Early 2014 Gaming Goodness…. or “The Indie Time Sink”

Are you prepared for this year’s nominations for GOTY? Are you confused as to why a musician would call himself “Game of the Year Edition”? Are you even hearing yourself right now?

It’s a common phenomenon in which time spent in a game by the player has an almost inverse correlation with production values of said title. What’re the whipper-snappers playing now days? Crafting mines, crushing candies, flapping birds and whatnot. With that notion, I introduce you to the next Spelunky…

Risk of Rain! This Kickstarted rogue-like platformer offers the permadeath, loot-chasing gameplay I didn’t know I was craving. The pixel art graphics and sense of isolation against a relentless army of evil, randomly-spawning monsters offer an endlessly upgradable fix for when I want to feel like 4 machine-gunner droids, several shields, napalm and guided missiles might just not cut it. Everything is stackable, apart from items you elect to use (fear-inducing lamps, delicious rotten brains, etc) so you can have multiple gasoline cans which increase the amount of fiery napalm that’s left after enemies die. You can have items that resurrect fallen foes to join your side, there’s even a teddy bear for comfort!

These keep you on your toes...

These keep you on your toes…

After the first play-through I found myself overwhelmed with just two or three enemies, until I realised the value of a roll-dodge that makes me invulnerable to damage. Initially players can select from a single class, which offers 3 weapons and the aforementioned dodge. Other classes are unlocked after different criteria are met during a play-through, however the initial “Commando” offers a fairly balanced approach to the chaos. I much prefer its roll-dodge to the Enforcer’s shield ability. Pretty soon the player has turned from a lumbering, lonely-looking pixel spacemen to a power-house of attack, defense and agility. Something more like this:

Thaaaaat's better.

Thaaaaat’s better.

For some reason, playing with the gamepad felt less intuitive, so I’d recommend sticking with the keyboard. The four weapon slots are assigned to ZXCV, with A being “interact” and G being “special item”. I mostly held down all the attack buttons at once when firing at enemies, which prioritised the high-powered weapons first, then the continuous-use, low-powered ones while the big ones recharged. The graphics are simplistic, but atmospheric and the controls are tight, and perhaps intentionally slow – although given the character’s size within the world, he clips along at a fair pace. Multiplayer is offered locally and online, but requires IP addresses if you want to find friends. I really hope they integrate Steam Friend based match-ups soon. The team assures us updates are on the way, including challenge mods and other goodies.

If you’ve been searching for something to fill the Spelunky void that isn’t as much of a mental investment as Terraria, I recommend you grab it. I’ve had a blast.

The other game I’ve been loving is Jazzpunk. This game makes me sad. Very sad. It represents a genre that should be filled with entries, but sadly stands alone in its execution and substance. Necrophone’s website describes it as an “Adventure Comedy Game & Poorly Made Word Processor”. In reality it’s a surrealist homage to 50’s spy flicks, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and our cyber culture. It takes the form of medium-sized levels framed as missions administered by a head agent and some hallucinogenics. The missions essentially begin once you pop those pills and act as a vehicle for a gag reel that’s bursting at the seams. You’ll help a frog hack wi-fi. You’ll play a wedding-themed Quake knock-off (Wedding Qake – Geddit??). You’ll poison someone’s sushi to steal their electronic kidney. You’ll understand that the fly swat creates the flies.

I wonder who that is?

I wonder who that is?

You can choose to rush through the main story in only a couple of hours, but you’ll find tons of side missions and mini-games of such variety and brevity that they never outstay their welcome. Each level is littered with gags, and the writing is such that I had to hear every line of dialogue each NPC had to offer. The graphics are simple, but thematically in line with the sentiment, facilitating excellent comedic moments when the environment shifts completely. One excellent example is a computer-themed level, straight out of an 80’s movie that is just non-stop computing puns. And navigating a world map, where each country has been turned into a pun – many with humorous sound-effects – is absolute gold. Prepare to laugh a lot.

Hand me the pills, chief!

Hand me the pills, chief!

The more I reflect on this game, the more hard done by I feel at the lack of true comedy games on the market. Thank you, Jazzpunk. You’re proof that it can be done, and done well. If you like things, I recommend you buy Jazzpunk.

Blue screen of... Whaaa?

Blue screen of… Whaaa?

If this is what Jan/Feb has given us, I can’t wait for the rest of the year. Happy gaming!

2 responses to “Early 2014 Gaming Goodness…. or “The Indie Time Sink”

  1. Pingback: The Action Points Podcast! Episode 57: Phantasmal Fears with Joe Chang | Action Points!·

  2. Pingback: Video: The Action Points Podcast looks at Walking Simulators | Action Points!·

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