2014 has brought us a tiny surplus of indie, turn-based strategy games. And happily, they’ve all been thematically and mechanically different: The Banner Saga (an elegant Viking epic), Xenonauts (a spiritual sequel to old X-COM), Dead State (a Fallout-like zombie sandbox in Early Access). Halfway is less complex and sprawling than these games, which ends up as both a shortcoming and an asset.
As ever, your humble guide to the world of free games has poked, prodded and evaluated the week's many freebies, shoving the best ones into a handy roundup for your consideration. Read on for ghost wheels, faceless wizards, GTA-style tplosjons (it's not a typo), oh and THE BEST PUN IN GAMES. Enjoy!
Shadowgate was a brutally-hard Mac (and later NES) adventure game, where one failed puzzle could murder you and force you to start all over. The remake that Zojoi Studios has coming updates those visuals for the modern age, but keeps the puzzles difficult and the atmosphere dark. When I spoke to developer Karl Roelofs last month about the game's progress, the team still wasn't sure about its release date. Now that date is set, and Zojoi has exclusively revealed it to us, along with a trailer that shows off Shadowgate's commitment to its history.
In an unusual twist, this week's Best Games don't appear to be have been created with a game jam in mind – but that doesn't mean I don't have some hot, sticky, viscous game jam news to relay: Game Jolt now allows users to set up their own game jams using a seemingly easy-to-use set of tools. Before the Jampocalypse begins in earnest, let's stop to appreciate a handful of games operating under their own specific themes, each with something bold and new to impart. Read on for a splash of colour, a sweary Scotsman, a modern-day maze, an interactive short story and touchy-feely bomb-defusal. Enjoy!
I can't imagine a combination of words more targeted to my interests than "rhythm roguelike". Maybe "chicken ice cream", but that would be disgusting. Crypt of the Necrodancer, however, is a sublime game—tying turn-based dungeon crawling to the beat of a Danny Baranowsky soundtrack. Even better, it will be available at the end of the month, with the Early Access version launching on 30 July.
The competitive local multiplayer scene is in a great place right now. Should you require a way to prove a very specific type of dominance, there are multiple, excellent options: Nidhogg, Towerfall Ascension, Samurai Gunn and Gang Beasts, to name four. Could Push Me Pull You wrestle its way into that list? Really that depends on how much you want to play as bizarre worm-people, grappling and grabbing for possession of a ball.
If you love puzzle games and Neil Gaiman, I have some great news for you: there are a lot of great puzzle games and Neil Gaiman books out there for you to enjoy! I also have some bad news.
Wayward Manor sounds like fun: a creepy old mansion is full mean, tacky people, and it's your ghostly duty to haunt them until they flee in fright. Throw in a Neil Gaiman story and hand it to The Odd Gentlemen, the studio behind the highly enjoyable The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom, and it sounds like a great game. The only problem is: everything.
Most turn-based tactical RPG fans are currently being well served by the excellent Divinity: Original Sin. But if you're the kind of RPG devotee who prefers sci-fi to fantasy, pixels to polygons, and creeping dread to tongue-in-cheek adventure: firstly, that's some very specific taste you have; secondly, Halfway could fit the bill. Its claustrophobic deep space action is being unleashed onto Steam and the Humble Store next week, 22 July.
Good news for those of you looking forward to scratching around for food and warmth in the aftermath of a geo-magnetic catastrophe. And hey, who isn't? There's not too much longer to wait. The Long Dark, which is the hugely promising artsy survival game from debutant studio Hinterland Games is heading for Steam Early Access in September.
If you're a regular player of PC games, it's rare to be struck by indie envy. There's an absurd amount of games out there, of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds – easily more than could be played in a lifetime. Despite that, when 2D skating game OlliOlli arrived on PS Vita, I very nearly bought one. Thankfully, I held off, and now the game is just a week away from its PC release. Rad!
It's Monday morning and the games industry is asleep. Before it wakes and starts vomiting news from every orifice, let's jump into a neat new game. From the top-down perspective, to the colour palette and soundtrack sensibilities, there's more than a little of Hotline Miami to be found in Technicolour Rain. Here, though, you can possess a level's guards, sending them to do your dirty work with no danger to your own fragile frame. The game is still in development, but you can now play an early demo for free.
It's a shame the preferred view for city-set action games is now an over-the-shoulder one, as there's something enjoyably Police, Camera, Action!y to viewing a metropolitan crime spree from a bird's eye view. It's also, I'd imagine, a hell of a lot easier and cheaper to implement. Metrocide is the rare city-set game employing a Cpt. Birds Eye perspective to tell its story of a freelance assassin doing his murdery job in a cyberpunk dystopia. It's a bit like Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 (only seemingly without a fully open world). It's a bit like Syndicate, for obvious cyber-reasons. It's also a bit like Hitman, what with you being a hitman and everything. See how these various influences coalesce after the break.
This week: a painful coming out, a girl named Tess, a subtly improved Swindon, yet more intentional glitches, terrifying shadow monsters in a monochrome mist world, and one more Hitler than the norm. Read on for some great games that won't cost you a penny/dime/credit/gil of your (presumably) hard-earned cash.
If you have to admit you’ve made a mistake, it’s best to do it in a blaze of pixelated glory. At least, that’s the tactic Powerhoof used to announce the delay of its upcoming dungeon crawler, the aptly named Crawl. With the game set to release on Steam Early Access in just a week, Powerhoof was forced to push back the game’s launch. Then the two-man team decided to pacify the inevitable anger by breaking the news in the form of a gif, and boy did it work.
The Nightmare Cooperative has come a long way since its clever browser-based prototype back in March. It's still clever, but now it's gorgeous too, boasting a lovely angular art style that fits the turn-based puzzling like a glove. This new version of the single-player co-op roguelike (I'll get to that in a moment) now has a trailer, along with a release date: Wednesday July 16th. Thoughts and moving images after the break.
In honour of Glitch Jam, I've clipped through my floor and I'm currently hurtling into the void beneath the world. Luckily I thought to bring along my laptop for the journey, so I'm able to bring you a few highlights of the jam, mid-hurtle, including super-purple glitch tourism, buggy medieval dungeoneering, and some other stuff that isn't quite so messed up. Now that I've typed the word 'glitch' so much it's beginning to disassociate in my memory, let us begin.
A public service announcement: Videogame characters; sure, delving headlong into an unexplored cavern might sound heroic, but caves are the first sign of a roguelike. Remember: if you see a cave entrance, think! Walk on by, and find something safer—a hidden object game or a point-'n-click adventure. No, not the Sierra ones.
With that out of the way, let's take a look at Vagante. It's a... oh, it's a cave-based roguelike. I don't know why I bother.
Take a short break from slowly toasting in the Summer heat to appreciate this trailer for the snow-filled puzzle game A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build. It's a Sokoban-style block-pushing game, in which you must create a snowman by rolling and stacking snowballs of descending size. It's as close to the Winter months as most of us will get without resting our head in a freezer.
This week sees the grand return of Space Email, the ambitious, if a bit naïve, indirect messaging system that was taken down due to technical and moral reasons – namely the sort of harassment that tends to emerge when people are granted a degree of anonymity. Its creator, Shelby Smith, has now brought Space Email back under a more robust system with a more stringent filtering system. I've only had time to explore it a little this morning, but so far so strange, and moving, and worrying, and sweet. Elsewhere this week: forest-based horror, train-based sleuthing, the goddamned heartbreaking Bottle Rockets, and a couple of games to help you recover from that. Enjoy!
This week's column was 13 years in the making, or at least it felt that way late last night. Read on for indie gaming's Duke Nukem Forever, a Brendon Chung space bounty hunter game (!), one of the most joyous, inventive, text-free interactive stories I've come across (!!), Homebase's most misguided wallpaper advert ever, and a gothy philosophical platformer about following or not following orders. Exercise your free will by obeying this instruction to join me after the break.