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Browsing posts from: Catherine Brinegar

How long does a demo usually stick with you? Sure, one showcasing a game you’re excited about could have you replaying it several times to just take it all in. There are even those rare gems floating around that serve as introductions to the game they’re representing, including content that may not be part of the final release. For instance, Final Fantasy XV’s “Platinum Demo” (now removed from storefronts) featured a standalone experience that showcased the gameplay for the full title, but involved a scenario that was completely tangential to the events of the main game. Resident Evil 7 similarly had a separate demo titled “Kitchen” (part of a demo collection disc for PSVR) that centered on content not featured in the final release.

Unlike those two, however, the notorious “demo” known as P.T. never had a game release on the market alongside the teaser. In fact, for many, P.T. is in and of itself a full-fledged game that stands completely on its own. Which, frankly, isn’t surprising. While meant as a “playable teaser” for the once-in-development Silent Hills, its content is divorced from the main trappings of the franchise; discarding the spooky town and foggy roads in favor of claustrophobic hallways and a non-Euclidean spacial loop all serving an extremely minimal horror experience.

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Awakening on the shores of Purgatory, you control Lucifer, hell-bent on tearing down the Archangels that guard the aspects of Heaven. It doesn’t take long for the realization to set in that things aren’t quite right in this place as you come across vile beasts roaming the world, chomping at the bit to tear you apart. Quick wits and perseverance will carry you far on your road to God, a treacherous journey nothing like your previously swift descent.

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These last few years, there’s been a special crackle in the air as we roll into the latter half of the year. In Japan, since 2005 (as far as I can tell), there’s been an annual art show wherein participants create artwork for the case of imaginary Famicom games, called My Famicase Exhibition. In 2015, a gamejam would begin shortly after the showcase that would present game developers with these covers to develop what the game attached to the artwork would be. One of my absolute favorite gamejams, the A Game By Its Cover Jam, facilitates a strange reverse-engineering of game development that produces beautiful, unexpected work.

Like most jams, there’s a lot to sift through in the submissions. Below, I’ve listed a handful of games from the jam that stood out to me, and are worth giving an in-depth look.

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CROSSNIQ+ from developer Max Krieger (@MaxKriegerVG).

At the turn of century, humanity began to panic as the future loomed.

Oncoming and unavoidable, the year 2000 was poised to be a time of great change, but much to our chagrin, it was a twist of fate that we had built our lives around such fragile technological marvels that would ultimately prove to be our own downfall. In our relentless pursuit of efficiency, systems built to house information containing dates would only register two numbers: the last two digits of the calendar year. As 2000 rolled in, a sudden fear began to arise that computers for governments or banks would be unable to distinguish between 2000 and 1900, causing irrevocable damage to our infrastructure and usher in an apocalyptic calamity.

These prophetic notions were predominantly held by the fringe of scientific research and society, exacerbated through outlets rapidly cycling through fear-mongering and misinformation. As society questioned the ability of corporations to address the issue in time, the Y2K fervor was the perfect encapsulation of a decade built upon pop culture that pushed hard into a fantastical vision for the future, with contemporary industrial design becoming the turn-of-the-century realization of what sci-fi had promised us in decades prior. Truly, the Y2K Bug is something of our society’s first watershed “cyberpunk” moment, with the misguided and shortsighted actions of the government and faceless corporate entities serving to endanger humanity, alongside an ever-growing online meta-verse, and the push towards a forward thinking “futuristic” visual zeitgeist.

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We’re at a point of complete global saturation. Pull up #gamedev on Twitter and look: endless, infinite talent, as far as the eye can see. How many of these people have you never heard of? How many of them still have relatively large fan followings? A body of work full of fresh ideas and plentiful things worth talking about? It’s far too common for many a creator to be overlooked in the sea of digital detritus. Other than providing platforms for their work, places of discussion and promotion, these multifaceted crowds can become a mass of the unknown.

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Fighting games are one-in-a-million. Let me save both our time and, instead of listing a bunch of them, just say there’s a lot. There’s a million flavours, ranging from your stock-standard 2D one-on-one fare, those featuring depth with which to circle your opponent, brawlers, party-friendly group fighters, and so on. But, how many of them allow you to pilot massive crustaceans in a brutal fight to the death?

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I sit on the side of I-5, the main highway running between Seattle and Portland. It’s nearly 19:00, the sun is quickly setting, and the wind has taken a sinister chill. My car sits, hazards flashing, on the shoulder in front of me. I’m flipping between tabs on my phone: my bank account, nearby mechanics, and quotes for towing companies to get me and the car back to my friend’s place. The bank account is thinner than I’d like, the mechanics are all closed, and the tow is going to drain me of the rest of my funds regardless of who does it. With a stiff gust breaking on my back, my hair flung into my face, I realize that this whole ordeal has a striking resemblance to my time spent with Jalopy.

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Genre fusion is something of a mainstay in the indie scene as of late, after all, what better way to revitalize a now-defunct style of game than injecting it with some vigor from another genre? Most prominent is the trend of rogue-ifying something; platformers, FPS, RPGs, and so on. But before this was ever cool, there was the 1990 now-cult-classic ActRaiser. Featuring a blend between action platforming stages a la Castlevania as well as god-game style simulation like that of Populous, players were treated to a unique SNES title that threaded a line between frenetic, fast-paced gameplay and much slower, thoughtful creation and town planning.

Enter SolSeraph, ACE Team’s (@theACETeam) 2019 ActRaiser inspired action-platforming tower defense god-game. It’s important to note the addition of “tower defense” to that concoction; while SolSeraph follows in the footsteps of its sister game, offering a balance between 2.5D side scrolling segments and isometric/top-down city creation, it also lavishes the player with waves of enemies attacking your city. This new mechanic drastically changes the game as a whole and makes it stand out from its predecessor, offering more than a simple retreading of the ground ActRaiser has already well covered.

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After Ragnarok, with all the Gods dead, Yggdrasil slowly bleeds dry. In a last-ditch effort, it calls forth the souls of the strongest women from history to undergo the challenge of the Neverinth, an ever-shifting labyrinth that, when conquered, will grant the champion who survives its halls the title of Valkyrie. Here, you enter as one of these women and must face down the hordes of evil lurking within its twisted halls.

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