GLTCHD http://www.gltchd.com Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:48:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Analysis Paralysis http://www.gltchd.com/analysis-paralysis/ http://www.gltchd.com/analysis-paralysis/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:12:33 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1168 The following post breaks away from GLTCHD convention, temporarily shunning the digital delights of video gaming in favour of the classic cardboard tabletop variety. I hope you enjoy it and I’m really sorry if you don’t. I tried my best. – Tom.

Purchasing a video game is – 97% of the time – a relatively stress-free experience. In the modern interconnected world we have numerous sources of information available to us at all times – all of which are just a few mere clicks away. Thanks to the seemingly endless barrage of trailers, previews and reviews being shat out into our eyeballs 24/7, come release day we usually have a more than inkling if a game is the right one for us.

The decision to purchase a new video game is made all the more easier by the fact the medium is largely a solitary one – we rarely have to think about anyone else when purchasing a new game. Sure, you might you might have to mull over the economic merits of purchasing just one triple-A title over four indie titles with this month’s pay packet, but aside from that it’s really a relatively straightforward equation:

See game + like game + £££ = funplaygametime.

Simple.

Board gaming on the other hand, is a different beast entirely…

You see, because of the inherent social aspect of tabletop gaming, choosing which cardboard behemoth will next lovingly adorn your table can be a pretty tough, sometimes altogether paralysing decision.

It doesn’t matter how much you really, really, really want a game because it’s no longer just about you. Oh no, don’t be silly. How could you be egotistical? A game could have the most amazing reviews in the world, have won myriad of obscure, unpronounceable European awards and be 110% right up your proverbial alley, but sadly, none of that matters if you’ve no one to play it with.

Which is why when purchasing a new board game, you have to remove the element of self from the equation, replacing it instead with numerous other factors – all of which revolve around your friends/family/flatmates/gaming group or anyone else you might potentially be playing with. These are as follows:

  • Genre
  • Theme
  • Number of players
  • Complexity of rules
  • Playtime

Now let’s break them down:

Genre

Board games come in all shapes, sizes and genres. In the broadest sense of the word they can tailored for casual or hardcore (hobbyist) audiences, and offer a competitive or cooperative (or sometimes both) experience. However, dig a little deeper into genre and you’ll quickly encounter labels like Family, Party, Eurogame, Wargame, Ameritrash and Dexterity which by and large reflect the kind of mechanics you can expect to encounter within a game.

I’m not here to discuss genre in any great length or detail but I am here to tell you that choosing a genre that will appeal to your gaming group is the first crucial step when considering your next purchase.

Theme

The theme of a board game goes hand in hand with the genre, in fact I probably could have wrapped these into one subheading, but who doesn’t love more bullet points? If genre is the skeleton of a board game, theme is the meat that hangs from those bones. It’s the flavour, the art, and largely the initial point of interaction, stimulus and engagement for players.

Thematically, tabletop games cover everything under the sun, and then some. They allow you build your very own train empire, explore a haunted house, run a newspaper in the roaring twenties, traverse dungeons, become a bean farmer, race super cars, survive a zombie apocalypse or even colonise America. And this is not even the tip of the iceberg! Honestly, I could go on and on, but you get my drift.

I recently was flat-out told by my girlfriend that she wouldn’t be playing Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery, with me because she didn’t like the theme, despite the immense positive buzz surrounding it. We’ve even played and enjoyed games in the same genre before, but this time around she simply couldn’t get excited about the theme. I speculate that if the mechanics from Spartacus were transplanted in to say, Grey’s Anatomy: A Game of Blood and Tracheotomy, then I’m sure she’d be on board – although I’m not entirely sure I would – See? Theme is key!

Number of Players

This is a bit of an obvious one, but still an essential element to consider when making a new purchase. How many players does the game support? Not just the maximum number either, as the minimum number is arguably the more important digit. I can’t imagine much worse than picking up a game for 3-5 players, if you only have one other person who is interested in playing it with you. Back on the shelf you go, Cosmic Encounter.

Complexity of Rules

Ah… Rules, rules, rules… Rules can be a huge barrier to entry when it comes to tabletop gaming and besides the stigma of tabletop games being uncool and drab, rules are probably the number one reason why people are put off the medium.

Choosing a game with the correct level of complexity for your group is an incredibly important factor to consider before laying £40+ down on a shiny new shrink-wrapped game. It probably goes without saying, but, if there is going to be someone new at the table opening with Twilight Imperium isn’t the most sensible and courteous thing you could have done. Instead you want to ease them into proceedings with a simple, light gateway game such as Ticket to Ride or Takenoko.

It’s all well and good spending an evening swatting up on the 20+ page rulebook yourself, but you have to remember that every single player at your table needs to have a pretty decent understanding of the rules of a game before they can really enjoy themselves. Of course, you could then attempt to quickly relay this information to your group pre-game, however rules can be pretty difficult to articulate and doing so can eat into valuable…

Playtime

At the end of the day players are people, and what all people have in common is that have lives to live. This is why it’s important to take into consideration the average length of a games playtime. Scheduling the correct amount of time for a game with your group is super important. Say you’ve persuaded to get everyone together mid-week, post-work, choosing to start a game that lasts upwards of five hours isn’t really a smart idea. Remember, there are no real save states with tabletop gaming, so once it’s time for players to start leaving, it’s probably time to start packing the game away – if you’ve finished or not. Time is precious – so use it wisely!

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londongamediary.com http://www.gltchd.com/londongamediary-com/ http://www.gltchd.com/londongamediary-com/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 17:43:39 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1154 I recently made the move to London, which, as it turns out is an incredibly exciting place to be for someone who is interested in video game culture and the independent development scene. There are a multitude of events, exhibitions, meet-ups and more happening throughout the city on a regular basis.

However, I’ve found that it’s not always easy to locate said events and the few that I’ve attended have been discovered through word of mouth and/or keeping a steady eye on Twitter.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a website that collected all the exciting, fun and interesting events going on in the city of London, you know, a sort of Time Out for gaming?

Well…

Last week I launched London Game Diary with Thomas Marshall, a site which we aim to make the go-to destination for gaming related events happening in the city of London.

It’s still pretty early in development and the version of the site that’s currently live is essentially just a simple list of events, but we’ve got some ideas on where we want to go with it, and a list of features we’d like to build in over the coming months.

We won’t just be sticking to video game events either; we want the site to cover all sorts of play-based events including board gaming, folk gaming, live action events and art exhibitions. We’re also aware that the indie scene in London is pretty strong, so we’ll be listing events that cater specifically to independent developers’ interests too.

It’s important to us that the site highlights the special and culturally significant goings on in the city and aim to curate the site with events that we have specifically hand-picked. Basically, we’re not interested in listing countless video game lock-ins happening down your local boozer.

So yeah, that’s pretty much London Game Diary. If you have an event you’d feel would fit on the site you can get hold of either Thomas or myself by sending an email to hello@londongamediary.com.

As for GLTCHD, I’ll still be sporadically updating the blog as usual, but you might also now find some crossover content with London Game Diary, but, more on that shortly…

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Introducing: Gods Will Be Watching http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-gods-will-be-watching/ http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-gods-will-be-watching/#comments Sat, 12 Apr 2014 18:35:15 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1097 Gods Will be Watching is an upcoming point and click adventure that is almost entirely built on the concept of making tough, morally ambiguous choices.

Developed by Deconstucteam – a small independent studio located in Valencia, Spain – Gods Will Be Watching was originally built in April 2013 as part of the 26th Ludum Dare game jam.

A minimalist, single-screen adventure, it put the player in the boots of Sgt. Burden – the head of a viral research team currently stranded on fictional planet Sineicos. Burden had just forty days to repair a radio system and escape the planet while trying to keep his crew alive. The catch being that only five actions could be performed per day, turning the game into a survival-based balancing act fraught with difficult deliberations and much beard stroking.

For a game developed in under seventy two hours it was particularly well realised, both conceptually & mechanically. The simple and constrictive choice system kept stress levels up, while beautifully drawn pixel art brought the bleak lo-fi science fiction world to life.

It quickly garnered some well deserved attention on numerous gaming outlets, so much so that Deconstructeam successfully turned to crowdfunding site Indiegogo to fund development of an expanded remake – raising almost £17000.

Due for release this summer, the new and improved GWBW takes the original premise and blows it out over six narratively-linked scenarios. Players will again assume the role of Sgt. Burden as he and his crew face a wide variety of tension-filled moral quandaries.

Deconstructeam promise a deeper narrative experience this time around, with a bigger focus on character and world building through short cinematic sequences. While the inclusion of a new Empathy System is set to see player interactions have a larger impact on AI companions attitude towards Burden.

The original Ludum Dare entry is still available to play in your browser, you can – and should – do so by clicking on the following link: http://www.deconstructeam.com/games/gods-will-be-watching – it’s a little bit good.

Website: http://www.godswillbewatching.com

Developer: Deconstructeam

Format: OSX // Linux // Mobile // Windows

Release Date: June 2014

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Review: Monument Valley http://www.gltchd.com/review-monument-valley/ http://www.gltchd.com/review-monument-valley/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1047 Monument Valley is a perfect example of a game that comes out of nowhere and completely blindsides you with its brilliance. It’s a smart, beautiful and highly-polished experience that grabbed me from start to finish.

Developed by Ustwo – a digital design studio based in London, New York and Malmö – Monument Valley is a new puzzler for iOS and Android devices. It tells the tale of a princess named Ida who is seeking forgiveness for an unknown act she committed in her past. There is of course a little more to it than that, but an air of mystery hangs over proceedings that means the rest of the story is best uncovered through play.

Structurally the game is divided into a number of fairly short chapters, each with the same simple objective – get Ida from one point to another. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as she exists inside an Escher-esque world built on impossible geometry where a quick shift in perspective can suddenly change the environment.

By manipulating – rotating, sliding, spinning – pre-determined parts of the environment the player is able to create new pathways for Ida based on perspective and optical illusion. The level design on display here is seriously impressive – the way that segments of the world interact with one other to create visual trickery often left me with my jaw open and my brain feeling a little bent out of shape.

With its rotational, Escher-inspired environments, comparisons to Echochrome and Fez immediately spring to mind but there are tonal and mechanical echoes of Ico, Sword and Sworcery EP and The Room here too. That being said, Monument Valley manages to carve out its own distinct voice as Ustwo continue to introduce new mechanics throughout, developing a smooth learning curve that keeps things feeling fresh and balanced without ever becoming frustrating.

A couple chapters into the game Monument Valleys only enemy, the Crow-People are introduced. I use the word enemy in the loosest way possible here, as they never actively hunt Ida down and can’t harm her in anyway. Instead they act as an obstruction, blocking Ida’s path and repeatedly squawking in her face until she backs off. Initially they appear to be a needlessly intrusive addition but they are quickly and smartly implemented into the environmental puzzle design and they tie in neatly to the world and overarching story too.

Ustwo are a design studio at their core and with Monument Valley they demonstrate that they really know their stuff. Each chapter has its own vibrant colour palate and the impossible geometry of the environments are beautifully brought to life with clean, smooth and solid line work.

Ida’s world that exists in a place far away from our own, bright exterior locations are reminiscent of once grand Asian and Arabic palaces, while interiors seem to exist in a dreamlike realm outside of time and space. It’s eye catching stuff and Ustwo know it; giving the player the option to at any time export a photo of the environment – any number of which would look fantastic framed upon a wall.

The vibrant visuals are supported an ethereal and unobtrusive score that breathes life into the surrealist spaces, while a nice use of pan-Asian instrumentation hint at the architectural influences, further realising the world. Player interactions with the environment are giving some weight by the inclusion of solid sound effects ranging from the realistic to abstract arrangements that subtlety give the player progression feedback.

The audiovisual elegance is carried over into the controls too, which is really important for game with touch-based input. Ustwo do a wonderful job of boiling the required inputs down to the bare minimum. Moving Ida through the world is as simple as tapping where you’d like here to move to, and as long as her route is unobstructed she will make her own way there – automatically traversing any ladders or stairs if necessary. The same can be said for the environmental interactions, which usually involve swiftly sliding or rotating your finger on the screen. I played on a iPhone 5s, a device without a particularly large screen, and I had no problem working my through the game.

Monument Valley is a pretty short experience and it’s not a particularly challenging one either. I finished the game in roughly ninety minutes and it was only the final chapter that left me even a little stumped. None of that even matters though as the quality of the game is so astonishing high throughout.

The continued iterations to mechanics coupled with inspired level design and a beautiful aesthetic result in a highly-polished, smart, constantly entertaining game that doesn’t outstay its welcome. For my money it’s one of the best games of the year regardless of platform. If you have an iOS or Android device you really should be downloading it immediately.

Website: http://www.monumentvalleygame.com/

Developer: ustwo

Format: iOS // Android (Coming soon)

Release Date: 3rd April 2014

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Introducing: Shelter 2 http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-shelter-2/ http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-shelter-2/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:52:59 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1041 For a game about badgers, the original Shelter was a surprisingly harrowing tale of one mothers struggle to keep her children alive during a journey through a wooded wilderness. While it certainly carried some emotional clout, as a game it felt under-developed, linear and suffered from some pacing issues. Thankfully, Swedish developer Might and Delight are aware of the criticisms levelled against the title and are looking to address them in follow up, Shelter 2.

Due for release later this year, Shelter 2 is setting badgers aside in favour of a pack of lynx, a move that will hopefully inject some much needed energy into the survival-sim. The inclusion of several new mechanics, such as stamina management, variety of movement and the ability to further micromanage your cubs, mean the player will have a greater variety of tactics available to them – a theme that will be further reflected in the new larger, open-world environment.

With the change in animal, comes a change in environment too – gone are the warm autumnal environs of the original, now replaced with cold hues of blue and white that emphasise the harsh, icy tundra that the lynx will inhabit. Might and Delight look to be sticking with the beautifully abstract illustrated art-direction that made the original game a real head-turner, almost as though it had been ripped straight from the pages of children’s book.

While it’s early days yet, it all sounds pretty promising – the original badger-based Shelter had massive untapped potential and it certainly looks like Might and Delight are well on their way to releasing it with Shelter 2.

Website: http://www.mightanddelight.com/index.php?page=shelter2

Developer: Might and Delight

Format: Windows

Release Date: Autumn 2014

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Introducing: Alone With You http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-alone-with-you/ http://www.gltchd.com/introducing-alone-with-you/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:21:16 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1023 Benjamin Rivers’ narratively-driven horror title Home, was one of the first games I ever wrote about here on GLTCHD. This year Rivers – a man who somehow finds the time to write & illustrate graphic novels, teach at OCAD University in Toronto and develop video games - is back with another unique take on the adventure genre with newly announced “psychological-dating sim” Alone With You.

A single-player exploration game with a romantic subtext, Alone With You puts players in the space-boots of the genderless, final member of a failed terraforming project who is stranded on a distant, slowly crumbling planet with only an AI for company.

As a huge fan of Rivers’ previous game I’m really looking forward to what he does within a new genre. I’m usually not one for dating sims but I’ll admit the interesting sci-fi backdrop and the possibility of a romancing an AI has me all hot under the collar in that special Joaquin Phoenix-type of way. To top it off the early artwork in the trailer looks to perfectly capture the cold, abstract sense of being stranded in a galaxy far, far away.

Alone With You is currently in the early stages of development so no platforms or launch dates have been announced yet, although the press release mentions that the game will feature a brand-new control scheme optimised for controllers – so feel free to speculate away.

Website: http://www.alonewithyougame.com/

Developer: Benjamin Rivers

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Service Update http://www.gltchd.com/service-update/ http://www.gltchd.com/service-update/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:24:01 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=1015 When I first established GLTCHD in 2012 I envisioned it serving as an online portfolio for my video game based writing. It was to be somewhere that I could occasionally post reviews, previews and the odd musing about games that I’ve had some genuine hands on time with.

The intention was always for the site to remain news free – after all, there’s already an infinite amount of sites and blogs constantly pushing an endless stream of press releases, sales figures and announcements of non-announcements in an attempt to scrape together content and keep those clicks coming in.

That intention remains largely unchanged, however, if you’ve followed any of my posts of late you may have noticed I’ve branched out into featuring games that I haven’t played yet. That’s because I really love talking and writing about games, and with GLTCHD I want to be able to cover games that I’m excited about – but more importantly, that I think you should be excited about too.

So from here on out you can expect to see more short form articles about exciting and interesting new game announcements. That way everybody wins – I get to write about cool new stuff, you get to read about it, and the developer gets an extra bit of well-deserved publicity.

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14 for ’14 – Part 4 http://www.gltchd.com/14-for-14-part-4/ http://www.gltchd.com/14-for-14-part-4/#comments Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:24:47 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=930 After a bit of last minute re-jigging, the forth and final exciting instalment of 14 for ’14 has finally arrived for your viewing pleasure. Which games have made the list? Stop asking stupid questions and read on…

Transistor

Supergiant Games // TBA 2014
Linux // OSX // PlayStation 4 // Windows

Supergiant Games grabbed everybody’s attention in 2011 with their début title, Bastion – an action-RPG with beautiful illustrated visuals and a sublime soundtrack that went on to win over one hundred awards. This year Supergiant are back with Transistor, a game that looks to be every bit the worthy successor.

Set in the stunningly futuristic city of Cloudbank, Transistor is a sci-fi themed action RPG in which players assume the role of Red, a girl who wields the titular Transistor – a powerful and intelligent sword, that if you ask me kind of looks like a pointy USB stick. Of course, carrying a weapon of that ilk is bound to get you noticed and consequently Red is being pursued by a shadowy organisation known only as The Process.

Transistor may at first glance appear to look and play like its predecessor, however this time around Supergiant have implemented an almost turn-based strategy system. When in a combat scenario the player can now pause time and enter Planning Mode, from here they are able to queue up a number of actions (movements or attacks) that Red will carry out upon resuming play. It’s a neat and sophisticated tweak to the genre, and one that fundamentally changes the way battles play out. It’s the inclusion of fresh mechanics like this coupled with beautiful artistic direction that almost guarantee Supergiant have another winner on their hands.

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

The Astronauts // TBA 2014
Windows

The début release from The Astronauts, a small team comprised of ex-People Can Fly developers, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a “weird fiction” horror game with lofty narrative ambitions and seriously impressive visuals.

Assuming the role of Paul Prospero, a detective of all things occult, the player will investigate the disappearance of  a young boy, Ethan Carter. Paul has the supernatural ability of being able to visualise the final moments of the recently deceased and throughout the course of the game the player will use this power to hopefully track down young Ethan before it is too late.

While the game will draw inspiration from early 20th century macabre fiction, the studio have also cited inspiration from narratively focused titles such as Gone Home and The Walking Dead. The Astronauts believe that video games remain a largely untapped resource for storytelling and with Ethan Carter they aim to raise the bar in interactive narratives, promising to deliver an immersive experience that focuses on telling a mature story with emphasis on exploration and discovery. It’s a game that ticks all the right boxes for me and I really cannot wait to see more of the title.

Wasteland 2

inXile Entertainment // Deep Silver // TBA 2014
Linux, OSX, Windows

In 1988 game designer Brian Fargo and Interplay Publications developed a post-apocalyptic RPG, Wasteland. It’s a game that’s widely considered to have had a huge impact on the role playing genre and its lineage can still be felt today. Twenty six years later, thanks to hugely successful campaign on crowd funding site, Kickstarter, Brian and the team are back together working on a sequel – the sensibly titled, Wasteland 2.

A classic, isometric, turn and party-based RPG, Wasteland 2 harkens back to a time when video games weren’t afraid to rough you up a little. Set in an alternative reality where the Earth has been ravaged by global thermonuclear war, players will control a squad of Desert Rangers roaming the post-apocalyptic wilderness. On their way they will encounter a bunch of bandits, marauders and mutants who can be dealt with in myriad of ways.

With a focus on character driven storytelling, rich world building and meaningful player choice Wasteland 2 could well be worth waiting twenty six years for.

Watch Dogs

Ubisoft Montreal // Ubisoft // May 27th 2014
PlayStation 3 // PlayStation 4 // Wii U // Windows // Xbox 360 // Xbox One

Now, before you get too excited – no, it’s not an inventive new take on the Anne Robinson fronted BBC consumers rights show. It’s instead a new dystopian sandbox title from Ubisoft Montreal. Originally slated for release in late 2013, Watch Dogs was the first ‘next-gen’ title the world got a glimpse of during E3 2012 – way back before the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had even been announced. Fast forward almost two years and Ubisoft is nearly ready to release the Orwellian open-world offering.

Set in near-future version of Chicago, Watch Dogs put the player in the shoes of Aiden Pearce – a paranoid, anti-security hacker who is looking to take down the corrupt security corporations that control the city. Armed with a small electric device known as The Profiler, Pearce is able to hack into the hyper-connected systems of Chicago and bend them to his will. On top of a lengthy single-player campaign the game will be feature a seamless drop in/drop out multiplayer component allowing other players to ‘hack’ into your game just to mess with you – it kinda sounds like Dark Souls with more security cameras.

While Ubisoft’s other open-world franchise Assassins Creed has, in my opinion, become convoluted and stale from a barrage of annual releases, Watch Dogs could potentially revitalise the genre for both the player and the developer in 2014.

And with that we conclude 14 for ’14.
Part 1 can be viewed here, Part 2: here & Part 3: here.

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Review: Fez http://www.gltchd.com/review-fez/ http://www.gltchd.com/review-fez/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 12:55:30 +0000 http://gltchd.com/?p=154 Back in April 2012 I penned a review of Fez, that for one reason or another I never got round to publishing on the site. It’s been sat on the GLTCHD server for almost two years now, patiently waiting to see the light of day. For no real reason, I’ve decided that today is that day. So without further ado, I present my nearly-almost-two year old review of Fez!

After five years in development, Fez, has finally graced consoles with its presence. Developed by Phil Fish & Renaud Bedard aka Polytron Corp, Fez has already garnered a ton of attention on the indie circuit, first winning the ‘Excellence in Visual Art’ at IGF in 2008, before going on to scoop ‘Best in Show’ at Indiecade 2011 – high accolades for a then unreleased/unfinished game, I think you’ll agree.

For those of you who haven’t been following the highs and lows of its spotted development, Fez is a two-dimensional puzzle-platformer set in a three-dimensional world. Players assume the role of Gomez, a moomin-esque creature, who upon meeting a cube-come-deity known as the Hexahedron, has the titular fez bestowed upon him. By donning his new headgear, Gomez discovers that the flat world he inhabits is actually a three-dimensional space. Using his new found perceptive abilities he must traverse the environment in search of cube-shaped shards of the Hexahedron, before existence as he knows it is ripped apart.

Fez plays like a classic 2D platformer with a neat rather-literal twist –  instead of just taking place on the traditional two dimensional plain, the entire world can be rotated to reveal additional platforms of the cubist environment, allowing Gomez to progress further on his quest. It’s a unique mechanic that’s a little tricky to explain and visualise, but once you see it in action it instantly clicks.

While throwbacks to by the 2D-era are currently in vogue on the indie scene, Fez goes some way to differentiate itself from other games of its ilk by slowing things right down. There are no enemies in the world, and even the trickiest platforming sections are really quite forgiving. Polytron aren’t concerned with punishing you for a misstep here or there – slipping from a ledge sees you instantly respawn from whence you fell. Fez is all about exploring the world at your own pace, acquiring the lost cubes in which ever order you see fit.

Due to the relaxed approach of the games design, collecting the 32 cubes doesn’t prove to be too much of a challenge. Fortunate then, that there are actually another 32 anti-cubes up for grabs. These however, are not so easily obtained, demanding a level of mental commitment from the player that wasn’t previously required. In an instant the game undergoes a metamorphosis of sorts, transforming from a cutesy platformer into an abstract and enigmatic puzzler. It’s here within this unexpected shift in focus that the real genius of Fez is found.

Obtaining all 32 anti-cubes is no easy task as Polytron have created some fiendishly clever brain-teasers that wouldn’t look amiss in the back pages of Mensa publication. What’s more, the game doesn’t hold your hand at all. It’s up to you to observe your surroundings for subtle hints and clues, slowly joining the dots together until you begin to see the big picture. A keen eye, in addition to the ever faithful, notepad and pen are essential apparatus if you aim to decipher some of the cryptic codes that lie at the heart of Fez.

Thankfully, not all of the latter puzzles require you to become an amateur cryptographer. Polytron have taken advantage of the medium in some insanely inventive ways. By utilising the hardware at hand they’ve crafted a couple of conundrums that require a real, think-outside-of-the-box approach to problem solving, the likes of which we haven’t really seen before.

Perseverance is key with Fez. It’s all about getting out what you put in. The obtuse approach of the puzzles means you’ll often feel lost, stuck banging your head against the proverbial wall. But when the pieces finally fall into place, you are rewarded with one of those euphoric eureka-like moments – the likes of which easily rival anything the almighty Portal 2 has to offer.

Visually, Fez is an absolutely gorgeous game. Rendered in a classic 16-bit aesthetic, Gomez’s world is a ultra-vibrant, highly detailed love-letter to the games of yesteryear. The choice of colour palate on offer here is simply sublime, beautifully changing to reflect the time of day and perfectly complementing the mood of the environment, making the world an absolute joy to explore. To top it off the transitions from two-dimensions to three are implemented smoothly and seamlessly giving the game additional wow factor.

The entire experience is tied together by a fantastic soundtrack by Rich ‘Disasterpeace’ Vreeland. It’s an ambient affair that acutely captures the spirit of classic videogames, while evolving them into a more sophisticated and subtle sounding composition. By blending electronic, bleeps, bloops and bit-crunches with more traditional instrumentation, Vreeland, provides a score that is happy to take the back seat, perfectly supplementing the relaxed, exploratory approach to puzzle-solving.

It’s not all pretty pixels and crazy conundrum crunching though as Fez suffers from a few issues that discolour the experience. Environments have the tendency to completely vanish now and again, while frame rate issues are a consistent problem throughout.

However, the biggest problem with Fez comes from navigating the environment. Gomez’s world is vast and labyrinthine in design. Doors lead to doors, that in turn lead to more doors. As you can imagine, it’s rather easy to get lost as you begin to journey further down the rabbit hole.

As backtracking is an essential part of the experience, it can become frustrating when you realise that you couldn’t possibly be any further from your desired destination. Here, the platforming nature of traversal begins to get in the way of the gameplay, essentially becoming a tired obstacle between you and the next puzzle that you are now incredibly eager to solve.

Problems aside, Fez is a phenomenal achievement in game design. Polytron, have crafted an insanely dense world brimming with fresh mechanics and inventive puzzles, all the while, still managing to pay homage to a beloved, bygone era. The experience is let down by a few technical hiccups and design missteps, which ultimately stem from a commitment to a retro design philosophy.

The abstract nature and old school sensibilities at play might not be for everyone. But, those who choose to take the time to really see what Fez has to offer, will ultimately find something really special here. Just don’t forget to bring a pen and paper.

Website: http://fezgame.com

Developer: Polytron

Formats: Linux // OSX // PlayStation 3 // PlayStation 4 // PlayStation Vita // Windows // Xbox 360

Release Date: 13th April 2012

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14 for ’14 – Part 3 http://www.gltchd.com/14-for-14-part-3/ http://www.gltchd.com/14-for-14-part-3/#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 12:17:19 +0000 http://www.gltchd.com/?p=893 It’s finally here! Part Three of GLTCHD’s increasingly exciting 14 for ’14 list. What games have made the list this time? Don’t hesitate – read on to find out!

No Man’s Sky

Hello Games // TBA 2014

Every so often a game comes along that completely blindsides the gaming community and suddenly becomes the thing to talk about. At this year’s VGX awards a trailer for No Man’s Sky – a previously unannounced title – was the thing that got everybody talking.

Developed by the four-person team at Hello Games (of Joe Danger fame), No Man’s Sky is a sci-fi themed, multiplayer exploration game set in a seamless and procedurally generated universe, which aims to give the player free rein to chart the universe however they see fit. What that means – as the trailer so astutely demonstrates – is that you could start at the bottom of an ocean, swim to the surface, walk along the beach to your spaceship, hop in, and fly through the atmosphere into space in search of another (possibly, giant sandworm-infested) planet.

Other than interstellar exploration and some spaceship-to-spaceship dog fights, little is known about the systems and mechanics that will drive No Man’s Sky, although Hello Games have hinted that resource and ship management will be crucial components of the game. Still, whatever the final game turns out to be, No Man’s Sky is undoubtedly one of 2014’s most ambitious projects.

Quantum Break

Remedy Entertainment // Microsoft Studios // TBA 2014
Xbox One

Remedy Entertainment are without doubt of my favourite developers working in the games industry today. While most of their games are ostensibly third person shooters (albeit incredibly solid ones), their titles always have a commitment to style, storytelling and atmosphere that manages to capture my attention in a way that other developers of that ilk simply don’t. Having already tackled pulpy, noir fiction with Max Payne, and Stephen King-esque supernatural mystery in Alan Wake, the studio now have their sights on science fiction with upcoming Xbox One exclusive shooter, Quantum Break.

A tale of time-travel experiment gone awry, Quantum Break is set to feature multiple protagonists, time manipulation mechanics and some pretty spectacular visuals, but as with most games on this list, details on the actual gameplay remain vague at present. So what has me particularly excited about the game, then? Well, just the fact that Quantum Break is shipping with an entire season of a live-action companion television show (no, not Quantum Leap) – a move that aims to further blur the lines between the mediums.

As with Alan Wake, Remedy has designed the game to be digested in episodic chunks, the intention being that players will sit down to play an episode of the game, then watch an episode of the television show. To make things all the more interesting, choices and actions taken during the game will have an impact on future episodes of the TV show. It’s an incredibly exciting and inventive premise that has already wholeheartedly captured my attention. Remedy Entertainment sure do know their audience.

Routine

Lunar Software // TBA 2014
OSX // Windows

In part one of this list I kicked things off with a quick look at Alien: Isolation, a big budget, licensed, sci-fi horror game published by Sega. It struck a chord with me as I have a bit of a thing for the 70s/80s vision of the future the game so perfectly encapsulates. But long before Alien: Isolation was even announced, there was already an independently developed sci-fi horror title on my radar – one that’s also steeped in that classic, chunky 1980’s science fiction aesthetic – that game was Routine.

The début game from UK-based Lunar Software, Routine sees players exploring an abandoned moon base in an effort to find out just where exactly everybody has gone. It’s a distinctively non-linear experience, as the entire moon base will be unlocked from the offset, giving the player freedom to explore the Kubrickian environments in whichever order they choose.

Of course, uncovering the truth won’t be a (moon) walk in the park, as the base will be populated with a number of environmental hazards and rogue robots who are out for blood – your blood. But, if the thought of sentient hunks of metal clunking down derelict hallways wasn’t enough to send a shiver down your spine, Routine will feature a permadeath system, meaning that one just mistake could send you right back to square one.

With the release of two incredibly exciting sci-fi horror games on the horizon, 2014 is shaping up to be a fine year for fans of the genre.

Keep an eye trained on GLTCHD for the fourth and final instalment of this list.
While you wait, part one can be viewed here & part two can be viewed here.

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