Category Archives: Preview

Black Ice – Cyberpunk FPS, Hacking, RPG begins a journey

Retro inspired games have a unique market, generally delivering 2D sprite based environments as a throwback to the early days of gaming. Black Ice goes in a different direction, instead focusing on the neon glow that haunted the 80’s with a dash of Tron inspired computer environments in a 3D world. It’s a game of hack and dash with RPG elements as players have to tackle difficult hacks to obtain crucial tech to advance and eventually take down the master system.

While it sounds potentially easy, it’s a mind boggling mess, shooting speed and ammo are based on available RAM (within the game world) cycle speed and other factors are crucial for survival. While it seems like a given to just beef up your memory and hacking  speed it’s not that easy, Black Ice provides an array of enemies including reaaally annoying spiders that slowly eat away at your soul / health. Normally I don’t care about insects of any level, suddenly I do and I can thank this game for that.

It’s not all trauma, the weapons are brilliant when you have the right stats, using a plasma cutter to mow through everything (yes everything) is magically rewarding given how swarms bite and chip away so often.

While words could go on forever about Black Ice in it’s early stages of development, I’ll leave it to the two current videos recorded to demonstrate what there is within. If you’d like to try Black Ice for yourself, head over to the website and grab the latest demo.

Preview – PAWS (Prime Alien Watch Squad)

Some days something just drops in your lap that you take a second look at, PAWS is one of those games, the cute and simple looking hex battle game allowing animals to go head to head against alien invaders with a minimalist battle system.

We’re using a demo build of where the game is at while they kick off their Kickstarter campaign. Needless to say it’s an easy game to get used to, it’s also an easy one to lose all your points on. Medals for behavior act as currency to summon extra hit points, satellite lasers and a full bombing run from aerial support, how they have the ability to do all this? I have no idea, in fact I would prefer not to know just so I can keep thinking that Squirrel is just a harmless fellow addicted to nuts.

The attack system is point and click with units holding certain class balances. Warriors / melee attackers have a wider net to reach across the board, although their damage points vary and critical strikes can fall short when you need them most. Range attackers have lower HP but they have a steady damage average. You also get the wildcard (turtle) who can hit multiple opponents as a melee but tends to ride on the low end of the HP scale.

It’s a game of balance and budgeting these cute animals, it’s easy to spam the bombing commands the lasers and juice up early in the game only to realize later the crucial moment of “oh… that’s why I had so many points to start with” as the aliens just reign hell by ganging up on your team.

Currently each map and opponent group are randomly selected while your team varies with its own challenges. Having double or triple medics seems great until you have to generate enough damage while keeping everyone alive to avoid a complete loss. It’s an interesting title that shows forethought into the generated levels and balance of the characters. While some later areas might initially feel impossible it’s just a situation where it requires players to apply themselves a little more.

PAWS is still in development and if this Beta is an indication of what to continue expecting then I’d say it’s a worthwhile Kickstarter project to check out and consider.

Preview – SUPER HOT + Youtube Playthrough

It’s the end of the summer, its blazing and Bricky Blues drops an update to their 7dfps time based shooter using the Unity engine on everyone. It’s called Super Hot and honestly, it’s a change of pace and a challenging one at that.

Super Hot places players into a world where almost all time is controlled by the host, I say almost as bullets and general enemy gestures seem to still carry on at a reduced speed as things get moving. Overall it challenges those used to run and gun to calculate paths, counterattacks and examine their surroundings carefully. One ill-timed shift can restart the level and that bridge stage is relentless on the nerves if a stray bullet lands.

I did jump into the web demo and record it (poorly) although it seems to be a limited resolution build right now. The game looks great for what it is, reminiscent of old training simulators in presentation while coming in with a pounding SUPER HOT SUPER HOT every time a level is completed in a subliminal styled push. It’s a unique experience and there is the desire to complete the level at a faster rate each time because inherently you know you can do it better.

There’s a growing trend of art taking place in high contrast environments with gray-scale environments. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that in Super Hot, in fact it offers less visual conflict when a faint red hue illuminates a wall, signalling incoming doom. Personally I don’t mind the usage of it as it forces creative use of space and placement of enemies and components.

There isn’t much else to the game at the current stage, I’m currently enjoying the use of the time mechanics to pace out a rapid succession of kills while picturing some random bass line to eventually compliment the SUPER HOT pattern after a job well done. I’ve subscribed to the newsletter and I think it’s worth a shot by anyone to give the game a spin right now. It has great appeal and that repeated chant seeps into your brain after playing through.

Super Hot [Web / Unity Based]

Review – Race the Sun

Far far away, crafts race against the sun at hyper speed, pushing the limit of physics to catch every glimmering ray. Some wonder if it’s simply so they can keep up battery life but the rays are essential to the crafts, the radiant nutrition that keeps them alive.

Race the Sun is a unique entry into the racing field, coming from an independent background it pushes to experiment with the idea of a craft being the user avatar. Like a human seeking out oxygen to avoid suffocation, the craft races through shadows and against time itself as death itself approaches. Levels overflow with pillars, tunnels and obstacles to slow players, kill players or rob them of valuable light. The blend isn’t perfect and some areas feel extremely linear but it’s in a league of its own which is rare but also every reason for them to continue their dedication to development.

The visuals are simple, the colors muted and the emotion is largely dead; players race through a near purgatory hoping to see just a few more minutes of life. While there’s debate on how color might impact the overall tone, past games from the arcade era like S.T.U.N. Runner operated on an equally basic delivery and still delivered enjoyment. For me, Race the Sun starts to lose a bit of appeal when it turns into pure survival instinct over a mix of speed and excitement. There are few random jumps, often they’re calculated to pair with a floating bridge, at some point the appearance of the ramps and open space ahead with a fork is predictable. It needs to stop that, ramps can have a radius to send a ship sideways and not everything has to narrow into a valley.

Similar graphical games of the past have attempted to supplement this challenge with rolling tunnels, leap of faith jumps and more. While I understand the worlds generate for the main design, you start to really think that after repeating runs over time and that’s never good unless it’s intentional. Having instant thoughts of “Stage 3 = spikes, narrow path, few jumps, enemy ships floating” is good for an arcade game but I don’t think that’s purely what Race the Sun wants aim for, but if it does, it’s still not quite there.

Other than that, Race the Sun delivers, the first hours into the game are enjoyable, the user-created levels work to bridge into new creativity and use of the engine with first person view, trees and other objects to give larger appeal. The longer term investment into the game drives realizations about the current generator options and hopefully Flippfly can help counter that with improved variety and less predictable stages. I do enjoy what the game offers, I’m upset that I’m mentally prepared for variations of relatively any stage number.

The team has worked hard, there’s no doubt in that, having a live beta to experience as they drive to the finish line is a unique experience. Seeing the game and dynamics take subtle shifts along the way allows a player to feel like their opinion is actively shaping their experience vs being fed random shots of change. Hopefully Flippfly’s commitment continues to drive their experimentation with Race the Sun, it certainly has the potential to go higher from this point.

The good:

  • Scales impossibly well, even at Eyefinity the engine just pours on
  • Challenges are the name of this game, maps rotate and striving to top of the charts is a chore
  • Manning the craft means fighting for life, chasing for light as the darkness envelops everything.
  • Online top lists and portal jumping allow players to interact in relay races and other competition building forms.
  • Stands as a unique entry in a genre crowded with Sim trucks to mock racing leagues.

The not so good:

  • Levels become predictable for format or expected challenges
  • Interactive object placement is just strategy and memorization (jumps to platforms, tunnels sweep right left in most cases)

Race the Sun has a lot to offer that we haven’t seen yet, one just has to hope that Flippfly pushes to drive that variety for players. At $9.99 it’s certainly enjoyable and it’s in competition for Steam’s Greenlight service, hopefully they continue to generate votes to reach a wider audience and really bring in the income that allows them to invest in experimentation at a larger scale.