Tag Archive: indie


Forget title

The tree of life.

It is said that any who discover the true heart of its being would truly inherit the power of the gods. The gift of life. It is something so precious that it is nigh unfathomable to even consider the possibility of its creation by almost unusually normal means. But what if…what if it were possible? Just imagine the difference it could make…

In one of the most vibrant, dark and quirky titles that I have played recently, Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden by Cavyhouse and Playism creates a glimpse of a world unlike anything you have ever seen. The view from a small town shop where a young witch performs alchemic experiments, a young boy wishes only to be strong enough to play with the other children, a girl wishes to talk with her cat and a ferret wishes only to feeds its family. That is but a small glimpse of the cast and clientele that come into this particular shop and they all come for one extremely rare and unique ingredient: organs (yes, the human kind – what were you thinking?).

Forget witchIrene’s shop has its own brand of alchemical and magical flair to it in that she has discovered a means of growing organs through a special variety of trees raised carefully in her greenhouse. As her apprentice, Organa, it is your job to care for these trees and harvest organs for the shop while filling customer’s orders. Organs can be harvested in Excellent, Great or Normal form while the scraps make the perfect meals for small animals – let nothing go to waste! However, as with most dealings with alchemy there is always a risk and reward to keep in mind: you may transplant a new organ in a living or non-living being and it may gain new life and/or abilities but it may be at the cost of its original soul.

Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden may be described as a uniquely spirited organ clicking game (or perhaps a very dark humored gardening simulator). As Organa, players will slowly but surely grow and learn to care for this unique garden. Starting with one tree and learning how to water and when to harvest it will then transform into quite the undertaking once the entire greenhouse is filled with various organ plants and other creations (such as a meat mincer and pickling jars). Various animals can be bought to help aid in the process of growing, ripening, pickling and mincing the organs to place various orders of variety, size and quantity that customers request. There is but a small amount of timing actually involved and most of the harvesting can be done at your own pace. As the garden grows and things become more hectic, Irine will often grant Organa new ways to mass water or harvest organs and help make the entire process less tedious.

This all probably sounds quite odd and there is no denying that fact. The various characters that come in and out of the shop  are so very twisted in each of their own ways that it comes full round from psychotic to endearing in a way that you will likely never quite understand. They are a small sampling of stories that truly paint a picture of what having such a resource can do for society – the good and the bad.

In my playthrough, it took me around 20 hours to 100% this game and complete all quests, stories,Forget ferret objectives and both endings (which just let me say, the true ending is adorable). It is a simple concept overall that you will tweak into your own form of perfection in gathering the various qualities of organs needed for quests and moving the story forward. I will forewarn you – it is a point and click grind of soft music and random birds chirping for about 90% of the game. Personally, I enjoyed the weirdness of the story and just overall atmosphere of the game – it is such a brightly colored game and yet the content is something you might hear of in a horror story just before everything goes terribly wrong. It was worth it to grind through the quests and they really required very little thinking to accomplish (i.e. it was perfect to play in the background while listening to music, watching a movie or even just to play by itself in a weirdly therapeutic way I suppose).

It may not be action intense, puzzle heavy or in-depth story driven but it is a unique experience for those willing to give it a chance. Perhaps it is simply a dark and playful side of my spirit that found the charm in this game but it won me over despite its slow start and grinding repetition.

In the end, you have to admit there may be a small part of you that has been missing out on growing life granting organs from trees alongside hummingbirds, lizards and humunculi to fulfill the wishes of your fellow townspeople. Or maybe not, but that is for you to decide.

Forget garden

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never alone title

When times are at their worst, often that is when evil will choose to strike. Where blizzards never cease to bellow their wintery wilds and frostbitten winds tear and rage at everything in its path, a young girl ventures away from the safety of her starving village to see what could be causing the devastating weather. The path ahead of her is laden with trials and dangers from the deadly jaws of polar bears to strangers ransacking her village to sinking ice caps and tumultuous waters. With naught but her courage and her new found arctic fox companion, they traverse the dangers together with the aid of helpful ancient spirits to see what lies in wait at the end of the blizzards roar.

never aloneNever Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), developed by Upper One Games, is so much more than just a beautiful puzzle/platformer – it is a collaboration of gaming and Native Alaskan folklore told through an interactive experience. The game, however, was not simply a product of devoted research and interviews; but rather had direct involvement with over 40 Native elders, storytellers and community members of the Iñupiat people creating not only an atmospheric and endearing gameplay experience but also including an informative documentary on the culture.

Never Alone allows players to take control of both the young Iñupiat girl, Nuna, and the arctic fox either by switching between the two in single player mode or allowing (and encouraging) playing with a friend through local co-op. The playstyle of each character is different enough to keep things interesting and add an extra layer to the puzzles as each cannot always reach places via the same methods. Nuna has the ability to push objects, climb ropes and use a bolas weapon to break through certain obstacles; whereas the fox has a much better jumping and climbingnever alone 3 ability, can fit in small tunnels and also communicate with ancient spirits that aid the two in their difficult journey for survival. The controls are smooth and easy to grasp as Nuna and fox jump, climb, shatter ice and branches, and out maneuver creatures that wish for their demise, though that is not to say there aren’t times where what the characters should do and what they actually do differed (usually leading to a swift, and slightly heart-wrenching death on one part or the other). Luckily, check point saves occur fairly often so there is not much backtracking to be done if a more difficult or timing induced area is encountered.

Aesthetically, the game is absolutely gorgeous. From the airbrushed art style of the main game to the simple sketches of the story’s cutscenes, it all comes together fluidly. Faded out and cloudy edges of the screen give sense of the all encompassing blizzard surrounding everything while soft and vivid tones accentuate danger and safety – a subtle hint that speaks volumes. The overlying story itself is narrated in the Native Iñupiat language almost giving a feeling of listening to a folk tale by the light of the fire as the images come to life in front of your very eyes.

never alone 4Never Alone offers players a unique chance to experience a culture so very few know much about and does so in an artistic way that really brings everything to life. Available on PC and next gen consoles, it is certainly worth at least one playthrough to experience the beauty and artistry of the game and story (although perhaps not for its full price tag). The game may take a couple of hours to 100% and finish with about 30 minutes of documentary unlockables to be viewed as well either during the playthrough or afterwards. For those with Playstation Plus, Never Alone is free to download for the month of April; so do yourself a favor and spend a little time with this one. Between the endearing affection and trust between Nuna and the fox and the overall passion the developers imbued within every moment, it truly speaks for itself.

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 Always remember that no matter what happens, you are never truly alone.

Happiness is… ~ Finding Teddy

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Remember what it was like to be a child: where scary creatures lurked in the darkness waiting to pounce once the lights went out; where the inhabitants of dark half-open closets and underneath beds held danger with pointed claws and gleaming eyes; and where through it all, that furry stuffed animal became the best friend and protector ever to be had. Remember the overwhelming panic that struck each time that fuzzy comfort evaded arms reach? Imagine if a gigantic spider-like tendril reached from the depths of the closet and snagged that which was most precious? Oh, the horror! It is in those very times that fear must be pushed aside to save what is most important to us – to find and save Teddy!

findingteddy-1Finding Teddy is an endearing point and click adventure game by developer LookAtMyGames in which players control a young girl who sets out into a simple yet enchanting world to brave dangerous creatures, aid them in their troubles and find her stolen Teddy Bear.

What appeared to be a simple yet intriguing concept at the start truly became a work of art by its completion. From the pixelated graphics to the midi style music to the puzzles and gameplay – the bright colored world within the wardrobe comes to life before the players eyes as they venture into forests, caverns, cities and graveyards; dying horrifically from tormented creatures and turning their worlds around from dismal gray to colorful happy. Collecting and using items to help these creatures in turn helps the girl move forward; whether it is by adding music notes to her repertoire or granting safe passage to a distant area. By the end, subtle realization hits that the seemingly colorful world that was entered at the start was but a fading glimmer of what it truly becomes by its finale. Speaking only through music and bringing happiness to those that are sad and lonely – it was almost shocking how much insight can be gained from a stolen teddy bear.finding-teddy_graveyard

The game itself may only take an hour the first playthrough but does give enough content to warrant at least a second run once teddy has been saved initially (and perhaps look forward to an upcoming Finding Teddy 2). Although short and sweet, it really speaks volumes in following imagination, finding the best in bad situations and at its core, going out of the way to spread happiness even to those who may not warrant a second glance. It is something the world could certainly use as a reminder at times.

Yes, there may be numerous spiders to be had in this game; but even the most arachnophobic at heart (a.k.a. me) should be able to [almost] find even the biggest and scariest of them to be cute by the final credits. So give this one a try – it may not seem like much, but its magic will strike whether it is expected or not.

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Melody Title

Please don’t stop the – Please don’t stop the – Please don’t stop the music!

Moving to the beat of your own music is probably one of the best philosophies that a person can have in life. Whether someone is happy, sad, playful, angry or nostalgic, music simply has a way of impacting people inside and out.

So how awesome would it be to gauge a game off of the very tracks that make up your own music library?

MelodyDoing just that, indie developer Icetesy’s Melody’s Escape is a runner/rhythm PC game that feeds off the music found on your own computer and creates a unique fast-paced quick reflex course for Melody to traverse for each track that is played. From the slowest sonata to the fastest techno beat, each track becomes an instinct based battlefield of directional and specific button sequences for the player to navigate – with perfection being the ultimate goal!

At the end of each music track a rating of 1-5 hearts is given as well as the highest chain sequence and a breakdown of how each obstacle was hit or missed. Additionally, achieving that perfect chain score proves to be no easy task on any of the four difficulties ranging from relaxing to normal to intense and finally to overload!MelodyThumbnailAnimated200px

Similar to other music based games, Melody’s Escape is primarily based on quick eye-hand coordination and fast reflexes. What makes it truly spectacular is that it does not submit the player to its own quirky nondescript electro-beat music but rather utilizes the players own music library – adding not only enjoyment but additional replay value in seeing what new tracks and courses may be created.

Overall, Melody’s Escape is a simple yet challenging and enjoyable game that spices up simply listening to music to experiencing it. The game can be purchased through Steam and played via keyboard or controller.

To see some of my own gameplay, check out the video below: =)

Music: Choir Jail by Suzuki Konomi
Official Site: http://www.melodysescape.com/
Steam store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/270210/

(Only thing owned by me is whatever skill (or lack there of) seen above!)

Pretentious-Game

I will go wherever you are.

Life. Love. Happiness. Despair. Rejection. Courage. Betrayal. Tragedy. Camaraderie. Friendship. Hate. Hope. Death. To most, this list of actions and emotions may sound like the makings of a multi-season television drama – but it’s not. Perhaps then, it is what comprises long standing in depth RPGs – nope, wrong again. Surprisingly enough, it is the very heart of what makes up the simple yet enlightening puzzle platformer Pretentious Game created by Keybol Games/BulkyPix.

Climb any mountain. Use whatever is necessary.

At first glance, it is a graphically simple game made up of a few chapters all incorporating getting a square of a certain color to a specific point on the screen – whether it be another colored square or an alleged exit to the level. The obstacles involved are easy as jumping over blocks, chasms and small red triangles (representing fire) to get to the destination; and while they do increase the difficulty in some aspects, the change does not come by player skill but rather in other unique and intuitive ways. It may involve creating a safer route or taking a leap of faith to discover an alternative pathway or a new skill to help in progression; or perhaps turning the soft melodic piano music off for a moment or repeating an action, or no action, may even give results. Although never outright told exactly what to do, the small lines of story often give all the hint that is needed in order to reach the current goal.

Leap cliffs. Dodge Fire. I will run fearless.

The story itself, like the gameplay, is simple yet speaks volumes within its small sentences of text throughout the chapters. The words appear at the start of each level, without narration, and remain until the next screen is reached. It is an almost poetic story about life, love and relationships; most of which tending to err on a more depressing note though sadly. A hopeful new romance that soon leads to rejection, the recovery in finding new love to have it swiftly taken away by an unfortunate accident, an unrequited love, a cheating love – and they all circle back to one another weaving a single, tangled story of heartfelt emotion.

I will find a way…or make a way. Even if I have to drag myself to you.

Yes, they are inanimate squares, but the lessons derived from this small experience transcend to a much deeper look into human interaction.  There may not be much to this game overall, but it will certainly bring an element of surprise twofold: in how the story unfolds as well as how the player will react to its portrayal. Pretentious Game can be found through various sources on PC as well as through app stores for phone/tablet. For those who may not know, the word pretentious is said to mean an attempt to impress by affecting greater importance or talent than may actually be possessed. Perhaps that is appropriate for this title, for this story; but perhaps not. All that is left is to be decided.

I have faith in you.

year-walk1

Since time began there has been an undying curiosity found deep within every human being. A curiosity towards self; a curiosity towards the world; a curiosity towards time and space; a curiosity towards the future.

Although unknown in origin, in ancient Scandinavian folklore there existed a way to seek out visions, to see the future, called year walking. This practice, while varying on details depending on location, had very strict rules which if not followed directly could prove to not only lead to disastrous results, but to be fatal. Upon deciding to undertake a year walk certain obligations must be met:

First, a year walk could not take place on just any day; but on certain festival days such as May Day, Midsummer’s Eve, Christmas Eve or most commonly New Years Eve.

Second, the individual must abstain from any and all food served on these holidays. A sacrifice of sorts as most of these days were usually accompanied by plentiful feasts.

Lastly, the individual must seclude themselves from all others and remain without fire for the entirety of the day. Locking themselves in dark rooms, away from light and warmth, until the hour reached Midnight – then would be their last opportunity to forgo the year walk. Once outside, there was no turning back…

A year walker’s destination would always be the church, though the journey would be anything but a pleasant stroll through the woods. Numerous supernatural entities were said to be encountered along the way such as The Huldra (a female guardian of the forest said to bring both good fortune and untimely ends), The Brook Horse (most often associated with death and drowning), The Myling (children killed very young, wandering and wailing seeking help or leaving death in their wake), The Night Raven (often associated with disease, the manifestation of an evil greedy man not properly buried) and finally The Church Grim (a sacrifice, guardian and parasite of the church) all of which would potentially cause physical, mental and spiritual strife to the year walker.

Upon arriving at the church and circling the grounds in a specific pattern the year walker would be given visions of the future as well as lure out The Church Grim. These visions could present themselves in a variety of ways such as a procession of people leaving the church, all of which would end up dying the following year or a view of various wedding ceremonies. Life, love and death would all play a part but each journey would leave the walker a changed person forever.

yearwalk

Indie developer Simogo has recreated this haunting experience in their simple yet artistic puzzle/horror game Year Walk. Starting out just before the night begins, the player discerns through a brief encounter that their journey not only lies in seeking the future but ultimately to find if they are truly loved in return.

year walkThe game itself follows much of the history that is given above, and it can all be found within the opening moments of the game if chosen via an encyclopedia. While it is not necessary to read each of the pages before beginning the journey, it adds a certain level of comprehension and depth which may not be taken from the gameplay itself. There is very little dialogue or explanation within the actual game, actually, there is not much direction given at all; but knowing the destination does not always mean knowing which path to travel.

The actual gameplay relies on simple left/right/forward/back movements in addition to clicking the mouse to interact and carry objects (yes, carry objects – there is no such thing as an inventory. Additionally, it is recommended to not solely rely on the map to get around as carrying certain objects will not allow it to be viewed). Aside from that it is basic exploration and getting to the right place at the correct point in the storyline as subsequent supernatural beings are revealed. Many puzzles and clues can be found scattered about the map as well, but not all of them will be solved, nor even make sense, until after the first playthrough. The puzzles themselves vary greatly from simple button presses and sequences to open doors and pathways to listening to distinct sound pitches to find the correct path out of a darkened maze. Oftentimes, many of these puzzles will have no immediate clues on how to solve them while others require some backtracking to discover exactly what must be done. There is a hint option that can aid the player if they simply have no idea where to start but otherwise a little bit of note taking may be all that is necessary.yearwalk6_2490317b

While the gameplay is not very intense nor intricate, the artistic flourish resonating throughout the title is what truly makes it
stand out. The dark, almost cut from a story book, visuals are like walking through a painting but it is far from the beauty one might find gazing at a quiet cabin in the woods brimming with life and quiet. It is a changing scenery emanating with an eerie stillness as nightmarish creatures take to their true forms and pristine snow becomes tainted with blood. The music that accompanies these images and puzzles is often mysterious but calm – serenading piano melodies and haunting vocal tracks blend into the background almost entirely unnoticed until realization hits that something has changed.

All in all, Year Walk is not a long game nor is it terribly involved; yet it holds within it an intriguing story rich in nearly forgotten folklore. While it is not without a few small jump scares it mostly relies on its haunting and isolated atmosphere to give its horror-esque touch. It has been recently remastered for PC (which is this version played) but originally debuted on IOS, both versions staying fairly similar but with a few additions and adaptions for PC implemented. It is a small and mostly unheard of title, but anyone with an interest in olden folklore or dark legends will surely find this one worth its price.

“To see if they would be wealthy”

“To see if they would be happy”

“To see if they would live”

“To see if they would be loved”

 

E3 2014 ~ So Far…

E3-2014

It looks awesome!

It is an event that gamers throughout the world as well as those within the industry look forward to each year.  It is an event where thousands view the conference from their homes via live streaming while others traverse the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center brushing shoulders with big name developers and playing demos of games that seem barely more than a wandering thought for most; it is a time in which all eyes focus towards one finite point. And as always, oh what a show it has been so far.

Monday marked day zero of the 4 day conference showcasing Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony and all they have in store within the coming future.

Xbox-Logo-E3

 

Microsoft presented a succinct showing of numerous exclusive and large titles that would exhibit all that the XBox One is truly capable of. Glimpsing the first images of huge names such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Witcher 3 gameplay footage, Tom Clancy Thehalo_5_guardians-672x372 Division, Forza, and Sunset Overdrive; that alone would have been enough to keep gamers glued onto the coming horizon. Add in a few unexpected twists such as Phantom Dust, an original Xbox remake; much loved Crackdown; new title Scalebound; and of course numerous smaller titles such as Project Spark, Ori and the Dark Forest and handfuls of other Indie games that hold just as much impact and there is little more that could be asked for. Lastly, who could forget to mention the news surrounding the Halo series – Masterchief collection coming out end of year containing all the previous Halo games leading up to the much anticipated Halo 5: Guardians. Microsoft ended their conference stating that they make the Xbox for the gamers and that every gamer helps “shape the future” of the beloved brand and system.

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EA took the stage next bringing with them an entourage of sporting titles and other big names. Opening with Star Wars Battlefront and the greatly anticipated Dragon Age Inquisition (accompanied by a live musical performance) set the stage for what was to DAInquisitionGoGamercome. The new Sims 4 captured much attention with their “smarter Sims, weirder stories” demo which outlined the limitless possibilities players will have. Additionally, EA brought forth gameplay and footage of the new UFC game, NHL 15, PGA Tour (“Golf without limit”), Madden 15 and Fifa 15 to round out their sports venues. Criterion Games went behind the scenes of their newest work which, while unnamed, promises to showcase every mode of transportation and extreme adventure known to man. MOBA Dawngate and Mirror’s Edge also gained some press time. The finale of EA’s conference came with not only long minutes of gameplay for Battlefield Hardline (set on the streets, cops and criminals) but also announced the start of the live beta opening with 64 PS4s in room and directions on how to register both PS4 and PC to those at the conference and at home.

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Next on the lineup came Ubisoft, which in my opinion gave one of the most entertaining shows thus far (pre-show rules given by none other than a group of Rabbids, of course). Opening the stage with the first 5 minutes of footage from Far Cry 4, it started the show on a grand scale and kept on climbing. Just Dance 2015 followed introducing not only new gameplay footage and music but also a new way of playing the game altogether – with a smart phone. Using technology most everyone has paired with the Just Dance App allows anywhere from one to thousands of people to play together – anyone, anytime, anywhere – and of course this was demonstrated with about 30 people on stage, in the balcony and in the aisles of the conference room. Tom Clancy The Divisionac unity graced the screen next with more visual footage to aid the gameplay viewed earlier by Microsoft. As a zombie apocalypse survival shooter without the zombies, its line of “tragedy is invisible” really struck home after viewing this side of the presentation. Racing across the world and a tournament of teams accompanied more information on The Crew with an announced beta of July 23 and a November 11 release date. Next up on their list of heavy hitters came Assassin’s Creed Unity, not only giving an intense preview of the game and just what exactly it means when it says ‘unity’ but also showing an entire missions worth of live gameplay. AC Unity is set to release October 28. On another level entirely, to help gamers enjoy a bit of fitness a new game called Shape Up was introduced as well making fitness activities into a competition (and what gamer can turn down a competition, anyway?). From the talented creators of Child of Light, Valiant Hearts The Great War tore at the crowd and viewer’s heartstrings as it showed a glimpse into the story of 4 separate military personnel all accompanied by their faithful canine. For their grand finale, Ubisoft unveiled something that nobody saw coming. Showing unnamed gameplay as a co-op team of 4 attempts to infiltrate a house and recapture a hostage with tactical prowess, good aim and perma-death, audiences watched in awe as Rainbow Six: Siege was unveiled and truly almost stole the entire show.

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Sony ended day zero of E3 with a somewhat overly long but well done conference. As anyone who watched the conference can say, there is no doubt that Sony ever tires of stating how they bring things to gamers first and they bring it better. Destiny opened their show as well as announcing a glacier white PS4 bundle that will be available at game launch. Following this came numerous game previews and announcements to include The Order 1886 footage, Entwined, Infamous DLC, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, Far Cry Destiny4 (with the ability to play co-op even if friends do not own the game), Dead Island 2, Diablo III (with last of us zombies included – hello clickers! :eek:), Battlefield Hardline, Disney Infinity 2, Majicka 2, Remastered classic Grim Fandango, Let it die, Abzu (from some of the same creators as Journey), and No Man’s Sky. A huge list of games all with great potential as well as great exclusives for playing them on PS4. Additional hardware was also shown such as Project Morpheus, the supposed future of gaming incorporating the Playstation camera. Also discussed was PSN as a whole as well as free to play games. Information was also given on Playstation Now and its hundreds of titles available on any device and even a Sony TV with a dualshock 3 controller (July 31 open beta PS4). Playstation TV will also be available later this year for a $99 price tag or a $130 bundle. Following this technology interlude it returned to what players really wanted to see: Mortal Kombat X gameplay, PS+ promotions, A new show based on a graphic novel called Powers, Ratchet & Clank movie and remastered game, Last of Us remastered, Metal Gear Solid 5 Phantom Pain footage, Grand Theft Auto V for PS4 announcement, Batman Arkham Knight gameplay and a glimpse at Uncharted 4. Phew. It was a long two hour conference for Sony, but they certainly delivered.

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Finally, the start of Day One began with Nintendo’s pre-recorded conference and they brought exactly what people were looking for. Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U showed more depth into Mii fighting styles and techniques (to include brawler, fighter andYoshisWoolyWorld gunner as well as over 36 mixed abilities) and also gave the first view of something called Amiibo – a way of bringing toys to life (much like Disney Infinity or Skylanders). These small figures of Mario, Link, Pikachu and many more can be used to bring powerful, yet unique, characters into certain games such as Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart (among many more to come) simply by hovering the figurine over a corner of the Wii U Gamepad. The adorable Yoshi’s Woolly World was looked into as well showing the initial idea process of it to actual game play as well as a look into a new game featuring Toad called Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. A game that most everyone held their breath in anticipation for was word of  a new Zelda game for Wii U and although only a small amount of footage was seen, the promise of a truly open world and the beauty and mystery that has always surrounded the Zelda universe surely made every fan smile. Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as Bayonetta 2 were given some previews as well as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse and Xenoblade Chronicles X. Small interviews and footage were also shown for the upcoming Hyrule Warriors (confirming Link, Zelda, Impa and Midna as playable characters), Mario Maker (an amusing new twist on creating and playing Mario levels either in classic or more updated form) and a new ink shooter battle game called Splatoon.

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All in all, E3 2014 has been huge and there is no way to crown just one conference as the best. With major cross platform titles to exclusive franchises to unique and quirky adventures, there is something for every type of gamer no matter what system they may own or prefer (if not all of them). As E3 continues for the next two days there are still bounds of news, trailers, booths and demos to see whether it is on site at the convention center or from the comfort of home. So enjoy one of the biggest events in the gaming industry, let anticipation reach an entirely new level and know that at the end of the day, everyone is leaving as a winner!

brothers tale

Life is one of the most precious gifts a person holds; yet every so often we are reminded just how fragile and fleeting this vibrant and cherished thing is. To take risks and make sacrifices for all that we love, is it truly worth it in the end? Most would like to think so…

Developer Starbreeze Studios and publisher 505 Games have created a beautiful and emotional journey in their newest title Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons. From the game’s first moments, players are met with tragedy as the youngest of the brothers mourns the memory of their mother’s passing to the great depths of the sea some time previous.  Interrupted by a shout from his elder sibling, he rushes to where his brother is holding up their ailing father and the two quickly rush him to the town’s doctor. Finding no immediate cure, the only way to save their father’s life comes with making a long, arduous journey across the land to a tree which harbors healing waters that may be their only hope in keeping what’s left of their family together.

brothers 12With only a map in hand and the company of each other, the two brothers set out on their fantastical tale, encountering many obstacles and people in need along their way. Whether it be assisting an outcast rabbit to join its brethren or comforting a man close to suicide after the loss of his family; the two brothers remain close by each other’s sides, ensuring their combined success and ever pressing onward to their ultimate goal.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this game lies within its simple yet engrossing gameplay element that allows the player to control both brothers separately and at the same time. In essence it is a co-op game played with but one controller; where the left joystick and triggers control the movement and action of the older brother and the right joystick and triggers control the younger sibling. Although many times the brothers are moving in tandem, there are numerous occurrences where each must set to their own paths and actions in order to allow the other to progress along certain paths and through obstacles. Timed levers, movement, and joint actions are the only things that allow the two to continue their journey as they do; a feat that would be nigh impossible as a solo traveler.brothers scene

While there is not an extreme amount of difficulty to the gameplay and it is easily accustomed to, what truly makes this play style special is that it creates a bond with both characters. The player does not simply control one and have the other follow or switch as they are needed, but is in complete control of both throughout the entirety of the game. The story is certainly the highlighted aspect of this title, yet somehow the gameplay mechanics draw you into it that much more and truly instills an emotional connection with everything the brothers are going through.

The lands traveled across during this fairy tale like adventure are beautiful and vast, and players will often find themselves sitting the brothers on benches strewn throughout the land simply to marvel at the gorgeous backdrops they are about to traverse. From sun touched mountainsides to underground mechanical troll lairs to snowy tundra and bloodied battlegrounds of giants, players will hardly feel limited despite a linear path being laid out for them. Oftentimes much of the environment can be manipulated as well to clear the way for the brothers to travel, adding a bit more than simply following along a designated line to get from point A to point B.

brothers-tale-sons-sad-tale-night-raqwe.com-06The story is beautiful, joyous and tragic and every feeling strikes deep within and remains. It is a feeling almost akin to playing Ico or Journey, where it does not take a known language to understand what is going on or feel the deep connection to everything that is happening to and around the brothers. They speak in their own tongue to each other and those around them and the devastation, fear, and laughter is almost tangible. It is an experience that will stay with you long after the credits finish, where the haunting soundtrack lurks within your mind and their tale stays buried deep within your heart.

Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons is a simple game on the outside with an underlying beauty and depth to be discovered. It is not action intense or even drawn out, but rather a beautiful story driven experience. Its 8 chapters can be completed within about 4 hours and is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 via download. This type of game is certainly not for everyone but I would encourage many to at least give it a try if not incorporate it into their library permanently. It is an excellent example of how games can create the same impact as books, movies or television shows – if not even taking it to another level entirely.

The most amazing part of a journey is not knowing how it will end, or how it will ultimately change who you are.

So take that first step; and let nothing be taken for granted.

“If you can see art in everything, than you are an artist”

unfinished swan

“Please wake up!”

Once upon a time there lived a king who built a kingdom of white. He worked long and hard to perfect his kingdom as he saw fit, but soon found his interest drawn to creating a family of his own. Leaving much unfinished, he devoted himself to his wife and unborn son; however, his days of bliss were short lived and he swiftly became consumed by his work once again, fated to be alone.  It is in this realm of white that a young boy chases after the figure of a white swan – one of his mother’s treasured unfinished paintings, and the one he chose to carry with him to the orphanage. It is here that the boy will see things in an entirely new light; here where his adventure begins.

The Unfinished Swan, by indie game developer Giant Sparrow, is all about exploring the unknown. Viewed through a first person perspective, the game presents the player with a vision of white in its first active moments. Using either the Dualshock 3 controller or the Playstation move, players aim and send splotches of ink or black paint towards the endless sea of white, slowly revealing the hidden scenery and paths to travel. Small golden hints can often be found to help guide the player along the proper path; these hints may come in the form of golden swan footprints, golden sections of statues via a ring on a hand or a horn of a unicorn, or even golden letters signifying the page of a storybook.

theunfinishedswan

What is truly incredible about this title is the sense of awe and accomplishment that quickly encompasses the player. Throwing bits of black ink over a white canvas, creating as full a picture or as necessary a path as possible; the progress seen is incomparable. Whether it has been 10 minutes or an hour, turning around to look behind reveals a landscape you never realized existed. A bit of paint here, a means to get to golden footprints there and a touch of curiosity over on the other side leads to an artistic masterpiece all stemming from simple exploration.

The accompanying soundtrack adds to the perfect storybook tale as well as the player travels deeper into this color deprived land and story. From dark hallowing tones to medieval sounding harpsichord melodies, the game personifies the feelings of wonder, curiosity, amazement and even fear. Music so appropriate it is hard to discern where it begins and ends as the player is drawn even more into the experience.

As the game continues, black ink no longer becomes the only tool at hand. As shadows, light and darkness all take turns throughout the landscape, the player will be able to cast water droplets and create vines to traverse, throw light to remain safe and create 3D objects in which to stand upon.

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Although the game play is simple enough at the start, the later elements introduced transform this title from mere art and exploration to a piece of the puzzle genre; often giving the player much freedom in solving the challenges ahead. In addition to discovery, there are also various items to collect which can be used to purchase upgrades and enhancements.

The PS3 exclusive, The Unfinished Swan is a title that I have not yet completed entirely, yet the demo alone was enough to captivate and enthrall me. Although in a possibly simpler and unique way, the game already seems to liken itself to others of its caliber such as Journey or Ico. A fantastical journey of discovery and beauty, it is an experience that people should allow themselves.

So will you?

“Don’t be afraid.”

“A force of good is not so easily extinguished”

Dust-Review

There are very few people in life who ever know, full heartedly from the start, that they are destined to be heroes. Even when the time does come, knowing what to do and having the ability to carry it out can be two entirely different feats; but that is all simply part of the journey.

In the indie game Dust: An Elysian Tail by independent designer Dean Dodrill and published by Microsoft Studios, you begin your adventure as an unknown swordsman named Dust. Having no previous memories or knowledge of who you are or once were, you are soon teamed up with your weapon and companion for your upcoming journey: The Blade of Ahrah, an ancient mythical talking sword and Fidget, the sword’s guardian nimbat.

dust elysian tail

Along the way, Dust seeks to remember his past while following the advice of Ahrah and helping the citizens of Falana negate the oppression and bloodshed caused by General Gaius and his army. As waters run dry, towns are demolished, and an ancient race known as the Moonbloods draw nearer to extinction, time is of the essence whether Dust is completely aware of his mission or not. However, with every new area as well as with every new friend and foe he encounters, Dust begins to learn of himself; duly accomplishing everything he sets out to do.

Dust: An Elysian Tail is a side scrolling action RPG filled with quick action combat, a vibrant cast of characters and a beautiful hand painted backdrop. Action wise, Dust slays his enemies via numerous sword combos and timed use of his dust storm ability which can also be enhanced by Fidget’s magic projectiles in unison. As the story progresses and new areas are discovered, Dust will also learn a myriad of abilities to increase his effectiveness – abilities that will not only allow you to continue forward, but to also travel back to previous areas later on in the game and explore even further into their depths.

dust combat

The core of the story itself is in many ways the generic save-the-world-from-evil plot except that many aspects involving who Dust truly is and how these events came to pass all result in an intriguing twist of events.  The main characters all bring their own unique quirks to the foray as well: Ahrah remains the ever thoughtful voice of reason, having all the answers but only revealing them in due time while giving meaningful advice to Dust and Fidget as needed; In stark contrast, Fidget  offers much of the comic relief through the tale as well as her combat endeavors; While Dust stays in a subdued cloud of angst and confusion while maintaining confidence in his skill and upholding his sense of humor throughout.

When facing a new enemy, Ahrah tells Dust to "remember what he has learned," and this is Fidget's response:

When facing a new enemy, Ahrah tells Dust to “remember what he has learned,” and this is Fidget’s response:

The game is truly an enjoyable experience that offers various difficulties as well as numerous battle challenge arenas to be discovered and mastered during gameplay. However, as in most titles, it does have its flaws. The boss encounters are probably one of the biggest disappointments as they do not offer near the difficulty you would expect from them. It has also been said that many of the RPG elements could have been more involved, though they are still present and should be utilized to the greatest of your ability to ensure success and make life easier all at the same time.

What makes this title stand out just that much more is that it was created by one solitary person over the course of three and a half years. A feat not often seen or accomplished to this extent and in many opinions has gone above and beyond what full teams have not managed to do.

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In the end, Dust: An Elysian Tail is definitely worth playing. Depending on the difficulty and completion it will likely take less than 20 hours to finish; but it holds a great amount of content for its price as well as an artistry and ingenuity that is often hard to come by.

So venture to Falana; be awed by Ahrah, amused by Fidget, and discover who Dust is and was…all while accomplishing everything you are meant to do…whether you realize it or not.

“I remember everything. AND IT CHANGES NOTHING!”

dust

(Additionally, feel free to check out my Twitch channel as I livestream my next playthrough of Dust: An Elysian Tail!)