The other week I gave my report on games at the Magfest Indie Videogame Showcase that are out now. This week, I’m reporting on games that are coming soon.
These games are in various stages of development at the moment, but should be released soon enough. Each segment will include a projected release date, projected platforms, and a recent update on the game’s development status. I will also link to demos when applicable.
Part of the reason it took this article a month to get done was that I was reaching out to the developers themselves to make sure I got everything right. If you are one of the developers and feel I have misrepresented the content of your game, let me know, but know that I wrote this with the best info available to me.
The same disclaimers from the previous article apply: I’m only reviewing games I had the chance to play, and length of a segment does not correlate with a game’s quality.
That said, I’m particularly excited about this year’s crop of upcoming games.
Developer: Dean Razavi
Vidar touts itself as “An RPG Puzzler Where Everyone Dies.”
In Vidar, you play the Stranger, who is stuck in the withering remains of a once great town. Every night, a villager is killed by a beast, and it’s up to the Stranger to find out what’s happening before the entire town dies. Each day, the Stranger can take on a new quest from one of the villagers—mostly environmental puzzles, such as sliding ice and reflecting light—and learn more about the history of the town and the beast.
The big selling point of the game is the randomized storytelling. The order in which villagers die is completely randomized, making each playthrough of the game a unique experience. Narrative arcs change based on who died, as each person reacts differently to their neighbors and loved ones dying, and different quests become available. This is more than just a gimmick, it’s the central mechanic of the game.
The goals are lofty, but after playing the demo and talking with one of the developers, I’m absolutely convinced they can pull it off. The game is not just potentially revolutionary, it’s compelling and fun. Of all the games I played at Magfest, this one easily makes the top two or three. It’s morbid, compelling, unique, and there’s no question I’ll buy it the second it becomes available.
Not too long before publishing time, Vidar became fully funded on Kickstarter. Big congrats to them. (Full disclosure: I helped.)
Demo: Available for PC, Mac, and Linux and absolutely worth your time
Development Status: Funded on Kickstarter, Greenlit on Steam
Projected platform: PC, Mac, and Linux
Projected release: March 2016
Developer: SWDTech Games
Pixel Noir could very well by the definitive noir RPG (NoirPG?). It might also be the only noir RPG, but even if there are others, this has the potential to be one of the best.
The story follows a private investigator in Pinnacle City, doing jobs to scrape by. Predictably, this detective has a dark, disturbed past that he’s trying to keep buried, one that ruined his life and got him kicked off the force. He quickly learns, however, that in Pinnacle City, there is something (both figuratively and literally) monstrous just beneath the surface.
I’m positive that read a little cliché, but that’s the beauty of noir; you can follow all the tropes and still come out with a fresh concept. Also, I want to stress that I’m using the traditional definition of “literally” here: people occasionally transform into monsters, and it looks like it will be an integral part of the story.
Pixel Noir features excellent 16(ish)-bit graphics, solid noir writing, and an excellent retro soundtrack. (Which, by the way, you can buy to help fund the game.) It was one of the most engrossing demos I played at Magfest. The gameplay is fantastic and the story makes me want to know more.
Development Status: Kickstarter upcoming
Projected platforms: PC, iOS, Android, Playstation 4, and Playstation Vita are planned. Xbox One, Wii U, and Linux are possibilities.
Projected release: Q4 2015, somewhat contingent upon the success of their next Kickstarter
Aerobat is a fast-paced arcade-style shoot ’em up. You control a jet and shoot down enemies, but you cannot shoot and fly at the same time. Fly and dodge or freefall and shoot, your call. It’s simple and super exciting. Just look at the gameplay footage. You’ll want to high-five someone.
There’s a tiny bit of a learning curve, but there’s a short tutorial that helps tremendously. It’s a high speed game with beautiful graphics and simple and responsive controls that rewards quick thinking. Also it makes you “woo!” like Ric Flair just thinking about it.
Development Status: Greenlit on Steam
Projected platforms: PC guaranteed, Mac and Linux probable
Projected Release: Spring or Summer 2015
Tumbleweed Express is something of an inverse tower defense game—the amazingly accurate term the company uses is “travel defense”—as well as a railshooter in perhaps the most literal sense of the term. You control a train that must get to the end of the level with as little damage as possible. Enemies will attempt to destroy and loot your train as you pass, and you must destroy and fend them off with mounted cannons, on-board gunslingers, and any number of weapons. Enemies range from towers to drills to dirigibles to the occasional boss battle.
As the game goes on and you earn more money, you can purchase additional defenses for the train, including engineers to actively repair the train, and automatically firing weapons.
Gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, a steampunk-inspired wild west setting, and easy-to-learn controls make this an engrossing game that’s just as fun to play casually as it is to marathon. It seems to be mostly a matter of more levels and weapon tweaks, and I’m excited for what comes next.
Demo: In-browser, requires Unity Player
Development Status: On Steam Greenlight (Vote for it)
Projected release: Summer 2015
Projected platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux. Oculus Rift compatible.
Developer: Golden Ruby Games
There are cooler ways to exorcise a ghost than holy water and a cross. Like using rocket launchers.
In Extreme Exorcism, you play Mae Barrons, an exorcist who must excise all of the ghosts in a given room. Your extreme exorcising weapons? Guns, swords, grenades, and other things that go “boom.” Some weapons are so big they even have kickback. Each room consists of several rounds, and at the start of each round, a new ghost enters and mimics your moves from the previous round. Each round adds a new ghost on top of the previous ones until you finish the room.
There’s also a multiplayer deathmatch mode, where up to four players fight each other. Ghosts are only created for the winning players and act as allies.
Extreme Exorcism has a simple two button control scheme, beautiful and bright pixel art, and is based around a fun mechanic that gets you thinking before you shoot to kill. It’s basically an NES game with an edge, and is just as fun solo as it is with a group of friends.
Development Status: Making the rounds at gaming festivals
Projected Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC
Projected Release: 2015
Clash Cup Turbo
Developer: Root 76
Clash Cup Turbo is a local multiplayer game that the dev team describes as a combination of air hockey and pinball. You must knock a puck into your opponent’s goal while guarding your own and maneuvering around obstacles, including blocks, bumpers, and walls.
It’s remarkably easy to learn; the rules are simple, and the controls are two-button simplicity. The game is just as fun with two players as it is with four, sporting different dynamics, a different level setup, and different experiences.
It’s a simple game that accommodates players of all skill levels. There’s not much more to say—it’s that simple and that fun.
Development Status: Creating new characters
Projected platforms: Mac and PC
Projected release: Before the end of 2015
Developer: Eppy Games
Dirtbags MotorClub (DMC) is a new take on the racing genre. Imagine a more subversive Mario Kart and you’re mostly there.
At its core, DMC has the same set-up as most kart racing games: pick a character, pick a level, race that level, use items to defeat opponents. The differences start at the character; the title of this game is literal. Your character is actually a bag of dirt.
On each level, you are given a rival. While winning is always the point, your rival brings it up a notch and beating them is especially important. The controls are mouse-based and are a little wobbly at first, but once you get on the track, it’s smooth as melted butter. The AI in this game is the closest I’ve ever encountered to your jerk best friend. Specifically, the one who puts oil slicks on landing ramps and isn’t afraid to run you off the road personally.
There’s also a bit of a battle feature to the game. When you take enough damage, your car and the dirtbag explode and leave their remains on the track. Your kill count is listed at the end of the race.
The gameplay so far feels fully realized and I can’t wait to see the whole thing.
Development Status: Pre-Alpha
Projected platforms: TBD
Projected release: TBD
Developer: Chronobit Studios
(Disclaimer: this trailer is of an earlier version of the game, but the mechanic is the same.)
Lunaform is a minimalist casual tile-movement game with big plans. You are given an array of hexagons, colored orange or blue. Stars of corresponding colors come drifting towards your array, and your goal is to switch the hexes so the stars hit the ones of the correct colors. When all of your hexes are full, you move on to the next level. As you progress, you can acquire upgrades, including shields and cannons.
It’s admittedly hard to describe, but the basics are easy to understand during play. Luckily, there is a demo for that.
The dev team was fantastic. They were accommodating (their booth had comfortable chairs and honey sticks) and were open to suggestions. Their own website lists lessons they learned from input at Magfest. As it stands, the game needs a decent amount of work, but the dev team is dedicated. Lunaform has the potential to be a fun, easy-to-play-hard-to-master casual game.
Development Status: Testing via demo
Projected Platforms: iOS, Google Play, Steam, Kongregate, and/or GOG
Projected Release: TBD
Developer: SnowHydra Games
Zarvot is a local multiplayer arena battle that is pure chaotic fun. The game takes place in a maze-like arena setting, complete with destructible walls. The player takes control of a cube and battles it out against opponents. There are three attacks: a missile, a laser, and a proximity-based explosion. There’s a wide variety of power-ups one can collect, ranging from enhanced weaponry to “perception effecters” (which is a two-dollar way of saying “it makes the screen wobbly.”)
One of the selling points of the game is the fact that every cube has its own personality, and as such they each have unique taunts when they beat opponents or angry statements when they revive. They cheer coming back from “the void” and beating their opponents, but each does so with their own spin. Whenever a cube explodes, its remains stay on the field. This becomes particularly fun during multiplayer, when the arena becomes filled with different colors from all the explosions.
Between taunting cubes and laser-shooting action, Zarvot has all the tools to be a great party game.
Development status: In-person Beta Testing
Projected Platforms: “PC and Other Boxes”
Projected Release: 2015
Developer: Molecular Jig Games
Immune Defense is essentially a white blood cell simulator, falling somewhere between a tower defense and a real time strategy game. The player creates white blood cells, and must attach the correct receptors to defeat pathogens. A level is completed when all of the pathogens in the area have been defeated. As it stands, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s far more straightfoward that it sounds.
Though the game can be appreciated at face value just fine, underneath the hood is graduate-level biochemistry. There’s easy in-game access to in-depth info about each cell, disease, and so on. Of all the games that I saw, Immune Defense is probably in need of the most work, but has the most practical long term potential—even as an educational tool, though it’s fun enough that people will want to play it outside of an academic environment. The dev team is approaching the game with scientific precision.
Demo: Via Gamejolt, updated regularly
Development Status: Successfully funded on indiegogo
Projected platforms: TBD
Projected Release: TBD
Developer: QuadraTron Games
Threshold is a puzzle platformer early in its development, but has tremendous potential and a fantastic central mechanic. You play a wizard who needs to find his way through a series of doorways. The world changes depending on which way you face—facing left activates some platforms, while facing right activates others—and you must reach each door without falling off the level. Occasionally you will need to locate keys, which add an extra layer to the puzzle. It takes a bit of getting used to, which is the whole point of the matter. It makes you rethink platformers, but it’s absolutely fascinating and rewarding.
I was particularly impressed by the dev team, perhaps the most active and involved I encountered at Magfest. They stood next to you and watched you play, making note of bugs and player habits. This is a project to keep your eye on; it’s simple but smart and the dev team’s a good group.
Demo: Not of the game proper, but the original Game Jam version can be downloaded for PC, Mac, and Linux
Development status: Early development
Projected platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux
Projected release: TBD