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The Boston Festival of Indie Games showcases fresh Xbox titles
2 years ago

The Boston Festival of Indie Games showcases fresh Xbox titles

Boston FIG

The Boston Festival of Indie Games held its second convention on Saturday, September 13 after a successful Kickstarter. The convention features up-and-coming indie developers making games for consoles, PCs, mobile devices, virtual reality and tabletop. XBLA Fans had the opportunity to attend and see what goodies might be in store for Xbox in the near future. These are the games that we got to see in that short day.

Keep in mind, while most of these are in the works to come to Xbox platforms, not all of them are confirmed Xbox releases yet.

High Strangeness

High Strangeness screenshot

This paranormal adventure game from Crystal Labs swaps between game console generations. By pushing the right trigger, you swap between eight bits and 16 bits with authentic graphics and mechanics from that generational "dimension."  For example, in the SNES-stye 16-bit dimension, you can move diagonally and use more combat moves, whereas the eight-bit dimension leaves you with a simple jab attack and only four directions to move in. While the world stays the same, you will have to occasionally swap to defeat certain enemies trapped in a particular dimension. However, most of the game can be completed in both bit variations, so you can enjoy the game in whichever generation feels more comfortable.

Retro fans will notice the resemblance to classics like The Legend of Zelda once they experience some of High Strangeness' puzzles and combat. You will need to throw switches, move blocks, catch patterns and uncover secrets to get through it. During the demo, I experienced that classic moment during which a friend figured out the puzzle over my shoulder and walked me through it. That's what lead developer Ben Shostak was going for. "A lot of retro-like games out there are using a lot of the style and references, but we're using the actual design and gameplay," he explained.

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Fenix Rage preview: Don't think, know
2 years ago

Fenix Rage preview: Don't think, know

"Can it really be that easy?" is the question you'll ask after completing Fenix Rage's first stage. It's a stage with that most simplest of video game objectives: move the player-character from left to right and reach the end goal. Accomplishing as much takes only a few seconds, since there are no enemies present and the distance between start and finish could practically be measured between your thumb and forefinger. Still, developer Green Lava Studios managed to insert an optional side objective into the stage. It's possible but not necessary to collect a cookie during this almost literal hop, skip and jump from beginning to end. You would have to go out of your way not to obtain the optional cookie in this first level, but it is optional all the same.

Collecting each level's cookie and successfully reaching the end goal naturally becomes more challenging the deeper you get into the game. In fact, it was only a handful of stages later before I was dying multiple times in the pursuit of another tempting cookie. So it's somewhere in the game's opening Red Forest zone that you'll get your answer to your question: no, Fenix Rage is most certainly not that easy.

Fenix Rage Crystal Caves

Much has been said about the game's meeting at the intersection of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Meat Boy. And yes, Fenix is a diminutive blue creature that is not unlike Sega's depiction of a hedgehog. He has a dash ability that gives him some of the speed for which Sonic is known, and successful navigation of the game's 200+ levels — a few dozen of which I've completed — requires liberal use of it. That really doesn't even come close to doing justice to the frequency at which you'll be pulling the right trigger while simultaneously pressing the B button to perform a dash. As long as there is room to do so, it's possible to dash (and jump) endlessly.

Some levels require you to abuse the maneuver in order to take linear horizontal routes to avoid certain death by touching electrical beams above and below you. Others have blocks of ice that can be melted due to the heat generated from the friction of moving at such rapid speeds. Others still send a giant, unstoppable enemy chasing after Fenix the moment you nudge him forward from the start point. At first you might think you're dashing enough times to win this deadly race, but you're not. Oh, you're so not. If you're not dashing seemingly as many times as is physically possible, you're going to die.

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Passing it on: The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project
2 years ago

Passing it on: The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project

John Baez doesn't want Asteroid Base's money. It's as if the three men who make up the studio are old friends of Baez's, and on this day they just happen to be patrons of his business. Their money is no good here.

They are not old friends, though. Baez, president and co-founder of indie game studio The Behemoth, only first met the members of Asteroid Base during PAX Prime of 2013. He noticed their still-in-production game Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime had picked up a few awards and had a certain individuality to it. Lovers has a way of causing onlookers to gravitate towards it that's not entirely unlike the way the game's pink Death Star has a penchant for attracting the attention of enemy spaceships.

In the game, a pair of benevolent astronauts pilot a neon spacecraft around the universe, wishing only to survive. But then something catches their eyes, something they can't ignore. A group of evil robots known as "The Haters" have ensnared innocent bunnies and locked them away in jail. The astronauts refuse to stand idly by while innocent creatures suffer, so they show some initiative, scrambling around the bowels of their craft and tinkering away at control stations that unleash firepower of a magnitude that they can only hope The Haters are unable to repel. Despite the protagonists' violent response, Asteroid Base sees the titular lovers as good Samaritans. The pair have somehow survived this long on their own out in the frightening yet awe-inspiring uncertainty that is space, even managing to thrive in it without any support from large, external entities. Now they want to help other space-faring beings like them do the same.

The Behemoth's Gold Egg Project

The Behemoth knows the feeling. Founded in 2003, the San Diego studio responsible for such hits as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers chose to go it alone in another dangerous environment. The developer released its games sans publisher in the competitive console gaming space. The Behemoth found success, but it wasn't easy doing it through self-funding — Baez mortgaged his house, and co-founder Tom Fulp kicked in some of his personal savings to help finance development in the early days. But they did it, and they were successful enough that they're now in a position of strength.

A few years ago, Baez and Company used that strength to quietly start something called The Gold Egg Project. Gold Egg is a funding initiative meant to help other indies bring their games to market, but unlike a traditional publisher, The Behemoth doesn't take any of its beneficiaries' profits — it only wants to help them. Now The Behemoth is helping Asteroid Base, and Baez hopes the studio will one day pass it on.

Being indie

The Behemoth Castle Crashers Knights

For almost as long as there has been game design there have been independent game designers. The term "indie," while well-established today, is newer. It means something; it's just that no one seems to be able to agree upon exactly what that something is. So it was for The Behemoth back in 2005 when the tenderfoot studio's Alien Hominid was winning Independent Game Festival Awards for Innovation in Art, Technical Excellence and Audience Choice.

Baez recalls of that time that "there was a lot of controversy [as to] whether we were indie or not, solely because we were on a console. Other developers said, ‘You can’t be indie because you’re on a console.’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re indie because we funded it.’ Now that’s our definition of indie."

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Opinion: Clementine is ruining The Walking Dead Season 2
2 years ago

Opinion: Clementine is ruining The Walking Dead Season 2

Warning: This post contains spoilers from both seasons of The Walking Dead

the-walking-dead-a-house-divided-4-1024x576

The first season of The Walking Dead was phenomenal. It provided one of the strongest narratives in video game history, full of memorable characters and emotionally charged moments. All around the world players instantly latched onto the harrowing and heartwarming tale of Lee and Clementine. The bleak world and tough choices made the game stick with you days after you played an episode. The overwhelmingly positive reception put Telltale on the map, moving them from a company that made niche adventure games to one that can handle some of today's biggest franchises. The Walking Dead was a success in so many ways, meaning an eventual sequel was a given.

Despite standing on the shoulders of its amazing first season, The Walking Dead Season 2 is not living up to that potential. I loved every aspect of Season 1, which is why I'm disappointed I can't find Season 2 nearly as captivating. So far, three episodes have released, and like last season they've all received critical praise. Unlike last season, I'm not feeling the hype; the story's not engaging, the characters are underutilized, and the format's becoming stale. The game's saving grace is Clementine, but even that may be a problem.

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XBLA Fans is looking to grow its staff
2 years ago

XBLA Fans is looking to grow its staff

Want to join our team? Then get in here and find out how!
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Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3: Part V
2 years ago

Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3: Part V

ID@Xbox E3 2014

At Microsoft’s E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of many games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Following is a look at the fifth set of those games.


Spectra

Spectra, by Gateway Interactive, is something akin to a cross between F-Zero and Audiosurf. The composer behind Super Hexagon, Chipzel, returns with a driving chiptune soundtrack that should make fans of speed feel right at home with this challenging procedural racer.

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Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part IV
2 years ago

Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part IV

ID@Xbox E3 2014

At Microsoft’s E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Following is a look at the fourth set of those games.


Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest

Microsoft describes Moon Studios' Ori and the Blind Forest as "one of the most stylistically gorgeous games we've seen on Xbox One so far. Even though the young console doesn't have much competition in that realm yet, it's a fair statement to make. The Metroidvania title looked absolutely gorgeous racking up a lot of time in the limelight during Microsoft's E3 media briefing. Moon Studios was busy quietly working away on the side-scroller for four years prior to its public debut last week. The playable E3 demo received mostly favorable reports from the show floor, but we'll have to wait until the fall to find out how things come together in the final release.

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Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part III
2 years ago

Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part III

ID@Xbox E3 2014

At Microsoft’s E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Following is a look at the third set of seven of those games.


Hellraid

Hellraid spellcasting

Known best for the Dead Island and Call of Juarez series, Techland is currently working on the Chrome Engine 6-powered dark fantasy action title Hellraid for Xbox One as well as PC and PlayStation 4. Hellraid, which is set in a world that has been invaded by the forces of — wait for it — hell, was first announced in 2013 and originally envisioned as a Dead Island mode. It will have both single-player and two, three and four-player co-op options that give players melee, magic and ranged combat abilities for use in dispatching invading demon scum. Techland is promising diverse fighting styles for the game's various weapons, which naturally includes the ability to crush skulls with hammers. If you're not the skull-crushing type, then perhaps the game's various crossbows or spells will be more your style.

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Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part II
2 years ago

Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part II

Phil Spencer Microsoft E3 2014

At Microsoft's E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Below is a look at the second set of seven of those games.


Earthlock: Festival of Magic

Earthlock Screen Shot

Earthlock features a world divided between those that prefer magic and those that prefer technology. In this turn-based RPG from Snowcastle Games, you will play as Amon who is trying to prevent a war from starting in his home planet Umbra. In your quest to save your planet you'll encounter various terrains including oceans, deserts, and snow-buried lands. Throughout your journey you will try and obtain more allies to join your quest, solve environmental puzzles, and harvest seeds to grow your own ammo.

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Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part I
3 years ago

Get to know the ID@Xbox games of E3 2014: Part I

Xbox E3 Media Briefing

At Microsoft's E3 press conference on Monday morning, there was a video montage of a lot of games that are coming to Xbox One through the ID@Xbox program. Over the next few days, XBLA Fans is bringing you a slightly longer glimpse of those titles than what the montage trailer allowed for. Our coverage of these titles will be in alphabetical order. Below is a look at the first seven of those games.


Another World 20th Anniversary Edition

another-world-screenshot1

Previously known in the United States as Out of This World, Another World might recall the original Prince of Persia — both titles were animated in similar fashion, using rotoscoping to create more precise animations than were previously possible in the early 1990s. This 20th Anniversary Edition, developed by The Digital Lounge, looks to be more historical preservation than remaster, which shouldn't stop modern gamers from getting a taste of the old world by looking at this forgotten gem.

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