valve probably thought it best to postpone a software launch until that cooled down. What software is available through Steam? There is no office productivitiy software but there are game design-related programs. There are seven pieces of software on Steam and they are: 3D-Coat 3DMark 11 3DMark Vantage ArtRage Studio Pro CameraBag 2 GameMaker: Studio Source Filmmaker Of all the programs, both Source Filmmaker and GameMaker: Studio are free. However, don't let things like that fool you as GameMaker: Studio is free because of all the features it lacks. In order to get fuller versions, upgrades are available at additional cost, totaling up to a massive bundle for $450. One funny thing to note is that GameMaker also has Steam Achievements for things like getting a hundred compile errors. Most of the programs are very reasonably priced at least and have a 10% discount for their first week. Give the small library of software a look and if what you want isn't there maybe it will be added in the future. Do any of these programs interest you? What software would you get on Steam if it were available?
  14. Since the launch of Steam Greenlight, we“ve seen many games show up on the service. Some appear in much more finalized states than others, and some are already existing games simply looking for the chance to be on Steam. Many fall into the category of platformer, or retro-styled, horror, and the like. However, a few of the games on Greenlight are really standing out as something different. These handful of distinctive games are worth taking a look at for trying new things. A handful are already released, while others are currently in development. Regardless of status, they're all worth looking into for one reason or another. Dream Dream is an upcoming adventure title by HyperSloth. As the name implies, it deals heavily with dreams and nightmares. In particular, the story is described as a college graduate who has no plans for his future. In his post-graduate life he obsesses over dreams as a coping mechanism to find his place in the world as well as to deal with the death of his uncle. While it may be defined as an adventure game outright, the focus is more pure exploration than anything else. Instead of being forced into a strict narrative, you may work through dreams in a non-linear fashion. Although no one knows yet if this game will succeed, it does have some notable titles that inspired development: Dear Esther, LSD: Dream Emulator, and Yume Nikki. To some, it might seem like this sort of game wouldn't grab the interest of gamers. However, it was one of the very first selected to be Greenlighted through Steam and will be available soon. FRACT OSC When people think of “experimental”, FRACT OSC is the kind of visual that probably comes to mind. Developer Phosfiend Systems calls their game a “first-person puzzle-adventure game inspired by synthesizers and electronic music.” This is probably the most apt description possible, although it doesn“t enforce the idea that it“s a music game too. The world of FRACT is “built” off music which seems to create an interesting world for puzzling. In the past, rhythm and music games were highly contained into being a certain way. Games like Dance Dance Revolution, Beatmania, and even PaRappa the Rapper all focused on hitting buttons along to a beat. The configuration wasn“t important as long as that specific gameplay element was there. We“ve begun to see more creative music-based games in the past few years, but this looks to be one of the few since Rez to focus on a world where you have control over music. Speaking of which, the developers said their game is like “Myst meets Rez meets Tron,” and its easy to see why they say so. http://youtu.be/Gk3wYi47gtc POP: Methodology Experiment One “POP: Methodology Experiment One is an experimental game in the most literal sense”, says developer Rob Lach Games. In this game you are meant to play through many brief games that aren“t connected by any genre. This is due to the fact that the developer created the game“s music first, and then went on to make gameplay that seemed to fit along with it. Although the game is based on music, there“s no requirement for you to hit keys along with the beat. The effect, Rob Lach says, is to create a “purposefully disjointed experience”. By simply watching the trailer it“s easy to see that this is true. POP“s visuals may be reminiscent of retro games but the concepts behind it have probably rarely been used in any actual development cycle. The game is already available via Desura or the official website but will probably get a lot more attention if it succeeds on Greenlight. The Real Texas Although The Real Texas may be an adventure game at its core, it manages to be a hugely creative title. What comes to mind when you think of adventure? Sometimes it“s a classic point-and-click or maybe even a modern action adventure romp. Rest assured that this game is neither, and there is probably very little like it on the market at all. Because of this, it manages to encapsulate the phrase “experimental” despite having a lot of concepts that we have seen elsewhere. The Real Texas by Kitty Lambda Games focuses around a rather blocky man named Sam who is on a vacation on England when he somehow manages to get transported to “The Strange Texas”. Using his wits and guns he meanders about helping and/or killing whatever he meets. Although the exploration is part The Legend of Zelda and part Ultima, it really manages to forge its own completely strange identity. This is another game that“s currently available, and gained some fans, but may become more of a cult hit on Steam. TRIP Now that we“ve reached the last featured game it“s time to pull out all the stops. If you opened this article hoping for something like a drug-induced trip, well, TRIP is your game. More art experiment than game, it focuses on checking out the digital world you“re placed inside rather than achieving any goals. In fact, there are no goals or enemies to take down. As developer Axel Shokk says, "...just you and the world”. It“s another game that looks like it could be inspired in some way by LSD: Dream Emulator, but regardless, it“s definitely creative. The graphics are simple polygons free of textures and almost seem reminiscent of early 3D consoles. Why pay for a game with no objectives? Some people probably won“t, but for others it will be a strange little world to mess around in for a bit. Sometimes exploring unfamiliar worlds is the most fun part of games. The game is already available via the official site but will definitely reach a brand new audience thanks to Greenlight. Even though Steam Greenlight has only been around for a month or two, the service has already seen many incredible submissions. The only unfortunate thing is how many of the games are hard to distinguish from one another. There“s nothing wrong with any genre, but games such as the ones listed here definitely manage to stand out more - for better or worse. Although these games might not all make the move to being on Steam, they“re at least grabbing the attention of gamers browsing the pages of Greenlight.
  15. Marshall Henderson

    Linux to See Steam Beta for 1000 in October

    It's been a while since we've heard anything about Steam's Linux plans, but things have been chugging along. In fact, beta testing is starting next week. Not for everyone, of course. On their blog, Valve's Linux team posted that the internal beta would be underway next week, and a private external beta would begin in October. It's fairly limited, though, with only 1,000 users being allowed into it. That's a pretty narrow window there! The beta will include the Steam platform itself, obviously, and one Valve game. Word on the street is that this is Left 4 Dead 2, but the team has confirmed that ownership of Left 4 Dead 2 wouldn't affect the applicant's eligibility into the beta. The beta supports Ubuntu 12.04 and above, so keep that in mind when signing up. Valve believes this beta to be good for checking out what Steam will be like on Linux, but warns that Linux newbies might want to steer clear until a more stable experience is available. Sign-ups aren't available yet, but will be in a future post on Valve's Linux blog itself. Are you a Linux-user? Would you be interested in this?
  16. If you're a fan of blasting aliens in turn-based strategy fashion, you're likely a fan of the X-COM series. While the franchise started to abandon its strategic roots with the shooter spin-off (currently in development hell), Firaxis has done X-COM fans proud with its remake of the original title, X-COM: Enemy Unknown. The demo for Enemy Unknown has just launched on Steam. If you've got a few GBs of hard-drive space, I'd recommend you give the game a spin. Firaxis has really made the feel of X-COM fresh and slick. Combat flows quickly and the action is brutal, bloody, and intense. Couple that with great Unreal Engine 3 visuals and you've got a surefire hit when the game launches this October 9th. Trust me: the demo is worth checking out. I was blown away with just how much love and attention has been paid to the look and pacing of the game. Look for the X-COM: Enemy Unknown demo here and check out the awesome trailer below! Are you looking forward to this re-imagining of the alien-slaying strategy classic?
  17. You've probably already downloaded the full Portal 2 soundtrack for free, but wouldn't you prefer a physical collector's edition of the soundtrack? What if it also included the original Portal's music (which was previously unavailable)? Well you're in luck, because Ipecac Recordings and Valve Corporation are releasing a four-disc set of Portal and Portal 2 tracks titled Portal 2: Songs to Test By (Collector's Edition). Not only are there 77 Portal and Portal 2 tracks in this collector's edition set (you can view the whole track listing by disc under the press release here), but also the mini-comic called "Turret Lullaby" (which is also viewable online). You can get your hands on a copy of Portal 2: Songs to Test By (Collector's Edition) on October 30th. There is no price listed yet. Do you enjoy Portal 2's soundtrack? Will you be purchasing this collector's edition that includes music from both Portal and Portal 2?
  18. Marcus Estrada

    Mark of the Ninja Heading to Steam

    Mark of the Ninja hopped onto XBLA just a few weeks ago on September 7th and people really seemed to like it. If you listen to the general consensus, it seems that the Klei Entertainment-developed title is a great blend of stealth and ninja action. If you've been unable to play it because of it being on 360 then soon you won't be able to use that as an excuse. Mark of the Ninja is coming to Steam. This was announced by Klei today and is sure to please stealth and/or ninja fans immensely. When exactly will it be available and for how much? Mark of the Ninja will arrive on Steam's storefront on October 16th with the price of $15. Some gamers have expressed worry about the possibility of the game requiring Games for Windows Live. Thankfully, the lead designer Nels Anderson has assuaged those fears and made sure it won't happen. The Steam announcement trailer for Mark of the Ninja is available on Klei's site and gives you a good look as to what the game offers, as well as show off the critical acclaim it has received. Does Mark of the Ninja look like a game you'd want to try? Have you already played it?
  19. Steam Greenlight is the hot new thing in the PC gaming world nowadays, and for good reason: the service is there to allow indie developers a real shot at getting their games onto the immensely popular digital platform. Sure, there was always a way for people to try and submit their games to the service, but many were rejected. Popular indie games that were on other platforms weren“t granted a way past Steam“s gates. Now with Greenlight it appears the task may be easier, as now gamers will choose what they want to play. As sweet a deal as that may initially seem, there were people out there who wanted to abuse the service. As Greenlight went live, it was flooded with interesting indie titles that were ranged from finished to "in progress." The game amount increased from dozens to hundreds and soon there were far too many for any one person to check out right away. Unfortunately, that“s when Steam and everyone else noticed a problem. There were serious games on the service, yes, but also a lot of joke and offensive postings. Many of the “games” were simply meme-filled posts which brought nothing to the service. Then there were sensitive topics treated with no respect, as one might expect from a troll. Beyond that, there were also obviously fake uploads such as multiple versions of "Half-Life 3" that kept popping up. As great as the service could be, it was weighed down by all this awful, ridiculous clutter. Valve needed to do something to combat this, and by the second week of Greenlight“s operation, they shared their solution: a one hundred dollar fee. It certainly makes sense as a gatekeeping measure. The biggest reason that so many people were making joke postings was because it was free for them to do so. It was free and it was a platform that thousands of people would be looking at. Those who already posted won“t be charged retroactively either, although anyone submitting now will have to be. The fee itself will only be charged to a developer once when they submit their first game. After that, they will not have to continue to pay money with new games. It seems like a fairly solid method to keep casual trolls at bay. Is this really the best solution possible? According to Valve, they implemented this method because there was a lot of “noise and clutter” being submitted. Not only that but there are people who don“t “fully understand" the purpose of Greenlight. Obviously much of the clutter will be cleaned up, but what of the second point? Just because someone donates $100 to submit their game, are they suddenly aware of Greenlight“s point? You“d assume that they would take the time to read before downing the money, but the fee doesn“t guarantee it. What if a kid makes their first game, uses the credit card attached to their account, and posts it? Unfinished projects as well as things that aren“t really up to snuff for Steam will still be posted for one reason or another. The same holds true for some trolls. Although most aren“t willing to spend money for their pranks it doesn“t seem fair to assume they“ll all be gone now. I still expect to see some clutter coming to the service either to deceive users or rile them up. What price would make them stop? It would have to be higher, but no one wants that. At best everyone would probably like to go back to no fee but that“s not going to happen now. What about reducing the fee down to $50, or even $20? If trolls are so opposed to wasting money to have a good laugh then these lower costs would probably offer the same benefit as the $100 one. The exact price to submit games seems to have been chosen randomly and may be tweaked later. One question to ask Valve is why have they chosen to “punish” everyone to squash out the bad apples? The money does not go back to Valve, but instead goes to Child“s Play charity. Valve doesn“t need or want the payments, so why go with this method? The move doesn“t seem to have been made because they wish to be in line with other digital publishing platforms. Judging from the fact that Steam didn“t make this the rule from day one shows it isn“t entirely thought out. What about the idea of banning accounts who are obviously submitting troll content? Some might say it would be hard to tell the difference between troll and newbie game efforts, but really if you have looked at the listings, it“s easy to see. If banning accounts in some fashion were implemented as the main rule, then it would have much the same effect as a fee. That is, as long as they also would make sure the only accounts that can upload something are in good standing and have a purchase tied to it. The account regulation is currently in effect, at least, and helps ensure that people aren't joining Steam just to spam Greenlight. One point that gets brought up is how other services like Apple“s App Store and Xbox Live Indie Games charges a fee. This is true, but they don“t do it in the same way that Steam is now doing. With the App Store, you are given rules which to abide by. As long as you follow these rules, then your item will eventually be pushed to the store. Are you guaranteed anything by publishing to Greenlight? Of course not, it“s just the chance that you“ll get zillions of “thumbs up” to get it going. The biggest question I have is how worthwhile it even is to spend money just to jump into a popularity contest. If you have no social media management abilities to help get the word out about your game, will people just flock to it? It“s possible, yes, but the most liked games so far are ones that are the most famous. Previously popular titles such as Project Zomboid rack up lots of attention but most are stuck with very low positive ratings. Obviously Greenlight is going to be updated to make games more visible, but so far it still doesn“t help most developers. Some say that Greenlight could be used purely as advertising since most games won“t get through it, but again, at this point the service just isn“t at a point where that would be useful. Getting a game onto Steam has always been a bit of a mysterious process for independent developers. Many great games have been rejected, and not-so-great games attached to big names were pushed right through. With Greenlight, we are now in control of selecting games that are worth our time. It“s a great deal with a few negatives that Valve still needs to work out. While their newly implemented fee will help, it also hardly seems the only method to maintain listings. Perhaps soon we will see a new solution promoted by Valve that will please everyone. What do you think about the $100 fee? Will it serve its purpose amicably? Are there other ways you can think of to solve Greenlight“s current problem?
  20. Leah

    Review: To the Moon

    Developer: Freebird Games Publisher: Freebird Games Platform: PC (Web, Steam) Release Date: September 6, 2012 (out now) ESRB: N/A (E10+ for Everyone 10 and older recommended) Have you ever had a dream that you wanted to achieve in your lifetime? Travel the world? Become a doctor? Write best-selling, critically acclaimed novels? The majority of the time, we never get to have that single, big wish come true. But what if it was possible to have another chance at reliving your life—to reach that goal that you“ve always dreamed of? To the Moon presents that very scenario, where doctors go inside the minds of dying patients to fulfill their wish. Sure, that change to the patient“s memories is only inside their own head, but it can provide utmost happiness and satisfaction right before they draw their dying breath. The particular tale of memory-altering that To the Moon tells is that of an elderly man named Johnny. Our playable characters, Dr. Roselene and Dr. Watts, learn that Johnny“s lifelong wish was to go to the moon… but why? Your main objective of the game is to find that out—and then, of course, make it so for Johnny. The game is definitely story-driven, with minimal gameplay elements. At most, you will search around for items and solve small puzzles (which are all tile-flipping grid puzzles). And when you do get to those parts, it“s dull, repetitive, and bothersome. So, keep that in mind if you“re looking for a full-fledged adventure game, because To the Moon is far from one. You“ll like it a lot more if you“re into interactive stories/visual novels, though. So, if To the Moon doesn“t have much in the gameplay department, how is its story? It“s certainly worth playing through the game for its emotional and touching tale. However, it“s not a heartstring-tugging and depressing one that has you questioning life while you lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling like many have made it out to be. Nonetheless, I think it“s still very well-written (in terms of its plot) and has a nicely implemented climax and twist at the end. I was really amused by the banter between Dr. Roselene and Dr. Watts, and I grew to enjoy them as characters. I believe Johnny and his wife, River, should have been fleshed out a bit more, though. Graphics and music are what To the Moon excels most in. The game uses pixel art for its graphical style, and it“s tremendously visually appealing. All of the pixel artwork in To the Moon is highly detailed – from the backgrounds to the character sprites. An array of deep and vivid colors is used; it“s a nice change of pace from a lot of other games. Even the animation exhibits attention to detail. You“ll notice that characters will often show off varieties of stances and bodily and facial motions. As for the music, I“d say it“s To the Moon“s best component. The soundtrack is one of the better ones I“ve heard in the past year or two of game releases. Many of the tracks are just so emotional that they“ll give you goose bumps. To the Moon“s music undoubtedly enhances the experience twofold. So, if you do end up purchasing a copy of the game, try spending the few bucks more to get the soundtrack as well. To the Moon isn“t a bad game, but it“s not a masterpiece either. It“s simply good. I still appreciated my time with it and liked the story. In fact, I“m looking forward to Kan Gao and Freebird Games“ next project—which is most likely the next adventure of Dr. Roselene and Dr. Watts. Here“s hoping that they take criticism and suggestions to heart and make the next game an even greater experience. Pros: + Highly detailed pixel art and animation + Music is amazingly beautiful and enhances emotional experience Cons: - Writing feels a bit amateurish and story could use a bit more depth - Gameplay elements are minimal, and when they are there, they“re boring and annoying Overall: 7 (out of 10) Good To the Moon isn“t the heartwrenching, grippingly emotional work-of-art you“re looking for. Still, it“s a game worthy of having its tale being told.