Electron Dance

Electron Dance Highlights

28Jun/178

Free to Prey

prey_coral

I find a secret route into an area that was locked down. Unusually, this feels exhilarating as I’m still not familiar with the game’s signposts. There’s a genuine sense of discovery. Can this last? Perhaps I am just enjoying a longer than usual honeymoon period, where the lack of education about the game’s design imbues it with mystery and surprise?

Of course, I consider backtracking. I’m not exactly running with a powerful character and perhaps this is not the route I’m supposed to take. There's an office ahead; I want to at least see where this leads. Ah, a few corrupted operators. Annoying but not difficult to dispatch.

I'm inside a small maintenance crawlspace and the only other exit to the office is blocked with boxes. Corrupted operators continue to stream through the open windows, so I refuse to enter the office until it's safe. God, how many more of these? Suddenly

WHOMP

all the boxes jolt forward as if something is trying to get in. I assume it’s just another operator. And again,

WHOMP

Boxes go flying and-- what… what the hell is that trying to get in? It’s as big as the door! I put up a good fight but The Thing From Beyond the Door kills me. Reload, it kills me again. I reload again. And again and again.

Just as I’m on the verge of throwing in the towel, I spy a window on the opposite side of the office. I sprint across and throw myself through it - and fall a few metres to the floor below.

I hold, staring up at the window with the gloo gun in hand. I wait.

Moments pass and it seems I am safe for now. But where has this one-way trip taken me? There’s only one thing to do: keep quicksaving and carry on.

This is Prey (Arkane Studios, 2017). Backtracking is for wimps.

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11May/179

Side by Side: Crawl

Side by Side is a video series on local multiplayer games. This is the second series, episode 7 of 10.

Joel Goodwin of Electron Dance and Gregg Burnell of Tap-Repeatedly are the real monsters in the unique multiplayer dungeon crawl, Crawl!

  • We recorded this two years ago when it was topical and on early access, so well done Joel for the fast turnaround
  • Crawl is fun, albeit a little complicated - party game for the right crowd
  • Although can be played with 2 human players, we suspect it is better with at least 3

If you enjoy the series, please like our videos and subscribe to our channel.

Watch the video here or direct on YouTube.

21Apr/173

The Stalker From Tölva

tolva-ship

The crack of distant gunfire catches my ear and I turn, looking for the source but there’s nothing there but rocks, metal wreckage and mountains. Someone is definitely shooting at someone and if I want to find out what's going on I’m going to have to stop what I’m doing. Perhaps one of my bunkers is under fire and it would be better to shore up defences personally. Perhaps some wandering bandits and Zealots have engaged in battle. Perhaps an enemy site is under attack and it would be too good an opportunity to pass up.

But I was on my way to somewhere new on Tölva, do I really want to change course?

I’ve now written a lot of words explaining my reaction to hearing gunfire in The Signal From Tölva (Big Robot, 2017) but it’s a total fabrication because there is no decision. Instinct spins me around every single time. I head towards the sound of laser weapons punching the air.

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13Apr/170

Dabbling with… Octahedron

The final episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

octohedron_rezzed_2

I spotted the platformer Octahedron (Demimonde Studios) in the Indie Room and, like other countless victims, was drawn to its discotheque visuals. But because so many other victims were snared in its glistening web, I had to go away and come back later. I kept coming back later. I kept finding the seats occupied.

Eventually my final minutes at Rezzed had arrived and I wanted to go home. I wandered over to the Octahedron stand once again and chatted to the developer, Marco Guardia, about how I had kept coming over and kept finding the seats occupied. He was also surprised at how busy his stand had been, but encouraged me to wait for one of the current players to give up their seat.

Now I get suspicious when I see a game with the visual flair of Octahedron, unsure whether it is an aesthetic-first design or a mechanics-first design. There's no real right or wrong of this, really, because sometimes aesthetic births wonderful ideas that a simple brainstorming of mechanics would not deliver. However, while aesthetic-first games can hook you with sensual presentation they can sometimes fail to build on that and feel hollow; Tengami (Nyamyam, 2014) has a beautiful Japanese pop-up book look, but it is padded with sections of tedious, slow walking.

Guardia showed me a picture of the Octahedron prototype (the following picture is taken from Twitter) proving it was mechanics-first:

octahedron original

All the sparkly colour and visual pizazz was added gradually over time, so that it eventually became this:

octohedron_rezzed

My turn arrived. Octahedron's central gimmick is that Mr. Octahedron can spawn little temporary platforms. Initially you use these to gain height but they can also be used as a kind of surfboard to swish across the screen. But you can only make two platforms at any one time which limits how far you can go... and also creates a lot of timing-based tension. New ideas emerge on later levels which make it a bit puzzley instead of just testing your reflexes and muscle memory.

Now even though Guardia has done a lot of work to make Octahedron more forgiving, I still felt it was a beast in the challenge department. Aside from the button-pressing anxiety of platform/jump or platform/swish at the right times, there were incidents where one mistake falling down the screen undid a chunk of progress. I can see some finding this frustrating and it's clear Octahedron is currently pitched as a more hardcore title.

Still, I have no problem summing up Octahedron with this one word: compelling. If you're into platformers, this is definitely one to look out for.

Octahedron is still in development although planned for release this year for PC and Mac.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

12Apr/171

Dabbling with… State Machine

The penultimate episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

state_machine_rezzed

 

State Machine, I'm sure I've heard of this. But the memory lingers just out of reach. The game looks a little lonely and the hotseat is empty. The slightly washed-out pixel graphics just don't have a big draw, I guess. Maybe we're now post-pixel. Hang on, this is more like post-post-pixel we've been post-pixel since, what, the late 90s? I'm getting distracted.

Looks like a JRPGlike to me. I'm on a tiny boat, can talk to a robot, there's a small conversational tree.

We land on an island, I begin to wander around, yeah it's definitely looking like some sort of JRPGish thing. It's not serious, some jokes. I encounter a robot who has been built for cutting down trees and surprised to laugh out loud at the conversation.

I board the robot, start cutting down trees. I see I am aquiring wood. Agh! This isn't a JRPG, is it? This is some sort of Minecrafty thing in 2D! A Stardewvalleylike. But, Jesus H. Christmasburgers, it's really painful getting the robot to do someting, so indirect and slow. I wish the game had a better way of---

Ah.

state-machine-from-website

It's a Zachlike! I can program the robots to do things so I don't have to micromanage their behaviour. Well, okay.

I eventually get stuck as to what I'm supposed to do next. Start up three turbines to get access to the other part of the island, it says, and I get one done but can't quite figure it out how to do the others. It's a pressured situation in this hot seat. The alpha build already broke once and I had to start again. Maybe it's broken again. That's it. I'm not at fault. It must've broken.

I take my leave. Only after leaving Rezzed I remember why I should've remembered State Machine - it's a game from Terry Cavanagh and Ruari O'Sullivan.

So that's State Machine, a JRPG-Stardewvalley-Zachlike.

State Machine is still in development although planned for release in 2017.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

11Apr/172

Dabbling with… A Light in Chorus

The eleventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

a_light_in_chorus_rezzed

Take one look at A Light in Chorus from Broken Fence Games and you’d be forgiven for confusing it with Scanner Sombre (Introversion). But this was another game I knew nothing about other than seeing the odd RPS headline pop up on Feedly. I went in proper dead cold.

A Light in Chorus, like Future Unfolding, tries to offer something unfamiliar with minimal instructions, although whether this minimalism survives the game’s evolution to release, I can’t say. So here’s the thing. Similarly to Everything I struggled a bit to understand what I was supposed to be doing but, unlike Everything, it didn’t seem to matter a damn. I found the experience - in a word - awesome.

a-light-in-chorus-presskit-005

I gleaned this was about the discovery of the Golden Record from one of the NASA Voyager probes and, I assume, an attempt to reverse-engineer the origin of each sound. Playing a sound conjures an environment to life, constructed from tiny pellets of light; stop playing the sound and the pellets return to whence they came. And these literal soundscapes can be explored...

I unravelled a little of what Chorus seemed to be asking of me but never gained complete confidence. It didn’t matter. It was enough to just explore the dotted soundscapes which ranged from the inviting to the eerie. And the way the environment can switch abruptly between these states makes it a little unsettling. Absolutely marvellous.

Again, with something that feels fresh and different, how long the ideas can be sustained for is anybody's guess. But, ya know, I’m pretty excited for this one.

A Light in Chorus is still in development.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

9Apr/170

Dabbling with… The Room: Old Sins

The tenth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

room_old_sins_rezzed

I've had a funny old relationship with The Room series from Fireproof Games as newsletter subscribers may remember. While I love their intricate and tactile nature on touchscreens, I'm not sure the progression of the series played to its strengths, but rather weighed them down with the need to navigate larger areas. Regardless of my personal reservations, the series has continued to be popular.

Now somehow I had acquired the impression that, after three The Room titles, Fireproof Games were moving on to something else. Thus imagine my surprise while wandering the Indie Room at Rezzed to see the legend The Room: Old Sins splashed over an array of tablets and PCs. A tablet was available and I didn't need much coaxing to pick it up and run with it.

I played to the end of the first section of the demo, Foyer, and it appears to be as Roomy as every other Room title. If you haven't played with any of The Room titles, it goes like this: examine objects, find little knobs and switches to unlock surreal clockwork mechanisms, absorb Lovecrafian story, use eyeglass to see hidden weird stuff. Egad, I don't know why but I love the eyeglass but this probably goes back to initial experiences with Undying (Dreamworks Interactive, 2001) which had a similar ability called scrying that the game all but shouted at you "here is a place to use it!" Sometimes the most mechanically simple and untaxing button-pressing can be rewarding. Who knew.

room_old_sins_rezzed_2

I spoke briefly to the developers on the Rezzed stand and it did not sound like there were any big departures from The Room template. The biggest change, it seems, is that there are no loading screens and everything is built into a single hub, a dollhouse. It also sounds like this is a story distinct from the previous titles.

If you were hoping the series was going to do something new and exciting, I'm not sure you're going to find that here. But if you're looking for more classic Room action, then you've probably only got a few months to wait.

The Room: Old Sins is planned for release on Android and iOS later this year.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

7Apr/170

Dabbling with… Four Last Things

The eighth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

four_last_things_rezzed

Look, anyone who watched a great deal of Monty Python’s Flying Circus will definitely see the spirit of Terry Gilliam’s animated sequences in Four Last Things (Joe Richardson, 2017). From what I can tell, the whole game is a point-and-click affair based on renaissance paintings - cut up and animated with the very best of comedic intentions.

However, Gilliam’s animations drew from many sources and generated humour in their unexpected surreality. I love the ridiculous arc of the Killing Cars skit which is about cars that jump out from behind houses and crush their victims (to ease congestion, it seems). The whole sketch is wonderfully bizarre.

Four Last Things doesn’t have this. Of what I saw, Four Last Things offers largely static screens and the humour is far less visual than Gilliam’s work. This isn’t to say Four Last Things is some sort of disaster, a dead joke walking.

The humour is all in the text. In the short time I spent with it, I smiled many times. From the opening sequence which chides the player for believing they have agency to the bit where the protagonist begs the church to forgive their sins. There’s definitely a Monty Python flavour to it.

I was sold. And it’s already been released on Steam.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

6Apr/171

Dabbling with… Flotsam

The seventh episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

flotsam_rezzed

Taking your game to an exhibition is an intense affair, especially if it’s a work-in-progress and this your chance to make a good first impression. Despite good intentions, exhibitions are littered with buggy first impressions and developers are often coding in fixes on the fly. I came across a good number of bugs while working my way through Rezzed this year. But it’s good to be tolerant of such issues as, from a player perspective, you may not get another chance to see the game in action for a while.

Flotsam from Pajama Llama was in early alpha, rife with not just bugs but inadvertent user misdirection. Initially, it looked like some sort of garbage collection game, with the player sending a boat out to retrieve debris from the sea. When I sent the boat to retrieve a person, the game asked if I wanted him to join my town… and it all became clear. This was a town building game, Banished (Shining Rock, 2014) on the sea.

Flotsam_Screenshot

Resources are the titular flotsam collected from the sea and a few survivors can be found amongst the waves to start your pocket Atlantis. The sea theme means there are some interesting departures from the standard city builder: you cannot just build on open space, you require a form a scaffolding to build on; while towns are navigated relatively peacefully on foot, venturing into the blue beyond can only be done via boat. I also saw a whale which I’d assume was a threat.

Bugs and UI problems frustrated my attempts to make progress and I didn’t get very far but, at least, was able to piece together the basics. What Pajama Llama will make out of Flotsam remains to be seen.

You can find out more about Flotsam at the Pajama Llama website.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!

4Apr/178

Dabbling with… Everything

The sixth episode of a short series on games I discovered at EGX Rezzed 2017.

everything-ft

Mountain (David OReilly, 2014) was a game about a mountain. It wasn’t about you, it was about a mountain. OReilly’s followup is this year’s Everything, which is a game about everything. It isn’t about you, it’s about everything.

Everything was on show at the Leftfield Collection as well as the Rock Paper Shotgun zone. I dabbled with it at Leftfield. I didn’t know what Everything was and I still don’t.

Someone had already started the game so after picking it up the first thing I did was look for a reset game option. Couldn’t find it, so no tutorial and I had to figure out what was going on for myself. I was partially successful. The game had been abandoned in space and I assumed I was blessed with an omniscient first-person view. Wrong, actually I was one of the objects on the screen - all of which looked kind of alike - and the view was third-person.

In time I figured out how to “ascend” to superstructure and “descend” to substructure until, eventually, I reached an ice continent where I could become trees and a hut.

everything_rezzed

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do but Everything told me how many things I had become, with percentages for each category. Well done, keep going across the universe.

Everything also asked me join two different things and dance, but I never got that to work. I stopped playing eventually, still unsure what I was meant to find engaging, and left the game. And that’s pretty much Everything I can tell you.

Everything is available on PS4 and Steam.

Interested in other games I've dabbled with? Check out the series index!