Saturday, October 18, 2014

Early Access Preview - Albedo: The Eyes from Outer Space

 Albedo: The Eyes from Outer Space 

Now Available on Steam Early Access

Developed by z4g0 


It's just another boring night on the job for John T. Langley, nightwatch at the space station JUPITER, and the only solace from this monotonous position as a lowly guard amongst the important scientists working on god only knows what kind of experiment is yet another drinking binge. Who can blame him really? With the mundane day-in and day-out occupation of sitting and watching, wondering what exciting experiments your peers at the base could be conducting, left only to guess what the strange sounds behind doors late on the night shift really are.

The last scientist leaves for the night, wishing you a goodnight and marking the start of he most boring, lonely part of your job. You get up to stretch your legs shocked only to find the ground beneath you suddenly crack apart and swallow you into the depths of the unknown recesses of this diabolical research facility amongst its many secrets.


Developer Fabrizio Zagaglia sets out to create a new kind of first person experience, shedding the current trend of bland military shooters and free to play models in favor of a rich 60's sci-fi style and a unique approach to adventure game story telling. When asking Fabrizio what brought about his decision to go with this unique setting and its retro flavor he replied, "The main goal was to make something with this kind of mood, maybe a bit naive, simplistic and ingenuous... but full of mystery, astonishment... amazement that I can find only in old sci-fi operas, rather than make an explicit rip off of 60s sci-fi series. Nowadays it's all too serious, realistic, evil... cold..."

"I aimed to avoid the current mainstream typical features. Take for example the flatness of games like COD... or the F2P and socialgames drifts etc. Of course, still there are good things, and still exists interesting "new" or derivative genres ( sandbox, narrative and art games and so on)... but overall I feel a lack of "something" that I can find instead in 90s games... something similar to what I can find in 60s scifi series and can't find in the newest ones."

Albedo isn't just a first person action game as it may seem at first glance, it's clearly a thinking person's adventure that sets out to wrack your brain on tough and puzzling situations in order to make your daring escape from each obstacle-ridden area. The starting room alone had me guessing for awhile, combing through the locked and wasted sci-fi storage room for pieces of the trial-and-error puzzle I had to put together in order to trick and trap the oncoming and unseen terror from beyond the locked door before me. I was reminded of a much tenser, trippier and sci-fi oriented Myst, and that's a very good thing.

Albedo: The Eyes from Outer Space is a sci-fi geeks dream come true, a wonderful combination of adventure game situations and logic solving from the perspective of a first person shooter. All with just a touch of retro-inspired action and brawls with strange alien creatures that evoke the same kind of love I have for monster designs of classic series like Doom.

Each of the different rooms of the sprawling space complex acts as a tough situation of trial and error puzzle solving, forcing you to use the surroundings to your advantage scavenging pieces of useful material to combine with parts of the environment and further reveal the path ahead. These are extremely small details usually and will require every bit of your unbridled attention to even find. You'll be forced to keep your eyes peeled for the tiniest of details from grabbing a paperclip off of a seemingly unimportant stack of papers to recycle as a lock-pick to finding secret notes slipped under locked doors with mysterious passwords. It's beyond easy to gloss over the most obvious clues, but ultimately they feel very rewarding when discovered.

Although the logic and puzzle solving are tough as nails and may even leave you feeling as if at a dead end sometimes, there is always hope thanks to the strange and terrestrial Temporal Dilation Tool, which seems to show some sort of an alternate world where problems are fixed and solutions are highlighted.

The settings are detailed and vibrant in a grotesque organic sort of way, with each living membrane that plasters the wall gleaming with vivid texture and giving off strange phosphorescent lights of warm and strangely comforting natural hues. The lab itself and the tools around you, including the aforementioned Temporal Dilation Tool give a very retro/future feeling to your surroundings with the tinted green and static-y glow of the hologram and rustic qualities to metal surfaces.

One thing is certain when stepping through the deteriorating halls of JUPITER; a lot of care, love, and devotion to the genre went into creating this intense set-piece.

Even in its early access state of ongoing updates it's hard to find faults with Albedo: The Eyes from Outer Space, especially with the small amount of people involved with its development considered. With an exciting cliffhanger ending and more content on the horizon there's really no bad time to get involved with the game and watch the adventure of John T. Langley continue to spiral into something even more insane.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Indie Impressions - Super Win the Game

Super Win the Game

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Minor Key Games


In an open and expansive homage to an array of nostalgia-inducing hits from the golden age of gaming, Super Win the Game marks the comeback of the mind behind You Have to Win the Game and it's something that has successfully exceeded the expectations I had set from his previous work. It rekindles that feeling of rediscovering a plethora of Famicom memories from the open exploration of Zelda II and playing for the first time, but with heavy platforming and a touch of Metroidvania progression replacing the hackn'slash action.

To the east where your first quest is taken, you learn of a once powerful king who has lost his heart to an evil wizard, his people grow weary and want to see their kingdom revived to its former glory. The task is up to you, the Wayfarer of an apparent legend, to restore the separated and isolated pieces. Finding the pieces of the kings heart is an open-ended affair and the original Zelda or Final Fantasy inspired world map is open to explore at your leisure.

Despite this generally awkward method of no hand-holding from classics of the past, Super Win the Game is surprisingly accessible and flows incredibly well with short travel times and plenty of options or clues to set you in the right direction, including a fortune teller for when you're not sure where to go next. In terms of difficulty Super Win the Game strikes that perfect platformer balance between making you feel consistently challenged yet never stuck or stumped.

Travel the land and uncover its secrets, slowly but surely. Keep your eyes open for the important red rubies scattered throughout the world, which can be exchanged for important keys to unlock special doors you come across in each territory that lead to even more secrets. The world of Super Win has an incredible amount of collectibles and will sate the appetite of even the most OCD hoarder of items. Each of the next stops on your journey to restoring the King's once kind heart brings you to visually unique and contrasting settings, opening the way to more colored orbs and upgrades to further your conquest of the world map.

To the south deep in the heart of the Desert Ruins, to the frozen north within the thick vision-impairing snow, to the muddy swamps of the west high atop the ancient towering Sky Pillars. Each sprinkled with hard to reach secrets and upgrades, and even more nooks and crannies to return to and explore when wiser and better equipped.

Super Win the Game is simply a platformer's paradise, whether you're a fan of the retro aesthetics or not you'll find nothing but original and addictive action of the highest quality. This is a game that not only understands its roots but expands upon them in ways we haven't seen before. Each stop on the map features a platforming stage that is simple but challenging, and generally have shortcuts or paths inaccessible due to the outlines of missing colored blocks.

Just like finding the Switch Palace in Super Mario Bros. would lead you to seemingly out of reach routes, finding the secret to unlocking these conveniently placed outlines is key to your progression. Filling in these blocks is a matter of finding a specific orb of matching color from each of the main story dungeons, giving some direction to the player on this wide and open adventure through the world map and its many environments.

Also to help you on your free roaming adventure of discovery and precise platforming are the interconnected Subcon doors that can be found throughout the deeper corners of the world to bring you back to the hub at the center of it all, similar to the addictive shortcut paving gameplay of Spelunky. These give a great deal of replayability as you hoard more upgrades and are able to reach more secrets in past levels you previously thought out of reach, as the Subcon service is always there to bring you back to the more dangerous depths of old dungeons.

The platforming of each stage is ridiculously varied and kept my interest a lot longer than most retro throwbacks do. The different types of gimmicks you run into in each exceedingly harder area discovered are creative to say the least, with invisible paths revealed only by the spray of an enemy bullets, carefully spiked walls that can only be cleared with a skillfully placed double-jump. All diabolical obstacles in your path are spread throughout twisting maze-like paths with shortcuts and Metroidvania-like exploration and progression except broken down into bite-sized stages of exceptional quality across an 8-bit world-map.

As you press on into each new territory you come across important upgrades that are the key to accessing more routes and lead you to the next path revealing orb. You'll come across a magic snorkel to help you pass through water, springheel boots to the frozen north that add the most important turning point in any metroidvania; doublejumping! Just like any well-made game in the genre, each discovery of a new power or upgrade opens up a plethora of new possibilities to explore and past areas that were previously inaccessible are now free to roam keeping the game engaging and addictive from beginning to end.

If your heart was previously won by You Have to Win the Game, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how much more content there is here. It's also a great chance to show your support for all of us who wondered how the developer could get by without charging a cent for his previous classic. The CRT feature makes a comeback and is even more customizable and authentic in its imitation of the fuzzy and glassy look we remember playing our favorite classics on. You've got control over every aspect possible here, everything from scanline intensity to the position of light reflections on the screen. This will be a big bonus for retro geeks, with proof being my inability to stop going into the menu and mess with the CRT settings every few minutes.

Super Win the Game is something I didn't want to end, which is extremely rare given the fact that I hardly ever finish platformers. The maps is so varied and fun to explore, the clues keep you constantly on the move to new areas, and the areas themselves are just a condensed blast of pure fun to play. Even though I finished it I had a nagging feeling that there was still some undiscovered corner of the world with some long lost secret for me to go back and find, and due to how much fun I had on my initial playthrough I think that's exactly what I'll be doing.