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  1. Happy Independence Day, my fellow gamericans! Yes, that“s what I“m calling you guys today. DEAL WITH IT! So yeah, the day of independence has arrived, and what better way to celebrate than by giving independent developers some love? It“s an unfortunate truth that most indie games fly under people“s hypothetical radars, giving some truly magnificent games less exposure than they deserve. So in the spirit of Independence Day, let“s all watch the fireworks as I list 20 upcoming indie games you should have on your radar. A Hat in Time - Q1 2014 - http://youtu.be/uPnyZ5txtmE Developer: Gears for Breakfast Platform(s): PC, Mac, possibly Wii U Back in the N64 days, when Mario and Donkey Kong were making their transition into the 3D realm and a certain bear and bird came onto the scene, some kind of magic happened to the gaming world. But these days, 3D platformers have become pretty scarce. That“s what indie dev Gears for Breakfast thinks, anyway. As an answer to this shortage, A Hat in Time was born, taking deep inspiration from games like Super Mario 64, Donkey Kong 64, and Banjo-Kazooie. There, now you have no reason not to keep an eye on it. Among the Sleep - Q4 2013 - Developer: Krillbite Studio Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux Have you ever wanted to play a game starring a baby? Oh, you have? Well, to each their own, I suppose… Anyway, in indie horror game Among the Sleep, the concept of an infant being the protagonist actually seems to work really well. Not only does the game involve reality colliding with the child“s limitless imagination, but… well, you“re a baby. Try fighting off whatever lurks in the night in that state. Yeah, it“ll be pretty terrifying for sure. Dead State - December 3 2013 - Developer: DoubleBear Productions Platform(s): PC There are plenty of zombie games creeping about, but never have I seen one quite like this. Rather than the run-”n-gun type of gameplay we tend to see a lot of in games revolving around a zombie outbreak, Dead State seems to take a more tactical approach. Tasked with maintaining a school sheltering survivors, you will find yourself developing relationships and gathering supplies, all while fighting off zombie hordes in a turn-based battle system. Not sure about you guys, but that concept sure piqued my interest. Owlboy - TBA - Developer: D-pad Studios Platform(s): PC, XBLA If this game is already on your radar, I wouldn“t be surprised. Owlboy has been in development for a pretty damn while, and could be delayed even further for all we know. But hey, the game looks well worth the wait, so we“ll just have to deal. Looking like the product of the SNES and Sega Genesis after a crazy night in Vegas, this 16-bit beauty seems to be shaping up really well. Let“s just hope we don“t have to wait much longer to experience the thing… Project Zomboid - TBA - http://youtu.be/WtEZArEji4U Developer: The Indie Stone Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux Much like Dead State, Project Zomboid is (obviously) a game about surviving a zombie outbreak. I know, we can only get so many of those, right? This one interested me, though, so I threw it onto my radar. It“s basically an open-world, retro-style RPG of sorts where you try to survive for as long as possible in a place that was quarantined by the government with uninfected humans still in there. Man, what a bunch of jerks… Super T.I.M.E. Force - 2013 - Developer: Capybara Games Platform(s): XBLA I“ve heard some amazing things about this game from people who managed to try it out, and from what I see, it looks like it“ll be about as good as they say. Once again fitting the retro category that many indies go for, Super T.I.M.E. Force is a side-scrolling shooter that involves time-manipulation. Oh, you say that was obvious? Fine, slap the game on your radar and move on then! The Iconoclasts - TBA - Developer: Konjak Platform(s): PC You know, there are times when I feel like I“m reliving the 90s all over again. Not that I“m complaining, of course. I personally love that we see all these indie games going with a retro look. Speaking of which, The Iconoclasts looks simply stunning. It looks a bit like a cross between… well, a lot of games. *sigh* Alright, nostalgia, you win. I“ll go play the demo for this game… The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa - Late 2013 or early 2014 - (Click image for video) Developer: Tales of Game's Studios Platform(s): PC, Mac Remember that game, Barkley Shut Up and Jam!? Well how about the JRPG sequel to it and Space Jam known as Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden? Okay, so it was just a fangame, but still. And that very fangame is now getting a sequel of its own! Yeah, I wasn“t expecting it either. Nonetheless, it actually looks kind of interesting. Sure the title is ridiculous, but you should never judge a book by its title. You should judge it by its plot. And who doesn“t find a game involving a “powerful youngster†awakening from a “B-ball induced coma†to go on a quest to find a “cyberdwarf†interesting? The Witness - Early 2014 - Developer: Number None, Inc. Platform(s): PC, iOS, PS4 (timed console exclusive) Anyone who saw the official reveal of the PS4 (probably most of you) likely remember seeing Braid creator Jonathan Blow show off his latest project – The Witness. If you“ve played Braid, I might not even have to go on in order to persuade you. For the rest of you, it“s essentially a puzzle game with tons of exploration, set on a gorgeous island with a lot of pretty colors. I think I had a dream like this once… Starbound - TBA 2013 - Developer: Chucklefish Games Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux, Ouya Upon looking up upcoming indie games in order to put this list together, I came across a game that Indie Game Magazine gave the award for “Most Anticipated Game of 2013.†It“s called Starbound, and I naturally felt the urge to find out more. As far as I can see, I can only predict countless hours being sacrificed for this game. With so many things that interest me, from the retro look to the ability to build things with amazing customization, I will be watching for this one. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs - Summer 2013 - Developer: Thechineseroom Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux If you“ve played Amnesia: The Dark Descent, you know fear. So naturally, you crave more of the stuff, right? Then you“ll be happy and/or frightened to throw its sequel – Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs – onto your radar. All you really need to know about this game is that you“ll probably want keep a spare pair of pants nearby at all times. Trust me on this. else { Heart.break() } - TBA 2014 - Developer: Erik Svedang Platform(s): PC No, I am not trying to code my way into breaking everyone“s hearts. But as the name may or may not imply, the game itself is indeed all about coding things. In fact, you will actually be coding things yourself in order to solve puzzles! So if you plan on playing else { Heart.break() } whenever it sees a release, prepare to put your brain to work. Don“t get too excited, though, as I highly doubt you“ll be able to code an entire game after your playthrough… Stardew Valley - TBA - Developer: ConcernedApe Platform(s): PC, XBLA Anyone who loves Harvest Moon will probably love this game. Anyone who loves insane amounts of customization will probably love this game. Anyone who loves 16-bit graphics will probably love this game. The point is, Stardew Valley has a lot to love, as far as I can tell. Similar to the Rune Factory games, you can devote your time to farming while also duking it out with monsters in nearby dungeons. It“s almost like if Rune Factory came out in the SNES era. That idea alone has me sold. Transistor - TBA 2014 - http://youtu.be/Ni02F7l4lAg Developer: Supergiant Games Platform(s): PC, PS4, possibly others in the future The first time I heard about this game was during the explosive Sony conference at E3 2013. I was impressed enough just by watching the video they presented, but after knowing that the guys who made it also made Bastion, I didn“t hesitate to throw it on my radar. The game looks pretty damn good. I don“t know much about this game, but let“s be honest, I really don“t need to. Shovel Knight - September 2013 - http://youtu.be/tMAelGIXfCw Developer: Yacht Club Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, 3DS Swords are for chumps. All a knight really needs to combat enemies is a nice, sturdy shovel. Have you ever been whacked with a shovel before? It hurts! But more importantly, this game looks like a bag full of awesome. Continuing the retro theme the indie scene seems to favor, Shovel Knight looks a lot like a cross between Mega Man and DuckTales. Need I say more? Well, it has an 8-bit soundtrack. There, now put it on your radar. Two Brothers - Q3 2013 - http://youtu.be/8egDoNHtmhE Developer: AckkStudios Platform(s): PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, PSN, XBLA The final game on our independent list is really, really retro-inspired. Two Brothers was basically built as a nostalgia game. No, that“s what they themselves call it. Created in the style of Game Boy games, just looking at this game makes me glad I“m able to play Game Boy games on my 3DS. Nostalgia is a powerful thing, man. Anywho, this game looks like it“ll be a lot of nostalgia-filled retro fun when it“s released, and I for one can“t wait… What indie games are you looking forward to that weren't on this list?
  2. Whether or not you enjoyed recent games like Dead Space 3 or Resident Evil 6, one this is for certain: they“re not traditional horror games. Both series may have had roots in survival horror and even been quite scary at times, but they have shifted to action horror, if you“re even willing to call them horror at all any more. What has changed about gamers and the industry over the years to cause this? The trend has been a long time coming. In a way, if the oldest horror games had access to today“s technology, they may have been action-horror hybrids from the start. There are still many out there interested in more pure horror experiences, but big names in the industry are less enthused. Why cater to a smaller portion of the market when you can hit many more targets with the action genre? If you feel like a stranded horror fan then maybe you should look toward independent games. Indie developers are not beholden to any audience and create whatever they want. As of late, they are especially interested by horror. Here is a list of five upcoming games looking to please fans of horror. A Short Tale of Solitude Starting off the list is A Short Tale of Solitude which seems to draw more from literary and cinematic worlds than games. As such, it definitely looks like something set to surprise many gamers. It is set during World War I as a young French boy named Sebastian loses both his parents. He goes to live in an orphanage in which children rule and engage in pretty grisly rituals. The game itself is set to play out as a point-and-click adventure all in black and white. Then there are the children of the orphanage, who disturbingly look much more like wooden dolls than children. Sebastien, as well, takes this form. Phobia Interactive implies that this is due to him being a “sick” child, imagining safer things to help distance himself from the true horror unfolding in front of him. A Short Tale of Solitude was hoped to see completion in January, but will now hopefully arrive a bit later this year. Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Amnesia: The Dark Descent terrified gamers nearly three years ago. Although it was not the first game to place gamers into such a powerless character running from a stalking being, it definitely managed to be the most popular. Finally, developer thechineseroom is nearing completion on their next game: Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. Although not a direct sequel, it is set to play off the same universe they already built up. It takes place in 1899 as a man returns from a disastrous trip. Instead of returning home to heal, his mind is filled with images he can“t control - images of a strange machine. From there, the game looks to draw off the existing puzzle and hiding gameplay that fans have come to expect. Currently, the game is set to be out in the 2nd quarter of 2013. Among the Sleep Among the Sleep is a game which has been just under the radar for years now. Having won multiple festival awards over the years, Krillbite Studios have been working hard to perfect their surreal experience. The game centers around a two year old child who lets their imagination get the best of them late at night. While in control of the child, players will begin to experience a wide variety of strange and scary occurrences. As the small child you must work to overcome the surreal phantasms and stay safe from danger. That may be hard though, considering how powerful the imagination of little children is. Do you remember some of the spooky stuff you imagined at young ages? Hopefully Among the Sleep manages to capture youthful fears well. There is no date announced for its release but the game is said to be coming soon. Shadow of a Soul Vivec Entertainment“s Shadow of a Soul is looking to create an episodic horror tale. It also happens to be the first on the list which isn“t a PC exclusive (also aiming for PS3). In the first episode, players focus on a thief attempting a heist. As he explores, the realization quickly dawns on him that things are not right. Whatever is there with him won“t let him leave, either. Players will progress through the game with adventure game style control. Despite this, the game has 3D environments and looks fairly like a “modern” game. Ghosts are an underutilized entity in games so hopefully Shadow of a Soul uses them effectively. The episodic series will be a trilogy and Chapter 1 currently has a release date of May 2013. http://youtu.be/tenpLSKU-9U Slender: The Arrival Last year, a new horror phenomenon sparked in the form of Slender: The Eight Pages. Although the Slenderman character and surrounding modern mythos are not exactly fresh, the game managed to introduce many to the thin, well-dressed monster. It also showed that horror in its purest state has no requirement of good graphics or compelling storyline. Developer Mark Hadley was not content to let his original game be the end and is currently working on Slender: The Arrival. This time around, the game is going to be a more polished experience. An actual narrative is infused by the writers of the Marble Hornets web series, as well as the game getting a complete graphical overhaul. Although fans were happy enough with the original Slender, this is an attempt to make the game as Hadley envisioned it (but was unable to create on his own). Slender: The Arrival will be out on March 26th. It“s easy to see that horror is still a big deal in the gaming world. With big names shunning the genre, it only leaves more room for indie developers to flourish. This list is only the start, as there are many other horror games also hoping to launch this year. Some other intriguing titles are: Asylum, Memory of a Broken Dimension, Routine, and Stasis. As long as there is still a thriving community of horror fans in the gaming world (and there always will be) then someone out there will keep creating horror games!
  3. What news would be better on Halloween than a trailer for the upcoming Amnesia sequel? None! Amnesia: The Dark Descent managed to scare countless gamers when it came out in 2010 and the sequel is now looking to do the same. There hasn't been much shown of the new game since June (with a teaser trailer) but now we have another video which shows off more gameplay, but less pig squealing. A Machine for Pigs took development out of Frictional Games' hands and instead gave the reigns over to thechineseroom (developers of Dear Esther). Although this may worry fans of the Penumbra series or Amensia, which were both created by Frictional, they will still be around with the role of producer. Regardless of who is behind the title, it does appear that it still has the hallmarks of Amnesia intact. Check out the trailer below and see if you agree:
  4. Horror as a genre is something that has been around for a long, long time. Stories like Frankenstein, films like Psycho, and others have captured the minds of people years after their releases. Although many will shrug off horror as a fad, it always manages to come around and bring out new, enticing experiences. The same is true of horror games, although they have seen quite a shift as time goes on. Now we“ve got games like Resident Evil 6 which received critical reception and may or may not even quality as horror anymore. Upcoming titles like Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs instead look to try and recapture more primal scares. Where did horror games start? Will they ever come back to their roots? Most will suggest that Sweet Home, Alone in the Dark, or even Resident Evil started the horror game genre. However, the earliest attempts at horror were even older. They may not have sparked a fad, but they are important all the same, especially when you consider how similar they are thematically to what came later. One of the very first was Haunted House on Atari 2600 in 1982. The game had players controlling a pair of bright white eyes through a pitch black mansion. As you search for an urn which needs to be pieced together, enemies attempt to get you. Your goal isn“t to simply avoid them, though, as you“re required to collect other items in order to access new sections of the mansion. It“s an incredibly simplistic game but it set up a few basic ideas: haunted houses are scary and contain puzzles. Uninvited The Atari 2600 was home to other horror games, such as the extremely limited print run of Halloween, and a few others, but after that it was up to the computer crowd to come up with something. In 1986, a new game came to Macs named Uninvited. The point-and-click adventure took place in, you guessed it, a haunted house filled with creepy things. Again, it made sure to include puzzles for progression and a graphically impressive atmosphere for the time. The Lurking Horror was released a year later, but in stark contrast, featured no graphics. Despite being a text adventure, it managed to be quite effective at scaring the player and ultimately became a popular game. Heading into the late 1980s we will now see one of the games that everyone likes to classify as the “original” horror game... but we'll get to that in a minute. There is one more notable game that requires a mention. Project Firestart arrived in 1989, in fact, only a few months before Sweet Home. Regardless, it managed to be another title which now seems like a blueprint of the genre. Despite trying to be an action game, the atmosphere was made to be eerie. It offered up players only limited ammo as well which contributed to a feeling of weakness. In order to push the narrative, players would discover abandoned journals and learn from first hand accounts. What games do you know of nowadays that employ this same technique? While Project Firestart isn“t entirely playable today for most, it does deserve credit for being a fair contender for a blueprint of horror games. A few months later, Sweet Home arrived on the Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES). It“s easy to see why people peg this as the de-facto horror template as it contains all the hallmarks, such as a haunted mansion, group of survivors, puzzles, and did in fact serve as inspiration for Resident Evil. Funnily, the game was itself based off a film of the same name, meaning it is licensed title. Regardless, it fused a horror atmosphere with RPG elements and managed to be a worthwhile adventure. Unfortunately, gamers outside of Japan have never had the opportunity to play a “legitimate” copy. Splatterhouse When thinking of these games, it“s easy to point out that horror has shifted away from ponderous searching into blood-soaked FPSes, but that“s not completely accurate. Even back in the 80s there were pairing horror themes with action gameplay. Massive series such as Castlevania had begun back then, as did Splatterhouse with its gory, gross, and over-the-top killings. Mostly though, attention was paid to depicting haunted houses. If you wonder why, simply look to the '80s film landscape, which was when the slasher film flourished. Slashers took place in shopping malls, markets, and more, but mostly they took place in scary buildings. Although there are even more games that peppered the '80s, the next big title is Alone in the Dark from 1992. With this title, we were pushed into a polygonal world of horror. Although the graphics appear more goofy today, they managed to bring the idea of static camera angles to the genre (which would later be used to great effect in Resident Evil and Silent Hill). The game featured two playable characters, monsters, and puzzles. Many attribute the creation of survival horror to this game, and while not entirely accurate, it“s easy to see why. Alone in the Dark definitely brought some new ideas to the table and helped developers and gamers both realize that survival horror experiences were possible in 3D. Between the end of the '80s and the '90s, many horror games made the rounds. However, there were a few notable ones before Resident Evil graced the PlayStations. Clock Tower: The First Fear arrived on Super Famicom in 1995 and brought more of the same - a haunted house. However, one huge innovation was the idea of one main antagonist. Instead of simply running from various monsters, there was one evil entity ready to stalk you throughout the entire game. No matter what you were doing, Scissorman might be right around the corner, ready to strike. Hiding or simply running was a necessity lest the protagonist fall into a panic and possibly get killed. Although non-Japan based games have no legal means of playing it, the rest of the Clock Tower series has arrived in other countries. Resident Evil Finally, in 1996 something amazing happened. A game with B-horror quality voice actors, polygonal graphics, and a weird story managed to become a massive hit. Resident Evil hit the PS1 with a bang and players couldn“t get enough. The game took place in a mansion, of course, and had two playable characters as well as zombies (and other creatures), static cameras, puzzles, and basically all the hallmarks of what was now known as the “survival horror” genre. Although very few of these features were new, they were put together in a very playable fashion. Its tank controls may not have aged well but the game is definitely deserving of praise for making horror games mainstream. From then on, horror truly exploded in the gaming landscape. Tons of games peppered the landscape, although only few became notable. One such game is Silent Hill, which also came to the PlayStation in 1999. Although it would be hard for modern gamers to really understand, at the time most viewed Silent Hill as a Resident Evil rip-off. Even covers of magazines depicted protagonist Harry Mason as a muscled, grizzly man ready to shoot the head off zombies. Of course, Silent Hill was nothing like this and instead focused on an entirely creepy town and the cult at the center of it. There was more psychological goings-on than just surviving, and that helped usher in other types of horror titles. Other games came out in this time period attempting to either cash in on tropes, or try something new. Overblood attempted to be more of a sci-fi zombie game, but didn“t catch on much. Parasite Eve took a page out of the Sweet Home book by fusing horror with RPGs, and perhaps to better effect. Blue Stinger tried and failed at being a beat ”em up like Splatterhouse. Echo Night tried to channel ghosts and give a more moody approach, but still relied on puzzles and eventual stalker character like Clock Tower was able to establish. If there was one thing in common, many developers at least attempted to keep some semblance of scariness in their games. Titles like Silent Hill 2 arrived in 2001 and only further pressed players to embrace psychological horror. With the age of the PS2, many titles arrived which played to the strengths of the original Clock Tower. Rule of Rose, Haunting Ground, Clock Tower 3, and more all paired players up against continuous stalkers. The idea that the scariest thing is to be unarmed, or poorly armed, fueled these titles and made them enthrallingly horrific experiences. Others like Fatal Frame also made use of this logic, although they did arm their protagonists with a “weapon”. Resident Evil 4 With the arrival of Resident Evil 4 (first on GameCube in 2005) we saw the genre attempting to shift. Along with zombies that weren“t quite zombies, the game became much more action-oriented. Although Resident Evil 4 managed to mix scares with action, it gave a glimpse to what the next generation of horror was set to offer. Plentiful (enough) ammo, a strong hero, and loads of zombies was something that fans wanted more of. Despite the shift in tone, it was still impossible for Leon S. Kennedy to shoot while walking. Games continued to filter into the genre but most weren“t very notable. Gamers seemed to not be very focused on the genre, even when the launch lineup for Xbox 360 featured the horror game Condemned. The genre wasn“t dead, but it seemed stagnant, until Left 4 Dead invigorated it in 2008. Despite attempts at horror action before, they most always seemed to air on the side of “horror”, unless they were Doom. Left 4 Dead though brought a very fast, exciting zombie shooter to the masses and it was a huge hit. Then we entered the age of zombies which is only now in recession. Zombies invaded horror games left and right as well as non-horror games, like Call of Duty. Zombies became the focus of completely un-horrific games like Plants vs. Zombies and basically lost all luster as a scary being. This evolution of zombies was one also felt by the movie industry, where film fans were angry that zombies were granted cognitive ability and now run. Fast, weapon-toting zombies entered into our games and many loved it, while some horror fans felt the genre had sold out. For a while we have lived with an overload of zombie games like Dead Rising, Dead Island, and beyond. Games like Dead Space, also out in 2008, kept many facets of the modern action-horror game but still desired to scare players. The fight between the splintering of horror was interesting, where some decried action-horror as a complete bastardization of the genre. Others believed that action-horror was the only way to go. Regardless of your opinions, it definitely seemed that the ones getting bought the most were from the action category. This is easy to see by simply looking at how Dead Space 3 appears to be jumping even further into action territory. Even the Silent Hill series tried its hand at more action-focused adventures with Silent Hill: Homecoming and Downpour. Alongside all these action heavy games, though, independent developers were rising to the occasion. Many longed for the games they grew up on, and because no big company was publishing them, made their own. From this world of indie development we“ve seen older types of horror return. Games like Lone Survivor, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and even Slender are putting the focus back on psychological or stalking scares. No matter what side you“re on, horror can maintain itself with many forms. Horror has lasted and evolved tremendously over the years. The question is now what will we see next? Perhaps we will see big companies follow indie examples and make horror games just the way they had years ago.
  5. Marcus Estrada

    Amnesia: The Dark Descent

    From the album: Marcus's Album