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TooManyGames 2018: An Overview

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This year, we had the pleasure of attending TooManyGames again!

I am excited for this convention every year for one big reason…. Indie Games Showcase!

Unfortunately, we had zero time to prepare for this event. We didn’t talk to guests this year, but we were very excited to see Charles Martinet, the Voice of Mario, and Kenny James, the voice of Bowser. Again, we weren’t able to talk with them, which was disappointing, but it was fun to see new guests with such an amazing background. I had several friends who were thrilled to get the chance to meet them.

However, I was sad to see that Keith Apicary wasn’t there. He had became a weird and hilarious part of my TooManyGames experiences.

The gaming hall was a bit smaller this year, making room for more competitive gaming. The food was in a different section all together, making for much more seating and faster food lines. It also created a much calmer area, if you were overwhelmed by the noise.

The vendors room was full and I was happy to see new vendors this year. My little horror heart was hovering around Death Couture and chatting with Megg Morbid about custom orders.

But let’s talk about the best part: the games! There were video games, card games, board games. So many to play, never enough time. Let’s go over a few favorites.

Wither Studios is working on Immure. This is a game we played a little last year and more of this year. Their game looks amazing and has come far in the past year. We are excited to play the final product. Here is a little bit about Immure…

Immure is a 2.5D psychological horror video game currently in development. Throughout this dark, twisted story, the protagonist Will Wicker traverses through a mysterious mansion that contains many strange realities to uncover the horrible truths behind each locked door. Will is desperate to escape this house of hells and discover the secrets of his past. Will soon realizes he has the ability to wield the Shining Trapezohedron, a supernatural crystal with strange powers. How far into the depths of hell must Will venture before finding solace? …

ParaLily is another amazing horror game. This is our first year seeing it and love how absolutely passionate Nate and Jeff are about their game. We watched two women striving to play as far as they could and the pure anger and devotion with each time they died and refused to quit… well, it was a thing of beauty to watch.

ParaLily is one little girl’s adventure to retrieve her dear stuffed dinosaur Patches, who in the middle of the night sprung to life and took off through a mysterious door. This strange journey will take Lily through a set of dangerous and terrifying parallel universes, as she attempts to retrieve her little stuffed runaway. Lily can shift between the parallel universes at will; which will help her avoid danger, and solve puzzles while traversing the paranormal universes.

Super 80’s World is a mobile game that is all about the 80’s, mullet included. It’s a bright neon world all about saving this decade, from big hair to cassette tapes, it was a trip down memory lane for me and I’m interested to see this finished product.

Dr. Noid Wormser hates the ’80s and has vowed to erase the decade. Armed with his power glove of doom, he’s finally able to realize his evil plan.

Only one man can stop him. That man is Dan Camaro.

In this mobile platform-runner, you collect old-school memorabilia to save the decade. Every year is a new world to explore, from coin operated arcades to the neon streets of South Beach, you’re sure to get your ’80s fix.

So pop your collar, fluff your mullet and lace your kicks… It’s time for Super 80s World.

I run into people I know often, especially at cons. I didn’t expect to run into someone I knew working on a game I knew NOTHING ABOUT! Red Essence Games is working on Mask of Semblance. Nik Hagialas is the lead artist and writer which explains why I love the artwork. I loved listening to the game concept and can’t wait to get my hands on the full release!

Red Essence Games is currently working on its flagship title, Mask of Semblance! A boy wakes up in a mysterious place to find a sentient Mask artifact. With the mask as your companion you will travel through a mysterious world encountering themes of the self and the mind, nature vs. technology, and the cyclical nature of life.

One Day West Games was also there showing off their successful Monster Highway, which we’ve talked about before. I was excited to see them still going strong with their unique board game and working on something new that I can’t wait to play!

After a nuclear power plant melts down, a tiny alligator transforms into a gigantic beast – and it’s a little cranky!

Build roads, move your car and be the first to get back to your HOME BASE!

Hyper Galaxy Studios I had the pleasure of seeing my first TMG. Back this year they showed off a more polished game, still hard but amazingly well done. This side scrolling sci-fi game will surprise you!

Horizon’s End is going for those nostalgia feels with The Great Gaias. An epic RPG is in the make and we are looking forward to what tales this title has to tell.

I had to pleasure of purchasing Risky Arcade. I haven’t played it yet and will be giving a review once I do. I have no doubt this board game will do amazing things. Not only is it an interesting concept but Dominique is driven and passionate about her game. Can’t wait to open it up.

There were so many games, you may say too many games… and I know I missed some amazing ones here and I am sorry. I hope to be giving you details on each game as they come to Kickstarter or full release.

Thank you to all of the Indie Developers. Keep making amazing games for us to play!

Indie Spotlight: Island

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Island is survival roleplay game made in retro graphics. You don’t just deal with hunger and thirst, but also with more realistic factors like fear, cold, and condition of your feet. You start the game without any skills at surviving and must learn along with what you see the most fit along the way: Train to become better at fishing when near a beach, learn to identify fruits when in a jungle. The game is meant to push the player under constant pressure until being able to escape the Island.

Island was inspired in its first iteration from classics like Robinson Crusoe and Mysterious Island. This was at first a tabletop roleplay game for one afternoon scenarios. The game was so addictive, and I realized that it was adaptable to video game form.

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The release date for Island in September 2019. It has funded on Kickstarter a few days ago. We will develop it for PC, Switch, 3DS, and possibly PS4 if the stretch goal is met. Before and during the Kickstarter, the public response has been amazing. We received many support & feedback messages. Many are eager to test it, quite a lot of people offered their help for the beta testing phase. It will also be possible to test the during some game festivals.

Indie Spotlight: Forgotten Anne

Tell us about your game: Valdemar Schultz Andreasen (Lead Game Designer):

Forgotton Anne is an untraditional 2D platforming adventure, with a heavy focus on the narrative and an interest in telling a very human story. We’ve done what we can to make it feel as if you’re playing inside an anime-movie, with a cinematography that swoops and zooms around.

The story centers around Anne, one of two human beings trapped in the world of lost and forgotten things – the Forgotten Lands. The inhabitants are socks, scarfs and other objects that people forget, animated into life as citizens of this world.

Anne and her Master Bonku are trying to get back to the human world, but as the story begins, an explosion occurs – somebody is trying to destroy their plans of returning home.

Since Anne has the role of Enforcer of these lands, she is sent out to locate and find the cause of the rebellion.

You play the game as you would a platformer: Anne can walk, run, jump – and then she has two tools in her belt: Her wings give her a boosted jump. Her Arca-glove on her hand can draw and transfer energy – called Anima – between cylinders and power up machines. It can even draw the Anima out of Forgotlings.

Through the story told, Anne interacts with a lot of Forgotlings, not just drawing life, in fact, mostly speaking to them. Anne encounters a lot of different situations that ask something of her situation as the Enforcer, but also moral situations for the player to contemplate.

The decisions Anne and the player makes impact aspects of the story, and it is not always clear what action leads to what reaction or consequence, which might just make it worthwhile to go through the game for a second run.

Situations of identity, loyalty and choice weave in and out of a beautifully aesthetic and engaging experience, that has a constant drive forward with new areas and situations.

The human story emerges as the story becomes an investigation of Anne – not just of her past, but also of who she is as a human being. We have done what we can to avoid turning her into a caricature or a superhero, rather trying for a naturalistic description of a complicated person full of contradictions and emotions, like any of us. While Anne is athletic and cool, she is also sometimes slightly clumsy. Our lead animator, Debbie Ekberg, was really great in portraying Anne’s movements with 2D animation. The game contains more than 5000 individual drawings, frames, of Anne. She would add these subtle touches of animation that showed Anne from a more vulnerable and naturalistic side that really rounded off her character.

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What was your inspiration to create the game

Alfred Nguyen (Creative Director): It came about after a soul-searching period after I quit my job as a creative lead at a mobile games company. I was reaching a point in my life where I wanted to make use of all the skills I had accumulated throughout the years as an animation film director and artist to express something meaningful. I think there is a space for fun addictive mobile games in our lives, but it did not allow me to go deep with crafting imaginary worlds of wonder and tell stories that affected people in a meaningful way. The same way certain games, books and movies had a lingering effect on me growing up. So the first thing I did was to reflect on themes I kept returning to as an artist and topics that kept being there on the back of my mind throughout my life. My parents were refugees from the Vietnam war and I grew up in Denmark, and so had two very different cultures vying for my identity growing up. So the search for an identity, the feeling of being lost, ‘forgotten’ I could see was a recurring theme in my life. Making a game can be a sisyphean task and so I knew it had to have a personal core that guided the project through tough times, and so this world of the forgotten began to form in my mind. From there it’s just been an incredible journey, starting a company, assembling my great and loving team who is responsible for making Forgotton Anne into what it is, and bet that years of work will feel worth it, as long as we focused on a meaningful creative process instead of calculating what will be ‘hot’ in the future to play or current trends.

Forgotten Anne is availble on Steam, Xbox and PS4 May 15th

 

Review: Never Alone

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In 2014, Upper One Games and E-Line Media released Never Alone, a platformer based on the Iñupiat tale, “Kunuuksaayuka.” It is now playable on the PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC, as well as iOS and Android devices. I downloaded the game on the PlayStation 4, so that is the version that I will review.

In Never Alone, an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna leaves her village to find out why her people have been suffering from terrible blizzards every day. An arctic fox comes to her aid, giving players the option to either switch between the two characters in Single Play or work together with a friend in Co-Op.

During their journey, they face a hungry polar bear, gusts of freezing wind, spirits from the Northern Lights that try to capture them, and a terrible man who’s been destroying villages to find a bola…the same weapon that Nuna’s been using to clear obstacles. Uh-oh.

Never Alone is an important game because it was made in tandem with the Iñupiat people. As you progress through each level, you unlock short videos called “Cultural Insights,” and you can pause the game at any time to view them. They were made to teach players about the Iñupiat people’s culture and way of life. These mini-documentaries allow one to gain a better understanding of the characters and themes found in the game. It’s a fun way to learn more about an underrepresented group of people through their own voices. I hope they have the opportunity to make more games like Never Alone.

In the game itself, Nuna and Fox each have unique skills that make them essential to the adventure. You can’t simply use one and ignore the other. Fox can climb walls and call spirits to help Nuna. She uses her bola to break apart icicles and burning sticks that block their path. I did not try out the multiplayer mode with a friend, but I imagine this allows for fun cooperative play.

As it is, I found single player mode manageable, though it could become frustrating at times. When using friendly spirit helpers to bring Nuna safely from one point to the other, Fox needs to stay close or the spirit will fade away. This wasn’t a reoccurring issue throughout the game, yet there were a few instances where Fox drifted too far away and Nuna fell. If I’d had a friend controlling Fox, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all.

With that said, the game can get aggravating at times. Initially, I shrugged it off because I didn’t grow up playing the side-scrolling platformers on the NES, SNES, or Sega Genesis. I’m only just getting interested in those types of games now.  However, there were moments during my playthrough of Never Alone when I could’ve sworn I’d timed it right, and Nuna seemed to land a jump on to the back of a Spirit, only to hang in midair without catching hold and then falling to her death. I couldn’t tell you how I eventually succeeded and got her to stick the landing. I think it had to do with where Fox moved the Spirit, but there was so much delicate back-and-forth involved that I don’t know exactly.

You will always feel bad when either Nuna or Fox dies, because every time it happens, the camera focuses on the other one crying and falling to the ground in grief. But this also allows you to feel the strong bond between the two of them, given that neither character talks. Instead, narrator James Mumiġan Nageak tells the story in the Iñupiaq language as you play, with English subtitles at the bottom of the screen.

Never Alone looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. Those are easily the best aspects of the game. I enjoyed the quiet, haunting main theme. With Nuna and Fox often exploring the harsh environment with no one else around to help them, a big, dramatic arrangement with a full orchestra would have felt out of place in this story. The music’s there just enough to enhance the experience without feeling intrusive.

And there’s such a beautiful world to explore, from floating ice on the ocean to the ruins of a village with the eerie spirits from the Northern Lights trying to catch Nuna. I would love it if Upper One Games could make something in the style of Final Fantasy or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, a wide-open, exploration adventure based on other legends from First Nation cultures, with more characters, side-quests, etc. Based on what I’ve seen in Never Alone, that would be amazing.

Never Alone is currently available to purchase on the PlayStation Network at a discounted price for $4.99 until January 16th.  Although it is a short game, it’s worth checking out to support the work of the Iñupiat people.

Guest Post | The Final Station: A Review

Written by: Sage the Cosplaya

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I am a sucker for a good indie game. A nice game that can have a wonderful impact on you, unlike many mainstream games. I’m looking at you, Call of Duty. 

A few days ago, I stumbled upon The Final Station, an indie game from Tiny Build. This developer has made a good amount of solid games in the past.

So, what is this game about?

I’d love to tell you, but I don’t know myself! The story is actually the biggest issue. You are not given a prologue or any indication of what the world is like before you begin. You wake up and begin your journey to ride the worst Thomas The Tank Engine ever made.

Okay, it’s more that you travel and deliver cargo that is supposed to maybe save the world from another invasion? Along the way, you pick up rescuers, keep them alive, and drop them off. You also fight off mysterious blackened slimy creatures that were once human beings; that, too.

So what is the good in the game?

What story there is seems fascinating. It has a unique premise. One of the best levels is a mansion, which seems empty at first. You see a few hints of the story in this level. Then, once when you go underground, the real story of this house and its owner, begins. The music is beautiful; it adds the necessary ambiance that makes you feel as though this tragic world is at the end of its days.

The scenery in the train sections are great. It is pixelated art, but when you see it in terms of story for locations or events, it really leaves a impact. The mood and how it changes is done very well.

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So what is so bad about it?

As I’ve said before: THE STORY. To me, any game, regardless of graphics, can be great as long as it has a compelling story to tell. So, lets break this down.

In each level, you get scraps of paper and messages about the people in that level. That is nice, but it rarely contributes to the overall story. You do get some story-driven dialogue from the passengers on the train. This story-driven dialogue would be great to hear… but you can’t because you have to rush to feed the passengers and give them first-aid kits to prevent them from dying. Also, you have to rush to keep and maintain this train from hurting the passengers. You can not listen to all of the dialogue, which is frustrating.

Also, when you can speak to people, you don’t say anything. Instead, the game just displays, “….” and they respond to it. But not like Groot and Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, where you do get what they are saying despite them not saying anything.

There is honestly a part to the climax of the game where you have to talk to people about changing plans in order to save everyone. The exchange is bascially:

“Hey, glad you made it!”

“…”

“Really? Well, go to this place.”

“…”

“I agree. I hope this plan works.”

What plan? What was wrong with the original plan? What made you want to come up with this new plan? How can we execute this plan? EXPLAIN, GAME!

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The ending is another huge flaw (spoilers at the end). It feels rushed and, at parts, abandoned. Even after completing the game, I have watched others play and still have the same reaction. I have a lot of questions that do not get answered.

“Its the journey, not the destination,” you might say. NO! FALSE! When you spend hours getting involved in a game or in a series like LOST, you’re dedicated. The story has you. There are mysteries that you want resolved. You get to the ending and it is such a let down that it ruins the journey and you feel like you just wasted so much of your life. That is this game.

One final flaw: the money/craft system. Throughout the game, you raid bodies, lockers and bathrooms for loot and money. The loot allows you to craft ammo and first aid kits on the train, which you have to do when everyone is talking about the story. Also, if you keep the passengers alive, you get some cash or ammo as rewards. After every act, you get to a city where you can you buy food, meds, and ammo. At one point though, you go to a city and you can no longer buy anything. Ok? But afterwords you still need meds, and you still go to loot for money and crafts, which is pointless because you can not use them again, and there is not a New Game+ to use them on. It’s pointless.

Overall, I give The Final Station a 3/5 trains. It has so much potential for a good ride, but it derails and crashes.

Ending Spoilers:

Read the rest of this entry

Convention Impressions: Too Many Games 2016

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Date: June 24 – 26, 2016
Venue: Oaks Convention Center in Oaks, PA

Real Women of Gaming is getting on the convention beat! Our first Press Pass came from Too Many Games and it was a great convention for us to get our feet wet with.

What Kind of Convention is it?
As the name suggests, Too Many Games is a gaming convention. The Convention had 3 panel tracks and an event stage, but the majority of the space was given over to a large gaming room and an even larger marketplace. The arcade/gaming room had arcade machines and consoles running fighting games, racing games, and rhythm games for anyone to test their skills against their fellow con goers. There were also at least 30 machines running various versions of Nintendo’s beloved Super Smash Brothers for both free and tournament play. Rounding things out were a tabletop gaming area and a indie game showcase.

Too Many Games is definitely a small convention. The focus is on the games room and the marketplace. The convention did manage a respectable lineup of guests from the gaming youtube and podcast ‘verse including The Completionist and the Angry Video Game Rolfe, but don’t expect representation from major studios or established indie studios. Sorry, no autographs from Ken Levine or surprise game announcements from Double Fine.

The panel tracks covered a decent range of topics but didn’t offer anything you wouldn’t typically find at a small enthusiast convention. There were Guest FAQs, retrospectives, music and animation appreciation panels, and discussions about current topics. It was a full schedule but I’m guessing that the fairly sparsely attended panels were not the draw for most people at the con.

What was cool?
By far my favorite part was the Indie Games showcase. I got to spend time with at least twenty developers of both video and tabletop games, trying their games and talking to them about their projects. The items on offer ranged from rough prototypes to extremely polished and professional demos. Everyone I met was eager to show off their work and talk about what they wanted to accomplish, what their influences were, and what got them into game design in the first place. There were definitely a few creators there whose projects I will be following closely from now on and some of them may even be featured in future posts on this blog.

The marketplace had a heavy focus on retro video games and I saw a few rare finds on offer. If you’re a collector then you already know that events like these can be a goldmine or a bust depending on what the vendors have on offer. Board games also had decent representation and I was pleased to see a few items that I had been keeping an eye out for. There were also a few booths selling figures and other collectables and, of course, enough funny t-shirts to clothe an army.

I also liked the arcade more than I thought I would. I’ve never been a big fighting game fan, but there was enough variety that I could find plenty to keep me occupied. There were also a few Japanese rhythm game cabinets which were in high demand. Fortunately, I never had to wait too long for a turn at a cabinet and there was always someone ready to jump in and play a round with me. (I lost, a lot).

What was lame?
The venue itself is nothing to write home about. The Oaks Convention Center is essentially a big steel warehouse with concrete floors. Because the convention was divided between two large halls, one for the marketplace and indie showcase and one for the arcade and event stage, it could be awkward getting around. The bathroom lines could get pretty long (it is a con) and the food was overpriced and mediocre (again, con). That said, it’s not the worst place to hold a convention, but it’s not as interesting or cool a venue as some that I have been to.

Who is it for?
If you are all about buying and playing games, this is a great convention. There was a lot on offer to play and over 50 vendors in the marketplace, making the whole thing feel like a big swapmeet. If you are interested in indie games or talking about game making with the people who are doing it right now, then the Indie Showcase alone is worth getting a ticket. There were concerts and cosplay wrestling, so if those kinds of shows are your thing then that’s a decent reason to attend. Just expect to kill some time in the arcade and marketplace between shows you want to see.

If you are more interested in the cosplay scene, community meetups, or people watching, then Too Many Games is hard to recommend. The venue is bad for photography and there wasn’t a lot of cosplay around. Aside from smash tournaments and a pokemon event, there wasn’t a whole lot in the way of organized community meetups either.

Did you like it?
I definitely did. Too Many Games felt kind of like someone had taken the gameroom and dealers hall from a larger convention and turned them into their own thing. I’m used to attending conventions that are a little more scattershot in what they offer and it was cool attending a convention that had a strong focus on gaming. I also liked the fact that I could get to things that looked interesting without fighting through fifteen thousand other people to get to it. Sometimes small conventions can feel empty or like they needed to stretch their content but Too Many Games stayed engaging and entertaining for the whole time.

Indie Developer Spotlight: Liege

Indie Developer Spotlight: Liege

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That’s right, we have TWO Indie Developer Spotlights this month! With all the contacts we made at Too Many Games, we decided to double down this month. Enjoy!

We spoke with John from Coda Games, who we met at Too Many Games, about their upcoming game, Liege. Here’s what he had to say:

Q1. Tell us about your game.
Liege is a story driven RPG with a deep, tactical core. The game has classic JRPG influences, but:
– Modern presentation
– Seamless, fast paced tactical battles
– No random encounters, no grinding, no fetch quests, no fluff

Here’s the trailer:

Q2. What was your inspiration to create the game?
Inspiration for the game came from lots of places: Classic RPGs I loved as a kid (FFVI, FF Tactics and Suikoden) were some of the original inspirations, while more recently games like the new XCOMs and Transistor had a big influence as we developed the mechanics. Inspiration for the story and setting came mostly from outside of games (fantasy books, film and TV- too many to list!).

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Q3. When should we expect to see it?
As of now we’re aiming to release on Steam Q1 next year, with console ports in Q2-Q3 2017.