Right now, you are reading this on a screen. Be it on a computer, phone, or tablet, you’re staring into a black mirror while information is fed into your mind. What else have you done today? Have you checked Facebook or Twitter? Updated your Tinder profile? Maybe Snapchatted some friends? Regardless, a piece of you has been made public in some way, whether you intended it to be or not. When all of those pieces are assembled, who do people see? Is it the real you, laying bare the depths of your mind and soul? Unlikely. It’s a shallow facsimile of your flesh and blood self. It’s a calculated, perfect image that you’ve crafted by accentuating your strengths and satirizing your weaknesses. There’s nothing wrong with that; everyone does it. However, doesn’t it make your human form seem… inferior?
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one. You’re a battery-powered assassin equipped with a laser, setting out to take down a gang of miscreants whose unifying feature seems to be that they all wear devil ski masks and are led by Satan. Satan himself is the head of some corporation that apparently deals in ritual animal sacrifice, mind control, and hot dog manufacturing. With this in mind, your goal is to sabotage their bases of operations, all while rescuing monkeys and virgin goats, collecting dolls, and sprinting around like it’s a game of Unreal Tournament.
If you’ve played Legend of Grimrock, sitting down with Vaporum will practically be second nature. It utilises a tile-based movement system with real-time combat, and focuses on exploration, puzzle solving, monster fighting, and loot collecting. Key differences include a streamlining of combat (spells can be cast with hotkeys instead of inputting specific ruin combinations), the removal of parties (you’re all on your own here), and a switch to a steampunk setting. The latter of those is what really makes Vaporum stand out, with its mechanical arachnids, steam-powered suits of armour, and decidedly old-school weaponry.
Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series has been a veritable rollercoaster ride of quality. Episode one was mediocre, two showed promise, and three rapidly caused patience to wear thin. Given that trend, episode four should be an improvement, right? Well, it is, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sabotaged along the way.
GamerGate has developed something of an image problem. When the movement first came into the public eye in mid-2014, it was used to frame all manner of disparate narratives. If you go on any number of popular games journalism sites, it’s likely to be labelled as some sort of hate-fuelled rampage by a bunch of sadistic internet misogynists, primarily targeting women in the games industry. Other sources refute this, claiming that the whole thing is solely about promoting ethics in games journalism. Then, of course, there are all the people who fall somewhere other than these two bounds, muddying the waters even further.
“This feels a lot like Super Mario Galaxy,” was one of my first thoughts upon starting Gears for Breakfast’s Kickstarter success story A Hat in Time. The resemblance only grew stronger as the game progressed, with everything from the art style and game mechanics to the music cues and animations harkening back to Mario’s outer space excursions. Not content to be a simple retread of familiar territory, though, A Hat in Time manages to bring in new ideas while doing an admirable job of measuring up to its acclaimed influences.
Releasing in early access on January 30, 2017, Conan Exiles is yet another entry in the seemingly endless “early access survival” genre. Of course, the core draw with this one is the Conan universe: savages, slaves, monsters, etc. Plus, it’s actually seeing regular updates, including the massive Frozen North expansion which was recently released for free.
I suck at RTSs. Over the years, I’ve tried repeatedly to get into the genre, yet never managed to make any headway. From mainstream successes like Halo Wars and Total War: Shogun 2 to smaller, more “accessible” titles like Boid, I’ve always hit brick walls almost immediately. Going up against the AI sees me getting stomped as soon as the tutorial ends (or sometimes even earlier than that), and multiplayer is completely out of the question.
With my stellar track record, I was more than a bit apprehensive when approaching Mushroom Wars 2. However, its adorable art style won me over, aided by promises that it was approachable for players of all skill levels. I must say, I’m extremely glad that it did.
Rogue-lite mechanics have been one of the most popular features in indie games for years now, second only to pixel graphics, it seems. I get the appeal: given the comparatively small budget that many independent games have compared to their AAA counterparts, being able to artificially extend an experience with a near-endless supply of randomly-generated content is an appealing proposition. However, its prevalence has started to wear on me over the years, to the point where “rogue-lite” or “rogue-like” as buzzwords often tarnish my interest in a game. Thankfully, while this did somewhat colour my experience with Everspace, there were enough good ideas under the surface that it was worth a more thorough look.
Sine Mora EX is a veritable melting pot of ideas. It’s a bullet-hell shmup that replaces lives and health bars with a timer. It weaves a grim narrative of war, rebellion, and genocide, all seen through the eyes of anthropomorphic animals. To top it all off, its creators include the Hungarian studio Digital Reality, Grasshopper Manufacture (known to many as Goichi “Suda51” Suda’s development house), and Akira Yamaoka (known for his Silent Hill soundtracks). Somehow, though, all these disparate elements combine to create a shooter that is challenging, beautiful, and consistently entertaining.
Things weren’t looking so great for Jesse and company at the end of the last episode. Forced to look on in horror as The Admin enslaved one of their friends, the rest of the crew was cast down into a horrid prison. That’s exactly where episode three of Minecraft: Story Mode picks up, with Jesse crash-landing in a bleak, fiery realm. Stripped of their items, Jesse desperately struggles to track down their friends and escape. The question is: is escape even possible?
In closed beta since late 2016, Brawlout released in Early Access on April 20, 2017. It wears its influences on its sleeve, sporting visuals and mechanics clearly inspired by Super Smash Bros. However, Brawlout is no copycat, with unique fighters, more “competitive” maps, and a greater emphasis on combos and control.