Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

10Jun/1812

Penetrate the Night

Cultist Simulator (Weather Factory, 2018) shambled out of the gloom into the daylight on May 31, 2018. That wasn't even two weeks ago and according to Steam I have played 21 hours of Cultist Simulator.

I dabbled with the game at Rezzed and my take, today, is a smidgen different from that one. Cultist Simulator has a simple but critical flaw.

It is... addictive.

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3Jun/189

Reflections on a Design

This is the ninth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Archaica: The Path of Light

Last year I developed an interest in the qualities of beam reflection games. I’d never really had a hankering for them until I tried Archaica: The Path of Light (Two Mammoths, 2017) and it got me thinking about whether the ideas contained therein were actually unique. The levels were tight and buzzing with ideas: beam splitters, beam generators, mixing different colours of light, portal-type objects that teleport lasers…

What were the origins of the reflection puzzle? I began to dig.

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31May/1810

Discussion: Missing Moments

From this month's newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

I am troubled that my own play style means I am rarely able to indulge a game when it is hot and I’ll miss out on something. Even a small thing, like how I’ll never understand how truly different the launch version was to the much-patched version now on Steam.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

27May/1813

Been Around The Block

This is the eighth part of The Ouroboros Sequence, a series on puzzle games.

Haven’t you got any more ideas?

Do you really think the world needs another block-pushing puzzle? What makes pushing blocks special? Can you for the love of God stop churning out the same game, again and again and again?

Yeah, I didn’t want to play block pushing games any more. But one day I played Full Bore (Whole Hog Games, 2013) and it changed my mind about everything.

What is puzzle innovation?

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23May/180

Transmission: Beacon, Asemblance & more

One hour (ish). Six games (ish).

Stream this week - Thursday 24 May, and will begin at 9:30PM UK, 10:30PM Central Europe, 4:30PM EST. My Twitch channel can be found at twitch.tv/electrondance.

I will discuss the following titles:

Previous Transmissions are available on the dedicated ET/X YouTube channel.

Update! Here's the stream available on YouTube.

16May/188

Play to Death

I don’t like Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe, 2016). There, I said it.

Which is interesting, considering I have never played it.

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Filed under: Longform 8 Comments
30Apr/1810

Discussion: Derezzed

From this month's newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

Add to this heady mix the sense that Rezzed, once a unique sidequest for those who liked off-the-beaten-track stuff, was becoming more establishment with every year. Amazon and Argos, for Chrissakes, had a presence on-site.

Dear subscribers, if you feel like chatting about anything at all from the newsletter, please speak your mind in the comments here.

28Apr/182

Dabbling with… Annwn

The final episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2018.

Hey, it’s 1986 and people are loving this new title from Geoff Crammond called The Sentinel, a little more unusual than your platformer or shooty potboiler. The Sentinel places you on a 3D landscape where you have the power to extract energy from objects on the landscape – such as trees and boulders – then use that energy to create your own. The land is watched over by the fearful Sentinel; if the Sentinel sees you, it will drain your energy and end you.

To survive, you must reach a point higher than the Sentinel to do unto it what it would do unto you. But you cannot walk anywhere; you have to create repositories (“synthoids”) to throw your consciousness into and slowly ascend the landscape.

It is no longer 1986. We haven’t seen a great deal of Sentinel-inspired games over the intervening years. Psygnosis published Crammond’s PC followup The Sentinel Returns in 1998. And John Valentine created a free PC remake in 2005 called Zenith.

But at the Rezzed Leftfield Collection this year, Welsh studio Quantum Soup were showing off Annwn: The Otherworld, their version of The Sentinel. What I saw followed the same beats as the original; a watcher scanning the landscape, with the player tasked with extracting energy from trees and boulders to create totems into which you project your consciousness. And there’s this gut-wrenching tension as the Watcher turns to look at you…

…but to underline its work-in-progress nature, the demo build was unfortunately adept at procedurally-generating levels that were impossible or near-impossible to survive. I tried several times but at best I managed to climb up just one grid square. The Watcher or his hounds always got me. But lest this sound downbeat, I found Annwn intriguing and it was drenched in the kind of creepy, abstract vibe that I love too much to be healthy for a person.

I will definitely be following its progress. Annwn: The Otherworld is currently planned as a PC title and can be followed on Steam and itch.io.

27Apr/189

Dabbling with… Staxel

The twelfth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2018.

This isn’t really about Staxel.

I had a late, intense romance with Minecraft. I came to it after everybody else had left and its creator sold it to the Man and transformed himself from Mr. Blocks to Mr. Blocked Him On Twitter. Eventually I found my limit with Minecraft. Halfway through a Nether Express train link from one end of my explored territory to the other, halfway through building a sky city, I lost the will to go on. I never found a mesa or icy biome but somehow it was no longer enough to keep building for the sake of building. The combat update then delivered the worst Minecraft session I’d ever experienced and that was completely that.

All that Minecraft time, though, left memories so deep they were etched in bone. There's an enduring, unsatisfied hunger for another Minecraft. Of course, there are Minecraft mods and I could check any one of those out. There were also open source versions which just felt like duplicates of Minecraft with the names changed. I didn’t want a complete repeat of Minecraft again, I wanted… something else?

My conditioned reflex to blocky 3D worlds kicks in all the time. I couldn’t help myself over Rogue Islands but that’s a roguelite, blocks without the Minecraft. Over time, I came to resent the Minecraft glint, like it was a switch-and-bait. Looks like Minecraft but is actually some free-to-play MMO.

Staxel, a Minecrafty game overflowing with bright colours and cutesy looks from developer Plukit, had a row of open PCs available in the Indie Room and I planned to avoid it because chasing that Minecraft dragon always ends in the same, disappointing way. But I was hovering around the area and I was free. Like I said earlier in the week – take the chance, take the opportunity.

Of course Staxel didn’t fill that Minecraft-shaped hole in my soul. It’s an online multiplayer game channelling Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. Some readers may recall I abhor Stardew Valley so you can imagine how this went. The demo started in your a farm and an NPC wanted to show me around the village. After a few scripted stops around the village, I abandoned the NPC and marched off into the surrounding forest.

I don’t know. It was the last game I played at Rezzed and I was already tired but I had this feeling I was leaving “the real game” behind. The forest continued and I didn’t see much variety in the flat forest; maybe I just needed to go further. At this point, Staxel wanted me to focus on the village, but it is always the wilderness that I hear calling to me. I returned to the village and the NPC wanted me to plant some seeds and water them. If I do not water them every day, they will not grow.

I put down the headphones and walked away. I couldn’t tell you if Staxel was a good game or a bad game. All I can tell you is that it was not what I was looking for. If only I knew what I was looking for.

Staxel is from Plukit and available as an early access title on Steam and Humble.

26Apr/187

Dabbling with… Shift Quantum

The eleventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2018.

Hey, remember Shift? It was a big Flash puzzle game in the days when Flash was where the exciting stuff was happening. We’re talking about the year known as 2008 BED (Before Electron Dance). It was a time when puzzle-platformers were innovative, edgy and cool. These envied beasts roamed free on the wild digital savannah

It was a few years before Andy Nealen ranted this:

"If I see anyone flip gravity again, I'm gonna fucking freak out."

Shift was a stark puzzle-platformer developed by Anthony Lavelle, walls were black, space was white. All you had to do was make it to the exit which was impossible unless you shifted: the screen would flip, Andy Nealen would fucking freak out, and you’d now be standing inside the walls. By continually shifting perspective in this way, you'd eventually make it out. I don’t know if I finished Shift. I admired the ideas of puzzle-platformers but can't be sure how many of them I actually enjoyed. You'll find a bunch buried in my back garden.

Until I started writing this preview, I was unaware the Shift story had continued beyond the original Flash game. There was a Shift 2 and Shift 3 released in the same year, 2008, and a Shift 4 the year after. Then there are the console ports like Shift Extended in 2011, Shifting World in 2012 and Shift DX in 2016: a whole pile of Shift.

And now it’s back again with Shift Quantum. Fishing Cactus is working on this latest iteration which closely follows the Shift formula.

It retains the iconic black-and-white style and there will be a story involving the protagonist whose silhouette is a dead-ringer for Neo from The Matrix. Let me just get this out of the way: shifting feels awesome. When you shift, Neo-guy punches through the floor into the inverted world. I just wanted to sit there quietly and shift back and forth. Honestly, that is some good Shift right there.

I played through a number of puzzles and, yeah, it was fine; as I alluded to earlier, I’m not sure it’s the game for me but history has proved Shift has an audience. It looks neat although the faux Japanese backdrop irritated me as half the text is reversed. Maybe that was deliberate to represent the weird shifting reality, but it was all over the promotional material and I doubt your average player would notice. I Shift you not, those players will be too busy punching through the floor repeatedly. And if you fancy it, you’ll also be able to build challenges for others.

Shift Quantum will be released end of May to Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam.