Since 2015 is right around the corner, I’ve decided to create a little list of unique games that I enjoyed very much this past year. Let’s cut to the chase (links to the games are found in the titles):
This game is not what it seems. From a surface level, it looks like a visual novel with Phoenix Wright elements of crime solving thrown in. At first I was skeptical of the story, because, well, it reminded me of the Hunger Games. But man was I wrong. The game revolves around several high school students who are locked in a prison of sorts. The only way out of the prison is to kill another student without being caught. The headmaster of the prison, named Monokuma, a cute but absolutely deadly (and hilarious) stuffed bear constantly heckles the students as they deal with their messy situation. Instead of simply focusing on the shock value of killing others, the game rather focuses on despair, depression, and motivation. I was honestly very surprised with the themes it decided to focus on, but it ultimately made for a unique and fresh gaming experience.
(Note: Since I couldn’t afford a PS Vita, I played an English patched version of the Japanese game on my PSP with custom firmware. The link in the title contains more info if you’re interested.)
This game is insane, and there is literally nothing like it. It may look like a simple point-and-click adventure, but the kicker is that it’s also a musical. Every piece of dialogue is sang by the developer Deirdra Kiai, and it makes for some heart warming and hilarious moments. The game also has a unique visual aesthetic, containing clay models for everything found in the game. The game deals with gender, politics, and whole host of other things.
This game is very special. Not only is it a puzzle game with intricate level design, but it also has a very deep and rich story that treats the player like an adult. No answers are given, but everything that’s needed to piece the story and puzzles together are given to you. I honestly haven’t felt so exhilarated playing a game since Braid, which is my favorite game of all-time. I can’t recommend this game enough, and I will probably write up a separate post solely dedicated to it. It’s a first person puzzle game with a science fiction inspired world, and deals with humanity, artificial intelligence, and consciousness. Seriously check this one out, it’s probably my favorite game of the year.
Leave it to Adult Swim to publish a game that is creative, funny, and makes you laugh like a goddamn child. Jazzpunk, simply put, is a linear first person adventure game. It is filled with jokes, and it felt like the whole game was designed to make me smile. Hell, even Hunter S. Thompson makes a cameo!
If you’re a fan of Behemoth games, or Castle Crashers in particular, then this game is just for you. Battleblock Theater is a platforming puzzler with a heavy emphasis on co-op. Although the game can be completed solo, I highly recommend playing it with a pal. The game’s story is also voiced by the one and only Will Stamper, adding hilarity and a sense of originality to an otherwise great and fun little platformer.
Alien: Isolation is a pure homage to the original Alien. A first person horror game that isn’t afraid to copy from it’s predecessors, while still retaining a sense of originality. The game’s visual design is stunning, with an 80s inspired vision of the future that definitely makes the game stand out. If you’re a fan of the original Alien (I like to pretend the other Alien movies don’t exist), then you simply need to play this at some point, you’re in for a treat.
This little indie game is the best to play with friends. It is a balanced and accessible platformer where you shoot arrows at your friends. The game is simple to pick up, but requires some strategy and a quick set of thumbs to be very good at it. If you have some gamepads lying around and a few bored friends, then look no further. This game has great replay value, with a great retro visual aesthetic and unique gameplay elements that will make you wanting more.
There are definitely more games that came out this year that I wasn’t able to play, and I hope to play them in the near future. I wish everyone a happy new years!
So I attended the Asylum Jam earlier this year. I went at it solo and made a really buggy prototype.
Here’s a little summary of the game jam:
“Asylum Jam 2014 is a game jam that lasts for 48 hours where the only rule is to not use asylums, psychiatric institutes, medical professionals or violent/antipathic/’insane’ patients as settings or triggers.”
Here’s the GameJolt page.
And here’s the source code on my GItHub.
At the end of last summer, I was completely stumped on the game I was working on: The Museum. I decided to just give up on the game, or at least put it aside until I figured out some issues. After that summer I kept thinking about the game in my head, over and over. Then, when this summer arrived, I figured out a lot of the design issues and made even more progress on the game. But, time is a cruel mistress and history loves to repeat itself. As I’m on the last day of my summer, nearing the first day of University classes, I feel the same hopelessness and dread as I did last year; I’m completely and utterly stumped on the game.
Who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll figure out the design problems I’ve been having as I did last year, but it’s looking grim. Thankfully, I’ve been feeling this hopelessness a bit earlier, a month ago to be exact. On that day of dread and despair, I realized that I have one month left before my classes start back up. I could have done two things: A) Realize that this is the last “summer break” I’ll ever have in my life and just relax and enjoy it before I join the cesspool of death that is the job market or B) Prepare myself for the job I want to pursue by practicing some C++ with OpenGL. Well, good news. I didn’t do either.
I instead just started to work on another game! (Commence onslaught of eye rolls) Except this time, I really focused on the missteps I took with The Museum. With every death of a game prototype, I learn a tremendous amount. I scour the grave of the prototype, trying to finding hints of why it went so horribly wrong. After some analyzing, I find some clues about why it died; simply bad (not fun or challenging) core game mechanic, lack of scalability, lack of art, no creative ideas found within the game’s systems. So, for this new game I decided to work in a preexisting genre; 2d grid-based puzzling. I then realized that, hey, I’m not an artist and shouldn’t waste my time on it. So after I completed a short prototype of the game showcasing the puzzles and ideas, I posted it on /r/gamedev and /r/INAT (I need a team) and lo and behold, I got a few responses! To be honest, I was utterly shocked. Who the hell would want to create art for a game made by me? Especially for free? (Also, the game is set to be a free release once it’s finished)
But real talk, the artist that I’m working with, Sara, is seriously talented. Just look at some of the stuff she’s made: https://imgur.com/a/Ek4NI
But alas, the artists I’ve been talking to share the same enthusiasm and passion for the game as I do. And with that, I spent my remaining summer crunching on the game and designing the puzzles. It’s also a short game, containing 5 levels of puzzles with each level taking approximately 25 minutes to beat. I currently have 2 levels completed, and am working on the remaining 3. Here are some screenshots:
Unfortunately as a result of my last year of University classes starting back up on Monday, I won’t have as much time to work on the game. I’ll still try to squeeze in some game dev on the weekends, or If I have any down time during the week. But for now, I’m going to focus on honing my C++ skills and learn to use the OpenSceneGraph library. Thankfully, I have an opportunity to do research this semester on virtual reality, which entails me using C++ and OpenSceneGraph to make cool stuff. Until next time.
University classes start back up on Monday, working on my shitty game, and am a bit stressed about the future.
GAME DEV CRUNCH BEAST MODE ACTIVATE
Here are a few screenshots of the areas I’ve completed so far. I still need to polish all of the areas up before I can make it playable to other people, especially the centering of certain UI menu elements on the screen and some of the dialogue (as seen in the level 2 screeenshot).
Oh shit, it’s been a week already?
Well anyways, here’s what I got done for this week.
This week, I set up a way for characters to communicate to the player. I tried to avoid using the convention of having a huge dialogue box on the bottom, covering up a big chunk of the screen (similar to Inner Vision). This time I’m taking the route of ‘floating, transparent thought bubbles on top of the players’ heads’. This part of the gameplay requires the player to look at what the people are thinking about and try to solve conflicts. What the conflicts are exactly about are reliant on the current story of the memory… Which is a fancy way of saying I’m still working on it.
Yes, boss fights. I know it may seem like “normal” boss fights wouldn’t really fit into a game where you look at paintings and into peoples’ thoughts, yet I still feel like it’ll add more energy to the overall experience. At the end of every memory, you are introduced to a new kind of gameplay. During these segments the player will take on a giant monsters, where each giant monster will encompass themes found within the previously played memory.
The reason I went this route is because I think boss fights are really important in games, and are a cool concept in general that makes sense in terms of why they’re there. Most boss fights encompass the skills you’ve gained from the level you just played, and adds a feeling of accomplishment as well as closure to the newly learned concepts. In the future, I’ll go more in depth with how the gameplay will function during these boss fights (and why I think boss fights are the coolest).
Unfortunately, that’s all I really got done this week. A lot of the time was spent simply thinking about and designing the puzzles that will go into the memory sections before the boss fights. Puzzles still take me some time to come up with, while still trying to make it feel cohesive to the overall game.
Well, that’s all I have to say. Until next week!