Tuesday
Mar152016

GDC 16: Mixing it up at the 5th Annual MIX

s GDC celebrates its 30th anniversary, there’s another event that’s hit its 5th year of life with the conference and beyond—the Media Indie Exchange, or as we’ve come to affectionately refer to it, The MIX.

A host of developers and media hover around the cavalcade of new indie games to get featured throughout the offices of IGN, all buzzy and tingly from the adult concessions of the hour. It’s a great event to check out some of the latest offerings from the indie dev community, and like any event; I took the opportunity to walk through the aisles to play everything I could.

Here are some of the games that really caught my attention; I’m ready to hype y’all through some cool shit.

Not since Overlord have we seen a Real-Time Strategy game take on a more action-oriented puzzle scheme like that of Nintendo’s Pikmin franchise—enter Okhlos from Coffee Powered Machine. Taking place within ancient Greece, you take on the role of a nameless philosopher who brings it upon himself to wonder the streets in search of anyone who join his cause against the Gods of Olympus (I know this sounds familiar but there’s way less anger and brooding here, I promise!)

Traveling through the streets, you’ll encounter groups of various NPCs who, upon contact, will join your ranks, and offer various benefits to your available actions. Slaves for example are able to carry items that you find within the level, Soldiers offer more combative strength for offensive or defensive measures, and citizens are the most common recruits available, making them the most malleable for tributes that come into play with the game’s Legendary Hero feature.

Coming across certain points of the stage will give the option to trade in members of your mob for a Legendary Hero who will offer a passive perk to your team’s overall strength like power boost in attack power, or speed. The levels are huge and expansive, and fully destructible too, offering variety of player freedoms towards certain objectives or pathways that can be used when playing through the stage.

The game is currently slated for release in April of 2016, definitely give it a look.

Sometimes, all it takes to make a game really fun and engaging is keeping the premise as simple as possible, in the most absurdly minimalistic way possible. There are already quite a few games like this out there sure, but nothing quite captured that sport of appeal like Action Button Entertainment’s VIDEOBALL.

Mashing up the ideals of Arcade classic Asteroids and Soccer, VIDEOBALL can pit players in a game of either one on one, or 2 on 2, as they hover on a field with their intrepid triangles, chasing the objective of firing their respective “Pew Pews” at the ball so it can land into the enemy’s end zone to score. Your fire’s not just use to move the ball around as it can also be fired at opponents directly, stunning them back and away from the ball, which echoes the idiom of the perfect defense being a heavy offense.

 Players aren’t just limited to rapid fire either, all of these sporty ships allow you to charge your shot until you generate one of two different effects; a larger, more powerful shot that adds a bit more of a sting to the velocity of its target’s knock back, be it ball or a hapless foe—or charging it to its full strength will produce a giant square blockade that can be left anywhere on the field.

Experimenting with these abilities can lead to a surprising number strategies that still manage to wonderfully resonate with the breakneck pace of the game’s frenetic action. Having one player take point on score duty, and the other on defensive control for example, is just one of many tactics that you can use to get an advantage on the scoreboard, that is until the round gets even more hectic with a multi-ball scenario, then the tone of the game takes a much crazier turn.

There’s no tentative release as of now, but you can sign up over Action Button Entertainment’s website for a newsletter that’ll update you on any new info for a release, the game will be hitting PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Linux.

The idea of cause and effect is one that will forever haunt the thoughts of the human mind; the posturing of hypotheticals, reworking even just one scenario through countless adjustments that can generate several plausible outcomes. Gaming of course has toyed around with this concept dozens of times, but few have juxtaposed it with the rules of time travel, or in this case, rewinding back to beginning a temporal loop of three days, and how much just one thing can do to forever change those three days.

This is the premise of Kitty Lambda Games’ Paradise Never, a game that places you in the role of a conflict that’s quickly dwarfed within the grand gauntlets of Paradoxes that you must overcome within purgatory that exists beyond your world.

Moving through Top-down open world where I maneuvered my character from an overhead view, interacting with NPCs and objects, I took on the role of a rebel member of a freedom fighting faction that was tasked with breaking one of its members out of a prison, in order to rendezvous with the others, and coordinate an attack against the enemy. As the leader of this group gave the order to make the next operation a stealth one, where are actions are discreet, and non-lethal, I proceeded towards my own objectives, only to be interrupted in-game after one of the other members of the crew went maverick, and enacted a lethal vengeance upon a particular enemy that he’s eluded to have a personal vendetta against.

This launched me into the purgatory world, as every time any death of any kind, even enemy, were to happen, it would transport me there, rewinding the clock back to that initial breakout from the beginning of the demo. The purgatory world acts as a sort of “Zelda Dark World” mechanic where you can take on side-quests that upon completion, will yield different effects within the main world of the game. For example, taking on the quest of handing one character in purgatory an item allowed me to continue on within the main game after a death had occurred, without creating paradox that would transport me back to purgatory with all that progress lost; at least until the next death happens that is. The dynamic makes it to where players are given additional context to scenarios that will play out through the events of the game’s campaign, like that Maverick member of my faction for instance, I was able to anticipate is loose-cannon intentions before they would even begin to affect the operation, and took lead to contend with him, and even at this juncture, you’re further pressed with the quandary of whether or not you should disable him diplomatically without violence, or kill him outright to ensure nothing happens, and then there’s the way you go about it.

Paradise Never possesses a deep, and intriguing setting of characters and possibilities within a uniquely charming presentation of clashing art styles and blood-pumping music that’s sure to keep you on your toes.

The game has no announce date of now, but it is up for vote on Steam Greenlight.

The age of the cooperative couch multiplayer game has still got plenty of steam left in it, and engaging pick-up-‘n-play nature of these ventures have plenty of room for innovation left in it as well. Take Clever Endeavor’s Ultimate ChickenHorse for example, a competitive arena game with a host of different stages and characters—familiar setting right?

Only there’s no fighting or shooting here; only a grand race to the finish line, through a deluge of whatever sadistic machinations that your opponent’s imagination and reflexes can produce. Before the start of each round, each player will be given a pick from the “Party Box” of various elements that represent a variety of familiar conventions seen out of your traditional 2D side-scrolling platformer. Conventions like a spring-loaded launcher, a Ferris wheel of platforms, or spinning saw blade of death are just some of the many goods that you can hastily race to grab before your opponents can hover over them and claim one of these for themselves.

After the selections have been made, players are then tasked to assign whatever they picked into area within the stage, doing so with the intent of trying to impede their foes without giving themselves a disadvantage in the process.

The result is a heated race through a wacky course of death traps and platforming puzzles, and it’s genuinely exhilarating—taking on the cruel pleasures of level designing from the likes of Mario Maker, and then pitting other into a crafting scenario where you’re able to witness the agony of their failures against your creativity firsthand is a pleasure I haven’t felt in this sort of competitive environment for a long while now.

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