No need for spoiler warnings.
It looks and plays a lot like Geometry Wars. This is the inescapable reality of We Are Doomed, an upcoming twin-stick shooter from one-man studio Vertex Pop. The world is colored with softer, pastel hues, and the enemies are tangible things instead of angular shapes. But anyone who has played Geo Wars will immediately grok what they're seeing and experiencing in We Are Doomed and will know exactly what to do. Creator Mobeen Fikree isn't shying away from the comparison.
"I don't mind," he told XBLA Fans earlier this month at PAX East. "I think Geometry Wars is a great game, and following in that lineage of Robotron, Smash TV, Geometry Wars and then, you know, this. I’m happy to be a part of that lineage. When people go, ‘Oh, it’s like Geometry Wars!’ I’m like, 'Yeah, it’s like Geometry Wars.'"
Until it's not.
The moment you use the right stick to open fire on the waves of space baddies swarming the screen it becomes clear how We Are Doomed diverges from the formula. Instead of blasting enemies with a never-ending stream of long-range laser fire, players instead must rely on a medium-range "overpowered laserbeam," as Vertex Pop's website describes it. In actuality, it doesn't come off like a laser at all. Instead, it looks and feels more like you're wielding a flamethrower with an infinite fuel supply. Nudging the stick farther in any direction will elongate the beam/flame, but it will never cause it to reach clear across the screen.
If you want to defeat the baddies — and you'll of course need to do so if you want to make any progress in the game — then you'll need to get a bit closer than you may be used to getting in other twin-stick shooters. "You have to dive into the action," explained Fikree. "You have to be close range if you want to zap baddies — you can’t sit in one corner of the map and shoot things all the way in the other corner."
Do you like the idea of robbing people, gaining crazy amounts of cash and buying really cool stuff, but hate the idea of having to sneak around listening to guards’ conversations for hours? Well, then Size Five Games' The Swindle may be for you.
The Swindle is a steampunk/cyberpunk heist game that takes place in a version of London where the police have the perfect solution to all of the city's crime: they're going to use artificial intelligence to surveil all of London. “As a master thief, that will sort of ruin your job,” explains Size Five Games Director Dan Marshall. The police are going to activate this AI in 100 days, which means that's all the time you have to try and steal it. Every time you do a heist, whether you succeed or fail, the counter goes down.
Players will collect money while on heists, and, naturally, having more money means you can buy better upgrades and tools that in turn increase your security clearance. Your goal is to collect enough coin throughout the game to gain a high enough security clearance to enter the police district and steal the AI before times run out.
Mike Mika has a problem. Gamers who've secured free copies of #IDARB, his multiplayer hybrid basketball/platformer game, likely don't consider it to be a problem, but for Mika and his team at developer Other Ocean Interactive, it absolutely is. And it’s one that the head of development at Other Ocean can’t help but exacerbate.
“The problem we have, everything is so…we’re just so fixed in our ways,” the design director tells XBLA Fans, “it’s like, ‘Well, this should just be free. It should just be free.’ And we’re probably part of the problem when you hear people complain about free-to-play games, and how that’s been a race to the bottom on being able to make money. I can see how that happens, because while we’re putting this game together it feels like the right thing to do by all the gamers is to give [#IDARB] to them. I’m sure it’s dangerous. We can’t afford to keep giving it to them.”
But he wishes that they could. While acknowledging that giving too much away is “dangerous,” Mika says that his studio is “definitely erring on the side of being as extremely fair as possible.” No one who’s followed #IDARB (It Draws a Red Box) would dispute that that’s exactly what Other Ocean has done with its game. Mika solicited the help of every gamer with an opinion when designing #IDARB. Then he gave his game away for free before it released. Then he again gave it away for free when it released. Now he wants to give some additional #IDARB content away for free — all of its additional content, actually. But he can’t do that; he’s got a family to feed, and a studio to make profitable. So how does Mika do that? Where does he draw the line between what’s free and what’s for sale? He’s not really sure.
You could make a case that the retro-style indie game is turning into an overused cliché, but The Adventures of Pip goes beyond appearances and crafts a clever story out of its style. The game's opening looks like a pixelated storybook, telling the tale of a tiny kingdom where the hierarchy is determined by pixel count. The kingdom's royals are all 32-bit sprites, while the peasantry can only afford to be lower resolutions. One day a princess was born with the power to create pixels out of nothing, but on her 16th birthday she was kidnapped by the Skeleton Queen.
The demo, which was playable at PAX South, took me through the opening level of the game. Hero Pip begins as nothing more than a 1-bit red pixel, escaping his town as it's attacked by the aforementioned evil queen. It looked like an extreme version of Thomas was Alone, as Pip jumped his way through a crumbling landscape as the world burned in the background. It's a fun introduction, but nothing more than standard side-scrolling platformer gameplay. Boy, did that change quickly.
Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords was developed and published on Xbox One and Xbox 360 by Telltale Games. It was released February 4, 2015 for $4.99. A copy was provided by Telltale for review purposes.
In my review of Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice, I mentioned that whilst things were being set up rather nicely for the series ahead, the episode in isolation was a little uneventful. Thankfully, The Lost Lords goes some way to correcting this and features more action, more opportunity for intrigue and at least one twist which I certainly did not see coming.
The Escapists was developed by Mouldy Toof Studios and will be published on Xbox One by Team 17 Digital. It is set for release on February 13, 2015 for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.
The Escapists positions itself as a kind of craft-em-up roguelike set across a number of fiendishly designed secure facilities including prisons and POW camps. Think of it as somewhere between Terraria, Monaco and any number of top down action-RPGs. The main difference is that in order for you to be successful, The Escapists demands significantly more time and patience than almost any other game I've played — and what's more, it's perfectly suited to being a cute 8-bit indie title.
With only a very small number of simple core mechanics to rely upon, The Escapists turns the table on the typical sandbox approach taken by similar games. Instead, players are literally forced to adhere to a strict regimen of roll calls, mealtimes, break-times and work whilst simultaneously plotting their escape. It's an inspired system that asks an awful lot from players and results in the rewards being all the sweeter.
Yes, you read that headline correctly. Your Xbox One games will soon be stream-able to any Windows 10 PC or tablet. If you weren't able to watch the Windows 10 Consumer Preview on Wednesday the 21st, then you missed out. It was a great show, and a lot of cool stuff was revealed for the Windows 10 platform.
The entire time I was watching, I had this feeling that streaming Xbox One games would finally be announced. Just before Phil Spencer — head of Xbox — said the magic words, I tweeted this: