21st Jan 2011
For days Chris from HyperDuck SoundWorks has been tweeting that the new indie platformer shooter A.R.E.S. by Extend Studio would be available from Steam January 19th. Tonight he was kind enough to throw a Steam code my way, and I just had a total blast of an hour playing it!
Despite having the same name as a popular torrent client (not great for SEO guys!) A.R.E.S has a very similar game mechanic to the classic PC exploration shooter Abuse. You run with the WASD keys and aim/shoot with the mouse. If you’ve got an Xbox 360 controller you can plug this in instead, and actually the 360 roots of this title are evident everywhere, from the options menu to the control set-up. That’s probably because A.R.E.S was the XNA Dream Build Play 2010 first prize winner, and will be released on XBLA soon.
A quirky intro story about rescuing hostages starts things off, but to be fair you’d be forgiven for skipping this and diving right into the meat. The first few sections train you up. The double-jump feels a little strange, and I can’t help but feel that the duck and roll should be more automatic (probably feels more natural on an xbox controller), but within minutes you are happily running, blasting and collecting drops.
Along the way your guide will introduce new features to you at a pretty rapid pace. When shot baddies drop 3 different types of collectibles (think Mario coins). You can spend these creating new items, such as grenades, or upgrading existing weapons. This is a nice touch, as it forces you to hoover up the liberal spillage that spews from downed opponents. Work your way through enough of them and soon you’ll encounter a boss. There are smaller mid-way bosses, and giant end of level endeavours that require some serious blasting to complete. I particuarly liked the first boss (below) which reminded me a lot of the boss from Contra: Alien Wars that rips its way through the walls at you.
There are lots of aspects of A.R.E.S that offer gentle nods to gaming in general. From the screen shakes, glow effects, roaring mechanical beasts, to the manga characters and detailed scoring system – old-school console gaming blood runs deep in its veins. Graphically it’s a quirky style. Levels are built in blocky 3D, but traversed in a very 2D manner. Backgrounds are detailed and animated. Where-as the main character and enemies often appear very vector / Flash in style. Yet the boss characters look decidedly hand-drawn, with all the texture you’d expect that to give. And on-top of this is a glowing, blooming, rippling sheen. So it’s quite a mixed bag, but most of the time it manages to gel.
Special mention has to be given to the music. It fits the game perfectly. Think Japanese style synth rock! and you’ll be close. There are so many tracks, and they really pump-up the atmosphere in-game. Hopefully the soundtrack will be available to buy once the game has had a chance to settle. In the meantime there is a great interview with Chris over at DIY Gamer (and 9 tracks to listen to).
I’ll wrap-up by showing you this video. That should be convincing enough
A.R.E.S. is available to buy on Steam (with a 10% discount at the time of writing) and should be on XBLA soon.
17th Oct 2010
I found The Polynomial : Space of the Music while browsing Steam today, I had been working hard and decided to treat myself to a little slice of indie game fun, and this was top of the list. The beautiful visuals caught my eye instantly, looking a playable Apple OS X wallpaper. Then I watched the video in motion and was transfixed. £5.99 down and a few minutes later and I was having a gleeful time. Dipping in and out of 3d fractal flowers, diving around colourful spiralling rainbow twists, and trying my hardest to work out what the game was all about.
In essence it appears to be a simple shooter, but while it starts out sedate enough there comes a point where you seem to be frantically fighting for your life. Your whole room glowing from the chunks of vivid exploding debris flying past. It reminded me a lot of the 16-bit classic Interphase (although without as much puzzle solving depth!) but this is really something you play for the visuals. I admit it looks like something that should have fallen out of Jeff Minters hard drive, but that isn’t the case, and it’s all the better for it.
You can throw your own soundtrack into it, and the whole game will draw itself around that. Pulsating and winding in time to the beat. There are masses of beautiful screen grabs up in the Polynomial gallery, and I’d urge anyone who has an interest in beautiful playful environments, or fractal / mathematical art, to check it out. It’s as much about the easy creation of stunning images as it is a game, but that’s no bad thing.
Available now on Steam for both PC and Mac, there’s a demo available too.
13th Sep 2010
MindCandy 3 is (apparently!) nearly ready for release. Which is awesome news as I have been waiting for this for ages now The MindCandy range are a series of DVDs that showcase the best of scene demos. Volume 1 featured 230+ minutes worth of PC demos, both new and the classics. Volume 2 was another massive set, this time focusing on the Amiga.
What makes these DVDs different are the love and attention put into the production of them. For a start this isn’t a standard “video grab” compilation. They are carefully mastered:
“Using a high-end video converter, all demos were captured scene by scene on different machines and hardware variations to get the best possible timing for any single part. In the next step all parts were edited, stitched and re-synced with the (also remastered) sound. The Result: Some demos never ran as perfect in all of their parts as they do on MindCandy ”
Volume 3 is now available for pre-order, and will feature PC demos from 2003 to 2010 this time on DVD and Blu-ray. There is a 30 minute sample DVD to download from the web site. The final DVD should release Q4-2010. Fingers crossed!
Also announced for pre-order is Jan Zottmanns Immortal 4. This is another double-CD set featuring stunning Amiga music remastered in ways you’ve never heard it before. I’ve got all of the Immortal CDs and from the samples on the web site this one hit my pre-order list right away. The following is the blurb from the web site:
“The full-to-the-brim Double-CD set Immortal 4 features no less than 35 newly arranged songs (about 150 minutes) of Commodore Amiga videogame music. Most of them have been created by their original authors – trademark and good tradition of the Immortal series. We couldn’t even stop them to play live-instruments, you’ll become earwitness when Al Lowe himself (Leisure Suit Larry) is playing the saxophone, Jon Hare (Cannon Fodder) being back at the microphone and Dave Govett (Wing Commander) hitting the drums.
Numerous classics have been rearranged, such as Lemmings (Tim Wright), Turrican 2 (Chris Hülsbeck), Flashback (Jean Baudlot), Gauntlet 3 (Tim Follin), F17 Challenge (Nicola Tomljanovich) and many more. Exklusive new versions were contributed by legendary demoscene musicians, such as Romeo Knight (at the guitar too) and Jogeir Liljedahl.
The catchy melodies once played by a handful of 8 bit samples on the Amiga now experience their rebirth in a colorful mixture ranging from a complete rock band to the fully-fletched synthesizer-setup.”
9th Jul 2010
A long time ago I announced that I wanted to do a remake of a classic Atari ST game “Robotz” in Flash. Fast forward to today, and I still haven’t got around to it. However James Monkman (Heavy Stylus of RGCD) wasn’t as lazy as me, and set about creating this awesome re-imaging of the original.
Although it’s for Windows PCs only (as it was created in Game Maker 8) it’s a mighty fine game indeed! A lot of the limitations of the original have been removed, and the gameplay is faster, more frantic and basically more fun as a result. Check out this cool video to see what I mean:
The graphics are lovely, a faithful blend of rips from the ST original and some new pixel art. 505, Crazy_Q and Damo provide the stomping soundtrack.
If you remember the original, you’ve got to try this version of it.
Hell, if you just enjoy quality games – you’ve got to try Robotz DX
Loads more info and the download here: http://www.rgcd.co.uk/robotzdx/
5th Jul 2010
Matt Simmonds is something of a legend in the Amiga/demoscene world. Under the pseudonym “4mat” he composed hundreds of famous music tracks for cracktros, demos and games. You can find over 500 of them on the Amiga Music Preservation site. MobyGames also keeps a relatively accurate list of his commercial and freeware audio work.
Today he released his album “Decades”. All of the 14 tracks on the album were created using the same tools he had available “back in the day”, namely ProTracker and FastTracker 2. I just bought the album from Amazon after having a listen on-line, and I’m really pleased at the mix of styles and raw chip sound that shines through. Some tracks carry better than others, but my personal favourite has to be “Virginia”. You can listen to the tracks below:
Read more about its production on Matt’s blog: I Hear the Sound of Waves. There is also a great interview with him on IndieGames.com. And if like me, you really enjoy what you hear, then Amazon MP3 has the goods.
Fellow Photon Stormer Ilija was saying just the other day that Matt has been in contact with him quite a bit recently. Perhaps a graphic/audio collab is on the cards? We’ll keep you posted … and Matt, if you’re up for it, we certainly have a couple of games we’d love to have your audio input on
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