Black Annex , a lovely indie game working its way through Steam Greenlight right now, is a game of corporate espionage, power brokerage and murder. The dark gameplay and frenetic action seem totally at odds with the adorable figurines-on-a-boardgame art style. Caught up in the contradictions of it all, I asked Black Annex's solo developer, Australia-based Lance McDonald, what was up.
“Black Annex is clearly influenced, as far as the art style goes, by Theme Hospital . I really enjoyed the kind of graphics from Theme Hospital, which really made you feel like you're playing with little people inside a toy world,” McDonald told me. “Nothing really looks 'real'; I really wanted an art style that makes the player feel like they're playing with toys. It's meant to be fun, a little bit charming maybe, but still overall fairly dark.”
A new 40-minute gameplay video of Black Annex 's alpha build shows how the game is shaping up. The single-player, isometric espionage plays a little like Monaco , except you can control the entire squad. You take assignments and assault secure facilities to hack consoles, capture and interrogate employees. Causing distractions will let you sneak up on people, and security teams beam in to take you out if you trip an alarm. As you gain funds and complete missions, you can afford to recruit new types of agents so you can play in new ways.
The game also boasts an incredible score by Abducted by Sharks , Seattle-based musician Teo Acosta. Electronic beats and industrial drums make the already-tense atmosphere even more intimidating.
“Despite the criminal and violent overtones, I want people to look at [Black Annex] and say 'that's actually kinda cute,'” McDonald said. “In the end, it's just my own personal love-letter to the games I grew up playing.”