Observatorium is a game currently developed by Jonathan McEnroe, Clive Lawrence and Peter Satera, knows as the Observatorium Team. Part of its gameplay will requires to create constellation and to somehow link them to with the rest of the environment: merge space with nature, as the website says. The player moves the boat using the keyboard, while the mouse connects stars into a constellation and catches fish. Despite the game has been showcased at Dare to be Digital 2015, very little is known at this point. Yet, Observatorium looks amazing and I honestly can’t wait to play it.
When I was a kid, I used to play Theme Hospital for hours. I’m pretty sure I was terrible at it, but this didn’t stop me from enjoying its lovely animations. I had to wait 18 many years to experience that same feeling again. Big Pharma is one of the most polished games you’ll see this year. Developed by Tim Wicksteed, it’s an intriguing RTS game which explores the sick world of the pharmaceutical industry. Every detail of Big Pharma has been crafted to perfection. The animations, created by the incredibly talented Rob Wicksteed, are simply beautiful and perfectly match the clean aesthetic of the game. The game has also a dark aspect, which you’ll eventually experience after the realisation that the focus of this industry is not on the patients, but on the profit. As a developer, it saddens me to know the final players won’t be able to see the incredible amount of work Tim has put into the making of this game. During its development, Big Pharma has changed so many times: it’s interface, it’s graphics and even it’s gameplay. I think many developers should learn from Twice Circles that changes, even if scary, can make the difference between an average game and an awesome one.
It’s not uncommon for games to have a visual style which is not directly related to their gameplay. In these three games, instead, graphics and gameplay entangles to create beautiful, aesthetic driven experiences.
If there’s a game which is pushing the concept of aesthetic to the limit, that’s for sure Memory of a Broken Dimension. The game seems coming out of a corrupted VHS tape, with compression artefacts are all around you. So much effort has been channel into the making of this game that it’s not hard to understand why it was one of the IGF finalists for Excellence in Visual Arts. On top of that, Memory of a Broken Dimension cleverly mixes 3D environments with DOS-like shells. While at GDC, I met Ezra and player the game for few minutes. It’s not just visually stunning: it’s also very innovative. Part of the game plays on the concept of perspective. Is hard to tell more about Memory of a Broken Dimension because not much has been revealed. While waiting for the game to come out, you can play a prototype version on itch.io.
The first time I played Dream was at the BAFTA Inside Games 2014, where I also had the chance to try Monument Valley. After more than one year, Dream has finally been released and it has really exceed my expectations. Made by a very small team, it has a graphics and a level of content which is comparable to many high-profile games. Dream brings you inside the dream of a man, allowing the player to explore a variety of bizarre and diverse environments. Physics and Logic don’t always make sense in dreams, and HyperSloth is building clever mechanics out of this. Dream has been released this week; even if you’re not into puzzles, its dreamy and relaxing locations make it one of the perfect exploration games so far. And if that’s not enough, Dream features some of the best music you can hear in a game.
If you like your pixels big, Darkside Detective is the game for you. Developed by the incredibly talented Paul Conway, is a dark (yet charming) point and click adventure. By cleverly mixing pixelated characters, fake shadows and soft lights, it manages to create a very modern atmosphere which still blinks at the best retro games. To make this game even better, Ben Prunty is working on its music; yes, THAT Ben Prunty who composed the OST for FTL. The game also features some guest writing from Brenda Romero. Compared to how traditional games are released, Darkside Detective will come out in seasons, much like a TV series. The first one, “Deadbeats in Downtown“, is planned for later this year and it will feature five different cases.
Some games are not about puzzles or mechanics: they’re about emotions. This is surely the case of Fragments of Him, which explores how the loss of a loved person affects the life of four different characters. Since when I saw its first trailer, I’ve been very excited about this game. It’s interesting, for once, to play a game which has something to say. Even more interesting is the choice of SassyBot Studio to feature a relationship between two men. In a gaming culture where women are still under-represented, LGBT characters are even rarer. During Develop:Brighton I had the chance to talk with Mata Haggis (lead designer) and Elwin Verploegen (lead programmer) about this aspect of the game. Fragments of Him is a game featuring a relationship, which happens to be between two men. As Mata told me, is “a game about love, made with love“.
I can safely say that the undoing of many indies has been compromising on their games in order to make them more commercially appealing. Attempting to standardise games has created a wave of products which cannot compete with the bigger titles, and lack of innovation. Cloning Flappy Bird and Crossy Road can only take you so far. Luckily enough, there are few indies which are not afraid of pushing the boundaries of what a game should be and should look like.
MYRIAD is the abstract game for antonomasia. The first time I’ve seen it, I’ve been completely captured by the total randomness of its gameplay. Then, after carefully looking someone playing for few minutes, a pattern emerged. The world of MYRIAD is full of rules; you just have to discover them. Is not hard to understand the basics of the game, but mastering it requires more then just good reflexes. Most of the pleasure from playing MYRIAD derives from the constant discovery of a new rule or trick; “Oh, I didn’t know I could do that too!” should be the subtitle of the game. In MYRIAD I really can make the world and destroy the world. The only thing I still can’t do, is pronouncing the name of it’s developer…
“Little devil inside is a story about 5126 Kickstarter backers who wants to survive in a surreal world.“. No: Little Devil Inside is the story of an incredibly polished game which raised $234,315.39 in thirty days. And you shouldn’t be surprised; the first trailer showed a huge variety of scenarios, each one with its unique mechanics and gameplay. Every scene is beautifully crafted and you can clearly see how much work Neostream has been putting to script every aspect to perfection. Little Devil Inside should be the manifesto of what Unity5 can actually do, when used at its full potential.
I don’t deny I’m a Sci-Fi Nazi. As a result, I tend to like games which are scientifically accurate. Or at least, as scientifically accurate as possible. One of the very few exceptions is Lovers In a Dangerous Spacetime. Not only it’s the games with the longest name ever, but is the less accurate depiction of space battles ever made. And I absolutely love it! The game gives its best with two players, each one running up and down the ship to control different devices. LinaDS requires a great effort in verbal communication between the players, which is one of the best aspects of local multiplayer games. I’ve also been very pleased by the choice of its developers to keep the game as gender neutral as possible. There is no “He” and “She”, no blue and pink, no short hair and skirt: they’re both “Lovers” and that’s it. LinaDS has been in development for few years; I promise when you’ll see how polish it is you’ll understand why is taking Asteroid Base so long to craft this funky, little gem.