More Drift Stage Awesomeness Emerges

The guys behind Drift Stage have been busily in development with a whole bunch of new screen shots and game play videos available, an official Twitter account, and a new website all up and running.  Check out some of the screens below, and have a look at their official site for even more.

Four player split screen!  Squee!


 

Link

Ninja Pizza Girl has been funded!

With less than 48 hours remaining, Ninja Pizza Girl has hit it’s $35,000 Kickstarter goal. Now that the game is also Greenlit on Steam I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

Drift Stage

Drift Stage | Awesome retro racing

I just had to make a quick post to show you a few shots from Drift Stage, a great looking retro racer currently in early development.

Check out some of the early art and a gameplay video below.  I’m definitely picking up a strong MegaRace vibe here, and that’s a very good thing.  Best bit for me?  The music!

 

I'm loving the city scapes.  Definite MegaRace vibe going on here.

I’m loving the city scapes. Definite MegaRace vibe going on here.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this one.

You can check out their tumblr page here.

Ninja Pizza Girl

Ninja Pizza Girl is a stylish, side scrolling platformer currently in development by indie outfit Disparity Games, based in sunny Noosa, Australia.  They’ve recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to see the game through to release, and after only one week have already exceeded 50% of their funding goal, due in no small part to a rush of positive press, including major gaming website, Polygon.

As well as having a strong, female protagonist, where Ninja Pizza Girl stands out from the crowd of similar platformers is in it’s handling of issues such as bullying and self esteem, which instead of simply being alluded to in passing, are actually built into the “health” system of the game.

Just added to Kickstarter today, Disparity Games “Includification” stretch goal also promises to add accessibility for those with mobility, vision and cognitive difficulties.  This has been put together with the assistance of the AbleGamers Foundation, who provide free assistance to developers in making their games as accessible as possible to those with disabilities.

It’s refreshing to see a developer taking a sense of moral and social responsibility so seriously, while still putting up a fun and polished game.  Here’s hoping they hit their goal and Ninja Pizza Girl can start kicking arse and delivering pizzas in the not too distant future.

If you want to make a pledge head to Kickstarter, or you can even vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.


 

High Density

High density fun

I’ve been thinking about what type of game fits my lifestyle given that my free time is so limited.  Gone are the days when I can sit for hours, uninterrupted and just play.  These days I need to be able to come and go from a game, but still feel that I’ve done something worthwhile out of what might be a half hour session every second week.

I’m honestly not picky about genres.  I just want something that is fun to play and worth the precious few moments of free time that I get.  Review scores are a great guide, but if it takes a big time commitment to get the most out of a title, it’s just not going to happen.

So here’s my realisation…  Fun Density.

Hear me out.

Evidence the first

I love RPG’s, but a game like Skyrim for instance, with hundreds of hours of exploration and character development, as well as a deep story just doesn’t work for me.  From one session to the next I just can’t remember where I’m up to in the story, what quest I’m supposed to be progressing or at what point of development my character currently sits.  It just becomes a really broken experience, like trying to read a novel one page a week, and I just don’t get enough out of it to be able to stick with it for any length of time.  Inevitably I get lost, bored and move on.

Is it fun?  Yes.  Is it high density fun?  Well, no.

Skyrim vista

What a vista! If only I had the time to explore.

Evidence the second

Battlefield 3.  First person shooters can be great for short pick up and play sessions.  In general, I find that online multiplayer is even better as there’s no campaign story to try and follow and most game types are done in short rounds of maybe 20 minutes.

Despite this, I struggled to make much traction in Battlefield 3 as my short play sessions didn’t allow me to build my experience enough to progress through the unlocks.  I seemed to always be outgunned, even after a year or more of intermittent play time.  And forget about building genuine skill in any of the aircraft.

Couldn’t this be solved by the purchased gear unlocks?  Well I guess so, but honestly pay-to-win just seems to be so against the fundamentals of gaming that I won’t do it.  Is it fun to buy access to gear?  Not really.

Don’t get me wrong, I did have fun playing, as evidenced by my year or so of play.  There just always seemed to be these long stretches of frustration between the genuinely fun moments.

Was it fun?  Sure.  Was it high density fun?  Consistently no.

Air superiority

That’s me, in flames amongst the trees.

Evidence the third

The entire Total War series seems to have been made with the sole purpose of making me feel like a complete failure.  My Steam library currently tells me I own Rome: Total War, Medieval 2: Total War and Empire: Total War, all amazingly deep and full games begging to be played.  Total play time?  Eleven hours.  Campaigns completed?   Zero.

Reviews, like this one for Medieval 2, draw me in with statements like “a royal treat for history addicts”, and “…one of the greatest games we’ve ever played…”.  I like history!  I love the Medieval era!  A perfect score?  This game is made for me!  But there it sits barely played, gathering digital dust in my Steam library.  What the hell is wrong with me?!

Certainly there is plenty of fun to be had, but when I can only sit down for half an hour or so, there is just no way I can achieve anything worthwhile.

You can see where I’m going with this.  Fun?  Yep.  High density fun?  Unfortunately no.

M2TW Map

So much map, so little time.

Wrap it up

So what’s going on?  Have I just become a dirty casual?  I like to think not.  Deep stories, character development and challenging game play all still appeal.  I guess I’ve just become less patient and willing to wait for it.

I recently posted about the indie platformer VVVVVV.  I think this is a great example of a game done right.  It may only be short (I blasted through it in a week) but in that short play time they manage to squeeze in a worthwhile story, a simple but ridiculously challenging game mechanic, which really does reward persistence, and a fun, pumping soundtrack.  There’s a depth of experience to be had if I want to put in the time, but I can still sit down for a short session and feel like I’ve made some worthwhile progress.

The Grand Theft Auto series also does this well.  There are hundreds of hours of game play available if you want to stick with it.  I could sit down for a multi-hour session and progress the story by working through a number of missions and develop my character, or I could just as easily sit down for a half hour and have a blast simply cruising around town, exploring the city or seeing how high I can get my wanted level.  You’re never far from the next mission or point of interest and something is always happening.  There is both a depth of game play and a high density of fun.

And that’s where it is for me.  Games are supposed to be about fun, and when my gaming time is at a premium, I need that fun to be easily accessible.  I don’t mean easy, shallow or over quickly.  I still want a story.  I still want a challenge.  I’d love longevity and re-playability.

Give me high density fun and I’ll die happy.

 

Featured image by Jens Schott Knudsen licensed under Creative Commons.

Doing things the hard way

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game and felt any sort of emotional connection to what’s happening on screen.  I don’t know if it’s a lack of time, waning interests, an inability to relax uninterrupted for just one freaking moment or something else entirely, but the majority of my gaming experiences these days tend to end in… meh.

Despite this I continue to buy.  Certainly there’s been an economically necessary reduction in the number of AAA titles I’m lining up for (or whatever the digital download equivalent of lining up is), but one look at the number of games in my Steam library confirms that I’m still a sucker for shiny screenshots, juicy looking trailers and game reviews.

Maybe it’s in the hope of rekindling some of those precious gaming moments from when I was younger.  When I was so caught up in the game, the story, the graphics, that I just forgot about everything else and became completely immersed in what was happening on the screen.  I haven’t felt that for any length of time, for a long time.  That was until I loaded up a game which I had picked up for next to nothing in a forgotten Humble Bundle, and it consumed my life for one joyous week.

VVVVVV (pronounced “the letter v six times” – check out the game sites domain name) is certainly not new to the market.  It was first released all the way back in 2010 as an online only browser game and has since spread to Steam, both major app stores and even the 3DS and PsVita.  Along the way it’s picked up a bunch of awards and positive press including a couple of perfect score reviews.

My Steam key was picked up in a Humble Bundle and had sat dormant for some time before I rediscovered it when searching for suitable gaming candidates to install on my wife’s Surface tablet.  I knew the game existed and had been well received, but to be honest the screenshots I’d seen and the snippets of reviews I’d read didn’t really do a lot for me.  Old school retro style graphics, simple game mechanics, punishing difficulty.  Yeah, yeah, heard it all before.  But install it I did, and boy was I glad I did.

Conundrum

As long as they don’t get harder than this, we’ll be fine.

If I had to pick a genre, I guess I’d call it a platformer, or a puzzle/platformer, but that doesn’t really do it justice.  Gameplay revolves around a simple, single mechanic of being able to reverse the gravity for your character alone.  There’s no jumping, only left and right movement, so if you encounter an obstacle you need to reverse gravity and walk on the ceiling to continue – a ceiling which is as likely to be three screen heights away and covered in spikes as it is flat and easily accessed.  It’s these spikes as well as a handful of moving platforms and other hurty badness that forms the challenge of the game.

I love you

Happy, smiling death.

Don’t be fooled by the happy retro graphics and smiling faces, death will come quickly and often.  Like hundreds of times often.  This game is unforgiving and most mistakes will result in insta-death, but where other games would have you searching for one-ups or health packs, or backtracking through previously completed areas, VVVVVV bypasses all of this with a liberal spread of well placed checkpoints and an unlimited number of lives (or deaths).  It becomes an almost zen like experience as you die over and over again trying to weave your way between a spiky letter V and a happy pink love heart.  If insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting a different outcome, then this game proves I am most certainly insane.

Doing things the hard way

So all I need to do is jump over that… oh.

Throughout the game you are accompanied by one of the best retro soundtracks I’ve heard in a while.  Always happy, always upbeat, you can’t help but smile.  And it’s all tied together by a charming little story that keeps you forging ahead.

If I had to pick a weakness, I guess I could point to the short playtime.  Playing about half an hour or so each day I got through this in a week, so I’ll let you do the sums on total play time if that’s your thing.  The game does offer an inverted mode where you can play through the entire game again with the level inverted, and there’s a level editor available so community made levels are out there if you must have more.

Without a doubt though, the combination of the simple game mechanic, low stress deaths and pumping soundtrack, add up to one of the best and most genuinely fun gaming experiences I’ve had in years.  The short play time is probably a blessing as it leaves you wanting more rather than leaving you looking for more variety or depth.  Let’s call it high density fun.

Do yourself a favour and if you haven’t played this game yet get out there and buy it now.  If you must try a demo you can try the browser version on Kongregate, but honestly this is a no brainer.  It’s fun with a capital V.

Get to Steam or GOG and buy it now.